While preparing for my Birthright trip, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect. Although I had heard from several friends that the ten days spent with mostly strangers traveling around Israel created some of the greatest friendships and experiences they’ve ever had, I still had my doubts that it would affect me as substantially as it had to them. A few months before the trip had started, I had been struggling with several family issues, including my mother being recently diagnosed with breast cancer, as well as questions about my own identity and if I was really living the life I wanted to live.
Just a few days into the trip, I found myself bonding fast with the other participants through enjoyable bus rides filled with blasting music in the background and more profound moments where we were able to open up about our Jewish identity and other personal aspects of our life. One of the moments that sticks out to me most as I reflect on my trip was the visit to Mount Herzl, Israel’s national cemetery. In the days prior, I had the opportunity to talk to the six Israeli soldiers on our trip and ask them about their lives while serving in the IDF. It baffled me how different our paths were, with them continuously risking their lives to protect a country that wouldn’t survive without them. Each soldier told us the story of several young people who died fighting for their country, and it filled me with a newfound admiration for the country and all that it stands for.
Exploring Israel and the amazing wonders it holds was truly incredible for me, but I’m most grateful for the lessons I learned during the trip that continue to impact my life today. One of the biggest lessons that has remained with me after my Birthright trip is the idea of always living in the moment. For most of the trip I stayed disconnected from social media, something that before this experience I didn’t realize how much I relied on for gratification and entertainment. Being able to disconnect and fully appreciate the beauty of Israel and the people I was surrounded by helped me to reflect on my values and learn to appreciate the little things in life. I cannot be thankful enough for the trip that became the experience of a lifetime, and all the amazing people I got to meet along the way.