Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A #JWRP Women's Trip to Israel That Has Changed My Life Exponentially - part 1

Dinner at Decks - we danced the night away!
Although my trip to Israel has ended, my journey has just begun. Nine days ago, I embarked on a trip with 10 women that I hardly knew. By the end of the trip, we knew who was the vegetarian, who was gluten free, who drank red, white, rose, or only wanted a smidge, who had a CVS store unpacked from their suitcase, and who lived out of their suitcase. But more importantly, we learned that each one of us had a story--some story that either haunted us or strengthened us or both. The bond we share now is stronger than we ever could have imagined—if one girl is hurt, we all hurt. If one girl smiles with her heart shining, so do we all. And the trip will not end here. Israel is forever in our heart, and we will continue to pay it forward in some way both individually and together as a group.

Our journey began really when we all met for dinner at JFK airport. Many of us had flown separately to get there, so it wasn’t until we sat for dinner that we had the chance to talk—nervous and excited chatter filled the air like the wine filled our cups. One girl, however, broke down upon meeting us. Something had happened that made her question whether she should be on this trip right there and now. I think she was seriously thinking of turning back to PBI. This was not the first time we all had met. We had gotten together three times with our wonderful city leader Bruchy, but we were not yet close. But this moment sealed the deal for our group. One by one, we all told our new friend that this journey was meant for her and that we all supported her. Some, I think, made her feel like she was not alone. By the time we got on the plane, we felt like sisters on a trip together, ready to support each other on this JWRP's all women's trip to Israel, our homeland.

Day 1 Theme: The Power of Speech

The afternoon of our arrival in Israel, we were greeted at Ben Gurion Airport with signs and lots of cheering and pictures. After we transferred to the Leonardo Tiberias Hotel in Tiberias, we were welcomed by the colorful, lively Tzippy, our trip director. She challenged us to stay connected and not to pretend to be listening or to be busy. Tzippy introduced us to Lori Palatnik, our trip leader, the mastermind behind JWRP and one of the original “Utah 8.” Each of Lori’s lectures was as valuable to us as the history lessons at all of the landmarks that we visited. She made us laugh and cry, and what she said resonated with us and made us look within ourselves to know we had the tools for self-understanding and improvement. We thoroughly looked forward to them each day as she captivated us with story after story.

The first talk was on “Gossip, Lies, and Lessons.” Above is a video of the talk from a different year.

Here, Lori told us to focus on what we have in common, not what divides us. We should leave our uncommonalities at the door. Here are some bullet points from her talk:
·            According to Jewish law, if we are told we have to kill someone, we kill ourselves first.
·            Gossip, slander, and rumor is like a triple murder: you kill the person you are talking about in the eyes of the one you’re speaking to; you kill yourself in the eyes of the listener; and the crime you are most guilty of is in the listener because the crime would not have happened without you.
·            Gossip is like a fired bullet
·            They don’t call it “the dirt” or “the lowdown” for nothing
·            What can you do if someone starts to gossip? Change the subject, start talking about family, or walk away
·            You want to be the kind of person that people stop talking about gossip when you walk in
·            There are three sides to every story: her side, his side, and the truth
·            G-d judges us on how we judge others
·            Be extra open and sensitive to others
·            Look for the person who is not connected and bring them in. Find the best part of you
·            Gossip is any form of communication that reflects negatively unless there is a positive constructive purpose
·            Go to the person who can make a difference
·            Only say what’s necessary and know the difference between fact and fiction (one person’s date from hell is another person’s Prince Charming)
·            “For every pot, there is a lid”

Then Lori gave us a red rubber bracelet to wear that said: “Don’t blame, don’t complain.” We were given the task to wear it for three weeks and if we blamed or complained, we were to switch the bracelet from one wrist to the other so that we were cognitively aware that we did it.

I remember what Bruchy told me when I was frustrated at the airport: Judge only on the positive or don’t judge at all…this is what Lori was talking about, too. I need to work on this for sure!

That night, we dressed up and went to a restaurant called Decks on the Kineret. The view over the sea was spectacular, and the excitement among the 200 women was buzzing. We started dancing, feeling free, letting our guards down, and enjoying the evening in the company of only women and a few male madrichs and guards. We danced all night and ate the most wonderful food: salmon, hummus, and Israeli salads were passed around the table, and delicious wine was flowing. No detail was left unfinished: fireworks set off from a nearby boat made the night even more magical. What a day. We were home.
Here is a video of 200 women dancing on that first night at Decks. Below that is the final video of the entire experience from JWRP.

