I am back from Israel! I spent ten days on a program through Taglit-Birthright which grants a gift to all Jewish people between the ages of 18-26 to travel for free to Israel. I went on this trip, not because I am Jewish, but because it was an amazing opportunity to explore another country.
My relationship with Judaism and my opinions about Israel were very well-defined before this trip, and they did not change because of this trip. It was not a life-changing experience for me as it has been for many people, but I certainly left this trip grateful to be able to see a beautiful country, meet new people, and engage both Americans and Israelis in many intense and educational conversations about politics, religion, and culture.
I initially thought I would blog about the trip in its entirety, but I just don’t feel up to recapping each and every day. Instead, here are some pictures of my favorite moments on the trip:
Visiting the Western Wall.
Visiting the Holocaust museum in Israel.
Eating lots and lots of falafel.
Riding a camel through the desert.
Floating in the Dead Sea.
Visiting the grave sites of some of the most famous political leaders of the twentieth century (Yitzhak Rabin and Golda Meir below.)
Making new Israeli friends.
Visiting a house hit by a rocket from the Gaza strip.
Sitting atop the Syrian-Israeli border looking onto Syria where a bloody civil war is currently being waged. The houses in the distance are a Syrian town.
Seeing all the amazing views that Israel has to offer.
When I look back at these images, I realize how lucky I was to go on this trip. The Middle East is so incredibly different from the United States, and to be able to see a sliver of it was fascinating. I know how lucky I am to live in America where I feel safe every single day of my life. I do not have to worry about the terrorist organizations that live right across the border, or the rockets and missiles that could begin to fly towards my house tomorrow. Despite some of the problems that exist in America, I still feel as if I live in the greatest country in the world.
I was also reminded how important it is to remain educated about global politics and world history, both of which I am grateful that I studied in great depth in college. Ignorance is dangerous, and knowledge is power. It’s important to learn both sides of every story, especially in a conflict like the Arab-Israeli conflict where details from both ends have often been skewed and convoluted.
Most of all, for me, traveling to another country always reaffirms the notion that people are people. I have met many Israelis in my life through my ten years at a Jewish sleep away camp, and ultimately, no matter where someone comes from or what religion or race someone might be, there is something interesting and important to learn from those around you.