Today, being Shabbat, we took the opportunity to catch up on sleep. We began the late the morning with breakfast and a nature walk alongside the Jordan River, where some took it upon the themselves to swim in the frigid water. I was not among that group.
Following lunch, we took a couple hours to rest before celebrating an abbreviated Bar/Mat Mitzvah ceremony for several participants in the Birthright trip that had either never had a Bar/Bat Mitzvah or wanted to hold theirs in Israel.
Today was a lighter day of reflection on the past 10 days as we wrap up the Israel experience before returning to the United States. While the trip is almost over, today was a reminder of the friendships and memories that will continue on.
To truly embrace the holiness of Shabbat, I slept for ~13 hrs this morning. No surprise I don’t have much to talk about for today, but I guess that works out because Shabbat is also meant for reflecting on the past week.Growing up, I hated Sunday School and begged my mom every week to not go. She’d respond “Mimi’s mom didn’t die in the Holocaust for you to sleep through religious school today.” Okay fine. I had a Bat Mitzvah and ended up getting really involved in jewish youth group. Despite all this jewish practice, in high school I was very adamant about saying I was “jewish but not religiously jewish.” It was my past and my heritage, but not my religion. If someone inquired into my religion, I would respond simply I wasn’t religious.
It wasn’t until I got to college that I started to view Judaism differently — I don’t go to Tech and there’s a lot of jews at my school. I met super religious jewish people. My friend Roni doesn’t respond to texts on Shabbat, which is super annoying for his friends but more interestingly (to the 6 parents that are reading this) Roni is also an atheist. In fact, most of the super jewish people I had met were atheists or didn’t care about hand-wavy stuff. I came to Israel expecting everyone to be very Jewish, but turns out Israel is Jews of Northwestern pt. 2. We listened to the founder of birthright yell into a microphone “JUDAISM IS NOT A RELIGION” 70 times. Our guide and accompanying IDF soldiers mentioned being atheists, but they are very Jewish because “they are.” They love Israel. Judaism is a culture and a people. In high school I probably felt the need to tell people I wasn’t religiously Jewish because of all my Jewish involvement as though I had to justify it. In college I began to see how the religious aspects coexist with the traditional/cultural aspects. After this trip I know I’m right, and also not alone, in doing so.
- Casey Grage