Ashley Marx, a staff member at URJ Camp Kalsman, is currently travelling in Israel on a KESHER Taglit-Birthright Israel trip. She’s one of the more than 750 people who will travel to Israel with us this winter. Ashley took some time to send these reflections from Israel back to the Camp Kalsman community. Check them out!
Sight: “I lift my eyes to the mountains, where will my help come from, my help will come from God,” (Psalm 121).
This morning our group, KESHER 120, climbed the historical mountain, Masada. Watching the sunrise from the top, gazing across the dead sea was truly phenomenal. Learning about the heroic strength of these people has brought new meaning to this psalm; this summer when singing it at camp I will look at our own mountain and be reminded of our connection to Israel.
Taste: ”God said, “See, I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon all the earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; they shall be yours for food.” (Genesis 1:27-29)
In addition to fruits, such as pomegranates, we have been sampling some incredible delicacies. Last night we were treated to a Bedouin feast in the Negev desert; the food is served family style and everyone shares from a communal dish. The Bedouin hospitality was delicious and is only a sample of the delicious food we have tasted including falafel, schwarma, many vegetable dishes and shakshuka, a Israeli breakfast dish.
Smell: ”We smell the spices and taste the wine as the stars above begin to shine,” (Shavua Tov, Klepper).
On Saturday, Sam and I had the pleasure of leading havdallah services for the group. From the patio of the hotel, it was incredible to see the lights of Jerusalem hillside beneath the stars. When we began to sing this song, we were the only ones in the group singing. There is a wide breadth of Jewish knowledge on our trip; some are active in the URJ or at their Hillel, while others did not have a bar or bat mitzvah. Yet each one of us is an important member of our group and just as Sam and I shared this song, we all bring something that can be learned. An hour after we had smelled the spices our week was made sweet when we spent a night with two Kalsman mishlacat members, Chen and Shir. There was no better way to start the second week of our trip.
Sound: “and the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets,” ( Zechariah Viii 3)
On our tour of the old city of Jerusalem, our tour guide Itai, showed us the place within the main square, where it is written on the wall. As he was explaining the significance of the prophecy we were interrupted by the voices of school children running through the square. Seeing the prophecy come to life before our eyes and hearing the laughter of the children is the greatest hope that the land of Israel, despite challenges, will continue to prosper.
Touch: “Jerusalem, if I forget you, let my right hand forget what it’s supposed to do,” – Jerusalem, Matisyahu (referencing Psalm 137).
This song, in addition to being extremely popular on our bus, represents the connection that after 5 days we feel to the land of Israel. There was no moment more powerful than placing my hand on the western wall. Feeling the stones representing the history of the Jewish people was an incredible spiritual experience and although I was touching the wall, I felt completely separate from the world. Matisyahu is saying that it is essential to the soul to remember Israel; this trip is impacting my Jewish identity and connections to my faith, I know it is the beginning of a lifelong relationship with Israel.