Taglit: Birthright Trip is a Compelling Experience

Dear Editor,

Prior to last December, I had never been off-roading in a beat-up, mud-streaked Land Rover. I’d never ridden a camel, nor had I hiked to the ruins of an ancient Roman stronghold. I had never spent the night in the desert; there is something awe-inspiring, humbling, about the vastness of an open sky, the silence of a billion twinkling stars.

These were only a few memories from my Taglit: Birthright trip. What is Taglit? Though advertised simply as “a free trip to Israel,” it meant so much more than that to me. For one, it was a chance to experience another culture in an unprecedented way.

Yes, at times we were tourists. We floated gleefully in the Dead Sea, posed smiling for pictures and browsed the shops at Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem just like many other visitors do. For the most part, however, we stopped, observed, listened; we learned from our guides. They emphasized the importance of “witnessing” rather than merely “visiting.” At Rabin Square, we questioned a stranger about the day his prime minister was assassinated, and I was reminded of my father telling me about the day John F. Kennedy was killed. We talked politics on a mountain overlooking Syria. We heard a Holocaust survivor speak at the World Holocaust Center, Yad Vashem.
On our third day in Israel, we were joined by members of the IDF — the Israeli Defense Force — young adults who, like us, were travelling the country to connect with its history and people. We became fast friends, swapping stories and seeing the sights together. I keep in touch with them today. This is a big part of the personal tie that I feel to Israel now. In addition to learning about my heritage, I have met and am linked to people who are my counterparts and friends, across the world.

Birthright is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — and I say that seriously, sincerely. It allowed me to see the beautiful land of Israel; I will never forget the colors of the sunrise over the Negev Desert, or the glittering, teal waters of the Sea of Galilee. I have a newfound appreciation for my own family history. And I will never forget the people that I met on my journey, which includes both my Israeli friends and the others in my Birthright group. Though spread out across California and a few other states, the bonds we formed while overseas keep us close. For all of these reasons, I could not more strongly recommend this life-changing experience.
I traveled with UCSD Hillel. To find out more, visit their site at www.ucsdhillel.org

Miranda Bohm
Senior, Sixth College

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