Hey lads and ladies! As I promised in one of my earlier posts, I’m dedicating my first blog post of this semester to my experience on a winter break Birthright trip to Israel.
A little bit of recap in case that last sentence didn’t make sense: Birthright is a non profit organization that sponsors entirely free 10 day trips to Israel for young adults of Jewish ancestry. Every winter and summer break, USC Hillel, takes a group of USC students to Israel on Birthright trips. Near the end of last semester, my freshman year roommate and I signed up for the winter 2017 trip. What was kind of an impulse decision ended up being one of the most amazing, inspiring and eye-opening trips of my life.
The entire trip was pretty non-stop adventuring, eating, and learning (definitely not a relaxing vacation) and here are a couple of the highlights:
Hiking to Masada at dawn
The morning after we stayed the night in Bedouin tents in the Judaean desert, we woke up early to hike to the top of Masada, which is the remains of an ancient palace on top of a rock plateau. Learning more about the siege of Masada while actually being there was incredible.
Spending time with our Israeli peers
A couple Israeli soldiers join each Birthright bus to give us a better understanding of Israeli culture. In Israel, after high school, you’re required to serve for 2-3 years in the army. So, while I was sitting in my classes, they were training to defend their homes and their country. The Israeli soldiers who joined us immediately became close friends and I couldn’t imagine the trip without them.
Going to the Taglit Innovation Center
Fun fact: Tel Aviv is one of the biggest start up hubs in the world. So while we were there, we visited the Innovation Center, which was basically an interactive science museum that showcased some of Israel’s greatest technological accomplishments (think machines that turn humidity into water, super advanced drones, and wearable robotic exoskeletons). Needless to say it was really, really cool.
This post would be incomplete without some acknowledgement of the superiority of Israeli cuisine. Hummus, falafel, and shawarma are some of my favorite foods even in the U.S., so being in a place where I could eat my favorite foods for literally every meal was a dream come true. Trust me, the Trader Joe’s Falafel Wrap doesn’t compare.
Some more good pictures of some good times: