Shalom Life | November 23, 2014

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.

Netanyahu's Government Approves Controversial Jewish Nation-State Bill Netanyahu's Government Approves Controversial Jewish Nation-State Bill TrendingIsraelis Grapple with Synagogue Safety in Aftermath of Jerusalem Attack Israelis Grapple with Synagogue Safety in Aftermath of Jerusalem Attack TrendingExtremist Threatens to Murder Swedish Rabbi and Burn Down the Country's Oldest Synagogue Extremist Threatens to Murder Swedish Rabbi and Burn Down the Country's Oldest Synagogue Trending
 

Netanyahu's Government Approves Controversial Jewish Nation-State Bill

November 23, 2014 | By Moran Azulay
Netanyahu's Government Approves Controversial Jewish Nation-State Bill

Bibi's administration approved the legislation that would officially deem Israel as the home of the Jewish people on Sunday

Read More

The Ten Best Kosher Restaurants In Toronto

November 21, 2014 | By Caitlin Marceau
The Ten Best Kosher Restaurants In Toronto

We look at the best kosher eateries the city of Toronto has to offer

Read More

Israelis Grapple with Synagogue Safety in Aftermath of Jerusalem Attack

November 21, 2014 | By Deborah Fineblum Schabb, JNS.org
Israelis Grapple with Synagogue Safety in Aftermath of Jerusalem Attack

Rabbis agree that we have to be more "vigilant" at shul

Read More

Israel Antiquities Authority Launches New Game For Children

November 21, 2014 | By Caitlin Marceau
Israel Antiquities Authority Launches New Game For Children

With "Dig Quest: Israel," kids will learn about history and archaeology without having to get off their iPads

Read More

Life Expectancy On The Rise In Israel

November 21, 2014 | By Caitlin Marceau
Life Expectancy On The Rise In Israel

Expectancy for both men and women is up compared to 2012

Read More

Lena Dunham, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Adam Sandler Read "Mean Tweets" on Jimmy Kimmel

November 21, 2014 | By Sara Torvik
Lena Dunham, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Adam Sandler Read "Mean Tweets" on Jimmy Kimmel

Dunham doesn't seem amused by one Twitter comment reading: "Unpopular opinion: lena dunham's boobs are dog noses."

Read More

Sarah Silverman Admits to Crossing the Line With Bill Cosby Rape Joke

November 21, 2014 | By Sara Torvik
Sarah Silverman Admits to Crossing the Line With Bill Cosby Rape Joke

The comedian offended many of her Twitter followers on Wednesday.

Read More

Amy Schumer Pays Tribute to Joan Rivers at Glamour's Women Of The Year Awards [VIDEO]

November 21, 2014 | By Sara Torvik
Amy Schumer Pays Tribute to Joan Rivers at Glamour's Women Of The Year Awards [VIDEO]

Schumer gave a hilarious and heartwarming tribute to the late comedian.

Read More

More Headlines