The freedoms within (ask me about what I mean)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Meron: everyone worships differently

Let me first say that Bibi Netanyahu's speech was absolutely amazing. He could not have said it better. If you have not seen it yet I recommend that you drop what your doing and watch it immediately!

Now that I've said that, let me tell you about my experience in Meron, Israel for a crazy Lag B'Omer experience. It was out last organized in-shabbat (meaning staying on campus for shabbat) of the year, so many of us stayed to enjoy each other's presence on the Ramat Ef'Al campus for one last time. Lag B'omer was beginning Saturday night and we planned to  head right to Meron as shabbat concluded. Meron, if you didn't know, is the sight of where Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is buried (the man of the holiday). Thousands upon thousands of people attend and it is just one huge celebration for what Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai represents.

So we leave the Ramat Ef'Al campus about an hour after Shabbat to head to Bnei Brak where every couple of minutes buses depart up to Meron. 50 shekels later, we got onto a bus (37 of us decided to go regardless of the warnings we got about it being super packed and getting pushed-and to not take the event as a representation of the Jewish people) and we were on our way. 2 1/2 hours later we arrive and we walk up mount Meron together to see one of the largest Jewish dancing crowds ever. There was a na nachman guy DJ playing crazy trance music and everyone was just jumping up and down. It was pretty religious and many more men were dancing than woman (and when we tried to dance a few woman yelled at us), but I didn't really care. The environment was making me feel part of something truly amazing.

We walked a little more to see even more large crowds of people. Then me and a few friends decided we wanted to attempt to enter the actual Kever (tomb) of R. Shimon (despite the masses of people). So we did just that and were exposed to something much more than people just praying towards the Kever. It was like a mob (and this was on the woman's side!) I felt like I was in a sardine can of chassidic woman! People were literally pushing their way through to either A-pray or B-go watch the crazy mob of men dance around the huge fire. Even though there were a few parts of the night where I couldn't breath due to lack of space for my lungs to move, I couldn't stop smiling. People were gathering, and sacrificing their personal comfort all for an amazing purpose. To attach themselves to the bigger picture.

In Meron on Lag B'omer for the sun rise
Lag B'omer is about the story of R. Shimon and how he was in the cave for 12 years, than came out and saw people tilling the land and thought 'how could they do something else other than learning Torah (since he was in the cave for so long only learning) so G-d sent him (and his son) back for 12 months to learn more. The second time they left they witnessed a man carrying two bushels of myrtle. R. Shimon asked him what he was doing and the man answered 'these two bushels are for shabbat. I have two to honor the aspects of Shamor/Zachor!' From this R. Shimon found a way to love this and said something to himself like 'wow! look how the Jews are honoring the Torah!'-basically this was a very short way of telling this story, but the beauty was that he stepped back and realized that every way a Jew honors the Torah is beautiful! He realized this, unlike the other 24,000 students of R. Akiva (he was one of R. Akiva's students) leading ultimately to their death, and ultimately creating the omer to mourn these students. So we take from this to not judge others on the way they are honoring G-d.

Anyways, the whole Meron experience was great-we arrived at 3 AM and left after we prayed to the rising sun around 8:30.

I turn 20 in 11 days, and this program ends shortly after it. I'm going to be writing a reflection of this year soon, but I don't want to yet. I'm still going through crazy life changes every day. For example, I've been challenging myself with an early b-day present to myself to practice being shomer negiah. I've done this before, and unfortunately failed, but I feel like I am stronger this time. I know that this journey, that my 19th year of life has endured has been very long, rigorous, but extremely rewarding. I feel empowered by the life choices I have made and cannot wait to see what my 20th year of life has to offer me.
One extra thing I'm going to add in is that today is the 37th day of the Omer. In kabbalah (Jewish Mysticism), there is a concept called the 10 sefirot. According to,  "sefirah (pl. sefirot) is a channel of Divine energy or life-force. This most fundamental concept of Kabbalah is that in the process of creation an intermediate stage was emanated from God's infinite light to create what we experience as finite reality. These channels are called the Ten Sefirot, Ten Divine Emanations, Ten Divine Radiances, Ten Divine Eluminices, or Ten Divine Powers which are the basic terms and concepts of the inner wisdom of the Torah which is called Kabbalah." ( Each day during the omer you say the sefirah of the day paired with one of the other six or itself (you only use the bottom seven). It is supposed to be a self-help system. For example take Chesed (love/kindness) and Hod (thankfulness) and ask yourself am I being thankful to the people that give to me? the things that G-d provides me? And things along these lines.

I found it interesting that today's was Yesod Shebi-Yesod Foundation and foundation. Foundation is something that has come across my mind a lot lately. This year had been about building some sort of foundation, gaining some sort of knowledge that you can always look back into no matter what happens. Regardless of the mistakes or lessons I learned this year I know that I built an extremely firm foundation. I know what I want in life, I know my goals, I have my visions, and I see my dreams. I've been striving to put these into effect and have so far succeeded in the terms of what I think I am capable of. But I know that I have much to learn and a lot of room to grow-but my foundation, my Yesod, is here and it's here to stay..

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sacrifice and Celebration

I just experience the most meaningful Yom Hazikaron (Day of Remembrance) and Yom Haazmaut (Israeli Independence Day).

