Israel Changed Me Forever
By Jordan Siegel, Class of 2018
For me Birthright was an eye opening and life changing experience. Before going on Birthright I felt little to no connection to the Jewish Community, and really had no idea what to expect from this trip. I had heard from several people that after participating in Birthright they had felt a sudden connection to the Jewish Community along with Israel and the Israeli people. To be honest, I didn’t understand how ten days in a country could completely change how I felt about my religion, but now that I am home from Israel I now feel more involved in the Jewish Community then ever. Because of Birthright I find myself wanting to get involved in the Jewish Community and participate in the traditions that the religion has to offer.
Throughout my Birthright journey I was able to experience the country of Israel physically through the wonderful hikes we participated in, but we also got real cultural insight from Israeli soldiers throughout the full duration of our trip. Having real Israeli soldiers there throughout the entire trip added so much to the entire experience. Although anyone can explain what it is like living in Israel and joining the army, nobody can really tell you besides the people that do it themselves. It was really amazing to see how similar these soldiers were to us, yet how different lifestyles we all led, yet we were still able to get along and develop such great friendships with them in just ten short days. The soldiers were incredible at answering any questions we may have had, and giving their opinions and insight on certain issues regarding Israel. Lastly, it was amazing to spend ten days with people who have no idea what American culture is like, and being able to explain where we come from to a naked eye was such an eye opening experience.
Lastly, by being part of a BICEP bus we had the opportunity to participate in several things that others didn’t, such as a graffiti tour around Tel Aviv, and having the opportunity to tour a real IDF base. Given these opportunities I was really able to experience the daily lives of those who live in Israel rather than just the tourist attractions. With that, our bus was able to fully understand what certain graffiti art means in the streets in Tel Aviv, and since the graffiti tour guide’s signature was an eggplant, whenever we would come across an eggplant, it would have an additional meaning for us. Also, as Americans we generally think of the army as strictly combat, but having the opportunity to tour an IDF base really helped us understand what it means to be a part of the Israeli army. Also by touring the IDF base we were able to communicate with other soldiers about American culture by telling them our stories and what we do, and also listening to there stories which was another eye opening experience.
Going on Birthright has definitely been something that has changed my life forever. Since I have arrived back in the United States I have felt such a stronger connection with the country of Israel along with the Jewish religion and Community.
Registration for the Winter 2016-2017 Rutgers Birthright trip with Rutgers Hillel (December 29, 2016 – January 9, 2017) opens September 12th! Visit www.rutgershillel.org/birthright and click the link to reserve your spot on our winter bus!
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.