a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

So, How Was Israel?

Posted on: August 8, 2016

13576745_10208806618855422_5960017635355263465_oThis is a question I’ve been asked for the past two weeks, and it makes sense. I did just spend an entire month funding for my trip to Israel and then almost one month in the country. Folks want to know. What did I do, where did I go? Did I engage in the conflict? Did I visit Palestine? Did I do any social justice work? Did I connect with this organization or that organization? What did I do?

I fell in love with Torah.

I fell in love with soulmates.

I fell in love with myself.

I fell in love with my neshama.

I fell in love with Judaism.

I didn’t leave Jerusalem, or Baka for that matter, really.

I didn’t go to engage in the conflict, I went to learn about who I am as a Jew in my body.

And what I realized with the help of one of my aforementioned soulmates is that I’m not the same person I was when I got on the plane to Israel. Yet, people engage with me and interact with me as though I am. I feel like a fundamentally, radically, spiritually, emotionally, Jewishly different person than I was one month ago. This new Erika has a new Hebrew middle name (to be revealed on my Mikvh-versary), I look at the world through new Jewish eyes, and I think of myself as a Jewish person who has finally come into herself, solid, yet questioning, my relationship to this religion I chose almost five years ago. I have an unshakable conviction to live my life on my own terms, and to be as selfish as I was in Israel back home. I took three weeks just for me, to better myself, my relationship and my life. I took three weeks to myself to better my soul, to discover parts of me that were missing and then found. I took three weeks to fully immerse myself in the wild, crazy, sexy (yes, Torah is sexy) world of Jewish study, to argue with knowledgeable Torah scholars about areas of feminism and the intersectionalities of the three monotheistic religions. I took three weeks to stay up late into the night, drinking six bottles of wine for five people singing, crying, laughing, loving, affirming other Jewish people, meeting them where they stood. I took three weeks to be me, without distraction. To listen to the voice I often quiet, to hear that voice go from a sometimes whisper to a consistent loud roar.

So if it seems like my answers to the question, “How was Israel?” is vague, it is.

I guess it’s like asking someone who saw Beyonce or Adele in concert this year how it was. You can talk about it, you can share the best highlights, you can try to explain jokes and things that are funny about Talmud (ervah is funny!) but, you might not laugh as hard as I will, you won’t know why a niggun makes me weep, or how I see the world. I am so excited to share so many gifts I’ve learned with my community, especially my desire to keep learning and to encourage all Jews, especially JOCs, LGBTQ Jews, and any Jew who doesn’t always feel validated in their Judaism or in their Jewish community to find the spaces in our traditions that are just for us. You can find them, if you look.

And

Ultimately, my trip wasn’t for anyone other than myself.

If you want to read about my experience as it happened, search “Travel bLog” and read all of the entries!

1 Response to "So, How Was Israel?"

Erika,

This is beautiful. I got all teary and a fire under me to get to Israel asap. Can’t wait to meet you again, post-trip.

Lots of love,
Katie

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