Shalom Life | March 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.

Woman Exposes Herself To Minors At Arizona Bar Mitzvah Woman Exposes Herself To Minors At Arizona Bar Mitzvah TrendingShortly Before they Died in Brooklyn Fire, the Sassoon Children Recorded This Emotional Song [VIDEO] Shortly Before they Died in Brooklyn Fire, the Sassoon Children Recorded This Emotional Song [VIDEO] TrendingChicago Tribune Cartoon Paints Bibi As Murderous Warmonger Chicago Tribune Cartoon Paints Bibi As Murderous Warmonger Trending
 

Op-Ed: Obama, not Netanyahu, is Killing the Two-State Solution

March 27, 2015 | By Ben Cohen, JNS.org
Op-Ed: Obama, not Netanyahu, is Killing the Two-State Solution

The U.S. President has never really empathized with the emotions that govern Israeli perceptions of the wider region

Read More

Op-Ed: Lena Dunham’s 'Dog or Jewish Boyfriend' Piece is Thoughtless and Offensive

March 27, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
Op-Ed: Lena Dunham’s 'Dog or Jewish Boyfriend' Piece is Thoughtless and Offensive

In her latest literary endeavour, 'Girls' star Dunham tries to come across as funny by comparing her boyfriend to a dog; she doesn't

Read More

James Deen to Play Himself on Showtime's 'Happyish'

March 27, 2015 | By Daniel Koren
James Deen to Play Himself on Showtime's 'Happyish'

The prolific Jewish porn star will appear in a cameo on the new show out on April 26th

Read More

Woman Exposes Herself To Minors At Arizona Bar Mitzvah

March 27, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
Woman Exposes Herself To Minors At Arizona Bar Mitzvah

Lindsey Radomski is being charged by police after allegedly exposing herself to, and performing oral sex on, minors at a Bar Mitzvah this past Saturday

Read More

Association Assisting Holocaust Survivors Needs Your Help To Make Their Passover Seder Possible

March 27, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
Association Assisting Holocaust Survivors Needs Your Help To Make Their Passover Seder Possible

The group, which holds an annual Passover Seder, is in danger of having to cancel their event due to the lack of funds needed to help the 450+ survivors who, without them, will be celebrating alone this year

Read More

Shortly Before they Died in Brooklyn Fire, the Sassoon Children Recorded This Emotional Song [VIDEO]

March 27, 2015 | By Tali Farkash & Liron Nagler-Cohen
Shortly Before they Died in Brooklyn Fire, the Sassoon Children Recorded This Emotional Song [VIDEO]

Song is their own version of Hasidic singer Yaakov Shwekey's hit "Cry No More"

Read More

Facebook Integrates Israeli App into Messenger

March 26, 2015 | By NoCamels Team
Facebook Integrates Israeli App into Messenger

Social media giant incorporates Magisto, an app that turns photos and videos into a short animated film

Read More

Toronto's Iconic Pancer’s Deli To Reopen

March 26, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
Toronto's Iconic Pancer’s Deli To Reopen

The deli, which was sold five years ago and closed earlier this year, is back in Pancer's hands and won't be leaving them any time soon

Read More

More Headlines