Taglit Birthright Israel: In life, take the scenic route
Join young professionals on a free experience to Israel in June 2015. You are now eligible even if you went on an organized trip in high school.
Registration is now open at israeloutdoors.com.
Hike through the desert. Tantalize your taste buds with the world’s best falafel. Dive into the Mediterranean Sea. Get your hands dirty with a service project in Tzfat. Deliver a note to the Western Wall. Live it up in Tel Aviv. Make friends. Make memories. Make 2015 the year you went to Israel.
Interested in learning more? Click here and let us contact you
Here are firsthand accounts of the trip,
in the words of young people like you:
Birthright was an incredible gift that I feel lucky to have been given. I feel a significantly stronger connection to Israel and a better, non-biased understanding of Israel’s political situation.
Israeli soldiers who were on my trip added an amazing perspective to my experience –I still keep in touch with some of them via Skype. I’m lucky to have created meaningful new friendships with them and other new friends from my area.
I just lit my last Hanukkah candles that I bought in Tzfat. They sat on the hanukkiah I bought at the shuk. I feel blessed to have visited such beautiful places in my homeland, each with its own rich history and culture.
I feel a renewed responsibility to strengthen my connection with my Jewish identity and the land of Israel. When I celebrate Shabbat with my family each week, I still think of all the great friends I met and reflect on our once-in-a-lifetime journey together.
There is one word that sums up my entire Birthright experience: incredible.
Growing up, I was never what you may think of as “religious.” I complained about going to Sunday school and even complained about the holidays. Temple, to me, was just not something I was interested in.
But going to Israel made me realize that there is so much more to being “Jewish” than what I previously thought.
The entire Birthright experience opened my eyes to so many different aspects of life and empowered me to grow as a person. While I was skeptical to go at first, I wouldn’t change my decision for the world.
From doing community service projects, touring cities and hiking the country’s diverse landscapes, to experiencing the exciting nightlife – I enjoyed a well-rounded feel for Israeli life. Doing all this side-by-side with Israelis is especially what made the trip so special. They taught me about Israeli culture, history, and people – a perspective I now take home as a meaningful part of my journey.
Last but not least (but I could write about this forever), going on Birthright introduced me to a group of people who I would have otherwise never met. We immediately became a family, and we all stay in touch today.
Every activity we did allowed me to step out of my comfort zone, grow as a person and even explore my Jewish heritage – on my own terms. I learned how important it is to know where you are from. And most importantly I now know that no matter where I go in life, Israel will always be my home.
"Israel is the very last place I'd ever dreamed of going. Since I've never been a traveling type, being in a foreign country for 10 days with 39 strangers on a rigidly organized trip to the Middle East just seemed way out of my league. Still, the offer was there, the clock was ticking, and I wasn't getting any younger. After being approached by a few friends and strongly persuaded by each and every person in my family for years, I finally gave in. I caved to the pressure and agreed to painstakingly ‘discover’ Israel. Once I had my interview, my flights were booked, and everything was official, it was time to tell my friends, family and boss. I referred to it as an ‘obligatory’ 'I'm Jewish' trip.
Not only did it end up being an amazing, educational and awe-inspiring adventure, but I made friends for life. I really did discover my homeland, along with 39 of my brothers and sisters. And it wasn't painful at all! It was as if the books I had read and studied all my life were brought to life and illustrated in a way that I never could have imagined in my wildest dreams.
Every activity – from riding on a camel to sleeping in a tent and climbing Masada – was memorable, and an experience that I really needed to explore for myself, as a Jewish-born woman. I learned so much about Israeli history, culture and people, in the very own words of Sabras, through their powerful stories.
Most importantly, I learned that Israel is my home, and I'm eternally grateful to the Jewish Federation, Birthright donors and the State of Israel for making my incredibly enlightening Birthright experience possible. Toda Raba!"
"Participating in Birthright this summer was a life-changing experience that has shaped my Jewish identity. Prior to making my home in Palm Beach County, I was raised in an area of Orlando where, although educated in a Jewish Day School, I often felt like an insider in my surrounding community. I was one of a handful of Jewish children in my suburban neighborhood, and distinctly remember the embarrassment I felt as a young girl when my parents displayed our Hanukkah menorah in the front window, while every single other house on my street was illuminated with Christmas decorations. Growing up, I learned to appreciate and care about my religion and heritage, despite being a religious minority.
Moving to Palm Beach County as an adult allowed me to become part of a larger Jewish community, which positively impacted my Jewish identity. My recent trip to Israel was the missing piece to the puzzle. While on Birthright, I experienced for the first time what it was like to be part of the majority, and felt a sense of pride in my Jewish identity. For once in my life, I felt as though I did not have to hide my religious affiliation. I was empowered by images of Israeli flags displayed. Visiting a modern country where the majority of people shared the same history and religion was extremely overwhelming. I was deeply touched by the enthusiasm many soldiers shared regarding the existence of a Jewish nation. Their sentiment impacted my view of the need – and importance – of a Jewish State, and during my time in Israel, I began to truly understand that Israel is the place for Jews around the world to call home.
I am grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
"I always viewed Israel as 'the country I learned about in Sunday school,' but didn't fully understand its significance until my Birthright trip.
The food, activities and visits to historical sites were great, but the connections with my new-found Jewish friends, Israelis and my religions were what were most eye-opening. Learning how accepting and welcoming Judaism is has made me proud to call myself a Jew.
There's something about being in Israel that gives you a sense of belonging...puts you in touch with yourself, connects you to your religion and compels you to want to return.
Every Jewish young adult owes it to himself or herself to visit our homeland. It may give them a new outlook on life; it did for me and many others I was traveling with."
"Growing up, Birthright was referred to as 'that free trip to Israel,' so, of course, I was excited to be able to participate. There's not much in life that is free, and that was quite an enticement. Despite the challenges I encountered to sign up – I was on the waiting list, needed to get time off from work, etc. – I persevered. And I am so glad I did; the trip was so much more than just a free trip to Israel, as slow as this realization was. On the second-to-last day of the trip, we were in Jerusalem, wandering around, and I knew that I had to return. I was suddenly struck by the overwhelming feeling that ‘I am in the Holy City ... the Holiest of cities to three faiths’ (upon this, they all agree!).
This unexpected connection was so deep, it made me feel whole. This experience showed me how far I had let the tiny pieces of my soul get away from me; how far away my dreams had become … because of the expectations I was living with. As soon as I returned from my Birthright trip, I started applying for programs through MASA Israel. By the end of the week, I had been accepted to the Ma'ase Olam-Israel Teaching Fellows program. The following Monday, I gave notice at my job and have been vibrating with excitement about moving to Israel for 10 months to teach English. I can't believe that this is the life I get to live, and I have Birthright to thank for opening my eyes to it!"
Birthright Israel is just one of the many opportunities supported by Federation funding that helps young adults – and young families – connect to the Jewish world. If you are in college, beginning your adult life or starting your own family, you will find services and programs that inform, enlighten and inspire.