By James Macey & Justin Fosdick – 1851 Staff
During this past winter break, two students had the chance to visit Israel on a heritage trip that proved to be a meaningful and exciting experience. Birthright Israel is a non-profit organization out of New York City that provides a free 10-day trip to Israel for young adults of the Jewish faith.
Upon arriving, travelers tour the country with an itinerary, connecting themselves to Jewish culture and history while exploring their Jewish identity. The organization offers different types of trips, including spiritual, outdoors, and even an experience delivered through social media.
Junior Mike Balaban says he was left speechless when he arrived to Israel. He couldn’t believe the beautiful scenery and described the overall experience as “life-changing.” “The best day was on New Year’s in the desert waking up at 4 a.m. on Mount Masada,” Balaban said. Mount Masada is an ancient fortification in the Southern District of Israel where Balaban spent most of his time.
The significant time difference wasn’t the only thing that differs Israel from the United States, according to Balaban. “The people are very laid back,” he said. “People don’t care too much about the future, they focus on the present.”
Sophomore Izzy Shapiro also visited Israel, but stayed longer than the original 10 days. “I was scheduled for the 10 days but extended the trip to 20 days because I had so much fun,” she said. Shapiro went on the trip with her sister and two friends.
The group would usually wake up at 7 a.m. to group up for tours and other activities that were part of the itinerary. “We traveled around the whole area. We saw historic sites like the old city of Jerusalem, the Masada and the desert,” said Shapiro.
Shapiro says she would recommend the trip to anyone who qualifies for Birthright. “If you’re eligible, do it,” she said.