The first time I went to Israel was out of obligation and circumstance. I wanted to please my grandparents nagging pleas and I needed a cheap way to get to Italy. This would be the best option – 3 weeks on a dirt cheap program – get to explore the country, please my family and enjoy the rest of my travels in Italy. I did all three of those things. What I didn’t expect is to find my spirituality or take what I already felt and give it that label. Spirituality was a scary, mystical and totally unrealistic word for me. It conjured up images of angels and fantasy – something that I was totally not involved with and felt that it detracted from seeing the reality of this world. Having this prejudice completely overturned was a confronting experience. It was also a sudden one. I had felt something magical the moment I landed onto the Jewish homeland of Israel. I assumed that this was a mere side-effect from my Zionistic upbringing and it probably was to some extent. What I couldn’t have planned for was the feeling of being in the Old City in Jerusalem and experiencing the magic of walking where my ancestors had once walked thousands of years ago. This is an excerpt from the diary of those experiences in Israel:
Coming home from that trip I had never thought I would be where I am now. I had only one resolve – that I would give myself the opportunity to explore my ancestry and discover what it is that they lived for. At that time I had few to no Jewish friends, had not been involved with the community and felt it was out of my reach. Yet, I know an opportunity when I see one and I grasp on it with all my strength. I had decided to find myself a group or some source of information where I could seek the answers that I was after. By no coincidence I know of I was called up by the Jewish Community Security Group and I joined with much enthusiasm. Not long after that a friend mentioned a weekly class he goes to at a Rabbis house. Maybe they had some answers? So I went. A year and a half later I had only missed two or three classes. I had found myself amongst a people also thirsty for some basic knowledge of Judaism and the perfect place to ask, to question and to analyse what it really means to be Jewish. Within a year of coming back from Israel most of my friends were Jewish and I was participating in the Jewish community of Melbourne. At this time I had decided to find myself a shul and I began to drive to shul every Friday night for the service. I found myself in an open environment of singing and spiritual awe. I was comfortable with where I was and felt more Jewish than ever before.
University studies where nearly over and I had by that time been working in my dream job for nearly a year. My understanding boss had agreed to give me an unheard of two months vacation. I knew that I had to go back to Israel and answer the most basic Jewish questions of all. I had already believed in G-d, but it seemed so crazy, so irrational, so fictional that the Torah could be an instruction manual for how to live MY life. Why should I follow a bunch of rules that to my eye seem so outdated and so fictional. How can these stories possibly be true? Floods and plagues – you have to be kidding, right?