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In the photo with me is my closest friends Alex and Nate. Alex was also a member of the same birthright trip that I went on. Since going on birthright, Shabbat has developed a different meaning to me. Shabbat is truly a day of rest and relaxation. It is the kind of day that everyone could use once a week. What I began to realize after my trip was that Shabbat is so important due to the busy lifestyle that we live. I know at school I am constantly pounded with homework, tests, and other assignments. Having one day of relaxation a week could make a huge difference in my overall stress levels as well as my overall happiness. The dedication that the Jews in Israel have to Shabbat is amazing. Everything is closed, phones are away, and life is all about enjoying the natural world. For a day each week, there is peace. Peace is what everyone should have once a week. Such relaxation and rest is healthy and essential to beginning the upcoming week. A calm and unstressed mind can spawn new and innovative ideas much better than a cluttered, tense mind. In the future, I would like to try to take more steps toward celebrating Shabbat every week. To me Shabbat is a necessity. It is a time to celebrate a hard worked week by taking a day off. If enough people celebrated Shabbat I think that happiness levels would really spike. Without a day off people go crazy. Shabbat in a good way forces you to relax. With my new respect for this weekly occurrence, I hope to incorporate more aspects of Shabbat into my lifestyle.

Answered by Meor Maryland's Rabbi Koretzky 1. Since you’ve taken multiple birthright trips, what do you find original and fascinating that makes every experience different? A: The people. Each time I see the country through the lenses of a new group of unique students. 2. What would it mean to you as a trip organizer to bring the soldiers back to America? From my understanding, Meor Maryland hasn’t won this competition under your supervision yet. A: We actually have won before, the first time they had the competition. We came in a close second the next two times. It would be awesome to win again, to bring these soldiers to our homes and bring the group back together for such a special purpose. 3. What is your favorite part about the every day Israeli lifestyle (etc customs, traditions, food, leisure)? A: I love the closeness and openness of the people. 4. What about Israel or the Jewish religion would you change if you could pick something? This change doesn’t represent something that you think is wrong or bad about the culture. It is simply something that you might think is grey area or a custom you think could be performed differently. A: A bit too much beurocracy at times in the Holy Land. 5. What is your favorite place to visit in Israel? If you do not have a favorite place/site, then which places/sites are your favorites to go to? A: Jerusalem. Duh. 6. If you could make one Israeli custom or tradition a daily routine in American society what would it be? This could be something religious, lifestyle related, or really just anything? A: Give America that unique sense of family, that pulsating, alive vibe that I only feel there. 7. What is one place or activity that you think should be a future place, site, or activity that should be emphasized on future birthright trips? A: I can’t think of one place, I just think it’s critical that people go BACK to explore the land and the heritage more deeply. 8. In your opinion, what scenery is the most dazzling to see in Israel? This could be Masada, Ben Gurion’s grave, or even a site we didn’t visit. A: I love the lush environs of the north, and also the vast desert landscapes of the south – like at Sde Boker (Ben Gurion’s grave). If I had to pick somewhere to stay long term though, other than Jerusalem, it would be the north. 9. What food that is more typical to the Israeli diet do you wish would be served more often with American meals? A: I’ll go with your answer – vegetables 10. What tradition of Judaism do you think would be beneficial if it were a common part of American culture? A: A focus on truth as an objective virtue, as opposed to a relativistic ethic. But that’s a deep answer with too much to develop for a short response.

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