In Episode 5 on SemioBytes, Terry asks me about my trip to Israel. I traveled to Israel as part of a new program from Birthright Taglit for adults that missed out the first time around. This new group is for individuals 27-32 years old. More information is available on Birthright’s website.
My Israel trip was managed by Israel Experts. Adam and Carli were staff members and Yoni Lightstone was the local tour guide. Both Adam and Yoni were my Orthodox resources for the trip as the tour was designed to be pluralistic in nature.
Below you will find an embed of this post’s episode aired on Anchor and following it my response to the episode. I encourage you to subscribe to the blogs and podcast individually or sign up for emails to your inbox.
Overall the trip was an excellent experience. It may not have been what I anticipated, but it was what I needed to encounter. As Rabbi Levy points out, Israel is a country of extremes. Not only weather, but people as well. In one town you can travel from pro-Palestinian settlements to Haredi Orthodox Jewish. In this sense, everyone will feel at home at some point in Israel.
I felt most at home in Tzfat (Safed) and Jerusalem (Yerushalayim). The sacredness of the place, the ancient structures…all of it. I went from having never gone to Israel before to looking for ways to live or travel frequently to my new home. I may be home now in many regards, but I still feel like I’m not yet home. It’s a strange and challenging feeling. Going to Israel personalized the reality that while the Jews may have parts of the Holy Land, we are still a people in exile awaiting our return. It’s an angst that I’m not yet sure how to process.
There’s so much about my trip to Israel that it’s hard to cover it in one simple post. After all the “12 minute length” for the podcast episode ended up being 28 minutes. I guess the best way is for me to answer questions that anyone may have.
I visited Shomrat, Caesaria, Haifa, Tzfat, Ashkelon, Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Kfar Hanokdim, Masada, Ein Gedi, the Dead Sea, and Jerusalem. I experienced hiking the desert, kayaking the Jordan, bunking with local Israelis, touring the Shuk at night and day, and local cuisine. I made my way to the Kotel for Kabbalat Shabbat and spend Shabbos resting in specially-designed accommodations. I connected with davening, trekking, and more. I even managed over 50 miles on my Fitbit from Monday through Sunday.
I mentioned highlights in the podcast. When I return, I definitely want to spend more time in Tzfat and Jerusalem. My favorite parts were Tzfat, Jaffa, Masada, Ein Gedi, and Jerusalem. While kayaking the Jordan river was fun, I was a little concerned about long-term health impact from the sewage smell. The place that wasn’t on the list that I really would have appreciated would be the Ari Mikveh. So close to where we were, yet so far away from the scheduled itinerary.
Overall the trip was definitely worth it and I will be looking for ways to work with Birthright in the future, maybe even as a staff member at some point. Going to Israel is more than a “right of passage” for Jews – it’s a necessity to truly connect.