By Sarah Scherzer, Emory '23
Birthright is an amazing opportunity for Jewish American students to explore Israel for free. As someone who loves traveling and has always wanted to visit Israel, not to mention my fondness for free adventures, you can imagine how excited I was to have my very own Birthright journey. Despite pandemic-related delays, I was fortunate enough to embark on this adventure right after graduation, accompanied by one of my closest friends. In this blog post, I share the highlights of my Birthright experience, focusing on the impact it had on my Jewish identity and connection to Israel.
Embracing My Jewish Community
Growing up, I didn't have many Jewish friends. However, once I arrived at college, I found a sense of belonging within a Jewish community and the opportunity to make strong friendships with others who shared similar values and traditions. Participating in Birthright after graduation felt like the perfect culmination of my college journey, solidifying my connection to my Jewish community and allowing me to further explore my Jewish identity.
A Journey of Discovery
To describe Birthright as an amazing experience would be an understatement. Despite the long and hot days, I enjoyed the opportunity to explore new places and make new friends. As I journeyed through Israel, I had many memorable experiences that helped me grow and connect with my Jewish identity. Learning about the historical and cultural importance of the old city of Jerusalem, particularly the Western Wall, strengthened my bond with Jewish history and Israel.
One of the most meaningful parts of Birthright was the opportunity to engage with Israeli soldiers, known as Mifgash. Their presence on the trip provided a unique insight into the lives of young Israelis, both as soldiers and as individuals navigating daily routines. What struck me most was how relatable they were, reminding us that despite the geographical distance, we were all connected through shared experiences and a common Jewish identity. One particular conversation that stood out was when an Israeli soldier told our group that Israel will always be our home. Though I had heard this sentiment before, it had never resonated with me until that moment, and hearing it reaffirmed by an Israeli was profoundly meaningful.
Building Lifelong Friendships
Birthright not only deepened my connection to Israel and my Jewish identity but also allowed me to build lifelong friendships. While I embarked on the trip with one of my closest friends and recognized a few familiar faces from campus, the journey provided an opportunity to strengthen existing bonds and form new friendships with fellow participants. Through late-night game sessions and shared laughter, we developed friendships that extend beyond the trip. Even though we won’t all be together next year, I am excited to see my Birthright friends again.
Unforgettable Bus Naps
Although unrelated to my Jewish identity or connection to Israel, I can't forget to mention my beloved bus naps. The intensity of the days, scorching heat, and various experiences often left us exhausted. As we boarded the bus each day, we had some of the most restful naps of our lives—proof of the exhausting yet exciting nature of Birthright.
Participating in a Birthright trip to Israel was a transformative journey of discovery, friendship, and deepened connection to my Jewish identity. Exploring diverse landscapes and historical sites, from the ancient streets of Jerusalem to the vibrant city of Tel Aviv, allowed me to discover the beauty and history of Israel, enhancing my understanding of its diverse culture and strengthening my bond with Israel. Birthright is more than just a trip; it creates a lifelong connection with Israel and reminds us of the importance of our Jewish identity.