A free trip to a foreign country! Of course I’ll go! I had never been to a foreign country before, so when I heard that I had an amazing opportunity to take a free trip to Israel, I immediately said yes. I didn’t know too much about the trip, and wasn’t super religious growing up, but I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity for a free trip. I was just expecting to have a fun time doing a ton of cool tourist activities, but it turned out to be the best 10 days of my life, and was better than anything I could have imagined.
When I was younger, I was a typical kid who was not super religious, and just went to hebrew school and had a bar-mitzvah because thats what all the other Jewish kids in my neighborhood were doing. When I started getting involved with Hillel on campus, I began to connect more to Judaism, but not at all like I did on Birthright. The most significant, life-changing moment for me was when former Hillel CEO Avraham Infeld spoke to us. He explained that the point of the trip was to help foreign Jews connect more to Judaism, and I can proudly say that the trip accomplished that. My entire childhood, Judaism was a religion, but he explained that Judaism is not a religion, yet rather it is a people and a culture, and that truly resonated with me. It truly helped me understand what being Jewish means for me personally, and it helped me connect to my past and to my ancestors more then I could put in words or attempt to explain to anyone who has not had the experience. Along with the speech, visiting all of the religious and historical sights was extremely life-changing, and all of these experiences helped me understand what being Jewish means to me and what role I want it to play in my life.
In addition, all of the fun tourist attractions were beyond amazing. We hiked multiple mountains, went to the dead sea, went to an archaeological dig sight, took a jeep tour through the Golan Heights, slept in the desert and did so much more. All of these experiences were truly amazing, both in the aspect that they were extremely fun and impactful. I am a very outdoorsy person, so having this amazing opportunity to spend time outside in all of these different environments, from the desert to mountains and everything in between, was beyond amazing and anything I could have asked for. It was also amazing because being outdoors in nature gives one a lot of time to think, especially being in the desert at night looking at all the stars in the quiet, and it really helped me connect to and understand myself more. All of the experiences were so much fun and I loved every single aspect of the trip.
We also got to learn about and experience a new culture which was extremely cool. I was not expecting to become so close to the Israeli soldiers in just 5 days, but we became best friends. I got to learn so much about their culture, like about how they all go into the army before university, and about so many really interesting and cool similarities and differences between our cultures. Despite all the differences though we became best friends and had amazing times together, from going through all the birthright experiences to just hanging out and talking. They showed us many cool aspects of their culture, including all of the food, which was an amazing experience.
As much as I would love to completely be able to share my experience, all others who have went on birthright will agree that that is simply not possible. Birthright was the best 10 days of my life and it is an experience that simply cannot be explained, but rather must be experienced to truly be as life-changing for others as it was for me. I am beyond grateful I was given this opportunity and recommend everyone who has the opportunity to take it, because I can promise you will not regret it.
Andrew Lipman is a freshman at the University of Delaware studying Computer Science and Computer Engineering. Andrew is originally from Syosset, New York. Since Spring 2014, Andrew has been the Secretary of the UD Hillel Koach group.