Our blogger Rebecca Levin writes from A Wider Bridge’s 2014 Israel Mission. Day 8: Religiousness In The Holy City
I’ll readily admit: I’m not a very religious person. Though I am attempting to connect with my faith through this trip, I find it slightly difficult, considering that most of the time, I don’t even know the songs the cantor on our trip, Juval, is singing. Though I had a Bat Mitzvah, my religious study didn’t go beyond that (not including a few Chabad Shabbats in college and involvement with the local Hillel as well).
But, this is the Holy City. If there was anywhere that would help me rediscover my faith, it would be here. I had this mindset on my first trip to Israel, too. When we arrived to Jerusalem on my previous trip, I felt connected to the city, but not in any life-changing way. We visited The Kotel and I didn’t feel anything life altering either. Overall, despite the attempts by my group leaders, I did not feel more religious after my Birthright trip.
So, this time around, I wasn’t really expecting much. As we wandered The Holy City, I simply enjoyed the sights and sounds, not thinking much or seeking a religious revelation. And it was really enjoyable. The city was alight with life. A celebration went through the streets as we ate lunch at a falafel stand near The Kotel. Cats lingered in the gentle heat.
When we arrived at The Kotel this time around, I wasn’t awed by the size of the wall anymore. When I walked up to it and touched my hand to it, though, I felt an intense energy pulsaing in the air around me and through the wall. As Erica, one of our groups leaders, pointed out, all of the Jewish prayers in the entire world were pointed to this spot, and I could definitely feel it this time. I could truly feel it in the environment around me. So, I prayed. The moment seemed miraculous to me.
When we came back at night to pray and go to the tunnels, I didn’t feel the charged energy at much, but one moment truly captured my heart. A woman came up and kissed the wall next to me and immediately burst into tears. Her quiet happiness seemed like a manifestation of the collective feelings of everyone at The Kotel at that moment. The rest of the wall was quiet.
I truly don’t know why this time around, The Kotel felt more holy to me. In moments like those, I feel like I gained a new faith, one not quite as naive as the one I had as a child. It was an educated religiosity, and it was wonderful.