The concept of a Birthright Israel trip is pretty self-explanatory to me: it serves as a Jewish American’s birthright to Israel. The educational tourism organization aims to strengthen the Jewish communities by supporting young adults to explore their Jewish identity and make lasting connections through a trip to Israel. I’m 21 and I haven’t been to the Temple since I was 16.
I’ve had a Bat Mitzvah, a coming of age ritual for girls, and attended Hebrew school and Sunday school with my siblings and cousins, but I was nervous to go to Israel. I didn’t want to be the least religious person there and, to be completely honest, I really didn’t want anything to do with organized religion at this point in my life. Despite it, my cousins and my brother had planned a trip in December of 2018, and I felt compelled to attend.
I expected this Birthright trip to be hyper-religious, kind of like the oversaturated YMCA summer camps I attended in middle school. However, the trip was spiritual, in a sense, but not in any way comparable to Christian summer camps. It prepared your mind for the inner dialogue you were bound to have seeing a country so captivating and colorful. I found myself seeing my culture and my family in a different way, behind a lens. Granted, all of these photos were taken on my iPhone, taking that moment to stop while walking on the sidewalk to snap that picture is a different way of seeing. It’s about taking that moment and basking in it.
Birthright Israel is fully funded by private donors, the Israeli government, American Jewish communities and the local Jewish communities. Applicants must undergo an interview, write a short essay talking about their Jewish identity and give further explanation as to why they want to join a Birthright trip. (More information at birthrightisrael.com)
Samantha Berlin is a junior studying magazine at Syracuse University.