I wasn’t nervous for the trip because I knew so many people going, but it was a new experience that I was excited to embark on. This trip meant that I would be able to explore a new country, new cities. It meant that I could get a glimpse into the life of my grandmother as a child who was born and raised in Haifa. It meant that I would have the opportunity to make new and amazing Jewish friends, and become closer to those friends who I had known prior. It meant I had to be open to new ideas, cultures, foods (Malawah), people (our amazing soldiers) and new thoughts. It brought me closer to a religion that I 'claimed' to be part of because I was a Bar Mitzvah. It meant that I had the opportunity to create a new meaning for myself. Just because someone goes on Birthright, does not mean these things happen to them. I am one of the lucky ones.
My favorite aspect of the experience? Our soldiers! I have had so many friends talk about their trips and not mention much about their soldiers. I cant imagine this. Our soldiers (shoutout to Amit Baller, Amit Shy Guy, Loosch, Liel, Noam, Noga and armed Alon) made this the most incredible experience. They brought us a glimpse into their world and we brought them into ours, which they thought was just as interesting. Listening to them speak about their time in the army, which for some, ended soon after the trip, was so interesting and foreign to all of us because of the differences between the military in the USA and in Israel. Our experiences with them were more than meaningful. They were exciting, emotional and exhausting all at the same time. We slept in bedouin tents together and rode camels and floated in the Dead Sea. These memories all include our wonderful soldiers, and always will.
I will forever be an advocate for the #BlueHenBirthrightIsrael experience. It brings you closer to people who you may have walked past on campus for years and you never even knew they were Jewish. It makes your circle bigger and smaller at the same time and promotes long lasting friendships. I fully encourage friends to go together, so long as they are open to broadening their horizons and making new friends.