Our blogger Rebecca Levin writes from A Wider Bridge’s 2014 Israel Mission. The Last Days: Reflection And Kinship
When traveling abroad, many people tend to think more about the destinations they will travel to than the people that they are with. But no matter what sights you see, no matter what food you eat, and no matter what things you do, it is truly the people you meet along the way that make or break a trip. This, I found out on many of my trips abroad. If I was with a group of people I enjoyed, the trip was great and was embedded nostalgically in my memory forever. If I absolutely hated the people I was with, I tried my best to forget the awful time I had.
When I began packing for this trip only two weeks ago, I had zero expectations. I didn’t think I would come back with any spiritual connection to Israel or any long lasting friendships because that was what had happened last time. The trip, to me, was just a vacation from the stresses that plagued my day-to-day life. I was hopeful, but not optimistic.
But G-d works in mysterious ways. Sometimes, He seems to bless the greedy and pass over the righteous. Other times, He might not prevent pain or create any consolation for the ones we love. Still other times, he sends us a group of people that will irrevocably change your life for the better.
I could tell that He was up to something by the third day, when my fellow A Wider Bridge participants didn’t shun me for being hungry or grumpy or constantly needing time to myself. I can be quite the handful, but the A Wider Bridge group didn’t seem to mind at all. This truly surprised me, considering that only about one in 100 people can truly stand me at all.
To say that I’ve connected to people on this trip would be a little like saying that the sky is blue. Words cannot describe the kinship I share with each and every member of my travel community. From my boisterous and ever-positive roommate Bina to the quirky and quick-witted Hassan; from the perceptive Michael to the adorable Barry and everything in between, I loved each and every person who accompanied me on this physical, spiritual, and emotional journey and I truly appreciate everything they have done for me.
My feeling of belonging to a family was strengthened tonight when we all attended the Women’s Gathering in Jerusalem. The gathering, which showcased local artists and a special modern dance performance, was one of the best moments for me. We all danced together, laughed, and forgot about the impending end to the trip. The happiness created there will resonate with me in times of distress and of nostalgia.
For a group so marginalized as ours, such feelings are rare. Being LGBTQ can mean a life living in fear and disconnection. Being Jewish, Black, Arab, and anything in between only furthers these divisions. That’s why I truly must thank A Wider Bridge for giving us all this opportunity. These connections not only to each other, but also to Israel, are something many strive for, but few succeed in achieving. A Wider Bridge, and my fellow participants, made my connection to this community and to Israel stronger than any fortified city; the connection is truly soul-deep.