My video is intentionally titled The Birthright Experience rather than My Birthright Experience. It was two weeks ahead of the trip. With my plans to embark on the Israel journey as a solo experience and then leave for Mysterland two days after returning home, I knew I was about to round the corner in the direction of drastic change. The jewish community calls this trip a right of passage for any young jewish adult between the ages 18-26. It’s the path to enlightenment as we travel back to the holy land.
Often times before any travel, I’d day dream about what life would be like, feel like, for the amount of time I’d be away. These imaginative picture images still exist pre-flight, but I’m no longer one to assume what type of adventure lies ahead. Yet from the decision to travel alone, I was able to guarantee myself these same promises that I had experienced in my time abroad. I was guaranteed challenges, I was guaranteed new relationships, and I was guaranteed freedom.
Perhaps some people felt their jewish pride had re-emerged from their trip. From my experience, I felt no renewal but the budding birth of my pride and all that had been lacking. I sense I was somewhat of an outcast growing up on the cultural front. Living in a highly populated jewish environment with an atheist father & a reform mother, I never attended temple or hebrew school so I suppose I never became a proper jewish woman? Not like I cared. The jewish community I had grown up surrounded by was rather stuckup & spoiled. Lacking most representation of what it should really mean to be one of the smallest surviving ethnic groups on the planet.
One day of the trip, my bus participated in a group activity where we were asked to place into order 30 ideas of what it means to be a good jew. I distinctly recall my thoughts trailing homebound about what transitions in a persons behaviour post bar/bat-mitzvah celebration. The chosen mitzvah (community favor) is explained to all family & friends at the ceremony. It’s expressed in great detail about what impactful lessons it has taught the student, & is then celebrated as a good deed by the now responsible, grown adult who’s ready to take their place in the jewish community. Or, the student celebrates their freedom from hebrew school, soaks up all the glory that comes with their party, and gradually forgets what deeper meaning the traditions of our people once held.
Someone in my group expressed that observing the high holidays, marrying jewish, & raising their children jewish were the top defining elements that classify a person as a good jew. But what meaning does any of that hold without all of the elements leading to the development in the making of a good person. Charity, empathy, kindness & good moral standing. These are the things that should have been carried out by each bar & bat-mitzvah as their life continued onwards.
I didn’t attend hebrew school, but I made sure to always be fully present in mind and spirit with my family. I didn’t attend temple for the high holidays, but I did happily sit down at the table and feast with my extended blood line. I didn’t study the bible, but I studied the stories of my ancestors, and how they escaped the ever-existent horrors chasing them away from their homes. My parents didn’t raise me to observe a conservative lifestyle, but they raised me to observe our traditions. There was always room for me to breathe & discover my own interpretation of religion and spirituality.
So when it did come time for me to be bat-mitzvahed, it was by my own choosing. And I was lifted into the sky on a chair at the Western Wall by my new extended family I had never dreamed of finding on a bus. A bus driving through a most feared land to those who have never visited, and a dearly missed land to those who have left, and hope to return home to.
My video is called The Birthright Experience, because no matter the persons previous background, this trip has the ability to change lives, unite forces, create families. And no matter your religion, age, gender, or attitude, this is a place that will always welcome you home.