So why has it been a month since I wrote an article here? Probably because I’ve been away in Israel. This is the first of two articles about Israel. This one focuses on my first ten days on the trip, as part of the Taglit Birthright program. Starting in 1999 and thanks in part to Jewish donations and the Israeli government, a program was born to expose Jewish youth between the ages of 18-26 to the wonders Israel has to offer. It is a ten day trip that you pay nothing for, your hotel and flight and two out of three meals are on them. 66 countries and 400,000 participants later this program is alive and well in 2014.
For ten incredibly intense days you travel around the country with thirty-nine other young Jewish participants, two counselors, a tour guide, and a medic/security, and you pick up a few IDF soldiers along the way too. From Haifa to the Negev and everything in between participants see all types of Israeli life, such as the religious Jews and the Bedouins and of course, you there’s plenty of sweating involved too.
The Birthright trip is perfect for Jewish youth who want to learn about their faith and connect and learn about Israel, the program incorporates culture, music, history, and politics in order to show Israel for what it really is, a beautiful nation of resilient and brilliant people that stands strong.
My group was one of the few who were chosen to be part of a “Mega Event” which featured music, dancing, theatrics, and more memorably (at least for me), the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech. He spoke about the security of Israel and encouraged all the Birthright groups in attendance to go home and tell the world about the Israel they saw and then, once they did that, to come to Israel and make Aliyah (immigrate to Israel).
This program was also special to me and to others because we got to have our Bar/Bat Mizvah on one of the most historical places in Israel, and certainly one of the hardest to get to, Masada, and for those of us who did not grow up religious this was a powerful and spiritual experience.
There are plenty of spiritual and life changing experiences awaiting the participants.Taglit is an amazing experience that I believe all young Jews should experience. You begin the journey as strangers, but you finish it as a family.
David Messeri, who took part of the trip with me and thirty eight other students, from Miami FL writes, “Taglit was an unforgettable experience! Not only did I experience so much of Israel within 10 days, but connected with other group members as if I knew them for years!”
The trip changes your world view, it flips everything you know or puts it into perspective. They are long 10 days and most of your sleeping happens on a bus. But they are beyond a doubt completely worth it. If you’re at least 18 years old and out of High School, please apply for the Taglit Birthright program. From there you can choose from multiple great sub-divisions, or tour groups. You can go with you Halal, with your school, or just by yourself if you want, or with your brother or sister, or best friend. There are many tour options to choose from. I chose Sachlav: Israel on the House. I got to go to the Bahai Gardens and learn about a whole new religion, ride on a camel, experience Klezmer music in the religious and gorgeous city of Tsvat, pray at the Wailing Wall, and best of all, I made lifelong friends.
“I think it’s a great experience for the Jews to learn more about their heritage by actually seeing the land of Israel first hand,” writes Carol Missry of Brooklyn, NY, “It’s an amazing privilege that every Jewish person should take advantage of. How often can someone say they climbed Masada or swam in the Dead Sea? The whole trip was a life changing experience that I will never forget.”
Winter registration begins this fall, don’t miss out on this unbelievable opportunity. Sachlav to all and to all a Shalom, the land of Israel awaits you.