Mahane Yehuda Photo Credit Emilio García from Parla, Spain

By Talmidah X

I vividly remember my first pre-seminary freak-out.

August 2013. Sleepaway camp trial week. Eight years old. I was sticking the last prepackaged outfit into my BunkJunk duffel bag when it hit me that there would come a time in my life when I would need to pick out my own clothing. Shudder. Naturally, as any eight-year-old would, I started to spiral. How would I ever be able to spend a year in seminary? My mom would be asleep during the standard getting-dressed hours! Panic ensued.

As the years went by, my feelings toward seminary became more mature and nuanced; the worries about clothing seemed to fade and were replaced by other nerves relating to leaving my family for an extended period of time. But as I grew up, my determination to get past my initial fears to attend seminary grew too, and I eventually decided to attend MMY this year.

As I sat in orientation on my first day of seminary, I found a comment made by multiple administrators very striking. They expressed a shared sentiment that any policies made by MMY were made out of complete love for each one of us. To be honest, when I first heard that, I was rather skeptical. How could someone I just met 24 hours ago claim to love me? They don’t even know me! Over the last two weeks, though, I’ve begun to understand the root of the genuine love that my teachers and principals have for me.

Walking through the streets of Yerushalayim from my dorm to class, I’ve become rather accustomed to the phrase “Achi”, my brother, being used and, more significantly, portrayed. In Israel, strangers and family alike regard one another with feelings of attachment and connection. As you walk through the shuk, it is hard to miss the Halva Kingdom workers screaming, “Achi! Do you want to buy some halva?”

After you get over the initial frustration of yet another person screaming in your ear when you just want to buy some nuts, it’s actually really beautiful. Fellow Jew, my brother. The feeling of family is evident in all contexts here. Last week, my Gett driver wished me the most emotional and kind שנה טובה message, and as I walked out of the taxi yelling “kesiva v’chasimah tovah” in my horrible Israeli accent, it dawned on me that the MMY administration wasn’t lying. Israel is founded on the values of family and love. Any policies set forth by a seminary administration in the middle of Jerusalem must be rooted in love, too. And that gave my eight-year-old self a lot of comfort.

You see, when I felt that I was leaving my family, I failed to recognize the immense power of brotherhood that emanates throughout the entire land of Israel. Everywhere you turn, there’s someone else who proudly reinforces you as “his brother.” Whether it’s because of a school administration, the Halva Kingdom guy, or a taxi driver, it’s pretty clear to me that while my immediate family is at home, I made the right call to take the leap of faith and come here, to a land of seven million of my brothers.

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