Hello! مرحبا! שלום!
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Laura, and I’m a senior from Maryland.
My upcoming senior project trip to the Holy Land–Jerusalem, Israel, and Palestine–will be my third time leaving the country. I can’t tell you how excited I am for this trip. Twelve hours from now, I’ll be in the Philadelphia airport, getting ready to board the plane for a 12-hour flight to Tel Aviv. Just thinking about makes me giddy.
My reasons for choosing this particular project can be summed up in one word: exploration. Exploration of new cultures and new people. I am a deeply curious person by nature, and I continually strive to learn everything I can about the world around me. And what better way to learn than firsthand experience? Being a kinesthetic learner as well as natural-born skeptic (I blame my family for the latter), it’s never been enough for me to be merely told about something or to have something demonstrated for me. I have to find out for myself before my curiosity can be truly sated.
But for me, this trip isn’t just about outer exploration. It’s also about inner exploration. I would not call myself a religious person–spiritual is more accurate a term. My mother’s family is Protestant Christian, and my father’s is Jewish. I was not raised to believe in any particular religion or creed, and I had a largely secular upbringing. Yet I’ve always felt a pull towards Judaism–its culture, its practices, its origins. Perhaps this is has something to do with my family’s annual celebrations of Passover. It was the closest I ever got to religious practice as a child, and I loved it. The colorful story of Moses’ exploits in Egypt, the mesmerizing lilt of the Hebrew prayers, and the age-old rituals all spoke to me in a way that any other religion never could.
And so I’ve grown up that way, identifying culturally, though not religiously, with Judaism. For some reason, it always felt closer to me than Christianity, despite the fact that both religions represent equal parts of my lineage. I can’t really explain this, and in any case, this is not the venue in which to do so. Either way, here I am, about to go to the place where both creeds were born. Last spring, seated around the dinner table with my family as we read aloud from the Haggadah–“Next year in Jerusalem!”–it never would’ve occurred to me that next year I would, indeed, be traveling to the Holy Land.
Despite all this, though, I am trying to keep my expectations for the trip as open as possible. There is a rather common phenomenon called “Jerusalem Syndrome,” which is what happens when a person goes to Jerusalem with lofty expectations of what it will be like–they’ll find God, they’ll be reawakened, they’ll find their spiritual calling in life, or something–and finds themselves leaving disappointed and disillusioned. It’s easy to think of the Holy Land as being something akin to a spiritual Disney World, but the truth is far more complex. I hope to avoid Jerusalem Syndrome by keeping my mind and my eyes open at all times.
I’ll document here what I see, hear, taste, feel, and learn, and hopefully try to make sense of it along the way. I originally hoped to post a few photos along with my blog entries, but I doubt that’ll be possible. Rest assured, though, that I will post photos–and lots of them–once I return on March 9th.
You blog readers are lucky, because for this particular trip, you get not just one, but two different reports–from me, and from Ben, whose first entry is posted below.
Well, I’ve got to go start packing. Thanks for reading! Talk to you soon!