Tuvia Book
Author, educator, Tour-Guide, artist

Birthright Downtime: The Pause Between the Notes

Last week I celebrated my bar-mitzvah of guiding Taglit-Birthright, probably the most successful Jewish identity project of recent decades.   I was fortunate to spend ten days with a fantastic staff, 39 young professionals from North America, and eight incredible IDF soldiers on an “Amazing Israel” Birthright trip.  Even though I spend months planning and thinking about the educational content and sites on the itinerary, this time what struck me was the power of the unplanned informal moments; the downtime.

I watched with amazement how, as the participants walked on the cobble stones of Sfat and Jerusalem, and swam in the refreshing waters on the Golan, in the Sachne and the Jordan, floated on the Dead Sea, and walked through the desert at night and during the day hearing the sound of their breathing and their hearts, and feeling the sun on their faces and the wind in their hair, their attachment to the land grew daily without me saying a single word!

One of the most important and intense days on the itinerary involves visiting Yad Vashem and Mt. Herzl.  It is an exhausting and emotionally draining experience.  Every single soldier spoke at Mt Herzl about mates who are buried there.  This time two of the soldiers invited (all fifty of) us to their homes in the nearby pastoral village of Ein Karem at the conclusion of the formal program.

The gracious hospitality of the host families, together with the opportunity to unwind in the informal surroundings of our soldier friends native enviroment was an real eye-opener for the American participants.  They had spent the whole day learning about how Jews died.  At Yad Vashem they witnessed what was the culminating tragedy of a stateless Jewish people, and at Mt. Herzl they saw the price we have paid, and continue to pay, in order to safeguard our state.  By visiting the soldier’s houses, and meeting their families, they were seeing how Israeli Jews live!

My high school history teacher taught us that the secret of a truly great educator is not what s/he says, but rather what they don’t say!  I strongly feel that the land, and the people of the land, are what made this particular trip so exceptional.  Similar to the power of Shabbat, it was the opportunity to take a break from the rat-race of life, to reconnect to the heart and soul of Judaism in our homeland/birthright with her people that provided the powerful sensual and emotional stimulus – the pause between the notes!

About the Author
Dr. Tuvia Book was born in London and raised in both the UK and South Africa. After making Aliya at the age of 17 and studying in Yeshiva he volunteered for the IDF, where he served in an elite combat unit. Upon his discharge he completed his BA at Bar-Ilan University, as well as certification in graphic design. He then served as the Information Officer at the Israeli Consulate of Philadelphia, while earning a graduate degree in Jewish Studies. Upon his return to Israel, Dr. Book graduated from a course of study with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and is a licensed tour guide. Tuvia has been working in the field of Jewish Education, both formal and informal, for many years. He has guided and taught Jewish students and educators from around the English-speaking world for some of Israel’s premier educational institutions and programs. Tuvia has been guiding groups for Birthright Israel since its inception and, in addition, has lectured throughout North America, Australia, Europe and South Africa. Tuvia served as a Shaliach (emissary) for the Jewish Agency for Israel as the Director of Israel and Zionist Education at the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (Jewish Education Project). He was a lecturer/educational guide at the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education (AMIIE) in Israel for a decade. Tuvia has lectured at both Bar Ilan University and Hebrew University. He was a Senior Editor and Teaching Fellow at the Tikvah Fund. He is a research associate at the Hudson Institute. Tuvia is the author and illustrator the internationally acclaimed Israel education curriculum; "For the Sake of Zion; A Curriculum of Israel Studies" (Fifth edition, Koren 2017), and "Moral Dilemmas of the Modern Israeli Soldier" (Rama, 2011) and has a doctorate in Israel Education. His latest book, "Jewish Journeys, The Second Temple Period to the Bar Kokhba Revolt – 536 BCE-136 CE," was published by Koren this year. To order: