Birthright Israel is excited to announce their first group arrived in Israel on May 24, 2021,…
In summer 2014, there was ongoing rocket fire from Hamas into Israel, and like many Jewish people, this was weighing heavily on my heart. Sure, being in the US as this was happening, it’s easy to sort of tune it out since quickly, these situations in Israel can become like any other news cycle. However, for me, this was different – something was eating at my heart.
Like most millennials, I took to social media platforms to advocate for the State of Israel and their right to defend themselves. Soon enough, my posts caught the attention of Leah Pearl, the daughter of Auburn basketball coach, Bruce Pearl (Leah and I did BBYO together). We chatted, and I expressed to her my deep yearning to be in Israel as it was going through these tumultuous times. Leah suggested I look into an organization called Birthright Israel.
Gaining New Perspectives on Birthright Israel
After my own research, I applied for Birthright Israel in winter 2014 and was thankfully accepted! When I arrived in Israel, I expected to make some friends, see a few sites, learn a bit, and return to the US to continue my activism for Israel. Instead, my Birthright Israel group turned into a family. The trip gave me a new perspective on Israel’s vibrant culture, its complicated nature, and how its complications make it as magical and bright as everyone says.
“When you live in a place with lots of fellow Birthright Israel alumni, it’s priceless.”
One of my biggest takeaways from Birthright Israel was that the “issues” in Israel we hear about in the US are not as black and white as they seem. There are actually many shades of grey. I learned we tend to focus heavily on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict when there are so many other things domestically that must fall into place to solve that one crisis. The different political parties that are at odds within the Israeli parliament, the secularism of Tel Aviv, the inherent lack of secularism in Jerusalem, and how those affect the populist, are things I never took into consideration before my Birthright Israel trip. Through my experience, I learned about those shades of grey, and they helped me create a better foundation in my activism for the State of Israel.
Interning in Israel
My Birthright Israel experience is also the sole reason I wanted to do an internship in Israel. Through my internship with the trip organizer, Mayanot, I was able to help other young Jewish adults sign up for Birthright Israel and have the same incredible experience I had. Since I had already been to Israel via Birthright Israel, when I landed in May 2015 alone, ready to start my internship, I felt empowered and comfortable. My Birthright Israel experience showed me that Israel is a home for me, so I felt at home even though I was thousands of miles away from my actual one.
Birthright Israel Never Leaves You
Even though it’s been a few years since my trip, what I learned has stuck with me and has led me to meet amazing people, like Doug Ross, a National Board Member of Birthright Israel Foundation. When I met Doug, we connected over our passion for Israel and my Birthright Israel experience. Doug played a huge part in me moving to Atlanta as well, and I’ll have to admit that it was purely for career opportunities that I moved here. However, I soon learned that I am also here for the Jewish community through my Birthright Israel family. When you live in a place with lots of fellow Birthright Israel alumni, it’s priceless.