Shalom Life | January 27, 2015

Taglit Birthright Israel: Making Friends of Strangers

Ten-Day Trip to Israel was the Experience of a Lifetime

By: Jake Horowitz

Published: June 26th, 2012 in News » Israel

Taglit Birthright Israel: Making Friends of Strangers

On June 10th, 2012 I hopped on a plane and got ready for a 12 hour flight to somewhere that I have never had any ambition to visit.

Finally, after sitting in the air for half a day, I was finally in a country that I had no interest in being in and no discernable connection to. Yes, I was in the land of Israel.

After being told for years that I must attend Taglit Birthright Israel and enjoy a free trip to Israel and refusing, I finally ended up being forced to go by my parents. “It’s only 10 days,” I told myself. 10 days and then I can come back to Canada and enjoy my summer. As a fourth generation Canadian who has never lived outside the country, Canada is my home and I like it that way. I understand a little about Israel and it’s a country that I admire in many ways. But aside from the fact that it is a country where its neighbors don’t recognize its right to exist and the people living in it still accomplish so much with so little, I never felt a real connection to Israel before my trip.

When I got off the plane I felt no urge to kiss the ground or cry. It was just another hot, dry country halfway around the world. After getting my passport stamped and standing out in the heat with 39 other Jewish Torontonians between 18 and 26 on the trip, someone from Canada Israel Experience explained to us why we were about to enjoy a free $4,000 vacation and what we were supposed to do in return. As it turns out, we weren’t expected to do very much. Enjoy yourself, learn about the country, and take it from there. Alright, I thought, I can do that.

So, for the next 10 days we embarked on a non-stop trip around a country the size of Vancouver Island. There was never a moment that we weren’t doing something. Whether it was rafting in the Jordan River, riding a camel in the middle of the Negev or walking around Jerusalem in 40 degree Celsius heat, there was no time to rest. The days started at 6am and they ended at 3am. Hike in the Golan Heights, eat a shwarma in Eilat, see the sunset over a beach in Netanya, and play cards with 39 strangers you just met a few days earlier in Tel Aviv. After months of dreading this trip, there was no time to wonder whether it was good or not until it was over.

After a 12 hour plane ride to get to 1 country for 10 days with 39 people, it turned out to be an experience of a lifetime. Whether you’re a quarter-Jewish, half-Jewish, or don’t consider yourself Jewish at all, Birthright is an experience that everyone should take advantage of if they can. To hear about a country in the news is one thing, but to stand on top of a mountain at 4am and watch the sun rise in that country is another thing. On top of that mountain, staring at Syria, Jordan, and Egypt in the middle of a week where about 78 rockets were fired across the border only a few minutes from where you were standing is an incredible experience. The danger is there, but it’s impossible to feel. The history is there, but it doesn’t matter. All that matters is the sunrise and the 10 days of your life that you’ve spent in this tiny country in the middle of nowhere with 39 strangers that you feel like you’ve known your whole life.

BuzzFeed Presents Americans Eating Israeli Snacks [VIDEO] BuzzFeed Presents Americans Eating Israeli Snacks [VIDEO] TrendingUJA’s Working on a Dream Concert Party Rocks Toronto’s Opera House UJA’s Working on a Dream Concert Party Rocks Toronto’s Opera House TrendingPhotos Illustrate the Rise of anti-Semitism in Germany Circa 1935 Photos Illustrate the Rise of anti-Semitism in Germany Circa 1935 Trending
 

BuzzFeed Presents Americans Eating Israeli Snacks [VIDEO]

January 26, 2015 | By Daniel Koren
BuzzFeed Presents Americans Eating Israeli Snacks [VIDEO]

Americans nosh on awesome Israeli-made snacks, from Bamba to Milky

Read More

Tel Aviv Brasserie Named World's Best Designed Restaurant

January 26, 2015 | By Einat Paz-Frankel
Tel Aviv Brasserie Named World's Best Designed Restaurant

The Israeli designers of Pastel Brasserie and Bar have won the 2014 International Space Design Award

Read More

Bob Dylan Gifts 50,000 CD’s to Senior Citizens

January 26, 2015 | By Ashley Baylen
Bob Dylan Gifts 50,000 CD’s to Senior Citizens

The folk rocker is giving away 50,000 free copies of his latest album to readers of AARP The Magazine.

Read More

Emile Hirsch Being Investigated For Assault Against Female Film Exec

January 26, 2015 | By Ashley Baylen
Emile Hirsch Being Investigated For Assault Against Female Film Exec

The 'Lords of Dogtown' actor allegedly assaulted a woman at Sundance.

Read More

Adam Levine to Perform at Academy Awards

January 26, 2015 | By Ashley Baylen
Adam Levine to Perform at Academy Awards

The Maroon 5 front man will sing 'Lost Stars' from 'Begin Again' at the Oscars next month.

Read More

UJA’s Working on a Dream Concert Party Rocks Toronto’s Opera House

January 26, 2015 | By Dan Horowitz
UJA’s Working on a Dream Concert Party Rocks Toronto’s Opera House

More than 300 arrived for a rocking good time at Toronto's storied Opera House venue on Saturday

Read More

Photos Illustrate the Rise of anti-Semitism in Germany Circa 1935

January 26, 2015 | By Polina Garaev
Photos Illustrate the Rise of anti-Semitism in Germany Circa 1935

Eighty years ago, two Jewish journalists sent a Dutch photographer to document anti-Semitism in Third Reich and expose true face of Nazi party to the world, but international media didn't print photos

Read More

Startup Club: Forewards

January 26, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
Startup Club: Forewards

We speak to the CTO of the budding Toronto-based marketing company

Read More

More Headlines