Birthright Israel Sam Raphael '15

Here I am-all by myself in LaGuardia airport awaiting the start to Birthright, the trip of my life. Am I scared to be by myself? Absolutely not. Am I excited to
make great new friends and discover Israel from a unique viewpoint? Absolutely yes. As I approached my group in LaGuardia, I began meeting my new Birthright buddies, and they seemed like typical college kids. However, as the trip progressed, all forty of us quickly developed an unbreakable bond.

Sure, this is cliché for all Birthright trips, but it really did happen. It didn't matter if some of us had been practicing Judaism our whole life, the past few years, or were just starting to experience Jewish religion and culture. We hiked Masada, explored the Golan Heights, wandered Jerusalem and many other places; our Birthright group soon realized there was something that went deeper than anything we had ever experienced before. This "something," of course, was our beliefs. Judaism had linked us together. The heritage, the traditions, and the country spiritually connected us as if we were one. We knew it was happening
and embraced this new, remarkable feeling.

At the surface, Birthright is free trip to Israel, but at its core lies the true value of the trip: the Jewish connection. Not only did Birthright show how connected we as American Jews are, but it also opened my mind to the rest of the world. Three days into our trip we welcomed five Israeli soldiers into our group. They would go on to stay with us for five days. To our surprise, we again had this spiritual connection that enabled us to bond in the tightest of ways. We soon learned our connection had no boundaries, as we became best friends with these strangers in a matter of days.

As I write this, it is very hard to put into words what occurred spiritually during the ten days I was with Birthright. But I do know that I have made some lifelong friends that I otherwise would never have met. I would definitely advise everyone to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity!