Especially for Valentines Day, the story in pictures of an event held last week, attracting more than six thousand participants from all cultures, religions and countries to a celebration of unity, mutual care and love
All my friends told me not to go. My parents tried to create a human wall that will block my way out of the house. Even my girlfriend threatened me that if I go, it'll be over. But I decided to go anyway. There are times in life where a man has to make a decision, when he has to stand for his principles, to do what a man has to do"- well, as you've probably guessed, this was my moment.
Actually, I kind of understand them. There are plenty of reasons not to go to Israel--what they did to Gaza just a month ago, the occupation, the rightist government that is about to be formed there in a few days, the probability that a missile would land directly on the young student that came only for a short visit from the US, and the list goes on and on. But as a person who takes great interest in Jewish mysticism and has researched the field for the past ten years, The 2009 International Kabbalah Congress taking place in Tel Aviv the first week of February was something I wasn't going to miss. So, I packed my bags, gently moved my parents out of the door, kissed my girlfriend goodbye, and headed out to Newark.
Nothing could prepare me as to what I've experienced during the following three days. Despite the tension between Israel and its neighboring countries, and a growing uncertainty about the global financial situation, record numbers made the journey to the Congress, which took place on February 2-4. Many of the six thousand participants arriving from fifty-three countries, representing much of the world's beliefs, cultures and religions, were first-timers attracted by past attendees' testimonials.
The program included engaging workshops, uplifting meal sessions, emotional and energetic cultural evenings, fun activities and games for children and adults, and Kabbalistic lessons with Rav Michael Laitman, PhD.
But the International Kabbalah Congress was more than just a three-day spectacle. As Mutlu Meydan, a Muslim who arrived especially from Turkey to the event and a Congress veteran was quick to point out, "the Congress was distinguished by its special preparation, focus, and purpose--to nurture the common point of human unity beyond all differences that separate people, beyond languages, races, religions, educational achievements and occupational interests."
And it succeeded in doing that. For a few brief days, the makeshift village known as "Pavilion Number 1" embodied a coming together of great diversity, with people of all ages and from all walks of life: celebrities, creative artists, engineers, road workers, white collar workers, students, musicians, academicians, DJs etc. but all this didn't matter. The main impression I got from it was that this gathering enabled them all to realize the high potential that lies in the connection between people.
"The primary aim of the Congress was to help people understand that necessity to invert the self-centered approach that lies at the heart of human relationships and is opposed to the global nature of life in the 21st century," said Rav Michael Laitman PhD, the head and founder of the Bnei Baruch Kabbalah Education & Research Institute, which were the official organizers of the Congress.
"Since this opposition is what gave rise to the current financial, environmental, and educational crises, inverting our self-centered approach will alter the world's unpromising course and begin moving it toward tranquility, peace and prosperity," explained Laitman. "I sincerely hope," he concluded, "that in the midst of the raging global financial crisis, this Congress gave its participants a taste of the better world we all dream of and the practical tools to help us take our first steps as one united human family."
Despite the epic note in Laitman's words, one cannot ignore the happiness, mutual respect and love that prevailed during these three days between Jews, Muslims and Christians, trying to cultivate love in one of the most violent regions in the world.
I'm still in Israel. But soon I'll be headed back to Jersey. Actually, I tried to think of ways to explain what I saw to my family and friends, but it turns out that it's quite difficult to explain in words the sensations you go through when you try to unite with Six thousand people you barely know, and feel that it's realistic. So I won't even try. Thousands of words and scenarios ran through my head, but I still remain speechless. The more I think of it, the more I find myself speechless.
So, I'll let the words of Israeli journalist Miri Elyakim, who covered the Congress for the Israeli first Channel, do it for me: "even if you believe that Kabbalah is no more than a well oiled new-age trend, you just couldn't stay indifferent to the picture of Jews, Muslims and Christians alike, leaving their conflicts behind, and displaying an impressive fest of unity and mutual care."
Happy Valentine's Day!