Within a 20 hour travel day, I crossed the ocean, covered three continents, and traveled over 6,200 miles to travel from Indianapolis to Tel Aviv. Winding up on the other side of the world is an experience that I got to share with NFTY President Forrest Yesnes and NFTY Associate Director Melissa Frey, as we traveled to not only meet up with NFTY Director of Education and Special Projects Beth Avner, but also to experience Netzer Olami’s Veida, which will happen throughout next week.
The journey began with the longest plane trip of my life, and by far the most interesting. Throughout the 10 hour flight, men stood to pray, often times facing in many different directions. Forrest and I debated the proper direction to pray, as we thought East would be the direction we were traveling, and therefore the direction of the plane would be the direction of prayer. Some must have agreed with us, while others clearly decided on other solutions, praying in varying other positions. To be surrounded so thoroughly by other Jews, all practicing their Judaism in a different way was fascinating, meaningful, and in many ways comforting.
As someone who grew up in a very Jewish environment, I thought I knew what it was like to be thoroughly surrounded by Jews and Jewish culture. To be in Israel, and get the chance to travel, eat, and tour around Israel, is a fully immersive experience that I now better understand and appreciate. Israel truly is the embodiment of the cultural Jewish community, and getting the chance to experience it en route to a global experience at the Netzer Veida makes this travel experience all the more educational and meaningful.
Austin Zoot, the NFTY North American Religious and Cultural Vice President, is spending the next week at the Netzer Veida. He will be posting updates on the NFTY blog frequently, and you can follow him in real time on twitter at @NFTYRCVP and on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/NFTYRCVP