Welcome to Israel – Where Being Jewish is in the Details

Rabbi Rich Kirschen

Rabbi Rich Kirschen

Dear NFTY in Israel Summer 2013 Parents,

Our participants are already two days in the country and there is so much to tell about.

In addition to the larger parts of the itinerary that stand out, like visiting Tel Aviv, going to Old Jaffa as a pilgrim, and getting ready to go down to the Negev desert; I was actually struck by what might seem like a less significant experience that our teenagers encountered, but what turned out to have a far greater impact than I would have suspected. I was fascinated to hear about one of the phenomenons that our NFTY teens became aware of immediately upon their arrival in Israel, and that was how in Israel, “Public Space” is “Jewish Space.” And it didn’t take these clever teenagers long to catch on to this concept.

Two days ago as soon as our teens walked out of the baggage claim at Ben-Gurion Airport (a bit bleary eyed and schlepping some oversize very heavy suitcases), they noticed that as they were walking into the Arrivals Hall, they were walking between two large walls of cascading water on either side of them. That’s correct…. our NFTY teens landed in an airport where Jewish architects had consciously designed that landing in the airport of the Jewish State would recreate the crossing of the Red Sea (yes chutzpah). And so the journey for our teens in Israel began just as it as it did for their ancestors thousands of years ago, by crossing into Israel through two walls of water. And just like the Passover Seder which recounts our journey to Israel; our NFTY summer began with a series of questions….. “Why are there two walls of water when you walk out of the airport?” They asked. “What is the significance of this water structure in an airport?” They wanted to know. And suddenly within five minutes of being in Israel, a fascinating conversation was launched about what it means when an airport has a Jewish message.

This is only the beginning of the questions and discussions these remarkable young people will have during these next few weeks. And it is simply amazing to watch them process the larger narrative of Jewish people hood and begin to merge it with their own personal narrative. They are beginning an adventure of a life time. And after only five minutes out of the airport, questions and conversations have begun, and as their journey continues these questions and conversations will only intensify.

I want to thank all of you for sharing your teens with us, for it is truly our privilege to embark on this extraordinary learning adventure together with them.

An adventure that is both collective and yet very personal, and a journey that covers the larger issues but is infused in the details.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem,

Rabbi Rich Kirschen
Director, NFTY in Israel

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One Response to Welcome to Israel – Where Being Jewish is in the Details

  1. avatar
    Holly Goldblum June 23, 2013 at 11:24 pm #

    Wow, thank you for this article, each time I read it I am moved and know we made the right decision in sending our son on this journey from GUCI as a first grader to Israel as a junior he has grown as a Jew and this trip will forever be a huge part of his Jewish life.
    The description you wrote makes me feel like I am right there with him.

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