I always knew that I was going to go on a Birthright Israel at some point in my life. Growing up, Hebrew school instilled in me the importance of Israel, but something deeper always stirred within. Even practicing for my Bar Mitzvah couldn’t quench my thirst for understanding. I currently attend Tulane University, whose vibrant Jewish community kept me connected, but I craved the “why” behind it all. I knew Birthright wasn’t just going to be a trip; it would be a chance to find the answer at the heart of Judaism, in Israel itself.

10 Days Forever Changed

My favorite thing about my Birthright experience wasn’t just sightseeing; it was diving into the everyday realities of Israeli life. Throughout the trip, we were fortunate to be accompanied by IDF soldiers for the entire 10-day journey. Straight from the beginning, when we stood in circles trying to break the ice, it was clear to me how much we had in common. We listened to the same music, watched the same movies, and enjoyed the same foods, many of which we indulged throughout the course of the trip.

Yet, their commitment to serving their country, evident in their maturity and appreciation for life, marked a stark contrast to my own experiences. Their stories, filled with both hardship and humor, fostered not just respect but genuine friendship. I saw that they had an amazing appreciation for life that many of my American peers just could not understand. After the trip, I even visited Amit, one of the soldiers, at his home in Hod Hasharon—a testament to the deep connections we forged. These friendships weren’t just about shared laughs; they were bridges to understanding, offering invaluable insights into Israeli culture and its complexities.

Mitch Linefsky in Israel

Interning in Israel

In the summer of 2023, I was also fortunate enough to be accepted to Onward, and I interned as an Assistant Property Manager at Tzion Apartments in Jerusalem. While managing vacation rentals honed my real estate skills, living in the heart of the city ignited a different kind of spark. This experience connected me to my Jewish spirituality in ways I never could have expected.

Living in Jerusalem and interning for two months helped me advance both professionally and spiritually. Professionally, I gained great experience in the real estate industry, and I thoroughly enjoyed helping manage vacation rental apartments in the center of Jerusalem and its surrounding neighborhoods. Spiritually, I lived at Ohr Somayach, a Yeshiva in northern Jerusalem, where I attended three hours of classes daily with some of the most insightful rabbis I’ve ever met.

I am proud to say that I was able to keep Shabbat for the two months that I lived in Jerusalem, especially in this world of technological constraints. It felt amazing to take a day to disconnect from the web and reconnect with myself every single week. Jerusalem wasn’t just a place; it was a transformative experience. The city’s holiness resonated deep within, leaving an indelible mark on my soul. And while I hope to return someday, the lessons learned, the connections forged, and the spiritual awakening remain with me, forever guiding my path.

Immense Gratitude

I would like to thank every single person who has donated in any form to the Birthright Israel Foundation. You have provided me and thousands of my peers with the opportunity of a lifetime to connect to our heritage and experience the beautiful state of Israel. These memories, forged in the summer of 2023, will forever be etched in my mind and heart. From the bustling streets of Jerusalem to the quiet introspection of Shabbat evenings, each moment offered a deeper understanding of myself and my Jewish identity.

Now, I carry the torch forward as an Alum Ambassador for both Birthright and Onward, eager to share my experiences and inspire others. Birthright wasn’t just a trip; it was a stepping stone on a lifelong path of connection, growth, and giving back. And I know, with certainty, this path will be walked by countless more Jews in the years to come.