The second to last night of our Birthright trip, 40 of our new best friends were packed into a tiny hotel room in Jerusalem, reminiscing about everything we had done in the past 24 hours: all sleeping under the same Bedouin tent, riding camels through the Negev desert, floating in the Dead Sea, and fine-tuning our impersonations of our Israeli tour guide. We never expected to feel so close with people with whom only 10 days ago we were playing the name game.
Immediately upon landing in Ben Gurion airport when our trip began, we were greeted by our seven new Israeli friends who would accompany us for all 10 days of our trip. Though we were all exhausted from traveling, we immediately boarded the bus we would call home for the next 10 days and headed north for the Golan Heights. The next 10 days took us to places we’d dreamed of visiting: the Western Wall, Independence Hall, Yav Veshem, Tel Aviv, and Masada. The days brought us experiences we never could have anticipated: being welcomed into Israeli homes and temples, volunteering in Washington DC’s partnership city – Beit Shemesh, hiking through a desert canyon, experiencing Israeli live comedy theater, and even meeting the Prime Minister of the country.
We experienced the wonders of Israel as a group, and we also took time to reflect and discuss our feelings on what those experiences meant to us personally. Facilitated by our skilled and knowledgeable tour guide, Tzach, our group engaged in meaningful and personal discussions on what we were seeing, and how these experiences affected our spiritual and cultural identities. One of our favorite discussions asked us to select the most personally important aspects of what it means to be a Jew. Coming up with our answers, and hearing the perspectives of our American and Israeli friends made us more confident in our own Jewish identity, and reignited our intellectual curiosity around the Jewish faith and culture.
Going on a Taglit Birthright trip revitalized our passion for living a Jewish life. After being challenged physically, mentally, and emotionally during the trip, we feel a deeper bond with our culture and with each other. As we look back on our Birthright experience, we realize that choosing Shorashim and the DC Community Trip has given us a continuing community in which we can grow and flourish. We feel a renewed pride in Jewish culture, and we strongly encourage our peers in the DC area to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to discover a deep, meaningful connection to Israel and the Jewish community.
Want to have an experience like Aaron and Brian’s? Birthright has expanded eligibility! Learn more about the DC trip by visiting www.shalomdc.org/birthright. Returning applicants are able to apply on February 18th and new applicants on February 19th here. Please contact Sara Weiner at firstname.lastname@example.org or (301) 230-7266 with questions.