Shalom from the Golan Heights! Last night was our second evening at the Kibbutz Farod in the Golan Heights. After a quick dinner and a MUCH needed shower (following a long but incredible day exploring and hiking along a stream in the Golan, looking out over the Jordan Valley, and visiting the Hula Nature Reserve), we met for our nightly group activity. This time around, after a few fun ice breaker activities (including, but not limited to a Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament), Ori split us into several small groups and distributed envelopes to each group.
Inside each envelope were several note cards with different aspects of being a Jew written on them. The cards covered a range of qualities, from spiritual to cultural to everything in between. Ori instructed us to meet as a group and choose our top and bottom three choices; primarily, we needed to decide what was "most" important about being a Jew and what was "least" important. Naturally, this activity elicited a lot of strong feelings from many individuals in the group, and many people found it difficult to come to a consensus, since what it means to be a Jew seems to be so different for each person, especially depending on where they are from and how they were raised.
When it came time for the groups to present their lists to the entire group, several heated discussions took place. What was most interesting for a lot of the American Jews was hearing the discussions that took place between our Israeli friends. It was surprising for many of us that, even though they have many things in common, the Israeli group members had some VERY different opinions on what makes one a "good" Jew. One Israeli group member, Daniel, suggested that fighting in the Israeli army is not necessarily something that makes one a Jew. His opinion was that there should be separation of religion and country and, for him, fighting in the army has very little to do with being Jewish. However, several of his fellow Israelis suggested that, since Israel is a Jewish state, fighting in the army is, in fact, fighting for the preservation of the Jewish people. Their exchange was informed, passionate, and, for many of us Americans, educational and eye-opening.
As much as our groups disagreed, we did agree on many things. Most groups felt that calling yourself a Jew is one of the most important things you can do. They explained that the process of identifying as Jewish is an important step in knowing who you are and where you came from. Other popular "most" important qualities were raising your children Jewish, knowing your Jewish history, and fighting Anti-Semitism. The list of "least" important aspects ranged widely, from living in a Jewish community to keeping Kosher and observing Shabbat. Interestingly enough, many groups felt like believing in G-d was not necessarily an important quality of being a Jew. However, all of these topics brought up strong feelings in almost everyone, and the discussion could have lasted far longer than the two hours we had allotted.
All in all, our second night in Israel was one that taught us a lot about ourselves and each other, and it was a great way to kick off our time here!
See you soon,