Reflections from a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
Sorry not sorry, this blog is all over the place (and late!) It’s written quasi-diary style. The entries come at you non sequentially. The intention is to viscerally, palpably express the ‘all over the place-ness’ that is travel. Blessings to Yad Vashem for eloquently demonstrating this art form of evoking sensation as a way of teaching. A tour through Yad Vashem leaves you puzzled and questioning. An honorable, very intentional result as means to ignite a quest for truth. A subtle suggestion to dig deeper. That there are more pieces to the puzzle.
Good research should lead to more questions than it answers.
So, like the museum, let this blog leave you questioning. Unclear. Mystified.
Be okay with not knowing everything.
One secrets of The Art of Travel.
This blog and its’ style are both inspired by and dedicated to my recent sojourn:
To Israel, its culture, faith, and people.
Thank you for all you’ve offered.
In time the details might fall away, but the heart remembers.
Not a travel expert here, but definitely a seasoned vet of sorts. In my short span of life I’ve been honored to visit quite a few countries and cities, and have had the privilege to know some incredible human beings. I’ve stayed in resorts and I’ve sat overnight in a train station. I’ve traveled by bus in large herds, and on foot with just my backpack. Missed flights, misplaced important documents, gotten very lost where I don’t speak the language etc. etc.
Our current world media portrays travel as glamorous, but I beg to differ.
Travel is anything but glamorous. Anything that can go wrong usually does. But that’s not the side of travel we usually share, or ultimately remember.
What is it that we remember after our journey?
After our pilgrimages?
Through foreign places
And through life
What do we take with us? What do we leave behind?
Things. People. Ideas. Questions.
My recent pilgrimage was to the world's only Jewish state: Israel. Through the support of Taglit Birthright and Shorashim, young people with any Jewish lineage or affiliation, are invited on an all expense paid 10 day visit to Israel. For a seasoned vet of travel, the opportunity was impossible to pass up.
Call it research, call it an homage to distant lineage, call it curiosity. Despite doubts, disinterest in organized religion and politics, and a rebellious ‘don’t drink the Kool-Aid’ mentality,’ it’s humbling to admit that the journey touched a deep part of my heart. I highly recommend the experience to any one eligible. And while you still won’t find me walking to synagogue on Sabbath, I went with an open mind to learn, and Israel had plenty to teach. It brought out laughter and tears, and my best and my worst. Travel is like that, it comes with ups and downs. Ironies. Lost camera and a great view. A lot of planning, then nothing goes to plan. A hike to the top of a mountain at sunrise and a ride to the lowest point on earth at sunset. There is something very special about travel. The real daily grind and grit of it is not glamorous. But if you look at both the details, and the big picture, you begin to see there is artistry in the experience.
To know this
is The Art of Travel
In a tragic plot twist, our world changed. Humility and solemnity came rushing in on our last morning together. A powerful and poignant circumstance presented itself and changed many lives. The details of the event are not to be focused on, and will ultimately fall away. The feelings and energy present are where the lesson lies, as this is what the heart remembers.
On that morning, our group came together in a way that you only can if you’ve spent 240 hours together within the confines of a bus. Exhausted. Outside your comfort zone. Vulnerable. Open.
Your truest self comes out. For good and bad.
Allowing this is The Art of Travel.
Tips for when travel is not glamorous.
Organize Your Shit
Organized suitcase = your life together
How to tell if scavenged food is poisonous
As told By Erez Cohen
1. Roll/crush up a sample of specimen to expose its inside fibers
Rub it in armpit
Wait 30 minutes
If no adverse reaction, step 2
2. Roll/crush up a sample of specimen to expose its inside fibers
Rub around lips/ outside mouth
Wait 30 minutes
If no adverse reaction, step 3
3. Roll/crush up a sample of specimen to expose its inside fibers
Put inside mouth and move it around tongue,
cheeks, throat, spit out
Wait 30 minutes
If not adverse reaction, eat.
NOBODY LOOKS GOOD WITH RESTING BITCH FACE
Listen quietly, hear the subtle rhythm of where you are. Sense the energy of the space. Harmonize with it rather than waste energy stressed by details: bugs, uncomfortable beds, piles of bullshit that come your way, people who can’t count to 50… details will be forgotten. But you’ll remember if you were going with the beat.
5 Essential Travel Items
Reusable Water Bottle
Simplicity is Key
-You’re are in unfamiliar surroundings, be accountable.
-Genuine authenticity and vulnerability lead to deep human connections. Then the inevitable pain of goodbye. Be vulnerable anyway. Surprising moments impact you. Let it all come.