Standing in front of the Western Wall
8 PM rang in Yom Hazikaron with a national siren. A few friends and I headed over to the bridge over the highway to witness the cars stop mid-road. The siren rang and all the cars (except the few that have no respect) stopped and we watched many people step out of their cars and stand in silence. It was an eerie feeling with the loud siren blasting, especially when I closed my eyes and felt the vibrations of the sound run through my body. The night continued with our Madrich (dorm counselor) Ira, another madrich Natan, and a fellow student tell stories about 6 separate people they knew (or knew of) that had passed away from serving in the Israeli army. We lit 6 memorial candles in their names a few including: Roe Klein, Michael Levin, and David Kandleman.

The next morning we had a 8:45 AM bus to Mount Herzl, the IDF military cemetery. We got there around 10:30 to see thousands upon thousands of people visiting it as well. Tight security led us barely making it to the national ceremony that began at 11 AM for another state-wide siren. Every stood up right before it began. The siren was so loud this time I imagine since it began right at Mt.Herzl itself. A few important people spoke and than we headed over to the graves to hear stories of fallen soldiers. One noted event, as we were walking over in a large crowd I looked over to my right to see some panic as some soldiers were spring away from something. A few kids then hit the ground and covered their heads. Then people in the crowd began to run. I, being in the crowd grabbed my friends hands as we began to run with the crowd not even knowing what we were running from. A few seconds later a bunch of the Israeli police started yelling in Hebrew 'Run the other way!' So we did, and we kept running. And nothing happened. Just silence and questioning. After 10 or 15 minutes we were allowed to pass through the area. I'm not going to lie, it was a pretty scary experience only when I saw someone hit the ground and cover their heads. Everything happens for a reason so I guess I was supposed to wtiness that.
David's gravesite at Mt.Herzl

We headed over to David Kandleman's grave site. David Kandleman was a student on the Bar Ilan program last year who even though he was not religious, knew he had an important duty to serve for the Jewish people and he did so through joining the IDF. I'm not going to mention how he passed away, but mention how brave he was to just drop everything and walk into the life of a lone soldier in the Israeli army.

Since it was an emotional and hard day our school tried to transition our feelings as we went to go visit the Churva Synagogue and the Western Wall. Unity defined these moments as we all walked freely together through our home, Israel.

The day was coming to end and as night fell the transition of what we sacrifice to have our country turned into a full-fledged celebration of our declaration of our state, Yom Haaztmaut! The night began as me and a few friends headed over to a huge park in Jerusalem to meet up up with our madrich that had the tents and the food to bbq at hand. We got set up pretty late, but it was well worth it since we had fun rolling down hills and playing football with random people! After we gathered fire wood, we began our Mangal (BBQ) with hamburgers, hotdogs, and chicken (all really really good since our madrich is actually a chef). We headed into town in Jerusalem after to witness tons and tons of people gathered to dance around and sing together and support the blue and white colors of the Israeli flag. This defined unity as well as I met so many people, and everyone was so happy to be together! The night ended around 5 AM, even though music was blasting by our tents till around 7 AM.
Out on Ben Yehuda Street in Town

The next morning around 10 we began our day by dropping off all our stuff then roaming around the city of Jerusalem to find random concerts, parties, and food all in celebration of the day. A huge March of the Living concert was going on, and even though you needed a bracelet to get in, a few friends and I acted part of one of the 11th grade groups and snuck into the event. Singing the Jerusalem of Gold song in circles with random kids, and few free bracelets later, we headed over to more parks to find some more familiar faces. Then we headed back over to the western wall to end the day praying to G-d.

The group of us that camped out
My feet were hurting and I was covered in a layer of dirt (and foam since it's custom to spray random people with foam-and I was targeted as a random person :] ) but regardless the whole experience really made me love this place even more. I know that after I finish university in America I will make my way back here since I've never felt so at home than I have here. Am Yisrael Chai always and if you are a Jew, make your way over here fast! This is our home and we are not going anywhere!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Never again

Today today today.

Spurs of emotions went wild in the past 24 hours including Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance day, as well as Osama Bin Laden's death! Being in Israel for the two events makes it both beneficial and scary at the same time.

For one, being in Israel on a day of Holocaust remembrance really brings a sense of community and togetherness. One one that happened is at 10 AM there was a state-wide, yes ALL of Israel, siren sounding. People stopped in their tracks, in the cars, and whatever they were doing to stand up and bow their heads for two minutes. I was on Bar Ilan campus at the time and tried to make my way over to a street because it's really amazing to see people just stop there cars and get out of it.

At first, I was observing my surroundings, watching everyone still, literally frozen in time it seemed like. Chills were going up and down my spine. I then closed my eyes and took in the sounds of the sirens. I started to see images of the Holocaust and I began to tear up. The siren, a terrifying sound itself, since it is used also to alert to run for cover in case of a terrorist attack, just made me feel like I was part of something so much bigger. It almost felt like we were under attack for a moment; I guess I got into a meditative state very quickly. 

Osama's death too?! Well I'm glad it finally happened..but hopefully this doesn't land on blaming the Jews. As in Arab countries blaming the Jews. There's enough going around us all ready with the rumors of the third Intifada starting, I hope this isn't a kick-start for it.

But anyways...I stand by the saying " Never again shall we march like sheep to the slaughter, Never again shall we sit and take orders, Stripped of our culture, Robbed of our name, Raped of our freedom and thrown into the flames, Forced from our families, taken from our homes, Moved from our God then burned of our bones...Never again " by the Wu-Tang Clan. We will continue to DEFEND ourselves and continue to DEFEND OUR land....always.