I Found It In Israel - Israel Birthright
On July 31st at the JFk airport, I met 38 strangers all going on the same Birthright Israel with Israel Experts trip as I was. Upon our return, I realized in just ten short days the 38 strangers and the Israelis I met became family. Everything about my trip to Israel was profound. I had many first, from a camel ride, sleeping in a Bedouin tent, floating in the dead sea, reflecting at the Western Wall, the view from hiking Masada and trying a bunch of new foods from the Israeli markets.
I have studied abroad on several occasions in my Birthright Israel tour but never learned as much in such a short period of time. The brochures, magazines and travel guides do not do Israel justice. It is so much more than just beautiful scenery and historical locations. Our travel guide brought Israel to life for us, and made it more personal, spiritual and more emotional for us all.
Not going to lie, before I went on this trip I was apprehensive to go and had many fears for my safety because of the way the news portrays Israel, but the minute we arrived there I felt safe and at home.
“So what was your favorite part of the trip you may ask?” Well my honest answer will be everything was my favorite. I constantly had to face my fears and do things I never thought id be able to do. I am not good when it comes to opening up or talking about “feelings,” but on this trip I was asked to open up and it felt easy around these people I can call my friends, there was no judgment, just love. I am also deathly afraid of heights but climbed up Masada with no problem, because I had people to encourage me and I have a fear of large animals (lol) but still road the camel and actually enjoyed it.
This trip is not necessarily overly religious but very spiritual. Being able to write a note and reflect by the Western Wall was very moving. We visited the Tzfat gallery of mystical art, where we saw and learned about the contemporary Kabbalistic art. Every piece of artwork was unique and had spiritual meaning (yes, I bought three pieces of artwork to display in my new apartment). Celebrating Shabbat was very meaningful and spiritual. It gave us all a chance to put aside our technology and be in the moment with one another. We each said a little prayer over a candle did some singing in the desert and had a nice meal with one another, as a family should. There was also several points during the trip where we were given time for thought and personal reflection.
Besides a lot of personal growth, I had a lot of fun on this trip. Swimming in the Dead Sea was something everyone should get to experience. I remember trying to be able to stand in the sea but my body just floated up from the amount of salt in the water. It was also so funny to see everyone covered in the mud. It made my skin so soft!
I really loved being in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, both during the day and at night. The beach in Tel Aviv was beautiful and going out in the city was a lot of fun! Before seeing the markets in Jerusalem during the day, I got to see what they looked like at night. If you are into urban art like I am, you would enjoy seeing the graffiti and murals that are painted on the market stalls, and then during the day the market comes to life and the atmosphere completely changes. My favorite part of the markets was being able to successfully bargain and going down each isle trying new foods. I have never had falafel or shawarma before entering Israel and I liked it so much I basically ate these things everyday at lunch time, to take it all in before coming back to the States.
I am completely grateful that I was able to go on this trip. Before I experienced this trip I didn’t know what I was looking for or what to expect, but what I got out of it was a deep connection to Israel, friends that I will have forever and I now feel more open to talk about my own spirituality.
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