Quarter-Century Mark

Today is the last day of the October Memoir and Backstory Blog Challenge. Three major things happened when I was 25:

1. I finally learnt to drive, though I wasn’t to get my car till I was a month shy of 27. I’d grown up with the media-perpetuated stereotype that everyone automatically takes driver’s ed in high school and is driving by 16, usually in a car their parents give them for a birthday present. Total BS. Off the top of my head, I can only think of one person who was given a car by her parents, and she had to earn that present. It wasn’t given to her automatically.

My brother learnt how to drive the same year I did, though he’s 6.5 years my junior. He was a better learner than I was. I was so terrified in the early days of being behind the wheel. It was like I couldn’t believe I was responsible for moving this huge heavy machine all by myself. I was scared out of my mind the first time I drove on a road, to say nothing of being on the highway.

Practice makes perfect, and I’m a pretty good driver today. I didn’t pass my road test till the third try, but I’ve made up for lost time since.

2. I finally went on Birthright in June 2005. Birthright is a free 10-day trip to Israel for youth between ages 18-26 who’ve never been on an organized trip there before. It’s really important for building pro-Israel advocacy and a strong, positive Jewish identity. The trip has changed so many lives. I applied several times at uni, but was put on waiting lists every time. I applied again after graduation, but was on waiting lists then too.

One of the trip leaders was actually a girl I’d gone to uni with. I went with the IsraelExperts group, on a Boston-based trip. It’s impossible to describe the beauty and awe of this amazing land where ancient and modern co-exist, where five religions live together, where the events of the Bible happened. There’s a Magickal, mystical element to the passage of time, sort of like the so-called “mystical vav” in the Torah.

Beautiful mosque, beautiful purple flowers

This is the Sidna Omar Mosque, in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. It hasn’t been used in decades, but after the city’s reunification after the Six-Day War, it was restored and protected.

So beautiful and yet so off-limits and audaciously built right on top of the Temple Mount

I’ve gotten some much better pictures of the Dome of the Rock on my later two trips. It’s such a beautiful, integral part of the Jerusalem cityscape. I love the idea of a Third Temple being built as a universal house of prayer for all peoples, with no animal sacrifice, but not on this spot. World War III would break out if zealots destroyed the Dome of the Rock just to build a new Temple on the same spot as the old ones.

The Santa Claus House

This strange place is called the Santa Claus House. It’s in Haifa, Israel’s most well-integrated city, where all 5 faiths live together in love, peace, and harmony. Every year, lots of people, regardless of faith, come to this house to celebrate Christmas together.

3. My grandpap died. I’ve previously written about him and what a wonderful person he was. He was a product of his time, but he was also a very, very good person. He lived what he knew, even if some of his attitudes come off as close-minded or racist in the modern era or in a larger city. I know a bit what that’s like myself, having grown up considering words like “Eskimo” and “mentally retarded” to be socially acceptable, yet today many people consider them offensive. I couldn’t help the language I was taught when I had no frame of reference to think that was bad.

My grandma was given some “Grandmother Remembers”-type book by my parents when I was young, and she gave it to me when I was an adult. In the “Grandpap Would Like You to Know” page, she wrote that he wasn’t a bit mad at me for the time I accidentally turned on one of his beloved lawnmowers and sent it barreling down the hill in the backyard towards the woods.

I was four years old, and fooling around in the toolshed. I ran away when I realized what I’d done. Grandpap had to run after the lawnmower to catch it before it got too far into the woods and down onto the highway below. Apparently he often laughed about the incident.

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