Day 2 Theme: Sparks

As stated in our journal today, “ The Kabbalistic masters of Tsfat taught that there are sparks of holiness and connection everywhere; the challenge is opening our eyes and hearts to see them. As we tour the beautiful synagogues and mikvah of Tsfat, we reflect on how to see, and renew, the sparks in our relationships and our marriage.”

Here are some notes from Lori’s talk on “The Kabbala of Love”:
·            Who your kids marry is the most important decision of their lives
·            Must define marriage – “oneness”
·            G-d splits us like a puzzle; we each have half a soul – opposites attract
·            You don’t grow through easy qualities of kids or spouse; they are the cherry and whipped cream! Enjoy!
·            Don’t resent differences; embrace them – they are an opportunity for growth
·            Love is the emotion you feel when you focus in on virtues of others and choose to identify them with those virtues
·            You never fall out of love with your kids
·            Gotta “be all in”
·            Love is: what’s important to you is important to me
·            The more you give, the more you love. Takers are happy in the short run.
·            We give and give to a baby – the more you give, the more you love. Giving leads to loving
·            Don’t wait to give love to a spouse
·            Wisdom is learning it and knowing how to apply it
·            Three questions to answer yes to in order to know this is “the one”:
o   Do you have the same meaningful life goals?
o   Are you physically attracted to each other? How he treats us outside the bedroom is directly related to how he treats us in the bedroom (men look at this differently) Dress up when he gets home. Freshen up. Be the best of yourself
o   Do you respect him? When he comes home, get off the phone. Don’t be critical/nagging when they get home. If you respect him, he will become the man you respect. A man’s job is to make you happy. Build him and don’t deflate him.
·            This is for eternity.

We toured the mystical city of Tsfat, perched on a mountaintop in the Upper Galilee and home to many famous kabbalists and scholars. Ken from was an excellent tour guide. We then toured Mikvah facilities and learned about the important ritual of going to the Mikvah and how it strengthens the relationship between husband and wife. The women who spoke were very frank and funny and professional. I think it made many of us consider going to one at least once.

We shopped and had lunch on our own and it was here that I had my first (of many) falafel and hummus sandwiches. The food in Israel is so fresh and I did not worry at all about carb counting or fried food – it was too delicious to pass up!
A synagogue in Tzfat

Spotted in Tsfat: Palm Beach Federation!
Mikvah 101
What a mikvah looks like in Tsfat

More Mikvah explanations
We departed for dinner at Dubrovin Farm, where we met in groups according to the numbers on our tags. This was the first and only time we did not sit with our group, and it was great to meet women from all around the world: Israel, Long Island, Hungary, Kansas City, Stuart, Boca, Detroit, Rockville, and South Bend. After a wonderful outside dinner on the farm that looked like a dream wedding, Tzippy got up and spoke about a personal tragedy that she had overcome, which without getting too much into it, is that she is BRCA 1 positive. I sat in my seat quietly sobbing, as I shared her personal tragedy and have never spoken about it publicly. The woman on my right, whom I had only met moments ago, offered me her tissues and her gentle touch, which comforted me. I got up after Tzippy’s speech and told her that I, too, am BRCA 1 positive, and have watched as my aunt, mother, and cousin have all passed from either breast or ovarian cancer far too young. Tzippy asked me if I had the courage to speak in front of all 200 women about my personal experience, and luckily I did not have much time to think about it. I did, and it was cathartic, having never publicly spoken about it before. Afterward, my group of girls and several others came over to hug me, many with tears in their eyes. Some of them shared their personal experiences. Although I am not quite ready to blog about my full experience, I encourage all women with breast or ovarian cancer in their families to get genetic testing at the very least. More knowledge is power.
I am speaking about my experience being
BRCA 1 positive
Tzippy encouraging me to speak to the group

After dinner at Dubrovin Farm
Jacquie posing with her pashmina as a headwrap
Here is a video of 200 women trying to pose for a picture at Dubrovin Farm - no easy feat!

