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By Jewish National Fund
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Singer-songwriter Peter Himmelman: Jewish unity should come from love, not fear
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By Peter Himmelman
Jan 17, 2014 By Wesley Varughese Category: Travel,
Caravan for Democracy: My hope for humanity
First and foremost, I am thankful and most blessed to have received the opportunity to travel to Israel with the Caravan for Democracy for the Jewish National Fund. The JNF staff on our trip consists of the following: Yoni, our incredibly knowledgeable, but hilarious tour guide, Rabbi Leor Sinai, our hip, co-tour guide that provided different perspectives of every situation we were placed in throughout the country (while promoting discussion), and Jessica Lebovits, another fantastic staff person guiding us on the trip, who was very familiar with what the Jewish National Fund is doing here in Israel and answering any questions we had about Judaism. We also had our chief of security/emergency aid, and our fantastic driver, passing through tight streets smoothly and giving us pleasant rides throughout the trip - both with smiling faces everyday we saw them. Each one of these staff members impacted us on the trip, and although some were different than others, they each gave us a perspective and a memory that will forever be engrained in our minds, even if we forget their names later on in life.
Rabbi Leor had said a few nights ago, "you've met so many people on this trip: my kids, all the speakers from various organizations, the people serving us food at restaurants, and each of us here on the trip with you. You may not remember all their names, but you will wonder one day how they're doing back in Israel." You make ask yourself, "I wonder how Rabbi Leor's son doing? Did he ever have to join the IDF once he had grown up?" Or the man who talked to us about the Druze, "how is his family doing?" These questions will linger and are already beginning to form in our minds once we've met someone - as we remember who they are subconsciously. It may be dependent on their importance to you, but there will be important people that stuck out to you that you will wonder about. This wondering process is important for when we do our best to explain our experiences to our family and friends. Making personal connections to the stories you tell gives them that much more enjoyment when it's told. And with that, the things you wonder about are the things that were important to you in what you felt on this Caravan for Democracy.
For me, there's so much culture, history, and ideas to gather, but to digest that information and actually make something of it is dependent on the relationships and connections I've made while on this trip. These connections bring the experience to life, put a story to the face, and bring a future to the idea. We as people have many ideas, but the actual amount of people that make something of these ideas is so minuscule. Theodor Herzl once said, "if you will it, there is no dream." That is exactly the type of mentality I've learned to take hold of when I have an idea I want to make a reality, especially after this trip. Nothing can stop you from making an imagination into a certainty but yourself. All the successes I've seen in my peers that were chosen for this program has given me a stronger will to succeed, because I know that we're all great - it's just a matter of turning that greatness into something that will do more for others and not just yourself. The people I've met come from a diverse array of backgrounds - political, religious, and even their upbringing - these differences are what makes me think with more of an open mindedness, but still critically of whatever new information was thrown at me during our excursion in Israel.
My hope is that humanity continues to make efforts for the world to be a better place. This hope is rooted in my peers, and the other people I've met in this Caravan. The reason the speakers, the military soldiers, the locals, and the guides took the time to talk to us is because they care about the future as much as the next person. They're starting with where they are, Israel, and doing what they can make their country the place to be. For them to share that passion with us as foreigners shows how strong that passion resonates and burns in their own hearts, and to pass that flame onto us. Why are we taking the effort to live, laugh, and learn? It's because it is our rational behavior as humans to do these things in our walk through life.
Our tour guide, Yoni, gave some inspiring words to send us off back home. But one thing stuck to me the most: What did YOU do to make the world a better place? What's the point of seeing these things without making a difference? Should you not criticize what's currently being done and make it even better? Take initiative because if you don't do it, your kids are going to question you later down the road asking why you didn't do what you could've done.
Be leaders. Make that difference. That's why they brought us here to Israel. So, in everything you do, go for the truth. If you do, your hope will go beyond all measure.