Shani Levi is a recent Birthright Israel alumna from Johannesburg, South Africa. After her Birthright Israel trip, she went on to study midrasha in Jerusalem, Israel. Shani loves getting involved in her community and helping people — something her trip further inspired her to do. In our interview below, read how her trip impacted her life.

Q&A with Shani Levi

What inspired you to sign up for a Birthright Israel trip?

Shani: “I was inspired to sign up for Birthright Israel as I had heard a lot about the program. Specifically, I had heard about the amazing trips that delve into Israeli culture. I felt the need to connect to Israel and Birthright Israel did exactly that for me!”

Did you have any preconceived notions before going to Israel?

Shani: “Aside from Birthright Israel and speaking of Israel generally, the preconceived notion I had was that it would be difficult to be away from my family and their support. But, soon after, I discovered that this was not a given. The madrichim were so caring, the tours were unbelievable and in the structure of the trip, I felt highly supported and made me less worried.”

Did you grow up with a connection to your Jewish identity?

Shani: “I have always been Jewish. However, I truly felt connected to my Jewish identity on my first trip to Israel. This is because I was able to see that what I was learning through my biblical studies, actually came to life! I was able to see that what I had learned and had been taught was all real, all true. That is when I felt my deep connection to my Jewish identity and the land of Israel.”

What was your biggest takeaway from the trip?

Shani: “My biggest takeaway from the trip was to notice details. Yes, it does sound like a weird thing to point out. However, I learned not to take things at face value through the tours. I learned to ask questions and develop my ideas but, at the same time, be more open-minded to different cultures, different opinions, and embrace diversity in the land of Israel.”

How has Birthright Israel played a role in your life since coming home from the trip?

Shani: “I haven’t left home since Birthright Israel. However, I can see a difference in my appreciation of the land. When I travel to places that we had traveled to on the trip, I am reminded of what I learned previously.”

Are you involved more in your Jewish community because of your Birthright Israel trip?

Shani: “Definitely, after Birthright Israel I was inspired to take on a more active role in volunteering and helping those in need. After I was exposed to different cultures and made socially aware of things that may have been lacking, I felt the need to give back! I am currently in midrasha, and I can fulfill the above with a little more ease.”

If you could mee the person who made your trip possible, what would you say to them?

Shani: “If I met the person who sponsored such an incredible trip for me, I would thank them from the bottom of my heart. I would tell them that I really appreciate what they have done for me to have the opportunity to join such a program. I would explain to them how worthwhile the trip was for me and its impact on me socially and emotionally.”