Tag Archives: zionist

March of the Living Update: A New View of Israel

5 May

Ever since I had the privilege of taking a trip to Israel last summer as a Young Ambassador, I was convinced that I had been a true witness of history, a part of a culture, and a member of a populous family. I made connections with the land while in the desert, which is when I finally caught a glimpse of spirituality. Since then, I’ve experienced dreams of passed family members, I gained an identity as a real Zionist, and my family and I occasionally practiced Shabbat together at home on Friday nights. This time around, however, Israel treated me a bit differently. I wasn’t googly-eyed and so awestruck like I was on my summer trip. Regardless of it being my first time, the feelings were all different. The first time, I was nervous, I was scared, and I was curious. This time, on my March of the Living trip, once I got over my goosebumps at Ben Gurion airport, I wasn’t nervous. I didn’t feel like a stranger. I didn’t take the land for granted; I did feel like I was at home.

madison 1

On Shabbat, there was a hustle and bustle through the streets up until 6:44 PM; when all of the stores closed, people went home and the streets were practically empty. It wasn’t like in America, in my own house, where we decide when sundown is — and it usually doesn’t occur until we’re all ready (and we all aren’t always there for it, either). In Israel, for Shabbat, obviously with a ridiculous contrast to Poland, Friday nights are reserved for families, prayer, and a visit to the Kotel. While in the states, Shabbat happened when I was ready, and in Israel, the sun unfortunately does not set according to your schedule. It was amazing again to see how barren the streets were all in observance of Shabbas. At the Kotel there were peoples of all kinds who paused their schedules to observe this holiday that, in the States, is sometimes seen as a little inconvenient. Not being able to wear shorts, shower, cook, or use technology? What’s the point? But then one realizes there’s more to the strict observances of Shabbat than rabbinical practices. There’s a history.

While Shabbas observance began thousands of years ago, my appreciation and understanding of its importance doesn’t begin until we consider 1941. Jews didn’t convert and they didn’t stop practicing their beliefs on holidays and at the end of the week. I learned that so many Jews died with their last wishes being to hear a shofar on Yom Kippur; so many Jews wanted a rabbi’s blessing; so many Jews just wanted to be wrapped in tzitzit, to wear tefillin, to read a prayer.  So, where does a simple American girl fall into all of this? Well, once you visit the sites of hell and destruction, you can feel where, you can see where, you can smell where. If these Jews died for their religion and beliefs, then I know I was put here to keep defending it. When I would go to temple, I would stare at the clock, I would never pray, and I most certainly would never think to have a “conversation” with god. Well, my friends and family, I have news for you. After witnessing the proof of destruction and imagining all of you being a part of the horror, I decided that it’s time for me to take this seriously.  I have had the privilege to come across the world to firsthand see the evidence of the Shoah, and it is now my time to take my learning and become the teacher to the rest of my generation and future generations.

Even though I felt like my first trip to Israel gave me the connection I needed to be a true Zionist, my feelings now are stronger than ever.

madison desert

Madison B.  is a participant of The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee’s 2014 March of the Living delegation.

March of the Living is presented in partnership with the Shapiro Teen Engagement Program (STEP) of The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee.