David Peterson: My Israel Story

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Imagine a life of wandering, and then on a 10-day trip, you find your way, and everything clicks! Picture finding and connecting with that spark! Realizing a connection to a peoplehood, a land, a nation-state, and cultivating a deep relationship with other Jewish men, all in only 10-days. If you can join a Momentum Men’s trip, jump on it! The first words out of your mouth should be, “Where do I sign, and when do we leave”!

My backstory started in 2009; my wife and I had just completed our conversions to Judaism. It was a fantastic time and a process that brought us exceptionally close. The process involved a great deal of study, reading, classes, meetings, and soul-searching. So naturally, I ate up all the knowledge and excitedly absorbed the experiences of the conversion rituals. On top of things, I had a great career direction; we were still newlyweds, with a wide social circle and solid congregational life. 

As a Jew by choice, I spent the better part of the last decade putting aspects of my newfound religion at the forefront of my daily life, such as life-long learning, Tzedakah, Torah study, Tikkun Olam, community building, and more, helping to mature my identity. We infused our home with Judaism, created lifelong friendships, involved ourselves in the community and our congregation, and entrenched the values in our children’s lives. And there still seemed to be something missing, but what was it? It was Israel and the need to develop a connection to the land of our peoplehood, ancestry, a place riddled with triumphs and tragedy.   

I went on the Men’s Momentum trip with no expectations, landing in Tel Aviv with an open mind and heart. We had 150 men from across the US and Israel on three buses setting out on an adventure. We saw fantastic historical sites connected to the beauty and rich history of the land, building a brotherhood along the way—a brotherhood of men that transcended the spectrum of Jewish denominations. We connected with Israeli soldiers and talked about fatherhood, politics, shuls, relationships, and lighter topics, such as our favorite beers. We spent our evenings in the Shuk or hotel lounge, chatting about life, our families, and journeys.   

I know my words haven’t done this experience justice, but how can one capture something so powerful? For me, Israel is the link that sews the individual facets of my Judaism together. Living a Jewish life in the Diaspora takes time and effort. You often have to blaze your trail, but not in the Holy Land. In such a place, being Jewish is the norm; no matter your religious observances, there’s nothing more beautiful than the peaceful silence during Jerusalem on Shabbat. I thought my conversion was complete with my dunk in the mikvah. Yet, on the Bar Mitzvah anniversary of my journey, I feel a new completeness and connection that took 13 years to come full circle. And while my journey is far from over, I feel ready to start a new chapter. 

I’ll close with this: Don’t put off your trip to Israel; before you know it, there’s a decade of excuses standing in your way. Make the call, and commit. Life is too short to wait until things slow down. The most precious gift we have is life. Make sure it’s one worth living: full of fellowship, spiritual connection, positive relationships, challenges, and peace.

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