This year has been filled with more adventure than I ever anticipated. My travels have taught me so much about the world I live in and my place in it. Most importantly, traveling has left me awakened to a truer and stronger sense of self.
I have had so many life changing experiences during my travels so I feel that it would detract from each experience if I tried to cover all of them in one post. Instead I would like to dive into one experience that resonated very deeply within me.
While I was in Israel I had a strange sense of deja vu. Every day I lived my life as if I had been there all this time. Israel felt incredibly familiar and almost overwhelmingly felt like home. I have never quite experienced such a strong, innate connection to any one place. I have a Jewish heritage that I had never really embraced in this way. These roots are laid deep within my being. This profound feeling of belonging is something frequently experienced by individuals visiting Israel or their cultural homeland for their first time.
This experience got me thinking about the way in which I was raised with Jewish traditions, and how the world I encountered often taught me to be fearful or ashamed of my roots. In an effort to protect myself, I lost a lot of of those practices and pride. It was such an incredible feeling to be in Israel and for my culture to be not only accepted, but celebrated. After a long hiatus from my Jewish identity this trip shook me to my core. I left feeling that I was a part of something bigger once again. I found myself in Israel. I started to see and cherish who I am again. I think travel does that for us. In a world so big and filled with so many different people celebrating different ways of life, you begin to find yourself. You discover what does or doesn't resonate with you. Who you are and who you aren't. What it is to be human and to relate to other humans even if you do not have the same native tongue.
Israel is possibly the most complicated and divided place on Earth yet I could not help but leave with a momentous sense that we are all united by life experience and we all want the same things deep down. Acceptance, love and to be celebrated for who we are individually and who we are as a whole.
Israel was not a religious experience as I do not consider myself to subscribe to religion. What I did find is that there is something so profound about embracing your cultural identity. Honoring your individuality in a world that all too often knocks you down for being different. I am grateful for those experiences because it gave me strength of character but man did it feel good to be in a place that accepted me for me. I think most importantly, when I came home from Israel I carried that sense of pride with me and I am no longer afraid or embarrassed to tell someone that I was raised Jewish for fear of being judged. I found my roots and no one can dig those up. I will no longer remain small if someone judges me or another person for being different because they cannot see past the safety of their own fear and discrimination. Israel taught me to be me. To be human and to embrace all walks of life. From Americans raised differently than me, to Israelis who are incredibly sarcastic and witty, to Palestinians who just want to raise their families in love and safety as much as anyone else, to Bedouins who live life in a very minimal and rugged environment yet still welcome any and all guests to their home and treat them with kindness and respect.
One can learn a lot from traveling, especially to foreign countries where so much is different, yet still so very much the same.