Traveling wears you down Truth
Traveling fills you up
Thought I was a ‘seasoned vet’ until I met some real Seasoned Veterans. Of War. Young people, who have courageously served their nation in battle. Was privileged to meet a few men and women (younger than I!) who were/will soon be veterans of the IDF. These young people have been exposed to violence, terror, tragedy and anti-human hate, in a way I will never be able to fully understand. While 2 years of service are obligatory to every citizen of the nation, they accept the obligation with pride, nationalism, and community. With ‘it takes a village’ mentality. For Isralei’s, their service is a right of passage and an honor.
You can imagine, this struck some ‘Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid’ thoughts.
Plus, had a hard time considering this obligatory service in contrast with my own life experiences. There have been nothing but blessed golden roads, each leading to a rainbow variation of heaven. Have I had my trials and tough times? Of course. But compared to fighting in war and being exposed to horrific tragedy, my life in every single way, is heaven.
How can our lives be so drastically different? I’m going around calling myself a unicorn throwing glitter like a silly niña in warrior one, while these people are in tanks in war torn lands.
And yet, our intentions are considerably the same: we both fight for peace. Such ideologically distinct approaches to achieve the goal, but the goal itself is the same.
The sheer gravity of how easy my journey has been in comparison, was too much. I was struck with feelings of insignificance, naivety, and utter stupidity on my own part. A veil lifted of how truly uninformed and sheltered I am. And privileged. [Tears] grew down to the floor and out through the doors of my eyes. It was too much.
Compassion came flooding in for these virtual strangers that have been exposed to so much.
And suddenly, the ‘Don’t drink the Kool-Aid’ fell away.
And a nice dose of you don’t know everything
And a deep pain from a far away place
That even though I’ve never seen such tragedy in this lifetime
Through the compassion
And begonia skies
The heart remembers.
We visited Military Cemetery in Jerusalem. Talk about powerful. Graves with flowers growing out of them. ‘Life is part of death and death is part of life’ another truth our blessed Erez imparted. It inspires further questions about what we leave behind. What is our legacy? What sprouts in our wake? Both in the hearts and lives of others now, and when we’re gone.
‘Our fingerprints don’t fade from the lives we’ve touched.’
And so with much respect for the lives of courageous dedicated soldiers in the IDF and beyond. With compassion and hope for the idea that we cease the need Military Cemeteries, or to sacrifice brave humans, like Michael Levin. I ask:
Is there a better way?
In the fight for peace, can peace itself be our tool to ignite a quest for truth. Can peace be the factor that leaves you puzzled and questioning. A subtle suggestion to dig deeper. That there are more pieces to the puzzle.
This thought struck me with pride. More sure of my truths. Reestablished confidence in my methods of choice. Using peace to create peace. Sharing light, kindness, love, and gratitude from the heart. Reconfirming the importance of open mindedness, and non-attachment to our own ideas. Willingness to be wrong, or change camps- even midway through the argument, something my group mates showed me. Being okay with not knowing everything. In having respect for other ways of thinking, even if you don’t agree. In seeing the light behind the eyes of every single human being. Yes, even the ones with permanent resting bitch face. No exceptions.
And if you’re wondering, yea, there was a whole lot of Kool-Aid. Jew-laid.
The not so hidden intention to strengthen Jewish Identity #readthefineprint There were many group discussions on what Judaism is. On the difference between cultural Judaism and religious practice. On calling yourself a Jew, on identifying as Jewish, raising your children Jewish. On Israel and its revolutionary contributions to the modern world. On traditions and history and the importance of keeping Judaism alive.
And I for sure drank some.
But just like Erez expressed so well with poison wisdom (see above) : take your time. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid all at once. Test a bit out in a mild spot. Give it a chance to sink in and process. If it makes you swell up red, forget it. It’s not meant for you. If it seems okay,, keep digging. Get a little closer, test a more sensitive area. Explore, collect data, broaden your horizon. It’s okay to try things. It’s okay to reject things. Just do it in that order. With an open mind. Become informed, then make your choice.
On the broader scale broader scale, a lot to be learned about world humanity. Regardless of religion, race, gender, affiliation, human values are human values. Truth is, you don’t have to identify as Jewish to appreciate the sentiment of community, of justice, peace, or making the world a better place. You don’t have to wear a funny hat to be a good person. And you don’t have to drink the Kool-Aid- another important secret to The Art of Travel.
And so, what are the things you leave behind?
What impressions do you leave on people? on places?
And what impressions do they leave on you?
Have you harbored stress, anxiety, fear, anger, resentment, negativity?
Have you cultivated joy, regardless of your past experiences?
Have you chosen to be kind?
What is the message you leave?
Will there be flowers sprouting from your grave?
And then of course, does it even matter?
Because, as they say in hebrew: dust you are, and to dust you will return.
This existence is temporary
But the heart remembers.
You might forget the details.
But the heart remembers.