I am back from my Winter Birthright trip with OU-92, my first winter trip. The closing ceremony was rushed and I didn’t really have a chance to share with the group some of the thoughts I had about our experience together. I want first and foremost to thank my wonderful staff. Rachamim, Vera, DJ, Tehilla, Rabbi Zalman, and Rabbi K cared, listened, and contributed. A staff that works together can make a good trip into a GREAT trip and you all truly did.
Looking back on my Birthright experience this winter with OU-92, the word that kept coming into mind was
The first factor which led to the complexity of the trip was the weather. And, although, we got quite lucky with the weather, it did eventually catch up with us. In Birthright, I expect changes in the timing due to unforeseen events; with this trip, however, the changes were due to inclement weather. How could you cancel Mt. Hertzl? How do you make a coherent day in Tel Aviv when you can’t do almost anything outside? Sandstorm on Masada, surging waves at the Tel Aviv Port, heavy rains at the Bedouin tent….
That complexity came out in the stories the participants gave about their lives. Stories about decisions they made that were not easy, about family situations that are far from comfortable, about loss. Life is not so simple.
And then there is the natural complexity of the People of Israel in the Land of Israel trying to grapple with the Religion of Israel. These three factors trying to fit together to form a coherent whole. Many times vying with each other, many times coming to loggerheads, many times in beautiful harmony. The people on the street who said the entire project is too hard for them; the soldiers who said that they are willing to fight for trying to build the puzzle that is Israel; the little gains that you can see if you look hard enough. Transforming the desert into wonderful peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes. Providing work for handicapped adults. Energizing a whole theater with Jewish pride. Connecting us to our past through stones and stories. Showing us beauty through waterfalls and endless vistas.
At the end, however, the largest complexity dwells in the individual. How each and every one of us weaves the story of our ancestors into our present day existence and decides how it will influence our future is the most complex task of all.
I look forward to hearing about how you, the participants of OU-92, take on this complex project and carry the experiences we shared here in Israel into your futures.
‘Cause we are
We are shining stars
We are invincible
We are who we are
On our darkest day
When we’re miles away
So we’ll come
We will find our way home
If you’re lost and alone
Or you’re sinking like a stone
May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground