For as long as I could remember, my Gramma's voice was in the back of my…
Birthright Israel is a gift that kindles a spark of shared cultural identity in the hearts of Jewish students, fostering a sense of community that transcends borders and lasts a lifetime. This invigorating experience empowers Jewish youth to explore the profound significance of their cultural identity and gain a newfound appreciation for their Jewish heritage.
Through this journey, students can retrace the steps of their ancestors and forge new connections with the land and the people that have shaped their identity for generations. As I embarked on this culturally enriching journey, I gained a deeper understanding of the realities facing today’s Jewish state while forming friendships that will last a lifetime. Israel has a way of capturing your heart and making you feel like you’re part of something bigger than yourself. The warmth of the people, the depth of the culture, and the spirit of Jewish pride enveloped me like a warm hug, filling me with a sense of belonging that I never realized I was missing.
Without Birthright Israel, I wouldn’t have had the courage to discover my Jewish heritage and immerse myself in the culture that captured my heart. Thanks to this transformative experience, I am proud to be Jewish and excited to continue exploring my heritage for years to come.
Growing up, I lived in a town with a relatively small Jewish population. Due to the fact I had trouble fitting in, the last thing I wanted people to know was that I was Jewish. Consequently, I stopped attending Hebrew school around the age of 12 and took it upon myself to start attending Church with my friends. My faith in G-d never diminished; however, my appreciation for my religious heritage did. As I got older, I realized I wanted to learn about my Jewish heritage and discover more about my Jewish identity. Regrettably, it was then I learned about the widespread notions of anti-Israeli sentiment and how deeply entrenched antisemitism is in our everyday society. From there on, I knew I wanted to attend a Birthright Israel trip and discover what Judaism meant to me.
Anti-Israel Sentiment at College
Months prior to departing for Israel, I asked my professor about what to write about for my senior seminar project. I was then told I was tasked with the job of writing about why the United States should help Palestine “take their land back.” After explaining my Jewish heritage and support for Israel, I went straight home and began researching. After days of research and reading news infiltrated with antisemitic elements, I adamantly told him no. In response, I was told, “I simply don’t want you to get indoctrinated in Israel.”
From there, I took it upon myself to take advantage of all of the learning opportunities Birthright Israel had to offer. From learning about Jewish spirituality from Tzfat’s Kabbalistic artists to skipping in circles with women from around the world singing prayer at the Western Wall, I encompassed every second that went by. I became so close with the IDF soldiers and infatuated with their stories that I even canceled my flight home to learn more.
Discovering the Truth
One of the most important things I learned was the truth about the Jewish people and the struggles associated with their endless battle against global oppression. I learned that some of my friends had their best friends and even relatives die because of attacks simply based on antizionism. Terrorist attacks, bombings, and shootings that happen every day are ignored by the rest of the world until the second Israel puts its foot down.
The Jewish people have lost too much for the rest of the world to know so little about them and their amazing resilience. Moreover, Birthright Israel serves as a tool to connect Jewish people from around the world to Israel and enables the Jewish people to unite as one.
If it weren’t for this 10-day Israel trip, I wouldn’t know half of the news I know now about Israel’s daily political life. Before going, I had no knowledge of the ongoing political conflict that encumbers the Israeli people’s everyday lives. The U.S. doesn’t show you what is going on until it’s time for the Jewish people to defend themselves and their land once again. Nevertheless, it is Birthright that connects the Israeli people to the rest of the world. Thus, because I was blessed with the opportunity to attend Birthright Israel, I feel as if it is an honor to continue spreading awareness and advocating for the Jewish people.
The extensive amount of knowledge I obtained through talking with different local Israelis, touring different historic sites, and discussing with my group leaders was not only educational but inspirational. My experience ignited a passion within me to continue advocating for my ancestors and embracing my love for Judaism. Since I have been home, I have been more involved in my local Jewish community and plan to head back to Israel upon graduation.