In case you don't already know, I like Hamlet (the play, not the guy or the concept of small town). It includes a lot of stuff that I really admire in terms of the story telling and the language. In fact, one character whom I really enjoy thinking about it Polonius. If you haven't read the play (well, first off, you should -- read my earlier blog post about why one should study Shakespeare, then read the play. I'll wait. Don't watch a movie, even the Branagh version. Just read the play 20 or 30 times. I'm in no rush) I'll fill you in. Polonius has 2 kids, Laertes and Ophelia. He is a doting father who sometimes, maybe, has ulterior motives, but does seem to want to help his kids avoid the mistakes he has made in life. I appreciate that.
In one memorable scene (aren't they all?) Polonius gives Laertes some advice before the young man embarks for France. In the tradition of the Ethics of the Fathers, he lists ways to be and interact with the world. Many of the classic pieces of advice which we bandy about come from this one speech, a set of suggestions which, it could be said, his own kids didn't appreciate. Well, I do. And, as my elder is preparing for her own trip to Israel next week, I feel it meet to set down these few precepts which I would want her to keep: [that being said, she probably won't read this unless someone tells her to, so please, someone, tell her to]
1. Don't assume everything is kosher. Yes, it is Israel, but that is no guarantee.
2. Don't assume everything is yours, or destined to be yours. That goes for land, people and things.
3. Don't assume everything and everyone are safe. Take care in where you go, what you do and whom you spend time with.
4. Don't hand over trust as a free gift, and cherish it when it is given to you as if it were a precious jewel.
5. Let yesterday inform but not limit today. Be in touch with heritage and tradition but realize that they serve to foster growth, not stunt it.
6. Spend money when you must, spend time when you can, spend energy when should.
7. Experience past, present and future with each step. Any rock in Israel has more stories than any library elsewhere.
8. Eyes up. Stop looking down at your phone. The world happens in the real world.
9. Stay with the group for safety and follow the instructions of the advisors. There will be years ahead for exploration.
10. Ask questions because you want to investigate ideas and maybe, find answers, not because you want to question. Any question you have, 5 others have also but they may not be strong enough to ask. Ask for them and lend them your strength.
11. Judge people by what they say and do not by what others tell you they said or did.
12. Don't let taking pictures constantly get in the way of actually seeing things.
13. Keep a daily journal of what you said or did and with whom EVERY DAY. Use it to record and reflect. Trust me -- you will cherish it in the future. [and when you get home, when we ask "how was it?" you can hand us the journal, expurgated if necessary, and say "here. I'm going to sleep for 2 days."]
14. Plant seeds -- seeds of curiosity, friendship and maybe, wheat.
15. Keep a siddur with you (if possible, a tanach also). Take every chance to connect.
16. Know that we are proud of you and miss you so much and look forward to your return, so you can turn back around and go to L.A!