One of the student participants on Hillel’s Summer 2017 Birthright Trip shares his thoughts on how the trip changed him. Interested in going to Israel for FREE with Hillel next summer? Contact Dor.
I want to share how Birthright changed me.
Before Birthright, I had the ingrained knowledge that all Jewish-raised people have that ‘Israel is our home.’ Heck, I had even had more, learning about Israeli history in school until the 8th grade. In the 8th grade, I had even gone on a trip with my classmates. But I didn’t really feel too strong an actual, emotional connection; even when I decided I probably want to move to Israel, it was almost completely because of their amazing military and intelligence research tech alone.
At the end of Spring last year I was not in the best of places. I was failing classes, barely eating or leaving the house, and had been recently diagnosed with a mental disorder. Really had no direction and felt like my world was ending. Birthright singlehandedly brought me out of it. For the first time I could actually feel Israel as my home.
Israel, as I discovered it to be, was not just the center of Judaism, but the center of all the morals of being Jewish: perserverance and constant progress, not just in the face of adversary but ignoring the adversary. It is the greatest social experiment in nationbuilding since the US: what happens when we put a bunch of absolute geniuses unburdened by a hyperrestrictive set of traditions and rules together, dropped them in a desert, and told them to make a country? What happens when Jews are finally just left (relatively) alone in their own, small corner?
My favorite and most meaningful part of the trip was the Gallil and Golan. To me the North felt like it represented the core strengths of Israel. The land was pure wild forest, with Hezbollah, ISIS, and who knows who else on all sides, yet no one lived in fear or even with a passive nature. Everyone seemed hyperfocussed on progressing it to its own powerhouse, while completely dismissing the fact that they were basically in an undeveloped no-mans-land with terrorists on all sides. It’s “Im Tirtzu, ein zo agadah” embodied in a region.
Israel is not just my home because “it is the Jewish state and I am a Jew,” it is my home because it was founded by Jews, for Jews, with Jewish values — my values. It is my home because even in America my brother’s BBYO event can be cancelled because of a Nazi rally (this really happened in August). It is my home because nowhere else can any Jew truly be completely at ease, both through their safety and their values.