By Jack Allen
If you were to ask me why I was going on Birthright before I left Boston, I probably would’ve given you some sort of artificial, cookie-cutter answer. I wanted to go learn this, go experience that, and so on and so forth. Full disclosure—I really didn’t know what to expect. I’m no Israel expert; beforehand I barely even considered myself Jewish. To me, this was just a free trip, and that was reason enough for me to sign up. But in hindsight that was okay because it was enough to get me to Israel. The trail of breadcrumbs that eventually led me onto the CJP Birthright trip is irrelevant because I’ve now discovered new meaning as to why I’m here. Generally speaking, I came here to seek and search; unaware of the connection that I was lacking to the rest of the world. And now, with each new experience, I discover more about myself and how much I actually share with not only my peers on the trip but also with Israel and the culture that it embodies.
I’ll try to avoid the clichés of self-discovery, but after digging my heels into this trip it seems unavoidable. Almost as unavoidable as getting stuck in the bubble that is my daily routine. Getting wrapped up in work and studies has provided me with quite the excuse to disconnect myself from the rest of the world. But thus far, this experience has been exactly what I needed to plug myself back in, and re-establish my connection not only to rest of the world, but also to Judaism.
My tour guide Lavi put it like this: sitting in the Golan Heights, staring out at the ruined city of Gamla, Lavi told us to take a picture. Not literally, but figuratively, (actual pictures came later). The scene was meant to be a picture from the scrapbook that is our national identity. I couldn’t help but feel connected to my ancestors knowing that they fought and died to protect each and every member of the Jewish faith. Thousands of years ago, those people essentially fought for my future and my chance to live. In that moment, I felt that sort of belonging that I came here to search for. As members of the Jewish faith, we’ve been granted the opportunity to immerse ourselves in our own history.
Standing atop the windy city of Tzfat, I realized that this trip had the potential to change my life if I let it. I’ve learned that above all else, this trip is about one thing: connection. The connection to people, to culture, to religion, to spirituality, and especially to my national identity. Before I embarked on this journey, I wanted to drink and I wanted to party; I essentially wanted to bro out in another country. And if that’s what it takes to get you here, then so be it. But this experience is far from that. This experience is proving to be the much-needed jumpstart to charge my depleted battery. So if you were wondering why you should go to Israel, go to experience something eye-opening and life-changing. Go to unplug yourself from your daily routine and plug back into the outside world. That’s what I did, and it’s been one of the best experiences of my life. Shalom!