The Magic of Israel: How Birthright Changed Me Forever

By Carly Korman, Student at UMASS Amherst

The first time I felt it, I was standing on Masada, shouting, “We will never let Masada fall again!” as the echo shouted back at us. I was literally standing where my people stood generations upon generations ago. It was at that moment that I realized how incredible this opportunity truly was. I realized that I am the first person in over 2,000 years in my family’s history to make it to Israel, to fulfill the dream of entering Jerusalem, to freely be Jewish. I finally understood how I AM Jewish... Not because I was born into a Jewish family, or raised Jewish, but because I’m an ancestor of the Jewish people, and I realized that I couldn’t let the magic of those 10 days last only 10 days.

Because Israel is a magical place…I thought I knew myself, my passions, what was important to me before this, but there is so much I learned and realized about myself that I didn’t even know was there.

I have always been an active Jew; I went to Hebrew school, became a Bat Mitzvah, attended Jewish day and sleep-away camp. I was active in both BBYO and USY, and I’m in a (mostly) Jewish sorority at school. Being Jewish has always been an active and social part of my life, so going to Israel is something I’ve wanted to do for years now, but the effect it had on me is something I never foresaw. When looking back on what became the most emotional, educational, and enlightening 10 days of my life, I never anticipated it would change me the way it has. I expected to just be another participant on that awesome free trip we Jewish adolescents get the chance to indulge in. Well, Israel Outdoors gave me an experience that impacted my life in a way that I never could have imagined.

The passion, the importance, the existence…none of it was ever apparent before this trip. Each day of the trip, there was something I would learn about Israel that would ultimately lead me to learn something about myself.

In our closing activity, we were asked what we would take back with us after this trip, and what moment shaped our trip. People shared a plethora of thoughts from being more religious, standing-up for Israel, keeping in touch, and sharing moments that were big and small.But I couldn’t pick just one activity because from the moment I landed in the Holy Land, I became a different person, and each moment that I spent there, I was evolving, growing, and learning. And the things that I took back with me will stay with me forever: the bonds I formed with the Israelis, the friends I made with fellow Jews, and the new goals and aspirations I have set for myself. There’s not one single thing that has changed for me since I’ve been back, it’s everything.


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