This may sound strange but back in the 1980s, when I was a huge fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, I went to their stadium and felt surrounded by my people. I felt like I belonged there.
I thought Israel would feel like that. Everyone told me I would love it and have a strong bond with the land. But, unfortunately, I didn’t feel a connection.
Israel has a lot to offer. It has diverse land, awesome scenery, and lots of holiness. Almost every religion starts there. The first temple was built by King Solomon in 958 BCE on the spot where God created Adam, the first man. Jesus Christ was born there and was crucified there. And, after the second temple was destroyed, the Muslims created their Dome on the Rock, which is their holy place.
On Going to Israel
When my brother and sister-in-law told me they were going to Israel for their 25th anniversary, I got excited about the possibility of joining them. They both loved Israel so much and I had heard amazing things about the place, I felt compelled to go myself.
My entire life, I heard phrases like, “next year in Jerusalem.” Or, I heard about the dead sea and the Western Wall.
But, when I got there, I didn’t feel that way.
In the USA, there is so much antisemitism. I’m not religious by any means and experiencing it myself, I try to stay low-key about religion. I want people to like me or not like me for me. Throughout my entire life, from the time I was a little girl, I was told by some of the other children in my neighborhood that they couldn’t play with me because of my religion. I thought that by going to Israel, I would feel “accepted” on some level.
But I didn’t. I went into stores or asked people questions on the street like where is the nearest toilet, or where is there a good place to eat. No one spoke English. Or, if they did, they pretended not to. My sister-in-law suggested that they may not feel comfortable answering in English. That could have been the case, but it didn’t feel like that.
Maybe if I had gone to Israel with an organized tour group, I would have felt differently. I don’t know. But I do know that I didn’t feel like I belonged there.
Going to Israel, I realized that I found my people, right here on Long Island. I found them through triathlon training and have developed close relationships with people around the country and around the world of all different backgrounds and religions. My people are my family and friends and I appreciate them more now than ever before.
I don’t need to try and find my people. I need to continue to connect with those who surround me with love and support.
I’m grateful that I had an opportunity to go and experience Israel and the holy land. But, my people are right here and they come in all different shapes, colors, and sizes, just like me.