I went on Birthright with Israel Experts during the winter of 2016-17. I chose Israel Experts because they partner with CJP in Boston, and since I live here, it seemed like a great fit—and it was! I had a blast with my group (Bus IR 35-45 represent!), but no matter which trip organizer you choose, you’ll have an amazing trip as well. I had so many meaningful experiences, so it’s hard to reflect on just one! Here are a few select snapshots of what made my Birthright trip unforgettable.
One of my meaningful experiences happened to coincide with the timing of my trip; I got to celebrate Hanukkah in Israel. It was a great bonding experience with my group and I felt like it brought us closer together each time we lit the menorah. It was just really special to be in the land where the miracles of Hanukkah occurred. The authentic sufganiyot and rugelach were added bonuses!
Along with the joyful experiences came the really deep and profound ones. Visiting Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial, was one of them. We had a tour guide with us and it was a lot to take in: information to read, videos to watch, pictures and artifacts to view. Our tour guide also took us to the Children’s Memorial, which was beautiful but absolutely heartbreaking. The museum as a whole is really beyond words and has made a lasting impact on me.
Visiting the Western Wall was an amazing spiritual experience. We wrote our prayers on pieces of paper (I also had prayers given to me by my parents) and we walked over as a group to the wall. There were a lot of people there and I patiently waited for an opening at the front. As soon as I touched the wall, feelings of calm and peacefulness came over me. I looked at the wall, running my fingers over ridges and cracks, marveling at all the pieces of paper that sat within them. The feeling I had when I put my pieces of paper in the wall was indescribable. I stood at the wall for what felt like a long time; I didn’t want to lose the feelings I was having. It was incredible to stand at and touch one of the holiest landmarks in Israel.
One of the deepest connections I had with the people of Israel occurred when we went back to the Western Wall for Shabbat. It was dusk, and hundreds of people were gathering to welcome the start of Shabbat—they were all singing and dancing, embracing us as we joined in. I personally believe that songs and prayers are what unite the Jewish people and that’s what made this experience so amazing to me.
This trip taught me so much about Israel and the people who live there. It is a really beautiful place filled with historical and cultural experiences, as well as a diverse population. Every experience I had—from sleeping in a Bedouin tent overnight in the desert to exploring the modern cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem—was an amazing adventure. I find myself thinking about Israel a lot and would love to return one day. I recommend going on Birthright if you want to fully immerse yourself in the culture of Israel and learn new things every day.
Interested in going on Birthright? Email Karen Nahary for more information.