My Brand New "Mishpacha"
Meet One of Our Past Culinary Israel Participants
Chloe Swanson is 26-years-old and from New Jersey. This past winter, Chloe went on Birthright Israel's Culinary Israel trip and had an amazing 10 days trying all the different cuisines Israel has to offer from the markets, to a goat farm, to a winery! Read about what made the trip so special and memorable for Chloe!
My experience on Birthright Israel on the Culinary Israel trip was unlike anything I could have ever imagined. In a total of 10 days so many things in my life changed. I expanded my knowledge of Jewish history, I explored the beautiful landscapes of Israel, but most of all I gained a brand new mishpacha (family).
When I showed up at the airport on the first day I wasn't sure what to look for. All I knew was that there was going to be a group of around 40 strangers that I would have to find somehow. When you think about the fact that you are going to be spending 10 whole days with a bunch of people that you've never met, it’s a little scary. How are so many people suppose to get to know each other? What if we don't get along? I will say that one thing I learned from this journey was to push yourself to do the things that scare you because otherwise you may miss out on the most incredible experiences of your life.
One of the greatest aspects of this trip to Israel was getting to see what the land looks like first - hand. I never expected to see such luscious, bright green hills in the Golan Heights in the middle of winter. It was one of those experiences that make you feel at peace with the beauty of the land. That feeling lasted the whole trip. From the rocky mountains of Masada, to the vibrant, blue water of the Dead Sea, Israel has a variety of landscapes unique in their own ways.
One of the greatest parts of traveling is getting to try new foods. Israel's cuisine is diverse and delicious. A few of my all time favorites were the homemade hummus, fresh falafel, and warm rugelach. Every morning we woke up to a breakfast spread of salads, cheeses, eggs, and the thick Turkish coffee. That is definitely one thing I miss. In Jerusalem we went to the Shuk for a tasting tour and tried a few delicious places. It was one of the tastiest activities by far!
Each day we spent hours participating in all kinds of activities, thanks to our wonderful tour guide and volunteers. They gave it their all to make sure that each one of us could connect in our own personal ways to everything we did. Our group had the honor of hearing personal stories from people who had past experiences, good and bad, simply because they were Jewish or because they were soldiers serving their country. It wasn't easy at times, but listening to these special people speak was such an eye opener. It made me thankful and most of all, proud to be Jewish.
On the last day, only a few hours before heading to the airport, everyone in our group sat in a large, mostly round circle. Our tour guide asked us each to share our favorite part of the 10 day trip and what we're taking home with us from this experience. It took me a moment to choose my favorite part. Should I choose floating in the Dead Sea? Riding camels in the desert? Visiting the oldest synagogue? I eventually picked one, but there was no hesitation in my mind about what I was taking home with me. What I took home with me was my brand new family; my mishpacha. All of the connections and incredible friendships we made during these 10 days was the most amazing thing we could have ever expected. I am entirely grateful for receiving this gift that truly changed my life.