When people talk about their Birthright Israel success stories, you’ll usually hear about someone who had no previous connection to Israel returning with a newfound love for their homeland. My Birthright Israel experience, however, only intensified my existing love for Israel, so much that it led me to make the life-changing decision of making Aliyah all on my own two years later. My life’s trajectory is all thanks to my incredible Birthright Israel experience, which deeply instilled in me a sense of responsibility and dedication to always be an advocate for G’d’s Promised Land, and to passionately uphold its precious importance and spirituality.

Growing up in a predominately Jewish community in Miami Beach, Judaism was always a big part of my identity, and I’ve had a love affair with Israel ever since I could remember. I’ve always considered myself a deeply spiritual person, fascinated by the rich tapestry of our religion, and constantly find myself seeking to learn more.

My Jewish identity expanded significantly during the six summers I spent as a camp counselor at Camp Gan Israel; affiliated with our community Shul. Being a counselor at a religious camp exposed me to prayers, heightened my religious observance, and even taught me some Hebrew.

It was my Birthright trip (first time in Israel) that truly set my soul on fire and became the catalyst for major transformation. I knew in my heart that my life would never be the same after this journey. That’s because, over the course of 10 days, Israel transcended the ordinary and supernaturally became the love of my life—shaping my perspective and fueling an unwavering commitment to its culture and history. I’ve been irresistibly drawn back ever since.

My Birthright trip was beyond magical and unlike anything I was expecting. As an American, the initial culture shock was exhilarating and captivating—the pulsating energy, the vibrant lifestyle, and the omnipresent spiritual attributes found everywhere made Israel the most enchanting place on Earth in my eyes.

My eyes filled with wonder as I was discovering our majestic homeland for the first time, from walking the streets of storied history, exploring the diverse landscapes, and, of course, seeing the Kotel for the first time…I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be. It was the first time I experienced this inexplicable feeling—Israel felt totally different from any other place I had ever been. There’s a sweet expectancy in the air, a collective national conscience, and spiritual awareness that permeates everything. The soldiers proudly protecting Israel contribute to an essence of unity unparalleled elsewhere. Witnessing the diverse expressions of Judaism opened my eyes to a deeper understanding of our heritage.

All of that, and honestly, my soul felt complete just by standing on this fertile, iconic, beautiful Holy Land. It created an overwhelming sense of homecoming for me—a feeling so strong that it lingered in my soul. It was like finding missing pieces of a puzzle that made me who I am, and my Zionism grew even more profoundly in the weeks to follow.

My greatest wish is for every Jew around the world to collectively feel the same because Israel lives inside each and every one of us.

Upon my return home, I played an active part in my Jewish community and at my university. I joined many Jewish clubs (Hillel FIU, YEHUDI, Shalom FIU), was VP of a Jewish sorority (SAEPi), engaged in regular study sessions with the university Rabbi, participated in numerous Shabbatons, and served as a Fellow on cultural heritage trips with YEHUDI, a local Jewish organization. These journeys took me to diverse corners of the world, places where Jewish culture is and was once rich. From Costa Rica to Spain, Gibraltar, Poland, New York, and Israel. Each experience exposed us to the interconnectedness of our global Jewish community. It was a realization that, even after thousands of years in exile, vibrant signs of Jewish life persist around the globe, emphasizing the unique foundation of our shared Diaspora experience.

Birthright Israel ignited my love for Israel so strongly that I began imagining myself being there long-term. Post my Bachelor’s degree in Florida, I signed up for a summer internship program (Jinternship-ALT TLV) in 2019 which provided me a taste of living and working in Tel Aviv. Immersed in the Israeli workforce, learning Hebrew, and navigating intercultural communication are experiences that I will cherish forever and recommend to anyone ready for a life-altering adventure.

The indelible mark left by my Birthright Israel trip and my summer 2019 Jinternship program truly leave nothing out of the perfect Israel experience. It was during that summer that I realized just how united the Jewish people are, how beautiful our traditions are and how important it is for my generation to carry them on, and the importance of Israel’s existence in our lives. I appreciated being exposed to the diverse expressions of Judaism, a journey that is intimate and personal yet a celebration of diversity within our people. The perspectives unraveled during that trip broadened my horizons and elevated my thinking on a global scale.

This indescribable connection felt during my Birthright journey ultimately led me to relocate 6,000 miles from my home in Florida, fulfilling a lifelong dream of making Aliyah. Today, I can proudly say that my biggest personal accomplishment has been becoming Israeli.

Living in Israel has changed my entire life in ways I never thought possible. It is the place where I feel the safest and feel my emotions the deepest. Anyone who has stepped foot in the Holy Land will tell you…the air is different there. There is a special energy over our inherited homeland and our people who are forever a light amongst the nations. It’s an inexplicable feeling that cannot be put into words, it is absolutely mezmerising.

As a Birthright Israel Foundation Alum Ambassador, I am inspired to share this passion and contribute to an organization that has the power to shape the narratives and futures of young Jewish adults, just as it did for me. Being an Alum Ambassador is a special, honorable role that contributes to my journey that started with a deep love, significant spiritual awakening, and the magnetic pull of a land that forever will be our ancestral home. I look forward to engaging with influential circles and making a lasting impact in the realm of Jewish-Israel relations.

Thank you to the donors who make these meaningful once-in-a-lifetime Israel experiences possible! Your generous altruistic investments have forever made a transformative impact on the lives of thousands of young Jews, including mine.

Birthright was a pivotal moment that deepened my connection to Israel and solidified my commitment to being an active participant in the ongoing story of the Jewish people. It was the spark that set my path in a whole new and unexpected direction. I can’t imagine my life unfolding any other way, and I am eternally grateful for everything the Birthright Israel Foundation and Israel have given me—it is truly immeasurable.