What a group that was. By the end, more than half the bus was sick, including myself and the medic, and we had certainly assured our place in the annals of IsraelExperts infamy. Oy, my neshama hurts.

Still, when the participants come up to me and say that they FEEL something in this place, even when they don’t know what that is, it makes it all so, so worthwhile.

Working with birthright israel is amazing. It reconvinces me that there is something magical about this place and the Jewish connection to it. Many of the participants have a weak connection to Israel and their Judaism at best, they can be goofing off and not really paying attention to what they tour guide is trying to convey, and then we get somewhere and without intellectualizing, somethings clicks and they just connect. In a deep way. It’s phenomenal to catch.

We had an interesting speaker talk to us towards the end. One Rabbi Lee Diamond. He said the following;

“Being a Jew in the Diaspora is like masturbation; you can do it anytime you want, you don’t need any help, and it’s not authentic. Being a Jew in Israel is like real sex. All the time.”

At that I think all the kids considered aliyah for just one moment.

His thought was that Judaism is neither a culture, nor a religion, it’s a civilization. And a civilization has its own unique language, arts, literature, history, folklore, dress, customs, and yes, its and religion also. In Israel, we speak, breath and live Jewish. But when our ancestors came to America, they saw that to “make it” there they needed to be a part of the American civilization, and left most uniques aspects of the “Jewish civilization”, leaving just religion and cultural quirks. The next generation got the message, and left off most of the religion part too, and consequently, what my generation in the Diaspora has been left with is a fundamentally flawed idea of what Judaism is.

And that only in Israel can it be rediscovered.

I can’t say I totally disagree.

About the author

Laya Millman

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