How could you describe five amazing, life-changing days in just one blog post?

Well, it seems impossible.

First of all, I gotta tell you that I’ve been waiting to accompany a Taglit-Birthright Israel group since January 2012. Every time it got delayed, until it was finally decided, after a whole year of waiting, I would join the Taglit-Birthright Israel: Mayanot Newsroom to Newsroom group. And it was nothing like I expected.

I have to confess, I was a little nervous not knowing if the Americans will get along with me or if I would get along with them. I felt a bit different, I thought our culture gap is something that would take a lot of work to bridge, and boy I was wrong.

I mean it’s true that we have some things in common: we all love Facebook, social media, listening to music, watching American films, and even taking pictures! But still, I guess it takes more than just hobbies to connect to other people.

It was only until someone asked me how observant I am and how I define myself as a Jewish person that I suddenly realized that besides having fun on this trip, we, the Israeli Jews, have such an important job in telling the Jewish world that we are there for them.

Answering questions about kosher food or about Shabbat in Israel, or just a curious question about what it’s like to live in the majority in a state that supports your religion, can go so far in connecting Israeli and American Jews.

Just having the chance to sit down, one-on-one, and hear what they have to say, or ask them a question, or trying to answer their question, can teach you so much about yourself.

On the one hand I’m a religious Jew and follow the laws of the Torah. On the other hand I served this country for two years and see myself as a part of the wider Israeli society.

Ultimately, it’s up to us how we choose look at each other and what we choose to do in our lives. We remain in a cocoon without even trying to see if there are other people who don’t think like us. I made the decision that if I have an opinion about a certain topic, I won’t be afraid to share it with others. I want to be challenged, I want to have a discussion, I want to learn more. Asking questions is an important part of learning, exploring and understanding one another. Something we got to do a lot of.

It may seem small, but Taglit-Birthright Israel: Mayanot taught me that listening is what makes the difference, so learn to listen and let your voice be heard.

-Efrat Krasner

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