The Birthright Israel trip was an amazing experience for my son Jacob, he literally came back…
And here’s how the answers have impacted my life.
Israel has always held a place of intrigue in my life. It is the place of the patriarchs and matriarchs of Judaism; it has also been a place of significant debate for millennia. Regardless, I consider it to be my second home today. I could list off all the reasons I did not go to Israel in my 20s, but it would just make me sad that I had not gone sooner. Instead, I will begin on December 7, 2017. This was the day that my rabbi told me that Birthright Israel had extended the age limit to 32 starting with Summer 2018. Woo! Every emotion and fantasy I had had about Israel flooded my faculties. I finally had the chance to visit the mysterious place that I had grown to love so much. I had so many questions that I wanted answered! The best part about Judaism is the insistence on asking questions; Birthright Israel was going to give me the opportunity to get them answered…and more.
Fast forward to my trip, which took place in November 2018. We visited the mystical Tzfat, stayed on the shores of the Galilee, enjoyed Tel Aviv, slept under the stars in the desert, and experienced Jerusalem. In 10 amazing days, I befriended over 30 strangers from America and another dozen Israelis, who made the trip indescribable. The people alone could have made any experience the most thrilling one in any lifetime. However, on top of meeting and experiencing Israel with other young Jews from around the world, I was able to see some of the oldest remnants of human civilization. For a nerd like me, it was a divine adventure. The best part of the trip was getting my questions answered about a myriad of topics. However, each answered question brought about at least four new questions. Birthright Israel was only the beginning.
I brought home various memories that I put into a blog that is still being developed. It has taken months because my thoughts are too vast to put them in writing. Digesting everything that was offered to me on Birthright has been one of the most enjoyable journeys I have ever been on. I still talk with many of my fellow participants, both in America and in Israel! I have thought the honeymoon period will end, but months later, it is still hot on my mind. Birthright forever changed my experience as a young American Jew. Alas, all the new questions I have about daily life, religion, politics, food, and many other things sat unanswered.
Seeing Israel as a participant, and then afterward as a solo traveler, is something I will never forget, but I knew I needed to go back, like yesterday. I had already put the gears in motion to staff a trip or two because the experience was that meaningful. I wanted to be able to share the adventure with other Jews who have never had the chance to experience our homeland with other young adults. My new passion for Israel is something I feel the need to share with as many other Jews as possible. Also, I recognize that Israel is felt in different ways by different people. Because of this, I knew I wanted to learn how to teach and discover Israel in innovative ways, which led me to Birthright Israel Fellows.
Birthright Israel Fellows taught me how to lead without being pushy, how to help teach Israel without dominating the conversation, and most importantly, how to be a pillar of support in the learning process without being intrusive. Israel is a delicate topic. It always has been and for the foreseeable future, will continue to be. My experience is different from everybody else’s and their experience will be different from their peers’. Personalizing the experience is key to understanding and digesting Israel. As I lead trips starting this summer, I hope to be able to be a supportive leader in teaching Israel so that more questions will continue to be asked by future Birthright alumni.
The knowledge I have gained from Birthright Israel, and my proceeding Fellows cohort is not exclusively used on the ground in Israel. Before my Birthright Israel trip, I already held a few appointments at various Jewish organizations around San Antonio, TX. I chair the young adult group at my synagogue, I am on the Young Adult board at the Jewish Federation of San Antonio, I chair the Emerging Leadership Course through Federation, and I teach middle schoolers who are preparing for their
Birthright Israel was the beginning of my Israel journey. It sparked a passion that I never knew I could have. Before Birthright, I considered Israel to be a country where a lot of Jews lived. I am now excited to report that it is so much more. It is more than words. It is more than ten days. It is a lifetime journey that has to be experienced to understand. I hope to be able to continue the legacy of Birthright Israel in my future endeavors and as a Fellow.
Birthright Israel Fellows is an intensive professional development program designed to identify, attract and train experiential Jewish and Israel educators to staff Birthright Israel trips. The initiative elevates the traditional staff role, raises the overall educational quality of the ten-day trip in Israel, and offers Trip Organizers a growing pool of Madrichim who are trained in Birthright Israel’s educational platform. Additionally, Birthright Israel Fellows continue their relationship with their participants after returning