In 2008, I had the opportunity to go on a trip to Israel through Birthright! Birthright is an incredible organization that provides jews ages 18-26 the opportunity to travel to their homeland (for free!) with a group of other like-minded jews! This incredible program provided a taste of Israel and we traveled via bus from the North to the South of the country and everything in between.
There are many different organizers to pick from when going on Birthright – Mayanot, Israel Free Spirit, Shorashim, Oranim etc. My organizer was Oranim, but I am told they no longer run trips anymore.
To be eligible for Birthright, one must possess the following:
- Have at least one parent whom identifies as Jewish
- Be between 18-26 years old
- Have graduated high school
- Have not been in Israel for more than 3 consecutive months since the age of 12
- Have not lived in Israel since the age of 12
- Have not served in the Israeli Army
- Since turning 18, have NOT travelled to Israel on a peer educational program
- Not currently registered in a Jewish Studies program in any institute of higher learning
- Be a resident, full-time student or citizen of the United States
At 26 years old, I was one of the older people in the group.
Each trip organizer’s itinerary varies slightly but the 10 days are designed to give you just a taste of the country and then there are opportunities to extend your trip (for a fee) & see more of the country on your own.
Here is a sample itinerary of a typical birthright trip:
Day 1- Arrive
- Arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport
- Orientation-Get to know your fellow participants, staff, and guide while reviewing the highlights for the 10-day journey ahead of you.
- Travel North
Day 2- The Golan
- Explore Tzfat, the ancient home of Kabbalah
- Hike at the beautiful Mount Meron, the second highest point in Israel.
- Hike Nachal Hatzbani
- Travel to the former military outpost at Har Bental and take in a stunning 360 degree view of Israel and Syria.
- Rafting and kayaking on the Jordan River
Day 3 – Caesarea & Jaffa
- Travel along the coast to Caesarea and explore ancient Roman ruins
- Travel down to Jaffa, one of the world’s ancient ports. Modern Jaffa has a heterogeneous population of Muslims, Christians and Jews.
- Take time to relax on one of Israel’s beautiful Mediterranean beaches.
- Enjoy a night out in Tel Aviv.
Day 4- Tel Aviv
- Mifgash begins. Eight young Israelis join the group and will be traveling with you for the next 5 days.
- Visit Rabin Square (“Kikar Rabin” in Hebrew); a large public city square in central Tel Aviv, named after Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated during a peace rally held at the square.
- Take a walk on Rothschild Boulevard, a long European-style avenue in central Tel Aviv, which was built in 1910. A variety of cafés, restaurants, kiosks, and different styles of architecture makes it one of the most popular and famous streets in Israel.
- Visit Independence Hall where David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel’s Independence in 1948, located on Rothschild Boulevard.
- Explore “Shuk HaCarmel”, Tel Aviv’s outdoor market.
Day 5 – Jerusalem
- Yad Vashem, Israel’s national memorial museum to the Holocaust.
- Visit Mount Herzl, Israel’s military cemetery
- Explore the Jerusalem market
- Welcoming the Shabbat
- Spend Shabbat relaxing
- Take a walking tour of Jerusalem neighborhoods
- Take part in the ceremony ending the Shabbat
Day 7 – Negev
- Travel south to the desert
- Visit the former home of Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion in Sde Boker
- Take a camel ride!
- Experience Bedouin hospitality
- Stay overnight in Bedouin tents
Day 8 – Masada and Dead Sea
- Sunrise on Masada
- Hike in Ein Bokek and explore the beautiful desert landscape
- Float in the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth
- Overlook the Ramon Crater
Day 9 -Jerusalem
- Travel back to Jerusalem
- Visit the Western Wall
- Tour the Old City of Jerusalem
- See the views of the city from the Jerusalem Promenade
- Enjoy a night out on the town
- Time to reflect on your 10 day journey
- Enjoy lunch on Ben Yehuda St., Jerusalem’s center
- Pick up some last minute gifts
- Departure from Tel Aviv
A few extra things this itinerary did not include:
We spent a night partying in Eilat and we spent a day on the beach at Netanya.
The kabbalah artist we met in Tzfat explained the traditions of Kabbalah, which means “receiving”… the boys collectively got gifts for the girls and the girls collectively got gifts for the boys and we all exchanged them on the beach during Shabbat.
At Masada, I had my bat mitzvah and I was given a Hebrew name. My Hebrew name is Sivan.
We spent one night on a Kibbutz
This was a great trip that I highly recommend for any jew. It doesn’t matter how religious you are (I barely am)… this trip is so rewarding in the best of ways.
Unfortunately it is meant as just a taste of the country so by no means did we see everything but I left a part of my heart in Israel and I am looking to get back again soon.
Shout-out to Oranim BR-997 and all the wonderful people I spent 10 amazing days with!