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The call of the past, The draw of the future, and my Jewish roots forming

Jan 03, 2017

It is an impossible feat to miss the seamless blend between the modern and vibrant city and the subtle ancient city filled with stories of those from the past. Today was a journey in stories. Those from the past, those in the arduous progress of being written, and those of the foggy, undefined future that coexist here. First, we met those whose stories are works in progress: the children of Save a Child’s Heart. This foundation operates on children who have heart failure. The operations are free for the children and their families and performed by volunteers and doctors in training. And if those aren’t enough reasons to bring a tear to your eye (the videos of their missions certainly made me cry) these children come from all over the world and their visas, travel costs, and checkups for the rest of their lives are all provided for by the organization. Save a Child’s Heart is an incredible organization that truly embodies the Jewish value of tikkun olam or “fix the world”. This cornerstone of Jewish belief highlights the connection Jews feel to the surrounding world. In connection with this belief, our group leaders felt that since us students were given the gift of this incredible trip, it was our duty to pass on the good fortune we came upon. So, we played with the children who were living at the care center for this organization. The effect was indescribable. Children have the indescribable power of bringing out the best in people and revealing hidden sides of people. Their joy and laughter reverberated in the group and was felt by all. Their enthusiasm renewed our own, and because of this organization, their energies. These one to thirteen year olds will continue to forge their paths.

The seamless transition into the past and ancient stories was begun by an afternoon in the historic biblical city of Jaffa, right next to the modern city of Tel Aviv. This is the magic of Israel. In other locations, the future comes at a cost to the past. Old buildings are torn down for the convenience of new ones, the people’s roots are forgotten in order to make room for new lifestyles more adapted to modern ways of life, and ancient methods of thinking are looked down upon and erased for the latest trend. The United States is probably the largest offender in this destructive form of modernization. Progress at the expense of history has become the norm. However, in this place, the oldest of the old cities coexists with a city known as a hub for innovation and forward thinking. The city of Jaffa was fascinating. Not only for the indescribably delicious foods (fresh hummus, hot pita, steaming falafel, and fresh pickles? Yes please!) and the “shopportunities”, but the history calls from every crevice and edifice. As we navigated the ancient alleyways and streets behind centuries-old buildings, one can only imagine all of the people who walked these stones before us and in their footprints, left pieces of themselves. They leave stories and bits for us to walk and pick up on. In turn, we leave the same pieces of our experiences and selves that others, ten or five hundred years from now, will pick up and wonder about.

The main goal of Tel Aviv, however, is to draw from the narratives of the past in the old city to forge the ones of tomorrow. One of the places that synthesizes these concepts is the Taglit-Birthright Innovation Center. This center was build just this summer and gives examples of inventions that Israelis have created over the last sixty years. Their walls were sectioned off by innovations in agriculture, medicine, cyberspace, regular space, defense, and apps. It was impressive to see how many Israeli inventions are utilized every day that the whole world relies on heavily. The innovation in Israel is rivaled only by the tech boom in Silicon Valley.  Water saving drip irrigation, USBs, microchips, and many other breakthroughs were Israeli.  We explored interactive videos on examples of various products and even heard a talk from two app developers for the app Travessy (like the page on facebook!) which helps people plan trips.

As I look over the view of Jerusalem from the hotel window (15th floor isn’t bad!) I hear the call of the past, the draw of the future, and my Jewish roots forming in this beautiful, vibrant homeland.

 Monica Flynn
University of Oregon Class of 2018
Morgan Hill, CA

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