How Birthright Changed My Life
By Mike Cantor, Class of 2016
The Rutgers Hillel Birthright trip was a very transformative experience for me. I was able to see the land of my ancestors for the first time, and I immediately fell in love with the scenery, the food, the culture, the energy, and the people! Being able to see Jerusalem and its holy sites, including the Western Wall, Tel Aviv’s pristine beaches and bustling downtown, Masada and its breathtaking sunrise, the heroism of soldiers at an IDF base, Tiberias and its mountain view of the Sea of Galilee, Tzfat and the birthplace of Jewish mysticism, and all of the other amazing places was a tremendous opportunity. Eating local cuisine and bargaining at the markets in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Tzfat were experiences I’ll always remember. Waking up early and drinking copious amounts of Aroma Coffee will be a lasting memory. And meeting people my age from both the US and Israel was a great way to improve my confidence!
I met some truly incredible people on this trip. The five soldiers we were accompanied by and our tour guide always made us feel welcome and were always open to having conversations during the trip. Seeing how the locals were enjoying themselves in their everyday lives painted a different picture of the country than what you see on TV when the nation is at war. Never once did I feel uncomfortable or unsafe. I felt like the culture was rubbing off a bit on me.
The trip inspired me to increase my Jewish observance level back in the US. I am now incorporating more of halakhic law into my life, beginning to keep kosher, and trying to observe Shabbat as much as possible. Spending time with the Israeli soldiers inspired me to go on a diet and exercise plan, and I’ve lost over 35 pounds since getting home. Because of their friendship, I always have words of encouragement along my way, and I will always have people to visit when I return. I was six thousand miles away from New Jersey, but I truly felt like I was home.
I hope to return soon, and hopefully one day I’ll get the opportunity to live there!
Registration for the Birthright Israel: Rutgers University Trip (leaving December 28th, 2015) is NOW OPEN! To register TODAY, visit www.rutgershillel.org/birthright and click the link.
Through the Rutgers Hillel Center for Israel Engagement, students strengthen their connections to Israel and the Jewish people. After they return from a transformational Birthright experience, students continue to explore their love for Israel. The Rutgers Hillel Center for Israel Engagement exposes students to positive messages about Israel to help them develop stronger Jewish connections to our homeland.
Please support Rutgers Hillel as we create the next generation of Jewish leaders and change the conversation about Israel on campus.