Due to my prime location in the Machane Yehuda shuk, my small loft has been bombarded with people traveling through Israel; all needing a place to stay for a night or two. For me it''s great, I get to spend time with people I never get to see, and meet with people from different organizations who are all here on summer trips.
This week I got a surprise visit from an old friend from school, Josh Reitzenstien. Josh has been in Israel for the past year. He is an excellent example of someone who took full advantage of the Masa grants and funding for young Jews who want to spend time in the Land of Israel. He also serves as a prime example of what makes someone Israelist.
During school, Josh and I would commence in heated passionate discussions. Usually revolving around our shared love for Israel, Zionism, the Jewish People, and the need to strengthen our Jewish identities by spending time in Eretz Yisrael. In college we dreamt, and now we both reaped the benefits of what we willed.
Josh found a 3-week program (Israel links) and cheap flight (with no return date) from his Chabad Rabbi on campus, Yossi Winner. Upon arrival he set off to explore his roots through the Land of Israel. He partied in Tel Aviv and then fled to Sefad to study Torah with the Kabbalists. After Rosh Hashanah he settled into WUJS art track program in Jerusalem (he is a poet). He just now finished a 100-day hike from Eilat to Mt. Hermon called "The Walk About Love." http://www.walkaboutlove.org.il/
From my observation, Josh''s time spent in Israel has allowed him to come into his own. He explored the conflict, Israeli society, and cultivated his art while trying to understand his place within it. While he expresses his gratitude for all his time in Israel, it wasn’t until he immersed himself in its nature (literally walking the land south to north) that truly allowed him grasp onto its biblical roots.
"The more time I spent in Israeli society, the more I felt confused by the complexities facing the current state of its people and my individual role in Klal’ Yisrael. The more time I spent in the nature of Eretz Yisrael, the deeper I felt my own connection to the Land of Israel, her people, and the Lord that ruleth over them," he said with a poetic twinkle in his eye.
For Tikkun Ha''am to actually take effect; individuals must seek to repair and define themselves within the Jewish people, and as individuals. Allowing each Jew individually, to set out defining themselves and their relationship with the Land and People of Israel, thus shaping the future Jewish people as a whole of individuals connected to its land.
Think about it, if the Rabbis teach us that Eretz Yisrael, was created for the Jewish people to reach their maximum potential. Both as individuals and as a nation. Individual reconnection to the Land of Israel, serving as a basis for the beginning of this type of self-definition and discovery is a critical part of Tikkun Ha’am. It''s clear from the numerous encounters I’ve had with people just like Josh, that the more time you spend here the more the Land truly sows its roots into your soul. Truly what could be better for the people as a whole than more individual time spent physically in the land of Israel? To begin to repair we must begin to reconnect with our land, our people, and most importantly ourselves.
If we are not for ourselves, then who will be for us?
Adam Scott Bellos is co-Founder of the Israelist Movment, an Ohleh Hadash, and Tour guide for the JNF USA sites in Israel. Follow him on Twitter: @adamscottbellos or email: firstname.lastname@example.org