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My World MAG
My world. My world is a series of strung memories, slow songs, copper streetlights dancing over my skin during long car rides, first kisses yet to be shared, poems yet to be read, apologies I was too afraid to make, mistakes I don’t know how to undo, pulse punching through me every moment I write, and the laughs that I have yet to enjoy. My world is not only my world; it is your world, her world, his world, our world. The lines of my world are not defined. I have not found my world, but am creating it. My world is a glorious accident, a turbulent land. My world cannot fit into four pages. My world is experienced in a life so minuscule, so short, yet so colossal. My world is the only place where I, a creation, have the power to also be a creator.
I want to tell you about the experiences, the words, the opaque tears, the translucent smiles, the wrinkles on my hands. But I can’t. I want to take all my deepest fears and struggles and pour them onto this page. But I can’t. You cannot clarify your world through undressing yourself with words. You can only make another soul understand your home through sprinkling insight with letters, with honesty that pours down one’s throat like honey. And I am going to create a door into a piece of my world, allowing the warmth of its sunlight to embrace you gently.
My universe can be condensed by describing a place I visited. The home of my ancestors. A universe different from ours – one where there were barriers.
I visited this land when the air tasted and looked like dark chocolate, crumbled into grains and depleted of moisture. I was in the Negev Desert, at 1 o’clock, before dawn. Before me stood Masada, a mountain that was once someone’s world, and I believe this moment, as I carve these words onto this page, is mine.
Centuries upon centuries ago, a group of my people, Jews, fled onto the peak of this desert mountain and created an entire civilization without descending. They were a string of families escaping Roman invasion who believed that they were the last of their people, my people. Leveled with the great crimson, amethyst, and amber rocks of today’s Middle East, hundreds of feet above any culture’s dwelling, they created a world – a place where food was stored, language and education were passed to youth, and freedom was recovered.
In the darkness I raced to the peak of their home. With every step, smoldering sand cradled my feet, and sun climbed up the azure sky, like I up the path. I swam in a mango-and-pomegranate-tinted sky as well as in stripped soil. Once I conquered the hike, I saw the temples, town squares, irrigation centers, baths – the home they created. Today their world has withered; all that remains are granular dwellings – that and their story. As I gazed at the brilliant sun levitating above the mystical Dead Sea, the tale of my people – of myself as well – echoed in my ears.
Although this world was magnificent and resilient, it was not impenetrable. The Romans attacked Masada from all angles, and fate soon became clear: the souls who thought that they were the last of their kind were about to be ripped from the earth. Romans did keep survivors – as captives. The moment these Jews were integrated into Roman society, they would have to relinquish their religion, culture, and identity.
Now, this is not a sermon; this is not my attempt to make you a part of my faith or world, but simply to invite you to become a tourist within it. This is not about my religious views, but about the story and heritage that has been bestowed upon me. Assimilation has been forced upon so many: America’s indigenous people through the 1800s, Indians throughout the epoch of Abbasid conquest, and the Mongolian Russians under autocratic rule are all victims of this annihilation of culture. Amidst others’ attempts to terminate diversity, my people and those of different skins, tongues, and homes endured the agony of sacrificing who they were in order to live.
But the people of Masada recognized that if you are not living as yourself, you are not living at all. These courageous and spirited people clung to who they were and all they had known. They would rather die true to who they were than bend to another culture. They knew that if they surrendered they would not merely give up the battle, but their identity, the spark that made them different, proud, and beautiful. They found another way, a way where they would lose everything but themselves. As a group, they sliced the neck of every man, woman, and child in the settlement, shedding what they believed to be the last Jewish blood in existence.
I am a survivor of their vision. I am their dream that they would never witness. I am a proud member of today’s Jewish youth, and I have that same spirit that drove them to do what they did. I too would choose not exist rather than live as a person who was not myself. I know that if I were not living as myself – the poet who releases my words, the Jew who has said my prayers, and the author of this piece – I would not be living at all.
My world is a world where identity and pride in one’s individuality is greater than anything else – any struggle, any fear, any darkness. My world is the place where I have the opportunity to create me, search for her strengths, her scars, her soul. My world is a place of tremendous beauty, the kind that makes me shudder, smile, and then weep, because there is no correct way to express what each lovely day has bestowed on me.
My world is a land of deep affection for my family. My mother, much like my ancestors, has sacrificed everything so her mark on this world (me) could be untainted and pure. My grandmother loves me unconditionally; my sister is never afraid to allow me to grow; my stepfather would shatter the world to protect me. My grandfather has imprinted a message of courage, respect, and strength that shall never leave my soul.
My world is a place where I keep moving forward, but feel my past growing along with me. My world, as desperately as I am trying to portray it to you, cannot be compressed into mere words, for it is a kaleidoscopic, ever-changing, intricate fusion of emotion.
I stood on the edge of Masada, a world of the past and a world of the future, and screamed “Am Yisrael chai” (Israel lives). The people of Masada died believing that I would never walk the earth, and here I am screaming with passion, off that mountain and onto this page. I am alive. I am Israel. I am the daughter of Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Miriam, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the men and women of Masada and the lost six million, and we share this world. We are ourselves, unapologetically, and we understand that there will be people who try to oppress our identity. They may conquer our cities, conquer our bravery, conquer our freedom and our lives, but they will never conquer who we are. Through those abandoned but not deserted mountains, hundreds of voices echoed back at me, each with distinct sounds.
Am Yisrael chai. Israel lives.
I know that my world, a world of fearless trust in one’s heritage, experiences, and inner flame, lives as well. Even when I perish, it will still dance with feeling, purpose, and vitality. Even when I am evaporated from where I stand, these words will be engraved on this world, into at least one reader’s mind, one being’s soul. I pray that you engrave your world along with mine into your neighbors’ hearts. I pray that, beneath the ground we pace on, there shall lie thousands of distinct, original, and unpolluted engravings – thousands of hopes, identities and purposes, each separate, yet each undeniably beautiful – synthesizing into a world that is not yours or mine, but everyone’s.