Standing in between Jaffa and Tel Aviv, a shot of Tel Aviv from across the sea.
I was surprised by how developed and similar to the United States many parts of Israel were. I had been expecting mostly barren desert and lots of fighting. Instead I saw fully built cities full of people enjoying themselves.
A friend on the shoulders of another friend putting a note into the Kotel.
I have never had a real tie to Israel. Friends and family have always talked of Israel as a place they feel most at home, but with only cultural history as a tie, I always found it difficult to relate. Also, I am not a spiritual person; I have a very difficult time connecting to the idea of a God or a higher power.
Both these truths were tested upon walking through the Old City and then up to the Kotel for the first time: it was magical!
I felt like I belonged to something bigger than myself. I could feel the energy of everyone around me; all in the same place for the same reason. I became a part of something I had only seen pictures of or read about.
In this place, I was able to feel a presence: if something was going to answer my prayers and wishes, it would be those that I share here.
An Israeli soldier and an American man in an embrace, in the Old City.
I think of Israel as a very traditional and conservative country. Knowing the implications of how some would respond to this moment as it was being captured in the US, I was pleasantly surprised that these two males could walk through Jerusalem safely and comfortably. The acceptance I experienced while in Israel helped me to see Israel through a new, progressive lens.
Gina Rozner is a public school teacher and religious educator. She writes: I grew up with a “conserva-dox” Jewish family, attending secular school and religious school as an extracurricular activity. Through adolescence I explored where and how those worlds intersected when who I was and how I thought did not always match traditional Halacha. Through my own exploration over the last couple of years, I have found a comfortable Jewish identity to hold. I just recently visited Israel for the first time with Taglit Birthright on an LGBTQ trip and was marveled as my experience difference completely from any expectations I held.