It’s Israel, it’s Not Supposed to Rain, Right?
My Birthright Trip with Rutgers Hillel
By Glenn Corregano ’13
The past few days have been absolutely amazing, educational, eye-opening and wet, very wet (it seems that we brought a lot of rain with us). After a grueling, turbulence filled flight we saw the bright Israeli sun (it hadn’t started raining yet) and could smell the freshness of the air. Even though I had barely slept on the plane, the Israeli sun and air reinvigorated my tired body. I was ready for everything and anything that would come our way, except the amount of rain we would soon receive. It’s Israel, it’s not supposed to rain, right?
Our first stop was the gorgeous ancient seaport of Jaffa. We basked in the sun and surroundings while our tour guide, Hannah, taught us the history of the area. We then walked through Jaffa towards Tel Aviv, the bustling Israeli city that I have been waiting to see my entire life. While in Tel Aviv, we learned about the founding of the Jewish State at Independence Hall. I have never been overly inclined to call myself a Zionist, but listening to our guide speak about the Declaration of Israeli Independence gave me the chills. One student on our trip even cried. We moved from Independence Hall to Rabin Square. Yitzhak Rabin has always been a man that I’ve admired due to his commitment to peace with Israel and the Arab neighbors. As young Americans, we relived the horrible day that stalled the Israeli-Arab peace process. Again, I was in chills.
The following day, we traveled to Tzipori, an ancient archaeologically filled city. The city was beautiful and the history of not only the Jewish people in the area, but everyone, was fascinating. From Tzipori, we moved on to Tiberius for lunch and shopping in preparation for Shabbat. Our Shabbat would be spent on a kibbutz called Nofei Gonen. Spending our first Shabbat in Israel was an experience unlike any others. Our leaders created an egalitarian Shabbat environment where everyone would feel comfortable. It was achieved, but that was not the experience that was different. There was a feeling, an essence, in the air that made this Shabbat so drastically different than any other Shabbat I’ve ever celebrated.
Everything just seems better in Israel. Our Shabbat was definitely a relaxing day, and it was important that we got our rest because we will be waking up very early and traveling a lot for the remainder of the trip. After Havdalah, we all jumped on the bus eager to get off the kibbutz and go to the ancient hot springs, Hammat Gader, and swim in the volcanic, sulfuric water. On Sunday, we got to explore the north of Israel, the Golan Heights. We learned the troubled history of the area and the defense tactics to protect and hold control of this area, all while “off roading” in jeeps older than a few of us students combined.
The most exciting part of any Birthright trip is when the Israeli soldiers come to join us for about five days. We picked up our soldiers on the side of the road and welcomed them with loud cheers of excitement and warm greetings. The entire Birthright experience so far has been absolutely amazing, and the trip still has the best to come!