Last weekend I had the privilege of joining Mayanot Bus 97 for Shabbat. My first time to Israel was on Taglit-Birthright with Mayanot in 2007. Every year the University of Colorado has a full bus of students go to Israel for free. Check out Mayanot (Just click). The Chabad on Campus always orginizes this. JewishCU
Well with the help of My Rabbi in colorado and my friend Rick Gaines, the trip student leader, I joined them for Shabbat. On Friday I got out from the Army, came home and repacked. I went to Jerusalem to meet them at the hotel. I went in Uniform, one for the free bus rides and two because very american student loves a guy in uniform, just to bad I don’t have a gun for the weekends. I got to the hotel and met up with Rick. We chatted for awhile and then we all headed to the bus to go to the Kotel (Wailing/Western Wall) for Kabbalat Shabbat. I knew a few people on the bus and a lot of them have heard of me. I felt right at home…like I was at CU again.
We had a very short tour/welcome to the old city and kotel. We then joined a bunch of other Mayanot groups for Shabbat services. It was good, but not like every other Mayanot Kabbalat Shabbat I have been too. I was a bit disappointed…but I still felt very connected. We then had a two hour walk back to our Hotel for Dinner. Fun esp in boots. It was a very nice walk and I met a lot of cool people. It was really cool to talk to the other soldiers that were really part of the trip. Everyone was impressed with my improvement in hebrew… I really felt like I was an Israeli, but also very American. On Shabbat, we had a few group sessions, which I got to participate in. I was really amazing to see first timers in Israel from my new perspective. They really made me proud of my decision to join the Army. I think I might have shed a tear of joy. The day also had a lot of free time and what does a group from CU do with free time on the weekend next to the pool? Well of course, they drink… Lets just say it was a good time. I forgot one arm and my shaved head when I put on my sunscreen…bad mistake.
Toward the end of shabbat I got the opportunity to speak to the group. I asked for 15-20 minutes and I got 5 mins. So very quickly I told; Why I came to Israel, How Mayanot and Chabad influenced me, Gave them some advice in a Jewish journey, and asked them to go back and support Israel. I really wanted to get across that Birthright is more than just a free trip to Israel and that their feelings now for Israel don’t have to end when they get home. I hope they really feel inspired and continue their lifetime of Jewish development.
A note to all the students on the trip:
“I am really happy that we got the chance to meet, talk, and have a great time. I really felt very comfortable with you all. You have renewed my energy and spirit. Hearing your stories and how Israel has influenced your life, really gives me inspiration. I am serving in the Jewish Army for people like yourselves. I look forward to staying in touch and seeing you the next time your in Israel. Give me a Call.”
Here are some recommendations for you to check out:
Books (Take each word of advice from your perspective. I do not necessarily believe/agree with everything I read.): Why Marry Jewish?, Dear Rabbi, Why Can’t I marry her?, How to raise a dog Jewish, Jewish Meditation, Towards a Meaningful Life, Coming Back to Earth, Brotherhood of Warriors, Lonely Soldier.
Good Luck to you All! Feel free to add me on Facebook too! I’m in the Mayanot 97 group.