Lindsay Nathanson is a 2019 Birthright Israel alumna from Philadelphia, PA. She is currently studying History…
If I was to truly reflect on my experience with Birthright Israel, this blog would be a novel. Instead, I’m going to reflect on each day and how all 10 of them changed my perspective on life. To say the least, this 10-day journey taught me enough for a lifetime!
Day 1: Birthright Israel is all about eating new foods.
I am, in every sense of the word, a picky eater. At home, my diet consists of chicken fingers and pasta, with the occasional vegetable thrown in. I quickly learned this was not going to work in Israel as my lunch ended up being mostly french fries, so I got brave and tried falafel. Boy, am I glad I did!
Day 2: A laugh goes a long way!
Birthright Israel is great in that every trip is unique. As my group was walking through the old city of Yafo, a woman stopped us and told us she was a laugh therapist. The woman said we could make ourselves laugh and that it would instantly make us happier. She showed us how to make ourselves laugh, using language and hand gestures. While this was a little strange at the moment, it gave us something to talk about for the rest of the trip. #onlyinisrael
Day 3: Birthright Israel teaches us to move forward, you must focus on the past.
Day three was perhaps the hardest day of my Birthright Israel trip. We visited both Yad Vashem and Mount Herzel. This was a day for reflection and for honoring those who have fallen. While the tone of this day was very somber, we picked ourselves back up and enjoyed a night out in Jerusalem. This taught me how important history is, but how you must also continue living.
Day 4: Shabbat Shalom!
On this day, we left Jerusalem and made our way to Tel Aviv, where we would spend Shabbat. I was able to spend it in a reform temple surrounded by my new Birthright Israel friends as well as local Israelis. There was a language barrier; however, the music, guitar, and prayer brought us together. I think about this often as it really showed me the power of spirit and religion.
Day 5: Push yourself out of your comfort zone.
This was a day my Birthright Israel group took to rest and get closer with one and another. I was on the Havdalah Committee, so I worked with others to make Havdalah a meaningful experience. Because of this, I wrote a poem about our group. Sharing my poetry out loud was scary because I usually just share them online, but my motto on Birthright Israel was YOLO! That night, my group went out in Tel Aviv, where I also pushed myself far out of my comfort zone, but that’s an “if you know, you know” moment. Bus 1695, you all know!
Day 6: Discovering the beauty of the night.
The Bedouin Tents was the experience I was scared of. I don’t “do” camping, and I don’t really enjoy nature, but this changed my life. At night, we went stargazing, and I was blown away to the point where I started crying and didn’t stop for three hours. When there is no light disrupting star patterns, you can see constellations and learn so much.
Day 7: The power of perseverance.
Three words: Masada Snake Path. Thankfully, my tour guide was kind enough to only have us go down the snake path, but even so, that trail is brutal! About halfway down, I didn’t think I could go on. But I only had two options: keep walking down or walk back up. Getting to the bottom was so rewarding, and I was so happy that I was able to persevere through the slippery slope.
Day 8: Jewish geography is so real!
Once my group got up north, our first stop was Tzfat. While this was such a spiritual city, what I took the most from this day was something I also experience in the states: Jewish Geography. While eating at a pizza place in Tzfat (really great pizza BTW), I started talking to another tourist and found out that her son’s best friend was previously my camper! The Jewish world is always a small one.
Day 9: A little rain doesn’t stop anything.
This was the first day of our trip that it rained, and it was so disappointing to end Birthright Israel on this note. However, everything went on as planned, and our jeep tour through the rain was still exciting. Even though it was pouring, we still had so much fun and made memories to last a lifetime.
Day 10: Be open to new friends!
My group consisted of students from my university’s Hillel and another. It turned out my best friends from Birthright Israel were from the Hillel I didn’t know! I would be lying if I said I cried in Ben-Gurion Airport, that’s an understatement. I bawled my eyes out. Yes, I was sad to be leaving the country, but I was more upset about the bonds I made and the distances we would now have. I’m sure we will keep in touch, though!