Birthright Israel was a life-changing experience for me.

I found out about this opportunity by getting more involved with my Hillel branch at Florida International University. I had never been to Israel before, so when I learned it was essentially free, I jumped on it and signed up. I would recommend this trip to anyone who wants to connect with their faith and expand their mind spiritually, emotionally, and socially.

One part of the trip that I will always remember is when we visited the Bedouin tents in the Negev desert. Riding camels was an awesome and special experience, but I will never forget the night that we went out into the middle of the Negev sand dunes to meditate with the stars. Sitting monk-style I felt completely at peace and felt like I was becoming one with the land and space. We also shared our innermost thoughts and opinions with one another in a group and enjoyed some delicious chicken pita with hummus (a common theme.)

My purpose for going on the trip was to re-discover my Jewish roots and beliefs after an extremely difficult period of losing a family member. It was a very unsettling period back home in Florida and I had always heard how important it is to touch base with your faith, your beliefs, and most importantly, God. I was raised with Reform Jewish. I feel like when you are younger, you don’t really appreciate what it means to be Jewish as much until you grow older and are confronted with some of life’s challenges. I ended up doing my Bar Mitzvah again and leaving a personal note at the Kotel. It felt distinct and refreshing to be the majority with the Jews in Israel and the way I would describe being present in the Holy Land is “déjà vu”.

My time with the Israeli soldiers also had a tremendous impact on me. It made me realize their level of dedication, hard work, and standards they need to uphold for Israel’s protection. The Jewish people are strong. Moreover, I built a special relationship with every one of the soldiers and travel partners that will always be there. I enjoyed being together with like-minded individuals and being unified with other Jewish people sharing the same culture. I have developed a lot of pride in what it means to be Jewish and had so many amazing memories that I will never forget. I think that this trip should become a staple for Jewish life in order to preserve our traditions, identity, and beliefs as a tribe. No doubt I will return.