Shalom Life | March 03, 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.

Obama and Netanyahu Duke it Out 'Star Wars' Style [VIDEO] Obama and Netanyahu Duke it Out 'Star Wars' Style [VIDEO] TrendingEgyptian TV Host: Jews Use the Holocaust to Suck the Blood of Germans Egyptian TV Host: Jews Use the Holocaust to Suck the Blood of Germans TrendingCanadians Honor Leonard Nimoy With $5 Bills Canadians Honor Leonard Nimoy With $5 Bills Trending
 

Singapore Investing $200 Million in Israeli Startups

March 03, 2015 | By JNS.org
Singapore Investing $200 Million in Israeli Startups

The fund is backed by the government of Singapore, and comes in the wake of a booming relationship between Asian and Israeli companies

Read More

Netanyahu to Congress: Iran Poses "Grave Threat" Not Just to Israel, But Entire World

March 03, 2015 | By Ynet News
Netanyahu to Congress: Iran Poses "Grave Threat" Not Just to Israel, But Entire World

Also acknowledges that his speech caused controversy, adding it wasn't his intention

Read More

Startup Club: WeWork

March 03, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
Startup Club: WeWork

Offering community office space to to startups around the world, WeWork is currently worth an estimated $6 billion

Read More

Top 20 Under 40: Ariel Coplan

March 02, 2015 | By Daniel Koren
Top 20 Under 40: Ariel Coplan

Coplan is the co-owner and head chef at Thoroughbred Food & Drink in Toronto

Read More

Drake Ties The Beatles Billboard Record

March 02, 2015 | By Ashley Baylen
Drake Ties The Beatles Billboard Record

14 tracks off Drake's 'If You're Reading This It's Too Late' are currently charting.

Read More

‘Shark Tank’s’ Mark Cuban Joins ‘Sharknado 3’

March 02, 2015 | By Ashley Baylen
‘Shark Tank’s’ Mark Cuban Joins ‘Sharknado 3’

The Dallas Mavericks owner and 'Shark Tank' star has been cast as the President in 'Sharknado 3'.

Read More

Harvey Weinstein Enlists Zac Posen to Revive Charles James

March 02, 2015 | By Ashley Baylen
Harvey Weinstein Enlists Zac Posen to Revive Charles James

Weinstein purchased the iconic label last year.

Read More

Obama and Netanyahu Duke it Out 'Star Wars' Style [VIDEO]

March 02, 2015 | By Daniel Koren
Obama and Netanyahu Duke it Out 'Star Wars' Style [VIDEO]

In hilarious new video posted online, the two Heads of State battle with light sabres as Darth Vader (played by Obama) and Obi-Wan Kenobi

Read More

More Headlines