Keeping your momentum alive once you return from the desert
My love for the Israeli desert began on a birthright trip at 22 years old. After spending ten days immersed in this new culture, my perspective on life and the world changed. I know from my professional work in the study abroad world, that spending time in another country is proven to make for greater understanding of one’s heritage and increased confidence in new situations. My personal experiences have confirmed this.
I’m now present at every Tribefest event in the other desert of Las Vegas and have returned to Israel several times. I go for fun, for laughs, for friends, and for Judaism. At Tribefest, I attend only the events that mean something to me, that move me closer to my goal of a renewed sense of self. I spend time with people who also believe that the essence of Tikkun Ha’Olam should guide everything we do and believe. I spend hours catching up with old friend, talking about Tikkun Ha’Olam and how to change the world. We stay up all night, drinking, laughing, finding meaning in our community.
I feel incredibly lucky that after all these years, the intensity of these gatherings and the reunions between friends I don’t often see, has not waned. I leave each event feeling more focused on what I hope to gain from the next. This continual draw toward the desert, be it in Israel, Las Vegas, or another Jewish community doesn’t happen to everyone. Ultimately, most people leave these experiences incredibly passionate, connected, and wanting to have an impact on the world. The sense of extraordinary community that one feels with others at these events is remarkable. Yet, unfortunately many go back to their typical lives and this special connection fades with time. This doesn’t have to be the case. There are ways to ensure your bond with Judaism lasts.
Keep going, refining the own meaning you seek, and bringing it home with you.
Some people go on birthright once and that marks the end of their connection to Israel. Some become so affected that they make aliyah. Some come back and want to stay connected but simply don’t. One trip or one event isn’t always enough. You have to keep going. Make it a priority. Find people in your local community who believe in the same values as you and spend time with them. Go to events with them and use them as a resource. The more you go, the more focused you’ll become on the enlightenment you are looking for. For me, this is Tikkun Ha’Olam and it’s always with me.
Ask yourself what it is you’re looking for, and with each event you’ll be closer to finding it. Most importantly, don’t leave with the unrealistic expectation of accomplishing everything you’d like. Often times the connection fades because people want to accomplish so much that it becomes overwhelming. Focus on one or two aspects of Judaism that are important to you. If you can stay focused, your connection to Israel will last forever.
Bring things home with you to preserve the memories. Be it a physical reminder such as a hotel room key, or something that triggers your favorite memory. For me, I still have a copy of notes that I brought to The Kotel one shabbat. In fact, I carry them with me everywhere I go. It’s my personal reminder to keep Tikkun Ha’Olam with me.
Your next trip
If you’re embarking on an experience this summer that will lead you to the desert, I leave you with my favorite piece of advice. Drink with your friends, party all night, climb around the landscapes with the sun beating down on you, whether it’s in Vegas, Israel, or another dessert. Do those things and do them with your goal, your focus, your meaning in sharp focus. Take something home with you. Keep refining the meaning you seek from these experiences. Then go again.