Greetings my Birthright audience! Bleeding-Heart-Jews, Half-Jews, Quarter-Jews like Rod Carew, Jews who schmooze, the few that can hold their booze after a night of excessive consumption of Evan Williams Bourbon with yours truly, and finally, those who have already decided im a loser for this lame introduction,
My name is Seth Roberts and my “Planning Associate” Alexis (who is leading my Birthright Israel trip next week) thought it would be a good idea to persuade me to write a blog about my upcoming adventure. Hesitant at first, I eventually agreed when I realized that Birthright Israel is footing the bill for a trip of a lifetime and the least I can do is write a few words to aid this splendid organization in their perpetual PR campaign. For anybody still reading, I’ll try not to keep it interesting. Check that, reverse it.
After years of consideration and non-participation, 2011 was finally the year for me to take the plunge and sign up for the Birthright Israel trip (Well, actually… I was denied last year—details). I am 26 years old and grateful for this opportunity in my last year of eligibility. My older sister never ended up taking the trip and I felt I had to represent, yo. Somebody in the Roberts clan needs to see the homeland, am I right? (Well, I guess the homeland for my family is actually Lithuania, but again, details). Israel is where it’s at — culture, history, beautiful architecture, great weather, and perhaps something I’ve been missing most of my life: a connection to my Jewish identity.
Within the past couple of years, most of my religiously fervent family members have passed away. My father was born a Protestant. Two of my uncles also left the religion to pursue some questionable beliefs (Can I get a Witness? Yes, two of them…sigh). As for me, I’m about as un-religious as can be. As the apparently intelligent Stephen Hawking once said: “There is no way to prove whether or not God exists, but Science makes God irrelevant.” For me, this trip is not about God, but about the people here on earth. While I associate with and love all people regardless of their beliefs or ethnicity, there is something to be said for being connected to your bloodlines.
After my sister married a Catholic, my Grandma told me I was the last hope to keep the Jewish tradition: “Why don’t you go meet a nice Jewish girl, Seth?” Well, I’ve heard the Birthright Israel trip is secretly a front for marital discovery! How fortuitous that I am afforded this opportunity! WAIT, that’s not at all what I am looking for and not at all why I’m taking the trip. I’m not particularly a fan of arranged marriages (unless the arrangement is that I get to marry Bar Rafaeli), so the idea that the Birthright Israel trip exists to meet my future wife seems a bit far-fetched. Still, I do look forward to meeting some new people who are local to Boston and making some new friends. I am also extremely excited to ride a camel, even though I’ve been told it can be quite uncomfortable. Maybe I can request the first-class camel with extra legroom and complimentary alcoholic beverages?
Moment of honesty: I am nervous because I am so un-religious that I know scant a few prayers and cannot read Hebrew. I also am very iffy on many customs as I haven’t had a serious religious influence since my bar mitzvah 13 years ago. I expect that I am not the only person in such a situation, but it still makes me a bit nervous. I tend to feel inadequate and uncomfortable when I am in foreign environments that suggest I’m the odd man out. I am also a bit nervous about being on somebody else’s strict schedule for 10 days. I feel like I need to train for this trip — or at least walk around with some Skechers Shape-Ups for a while (I may still get tired on long hikes, but I’ll have a fantasic fanny!).
Despite my fears, the majority of my emotion is excitement and hopefulness. I feel a bit like I’ve been sleepwalking through my life lately and a trip like this may be an eye-opening experience. I briefly checked the itinerary but I prefer to go into the trip with a clean slate and not allow pre-conceived notions to affect my experience. I have been told by several friends that have taken the trip that it is a life-changing experience. I don’t know about all that, but I do look forward to gaining an alternate perspective from my sheltered Boston-area lifestyle. I believe it’s important to get outside of your comfort zone every once in awhile to keep yourself real. I look forward to meeting and speaking to people who are currently fighting for their right to exist as a nation. That is something the current generation of Americans just cannot possibly understand. The reaction to 9/11 says it all: “How dare they attack us on AMERICAN SOIL!” Yea well, welcome to Israel every day.
To conclude, I don’t know quite what to expect from the trip, but I like it that way. You can’t plan out an adventure and you can’t expect a life-altering experience. All you can do is remember that if you order a Cobb Salad, don’t put stipulations on it. Embrace the Cobb Salad for all that it is and all that it isn’t. After all, Bob Cobb designed it that way for a reason.
That is all. Cheers,