Monday, January 10, 2011

First Day

Plato talked of an education being part intellect, part physical and part spiritual. I’ve been in school for 21 years. The furthest I’ve gotten to expanding my spirituality was learning “The Godfather” and eating lox on Sunday mornings. Which with the right bagels and capers can be heavenly, I have always been uncomfortable with my almost flippant disregard for religion.

Sure I’m a scientist and thus a skeptic. We’re taught to be fearful of religion as it is unfounded in evidence (the only scripture of science.) But fear is scary no matter the origin. And I figure, if I’m going to be in a field helping people be healthy I should try and understand what sustains them beyond the antibiotics. And maybe along the way I’ll find a little faith myself. A lofty goal I know, but I feel it is deliciously appropriate.

What better way to start my trip than to sample the airport chapels. I figure maybe god will tug at my skirt when I sit in the room of my destined denomination. It was a veritable smorgasbord of faith. Right flavor of God for every palate. In the Catholic chapel I sat next to a nun and tortured Jesus dripping in stone blood. In the protestant church I sat next to a hippie. The Jewish chapel was solemn, simple, empty and uncomfortable.

I stood outside the Muslim temple for a while debating if they’d let me on the El Al flight to Israel after being seen going in. But curiosity gave way and I took off my shoes and sat in a room with 2 Muslim men. The room was pretty with a large window and prayer alters. The man turned to me and ever so politely and oppressively told me to go to the partitioned “women” area to pray. The section was dark, dirty and bare. There was a bloody tissue in the corner. I counted to 100, to you know, seem legit and rushed back to the pretty protestant chapel with abstract art and poinsettias and hippies.

At check in, security took my bags away to search privately and questioned me again and again. The gist of it was “why the fuck was I going to Israel if I wasn’t Jewish?” Such a stupid question. Who wouldn’t want to go? I had security follow me through the entire airport. We cut security lines and even bathroom lines. When I asked her why she was following me, me specifically, she answered that it was protocol. I kept pestering her until finally she said “certain people match certain profiles. I can’t explain beyond that.” I haven’t left the country and Israel is already suspicious.

I sat behind two massively beautiful blonde men. They had Hebrew tattoo’s on their arms. I can’t read Hebrew but I think it said “Italian shiksas rock my world.” I’m
pretty sure.

When I reached Israel I was greeted by Zahara. We sat on the floor waiting for the bus and talked. She is studying at the Yeshiva Pardeis in Jerusalem. We took 2 buses back to her beautiful apartment in Jerusalem and head immediately out to her school to learn Torah.

In America I feel religion follows a hierarchy of needs. A pleasureful pastime one takes part in after all other shit is taken care of. Here, it seems people draw on faith at every step of their lives before they are even satiated physically. Every person seems to be invigorated with a purpose. Every article of clothing, every street sign prayer seems to bring them back to that purpose. As a result people seem more full and less apologetic. In fact, there is not a commonly used translation of “sorry.” Driven instead of grasping and aspiring, to hold onto something already obtained. Being an observer to all these people so mindful in their purpose can be humbling and intimidating and very powerful.

Zahara and I stayed at school until 11 and then linking arms, walked down the winding dark streets of Jerusalem talking about Torah.

I cannot believe I am here.

1 comment:

  1. A+.
    Please give a warm and well-worded "Hey" to Zahara for me. :D