Birthright Israel Jonathan Salm '13 & Josh Josephson '14

This past winter Washington and Lee Hillel sent six students on Taglit Birthright Israel, a program where students are provided with a no-cost trip to Israel, joining thousands of other young Jewish adults from around the world for a unique life-changing experience. The students who embarked on this journey were Jonathan Salm '13, Joshua Josephson '14, David Fishman '14, Melissa Horadam '13, Aaron Kliegman '14, and Mikel Wilner '13.

Prior to their departure the students met several times with Hillel Director Brett Schwartz to learn about the land they would be visiting. They learned about geography, culture, and politics, and they also had discussions on the basics of traveling in Israel. These sessions also allowed time for this group of six students to get to know each other and start bonding as a group before joining 35 other students from around the country. After the students got back into the country they came back together for a dinner with Brett Schwartz to share their experiences and to express their new perspectives.

"Before I left the States, a large number of us saw Birthright simply as an opportunity to visit Israel. By the end of the trip, however, Birthright helped us realize how truly important and unique the Jewish people are. It was an amazing experience that I will surely treasure for the rest of my life."
-Jonathan Salm '13

"My experience on Birthright is not far different from that of most of the trip's participants. For most, if not all of us, it was an experience that truly exceeded our expectations. We came from different backgrounds, different schools, and practiced Judaism in different ways. We attended Washington and Lee, Kent State, Purdue, and Princeton. Some of us were religious, others secular, some from a Reform background and others from a Conservative tradition. We kept vegan, vegetarian, kosher, and non-kosher. Despite our differences, we were all united in Israel under the Jewish faith. But above all, we made the decision to visit Israel as a part of Birthright. Throughout the ten-day trip, we took in everything that Israel had to offer. In Jerusalem, we had Shabbat, visited the Western Wall, and had an emotional day at Yad Vashem. Tel Aviv gave us a taste of modern Israel. The landscape and natural beauty of the Golan Heights, Lake Galilee, and the Dead Sea rival that of anywhere else in the world. We were treated to Jeep rides, an overnight experience in the Negiv Desert, and a magical morning hike of Mount Masada. Visiting Israel is a trip that everyone should make. Israel isn't just another country; it is the land of our people. Birthright opened my eyes to a whole new world that I didn't know existed. While on Birthright, we toured most of the country, spanning from the Golan Heights to the Negev Desert. We stopped in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as well. The memories and the people we met will forever be instilled in our lives.Coming back from a trip like Birthright is tough to do, but it makes you appreciate Judaism. I now have a better connection to my religion, countries, and myself. I am now a different person after visiting Israel. I will stand up for my fellow Jews when they are in need. Nobody can come in between me and Judaism. I will fight, with everything I have, to support Israel and the Birthright program. It changes lives one by one."
-Joshua Josephson '14