Discovering Israel Through Birthright Rebecca Orsak '18

Having grown up attending religious school and Jewish youth group, I was well versed in the importance of Israel. However, this summer I had the chance to experience the state first-hand, and I fell in love with its culture, history, and people. Through Birthright, I was able to spend twelve days travelling to all corners of Israel with thirty other Jewish college students. The bus was crowded, the days were long and hot, but the memories will last a lifetime.

From my first step off of the plane, I felt welcomed by the Israelis around me. Those around me were quick to teach me local customs and useful phrases so that I could get the most out of my experience. Our group mostly stayed at various kibbutzim at night, and we were able to get an understanding of community living in Israel. We played guitars and sang until the late hours of the night, enjoying the cool evenings and bright stars. During the days, we divided our time amongst hiking the terrain, browsing through markets, visiting key historical sites, and relaxing with our newfound friends.

While I value all of our experiences, there is one that stands out especially. One day at three in the morning, our group woke up with the hopes of climbing Masada before sunrise. It was a steep climb, and some people struggled. However, we were able to pull together and support one another, making it to the top of Masada just in time to watch the sun rise. There, we stood and sang the Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem. At that moment, I felt an unparalleled connection to this land, and I could not contain my pride for all that the Jewish people have been through.

In the short time that I was there, I was able to create lasting friendships, with both my new American and Israeli friends. Now, I truly feel that I have two homes: America and Israel.