By Ana Correa, Bus 5, Florida International University Written Feb 1, 2016
It's hard to believe that one month has passed since I embarked on my journey to "uncover" Israel. Having returned, I continue to think about the sights visited and the lessons learned, but especially about the aspects of Israel that inspired me.
Throughout the ten days, I came across different themes to which I felt a connection to. These themes ranged from academic to professional, and from religious to personal. At the home of David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first Prime Minister, I began questioning my own motivations behind what I do as a student and as a future professional. Ben-Gurion's library was composed of thousands of books from the floor to the ceiling full of the knowledge he desired to better understand the world around him. To him, this even meant learning eleven languages in order to read the books' original text and avoid mistranslations. This made me reevaluate what I'm giving my time to and to what purpose. It can be so easy to fall in the everyday routine, but longterm, what is it adding up to? Our time is so limited, and yet we act as if we are timeless. Taking more advantage of the time we have and being more aware of its brevity can make us more productive and intentional in pursuit of our goals.
As cheesy as it sounds, Ben-Gurion also inspired me to continue pursuing my dreams. He literally left everything he had at one point in his life to pursue his dream of living in the Negev desert. This makes me think about how at one point we will have to give up something, whether it is materialistic or an area of comfort, in order to pursue a dream. The question is, how willing are we to do it? As I am prepping for all the madness that comes along with grad school, I often become lost thinking about leaving my area of comfort and my home. And yet, despite the long days when I might get homesick, I strive to grow comfortable with discomfort and believe in my dream more than in my present circumstances. Just like Ben-Gurion, I strive to find my happiness after leaving everything and heading towards a new home.
I was also personally inspired by someone who taught us about Israel through his wisdom, humbleness, kindness, and hospitality. Our tour guide, Michael, truly inspired me more than he will ever know and left me with too many lessons to list. From stories about living in his first kibbutz and climbing the epic, sustainable palm trees, to sharing the history of Masada and the not-so-great Herod, to walking down the historic streets of Jerusalem, Michael always told a fascinating tale. Michael portrayed a lifestyle of simplicity and wisdom that often brought rest to our fast-paced lives. He radiated an essence of giving and caring, and inspired a way to humbleness by remaining teachable despite all his knowledge and wisdom.
At the Mount of Beatitudes, hearing the Sermon on the Mount being read among ourselves inspired me to continue living by the words of Jesus, to dig deeper within my faith, and to continue to not just learn about Him, but to continue the pursuit of knowing Him. Another interesting experience I had was at the Wall. Being at this place, where so much history lies near, was incredible. Praying alongside so many others at the same time was touching, but my favorite part was realizing that God's presence did not feel any different, and although that may sound disheartening, it's not. It reaffirmed to me that His presence is not confined to a place, because it does not dwell among us but within us, meaning that wherever we go, it's with us.
Another memorable visit was to the home of Ben as part of Shabbat of a Lifetime. The idea of Shabbat or a day of rest deeply resonated with me as I sometimes find myself burnt out. The idea of a weekly rest to reflect on the previous days and the upcoming ones makes so much sense in the often chaotic, fast-paced environment of Miami. Ever since I've returned from Israel, I haven't been able to get a full day, but I have begun to set apart different times throughout the week to meditate and rest, and it has made a difference in my day-to-day life.
Every once in a while I come across little things that remind me of those ten days spent in Israel, and every time I can't believe that now this trip has gone from anticipation to memories. I now look forward to seeing how the seeds of lessons learned will give fruit in the upcoming years. I bring back something with me from each place I visit to remind me of my time there, and the best souvenir thus far has been the memories from Israel that will inspire me for a lifetime.
Ana is currently the President of the Wine to Water Campus Chapter at FIU, which is based on a nonprofit that helps access clean water in developing countries.