Israel: My Second Home
As seen on Lauren's blog.
I went on #BlueHenBirthrightIsrael with my best friend. We picked the program at first because of the convenience. It was through University of Delaware, there were a few orientations, and we could meet our staff. At the time, I did not realize the impact that going with fellow UD students would have.
On this trip, I was beyond lucky to be with a group of 38 American students and 6 Israeli soldiers that all got to be friends. All of us took the trip and its meaning seriously, and that is something for which I am so blessed. After the trip and being home for more than a few weeks, I’m realizing the biggest reason I’m so happy to have gone with Delaware. After this kind of trip, a trip that truly changes your life, I cannot wait to be able to go back to school and have my new best friends waiting back there for me. This past week, the only people I have talked to really are my Birthright friends, and I’m so grateful that I’ll get to go back to school and have them all. I’m not sure what I would do if suddenly we were all scattered around the country. It’s hard enough to have six of my new closest friends all the way across the world, but I now understand the saying from Winnie the Pooh, “how lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard?”
The six soldiers on our bus changed my life. I had never really known someone in the military before, and being able to connect with people that LITERALLY put their lives on the line every single day for Israel made me have to take a step back and realize how important they are, and how much I appreciate it. Israel is now a place I truly consider my second home, and I know that I definitely wouldn’t be brave enough to do what they do. One of the soldiers in our group was a woman, maybe all of 5 feet tall, and she spends her days on the border between Syria and Israel, always ready at any moment to scale down a conflict.
The solider I got closest to is 20 years old, and he is in the Navy, and he would tell me stories of times he would have to be away from his family, amidst 10 foot waves, searching for enemies. Their stories made me take a step back, and realize that people I now consider friends are the ones who have to defend an entire country, a country that is geographically placed directly in line with their enemies. It’s astounding.
We went to Mount Herzl with our group, which is the cemetery for lives lost in relation to the military or military encounters. It was beautiful, which is a weird thing to say about a cemetery, but also harrowing. At the end, a girl on my trip said what we were all thinking- “To our soldiers, our friends, we really respect what you guys do, especially after being here, and we love you so much.”
That is the summation of the Mifgash experience of the whole trip, the bonding of Israeli’s and American’s. That is what makes Birthright so special, each day has a moment that leads up to the final day- saying goodbye- being the best and worst day of maybe my entire life. To say the airport was horrendous is an understatement, at least for someone like me who is normally an emotional wreck. I know I’m so lucky to see most of these people back at school, but that isn’t the point.
I’ll copy and paste an email I wrote myself during programming hours. The prompt was “What does Israel mean to you?” I didn’t really follow the prompt, but here’s what I was feeling in the moment. “Israel to me has changed me. I’m a firm believer in that people make the place, and these people have made me fall in utter love with it.
My mom asked me before I left what I was most excited for, and I said the people and relationships. She shook her head at me, and said ‘Come on Laur, pick a place or something! What are you most excited for?’ And me, being the people person that I am, couldn’t come up with anything besides ‘No mom, seriously, it’s the connections with the soldiers and new friends that I really think will make the trip the most special thing in the world for me. And boy, was I right.”
Birthright is incredible, it’s fun, it’s special, it’s meaningful. There are no words I can possibly come up with that would be able to say thank you strongly enough, and honestly? I’m pretty grateful to be able to say that.