If you’re a Jewish young adult, you’ve probably heard of or have already gone on your Birthright trip. This amazing experience is not just a free trip to Israel, but a journey in which one gets to reflect on their Jewish identity. Not only that, but you get to meet others in the Jewish community and experience Israel in a Jewish-Mom-friendly way. It’s structured, safe, and you have wifi most nights so you can check in with your family. If you’ve experienced Birthright firsthand, then you know these thirteen things are totally true.
1. The packing list seems like a little… much. Isn’t it supposed to be desert hot there, even during winter? Why do you need 52 long sleeve shirts? You think, “If I know Israel… (and I don’t)…. then I know it’s probably crop top and shorts season year round.” Still you try to pack for every weather condition like the list entails.
2. You wait forever to get through security at the airport. Why do some people get interviewed longer or get their bags checked? Who knows. But I do know that I gained someone’s selfie stick at some point through the closed door bag search, so score!
3. You get to know everyone quickly between the plane ride, bus ride, and introductions. And surprise there’s a few med students and law students in the group.
4. Salads all day, every day. A typical Israeli breakfast includes a fresh salad arrangement as does lunch and dinner. Of course the same goes for hummus. Usually they keep meals kosher so you’ll find no meat in the morning, but no dairy in the evening.
5. Getting shawarma and falafel on every meal out. Even if the line is long and slightly aggressive, that warm pita with those signature Israeli tastes are worth it.
6. Almost mastering the countdown. You know your number. You know who usually forgets and who is probably in the bathroom during more than half the countdowns. Sometimes you have it down pat. Other times you wonder why you still haven’t learned how to count.
7. Then you get to really know everyone. At this point you’ve gotten to know each other on a deeper level. Between the super fun nights out, rooming together, and openly reflecting on your experience, you get to know each other in such a unique way. At first, personally, I was nervous. I had never been part of a Jewish group before, but realizing we could all relate in some way with open hearts, my experience sharing became very comfortable.
8. You all have different backgrounds. Orthodox, secular, reformed, non-denominational… there’s a lot of ways to describe your Jewish identity. Some may have had raised kosher, go to temple, and can speak Hebrew. Others, like myself, have one parent that isn’t Jewish, celebrate Christmas as well as Hanukkah, and didn’t attend Hebrew school. Either way, Birthright and those involved welcome you with open arms.
9. The experiences is exciting, spiritual, educational, and sometimes emotional. You’re getting to experience the beautiful sites, memorials, and learn about Israeli history and current events. Sometimes you’re absorbing all the facts. Other times you’re laughing until you can’t breathe. Sometimes you’re just trying to take it all in. And lastly, there are those moments that leave you in awe and you find tears in your eyes and your heart heavy. Knowing you have your group there for support is so helpful throughout the journey.
10. The Israeli soldiers are the most badass men and women you’ve ever met. They’re open, fun, and patient answering many of your questions. They’re proudly served or are serving their country, and you’ll find their just as excited as you to experience a Birthright trip.
11. The Dead Sea isn’t for the weak… or the recently shaved. You’ll find that open cuts and wounds will sting and that not wearing water shoes could likely lead to more cuts. But once you’re in there it’s like floating in heaven. Just don’t get any water in your eye… then it’s not like heaven and you’ll have to cry it out.
12. Hiking your way to that summer bod. The hikes are quite the workout, even if they’re short. Because many times they’re still steep. You’ll have these no matter what program you choose. And of course with hiking comes amazing scenic panorama photo opportunities.
13. In the end you’re like family. How did ten days go by so fast? Even if you didn’t know anyone in the beginning, you’re so close in the end, it’s hard to believe you’ve only known each other for such a short time. You’ve made forever friends with both the Israelis and other people from your country. You truly feel like it’s not “goodbye” but “see you later” for both Israel and all of the inspiring people you met along the way. You feel so connected to your Jewish identity and to the community you’ve built through Birthright, and it’s a feeling you’ll never forget.
If you’re a Jewish young adult age 18-26, I urge you to go on your Birthright trip, as it was one of the most incredible things I have ever experienced.
Ready to sign up for your Birthright Israel trip? Click here or the link below!