Shalom Life | September 20, 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.

Jewish Man High-Fives New Yorkers Hailing Cabs in Hilarious Video Jewish Man High-Fives New Yorkers Hailing Cabs in Hilarious Video TrendingU.S. Senate Candidate's Campaign Slogan: "With Jews We Lose" U.S. Senate Candidate's Campaign Slogan: "With Jews We Lose" TrendingMayor of Sderot Pays a Visit to UJA Federation of Greater Toronto Mayor of Sderot Pays a Visit to UJA Federation of Greater Toronto Trending
 

The Ten Best Deli's in North America

September 19, 2014 | By Caitlin Marceau
The Ten Best Deli's in North America

Got a hankering for a smoked meat sandwich? Look no further

Read More

New Study Suggests Artificial Sweeteners Harmful For Diabetics

September 19, 2014 | By Caitlin Marceau
New Study Suggests Artificial Sweeteners Harmful For Diabetics

A new study From Israel cautions diabetics to think twice about sugar substitutes

Read More

Daniel Radcliffe Repays His Debt to Irish Football Team Two Years Later

September 19, 2014 | By Sara Torvik
Daniel Radcliffe Repays His Debt to Irish Football Team Two Years Later

'The F Word' star paid back the cab fare he borrowed while partying with the team.

Read More

Seth Rogen Teams Up With Adam McKay and Ben Schwartz For New Film

September 19, 2014 | By Sara Torvik
Seth Rogen Teams Up With Adam McKay and Ben Schwartz For New Film

The 'This Is The End' star will also be producing.

Read More

Joan Rivers Writes Forward For New Jewish Cookbook

September 19, 2014 | By Sara Torvik
Joan Rivers Writes Forward For New Jewish Cookbook

The comedian contributed some Jewish jokes and sentiments for 'Eating Delancey: A Celebration of Jewish Food'

Read More

Robert Downey Jr. To Be Honored At Britannia Awards

September 19, 2014 | By Sara Torvik
Robert Downey Jr. To Be Honored At Britannia Awards

The 'Iron Man' star will be joined by Mark Ruffalo, Judi Dench, Emma Watson, and others

Read More

James Franco Says ‘Alien’ From ‘Spring Breakers’ is Most Relatable Character

September 19, 2014 | By Sara Torvik
James Franco Says ‘Alien’ From ‘Spring Breakers’ is Most Relatable Character

The actor thinks that he's very similar to the corn-rowed, gun-toting character from Harmony Korine's film.

Read More

Jamie Geller And Tom Franz Explore The Bible’s Superfoods

September 19, 2014 | By Caitlin Marceau
Jamie Geller And Tom Franz Explore The Bible’s Superfoods

Two of Israel's most renown Kosher chefs explore biblical foods in the City of David

Read More

More Headlines