When birthright changed their acceptance guidelines from only accepting applications from people who had never been on an organized trip to Israel, to allowing those to return once again, I called Heather immediately and said we have to go back to Israel!
We both went to the same Jewish high school in Phoenix Arizona and went on our junior class trip to Israel for two weeks. Although we are visiting the same sights that we did 9 years ago, this experience is remarkably different. We view the country through a different lens. The meaning behind this land sinks into our cores, and will shape our identity as Jewish Americans.
On our high school trip, we knew everyone on our trip already. We had established bonds and friendships, which mostly stayed the same over the trip. Now, we are with a group of total strangers and given this amazing opportunity to bond. We have 42 new friends spanning from Israel, South Carolina, Arizona, Texas, California and of course, Nevada. We could not imagine this experience without any single person on this trip. The perspectives, opinions, and personalities have given such a richness to our understanding of Judaism as a culture.
Best of all, we have 8 Israeli soldiers with us who add a completely new perspective to experiencing the Holy Land. We are truly getting a glimpse of their lives, their reality. We visited Ramat HaNegev where two of the Israelis traveling with us live. It makes the kibbutz story more relatable and we understood why someone would want to give up their personal comfort (schvitzing) for the betterment of the community.
This land is truly our homeland. We realize that it is our responsibility to make of it what we will. It is so clear to us the importance of supporting organizations like Birthright and The Jewish Federations across the countries to ensure everyone has a chance to connect with Israel. Not to mention, every Jew on this planet should be able to eat a falafel or schwarama at least once a day.
Thank you to the Jewish Federation of Las Vegas and their supporters for giving us the gift of birthright that we will remember forever.