I, along with most people on my trip, am asking themselves a very important question recently.
As we get settled into Israeli society, familiarize ourselves with their social norms, and evolve ourselves into residents instead of tourists; we are trying to better understand our professionals selves, while also trying to understand how Judaism and Zionism will fit into our lives in the coming months, but more importantly, what role it will play in the remainder of our lives.
The state of Israel’s birth is an enormous feat and to this day — and regardless of your personal views –
you have to be in awe in simply the existence of the state. After thousands of years and countless exiles there is finally a place to call home for the Jewish people.
Now for my take on religion:
If a person starts to perform random and eccentric rituals on their own, they are deemed crazy and erratic, but if millions of people are performing the same rituals, they are part of a religion and are no longer deemed crazy. Well, that’s just silly.
It’s also interesting to me why there is such a high correlation between the religion, if any, that is practiced by your parents, grandparents, etc. and the religion that you practice now, or the one that you eventually blend into your adult life. Religion to me seems to be more of a human need to be accepted amongst something larger than yourself. It also seems that this human need for inclusivity is also comforting for people in that it gives them a deeper connection to their ancestors and heritage. Once you combine the need for inclusivity with the environmental rearing of a child, it is hard for someone not follow suit in a place like The Middle East, The U.S. Midwest, India etc.
For me, it is something different. I am quite terrified of any type of organized religions; however, I naturally identify with Jews, because to me, it’s more a heritage and culture identity, rather than purely a religion.
Now, I’m sure, as I grow older, — as most people do — I will start to align my lifestyle with that of a religion, but as a recent college graduate, I will continue to assess it on a purely logical basis. Now people can say that I have no faith and that I haven’t been “showed the light”, but the simple act of following traditions of a book written thousands of years ago is something that my brain can’t comprehend, and more importantly, blindly accept.
The truly extraordinary thing about Judaism, and more specifically Israel, is how you have such a pious community (Jerusalem) – by far the most in the world — coexist so close to city that promotes individuality, gay rights, and freedom of expression (Tel Aviv). Orthodox men stand on the street and ask me every Shabbat if I would like to daven with them, right there in public. I always turn them down, but the comforting thing about it is that they never follow up with an empty threat about bad karma or the afterlife of pain and suffering. It’s truly a religion of acceptance and love, and that must be the reason why I enjoy Israel so much; there is no real compelling force that guilt you into becoming more faithful to Judaism, it’s the underlying Jewish roots that exist and the comfort that you feel as if you’re always in the presence of family.
I often have trouble writing about my experience in Israel and that’s because there is no one path to describing how I feel about this place. Everything is controversial. And everything is biased, in one way or another.
Unfortunately for us, the conflict is perpetual; the war is inevitable; the oppression is unbearable. Jews have grown long accustomed to prejudice and hostility and one I cannot refuse to admit the special connection I have to this land, no matter how secular I may be. It most certainly is worth fighting for.
See the original article here.