Day 3 Theme: The Power of Dreams

We packed to get ready to go to Tel Aviv, and then Lori gave a lecture on “Discovering the Real You”
Here are her bullet points:
·            Greater than loving someone is understanding them
·            You can’t help someone realize their potential until you understand them
·            You need to raise kids their way
·            When you “get” your kid, you see them
·            There is a system of understanding that is Torah based: wisdom, action, kindness
·            There are three main personality types. Everyone has all three of them both in soul and body, but there is one that is your default.
·            For your soul, it is where you get the most pleasure. For your body, it’s where it goes when you are not mindful.
·            Most people have body one type, soul another; otherwise you are “double trouble” and must strive for more balance
·            Soul: drives you, where you get the most pleasure
o   Chaim: Jacob. The pleasure of understanding. Thinker: smart, out of the box. March to the beat of a different drummer. Not good with rules, structure, authority. Their pleasure is thinking, seeking wisdom. They are complicated, introverted, have few friends but deep and meaningful; unusual taste. They don’t have an easy time in life—not understood. They think “half-empty.” Systems don’t appreciate them. They have funny, dry and not slapstick humor.
o   Bracha: Abraham. The pleasure of connecting. Extrovert but not always; love people, happy, optimistic. They miss out on the depth of people and ideas. They make everyone happy but compromise ideas; “half-full.”
o   Tov: Isaac. The pleasure of doing the right thing. Willing to die for G-d. Know what you’re willing to die for so you know what you’re willing to live for. Drive to do the right thing. Black and white. “Invented” authority, rules. Loyal in their friend circle. Tough and strong Judgmental-think they are being helpful but point out where you’re wrong. Critical. They run the world and respect other Tovs. They arrive on time and are tense and want to do the right thing. Must work on themselves to give people space.
·            Body: when you are not mindful, here is where you go
o   Chaim: Sensitive, picks up on people and body language. Good therapist. Walking barometer – always aware. Sponge – take in sadness. Aware when being shunned. Observer. They are great friends. Sometimes use substance abuse to buffer awareness.
o   Bracha: Pleasure, comfortable clothes, one with the couch, “pillow blankie,” lazy, late, no watches
o   Tov: Action, accomplishment, running and doing, so busy, say yes to all, must prioritize. When people cancel on them, they are very disappointed.
·            G-d says you are the way you are, now change. You can’t change people, only the environment.
·            Polish the diamonds to bring out potential
·            Make an effort to understand others, since greater than loving someone is understanding him or her.
·            We tend to marry people who have different personalities than our own. This helps us to bring out our potential. Don’t resent your spouse’s differences, celebrate them.
I think that I am a double Tov, and double is trouble, so I have a lot of work to do!

Upon arrival in Tel Aviv, we toured Old Jaffa, but the highlight of the day was definitely visiting Na Lagaat, which means “Please Touch” in Hebrew. First, two deaf people taught us how to sign a few things and this was touching and comedic, as they lovingly made fun of us for not following their signs perfectly. Then we watched a deaf-blind woman steal the show in an artistic play called Say Orange. It was about her losing her sight, and it pulled our heartstrings and touched us all. We then spoke to both her and her interpreter after the show. Her smile went from ear to ear, and it was incredible to witness her joy when we heard about her children and life through an interpreter. She was so completely inspiring, and then we heard from a woman in our group who was so moved because she is blind in one eye and is possibly going blind in her other. To see how every part of this trip, from the lessons to the locations to the programs, could move us all is only something you can truly understand, I think if sharing the same experiences with 199 other women. Afterward, we enjoyed amazing fresh Israeli food served by deaf members of Na Lagaat, which was an incredible experience.
Bat Sheva, the incredible star of Say Orange
We left for Beit Haatzmaut, or Independence Hall and toured the street and learned about the establishment of the state of Israel. More can be found here

We departed for Jerusalem and checked into the King Solomon Hotel and walked to the old train station a restaurant called Fresh, where we ate a lovely Israeli dinner, drank wine, and shared dessert. We shopped at a few outside vendors and went home, unable to sleep. Unable to sleep, my roommate and I chatted well into the night, our minds filled with wonderment.

Do you want to apply for this trip? Find the link here.


Benay Origlia said...

Lisa, it's Benay.... Where can I begin? For the people who asked me about my Israel trip, I told them there are no words but now I know I can send them to your blog. You captured days 1-3 perfectly. Thank you for capturing every second and I look forward to what else you have to say. I'm happy to help if I can, Obviously your not just an amazing math teacher but a great writer too. I'm excited to see you this weekend. Love, Benay,,, your fellow red.

Anonymous said...

Roomie, your gifts are abundant! This is a beautiful, accurate and well written summary of the first days of the trip. You have captured the essence as well as the itinerary. From the lectures to the touring to the bonding and the sharing, we all got so much from the trip because we were open from that first meh dinner at The Palm.. Can't wait for the next chapter! xoxo CVS

Meg Craig said...

Lisa, wow. I thought the second part was a powerful post, but this...!

I'm so proud of you for having the courage to speak in front of all those women about such a personal and painful topic. Cancer can kiss my ass and I bet you inspired many women to gain more knowledge about their own body. I'm sending you a long-distance hug right now!