From a time before I can remember, I had a clear picture of Israel in my head. It was the home of many of my relatives, a place full of beautiful beaches, ancient architecture, and amazing food. It was, and continues to be, a place that I know well, where I feel at home, safe, connected. I have never had to question these feelings, and have no memory of a life without them. Indeed, I’m uniquely lucky, having such a strong connection that has grown into such a deep passion. For the first time since my childhood trips to Israel, I have now had the opportunity to see my “second home” through new eyes.
Having the opportunity to staff a Taglit Birthright trip is something that I had wanted to do for several years. The various Israel programs and trips that I participated in solidified my desire to be one of the staff members that we all looked up to, and to have the opportunity to impact participants the way that I was on my trips. In addition, Birthright in particular was important to me, because I knew that it would give me the opportunity to connect with participants during their first Israel experience. Having only vague memories of the development of my Zionism, which has only grown over time, I couldn’t wait for the chance to watch others fall in love with Israel, the same way that I did years ago.
Traveling across Israel with nearly forty first-timers opened my eyes to Israel in a new way. I relished in the old stories, the familiar sites, and the feeling of coming home. Thus far, the trip has been a whirlwind of the best things that Israel has to offer. From seeing the innovative agricultural tactics of the Negev to the natural beauty of the Judean mountains, and soaking in the sights of Israel, the group has had the opportunity to see the natural and manmade appeal of the State of Israel.
Even more than seeing the sites, they have had the opportunity to feel the impact of being a Jew in Israel. It’s only been a few days, but from the moment we stepped off the plane, they have been made to feel like they are members of the greater family of the Jewish people, and that they have come home. I’ve had a lot of time to think about the name of this trip, and I believe that the term “Birthright” is accurate. The land of Israel and the modern State of Israel are the heritage of every Jew in the world, no matter where they are. Therefore it is their right, by virtue of this shared heritage, to experience this land for themselves.
Watching the eyes of the participants widen to take in the breadth and depth of every site is heartening, and each day brings them closer to finding a place in their hearts for Israel as they build their memories and their own personal connections to this place.