This past June, I spent ten days in Israel as part of my Birthright trip with Hillel. Originally, I was not even sure that I was ready to do my trip and waited until the last second to apply and secured probably one of the last seats on Bus 1345. However, I could not be happier that I made the choice to go with URI Hillel this summer.
It’s hard to pick a favorite part of this trip. I had never been out of the country before so the whole experience was brand new to me. I loved how jam packed the schedule was because we really got to see and experience the country and culture, from riding camels in the desert to shopping in Tel Aviv to swimming in the Dead Sea. Our tour guide knew everything about everything and was probably one of the main reasons our bus had so much fun.
One of the coolest experiences was when eight Israeli soldiers joined us and stayed with us until almost the end of the ten days. I was actually nervous to meet them and Israelis in general. However, everyone we encountered was so welcoming and so happy we had made the choice to come. Everyone had such pride in Israel and wanted to share this feeling with us.
I did not know anyone going into the trip. This didn’t matter because once everyone got to JFK Airport, we began to bond. Creating friendships with the forty other kids, eight Israeli soldiers, two staff, and tour guide was probably one of the best parts of the trip. By the end, one would have believed we had known each other for way longer than ten days. But after spending hours on the bus together, sleeping in the desert, and hiking up the Masada at 5am, you really know people! Looking back, I’m so happy I got to be on this bus.
Some people think you have to be “ultra-Jewish” to go on these trips. This is not the case. Jews of all backgrounds go on these trips. For me, I was a little nervous because I did feel somewhat out of touch with my heritage. Experiencing this trip, though, made me realize that while I may not celebrate every holiday or know every prayer, I’m still proud to be Jewish and incredibly grateful for this trip. Birthright was an amazing experience and I wouldn’t change anything about my time there.
Lauren is a junior, double majoring in health studies and political science. Originally, from Cranston, RI, she now lives in Charlotte, NC. She love animals and has two dogs. She also loves cooking and country music! Going to Israel this past summer was her first time out of the country, but she hopes to do more traveling during her time in college!