From an early age, I knew Israel was an important place. My mother’s parents had both survived the Holocaust. After World War II, my grandfather, a survivor of Auschwitz, volunteered in a displaced persons camp in Germany helping other Jewish refugees get to British-controlled Palestine. While my grandfather hoped to also emigrate to Eretz Yisrael, his one surviving family member from the war, his brother, was unable to secure a visa and instead they accompanied each other to the United States. While my grandfather spent his adult life in the U.S., he never ceased to remind me of the importance of Israel, the one Jewish State, the only nation that ensured the Holocaust would never happen again.
When I started college, I decided that it was time for me to get to know Israel better. I signed up for Birthright Israel because I wanted to travel with a group of my peers to see, experience, and talk about what Israel meant for the Jewish people, what Israel meant for the world – but also what Israel meant for me.
My biggest take-away from my Birthright Israel trip was that I wanted to one day return to Israel to see and learn more! This big take-away would eventually lead to me making Aliyah – 10 years later.
While my connection to Israel grew through a culmination of many different experiences, I credit Birthright Israel with giving me the initial “push” to keep exploring the “pull” I felt to the tiny country many miles away from where I grew up.