In late June of 2013, I was given an amazing gift and opportunity. Through a program called Birthright, I spent an amazing 10 days in Israel for free… Well mostly free, I had to pay for a plane ticket to JFK and had to purchase one meal a day and souvenirs. The program is for Jews between the ages of 18-26 with at least one Jewish birth parent. It was basically a group of 40 of us traveling all over israel in a tour bus, spending our nights in a hotel or a kibbutz. The program I went with was a group of people from Colorado. The trip had a few spots left open, which is how I got in, along with a few other Californians. I met so many interesting people, and it really opened my eyes to everything. The downside was that being from California, I can’t take part in the parties and reunions the group has every few months, because they are all in Colorado, which is sad because I really miss all of them.
This was my first time leaving the country (not including Mexico and Honduras) and I was going all alone. The most incredible part was that I was emailed 2 days before departure that I would be going on the trip! Even though I had applied months before, I hadn’t heard that I was confirmed for a trip. In the early summer, I had gotten a few emails about last minute spots for a whole bunch of different trips. I had never considered responding, but then I had a very life changing dream. When I received another email about last minute spot available on a trip leaving 3 days later. I decided to respond to the email saying I was available, even though I was sure that it wouldn’t actually happen. Later that day, I checked my email at work, and was shocked to see that I got a reply saying that I just needed to get a flight to JFK!
The next two days were crazy getting things packed and ready, and before I knew it I was hugging my mom good bye in Reno, departing on my first flight all by my self to New York.
After spending the night alone at JFK, I finally met up with my group and we departed for Tel Aviv, Israel. We arrived at 3:00 am local time, and we spend the next 10 days exploring the entire country.
During my time, I made many friends, had my first legal drink ( a mojito, of course), floated in the dead sea, and learned about the country and culture.
To be honest, I definitely did not soak in as much information as I would have liked. This was a major regret I ended up having, along with being too conservative with my money. I should have definitely bought some shirts with hebrew written on them or spent a little more money buying dead sea products.
We did so many other incredible things, including: rafting down the Jordan River, riding camels in the desert, wine tasting, bike riding, and visiting so many towns!
One of my favorite days was when we went camel riding in the desert then spent the night in the Bedouin tents. It was catered more toward tourists, but the camels did not seem to be mistreated and it was preferable to have access to running water and toilets. The night at the Bedouin was so peaceful and amazing. It was definitely one of the most amazing places I have stayed.
The western wall in Jerusalem was another amazing experience. Aside from two different sides of the wall for women and men. It made the feminist in me a little upset, but if I want to be a world traveler I will have to get used to this kind of segregation. I am not a religious person, I am also very skeptical of spirituality. At the same time, I am very open and curious of other people’s beliefs. However, when my hand made contact with the wall, I felt something go through me. Maybe it was just because the way the spiritual people treated this wall, or maybe there was actually something about that effected me. Either way, it was something else entirely.
We were only able to spend a few hours in Haifa, but it was amazing and beautiful I really want to spend some more time there in the future!
This was (unfortunately) my best picture of the dead sea. I’m not gonna lie, my skin has never felt as amazing as it did the day after I went to the dead sea, but I did not expect floating in it to be so incredibly different from any other time I went swimming. First of all, you can only go in for like 15 minutes at a time, otherwise you will get very dehydrated from the all the salt. The extreme sodium content does allow you to float in it (in fact, it is almost impossible to do anything but float). But it also makes it painful on your body, kinda like when you have a cut an swim in the ocean, but times 20. It is 100% worth it though. There is also mud baths to do, which make you look very funny, but feel amazing. My friend and I had a routine of floating to mud bathing to floating. It was an amazing experience to float in the dead sea, and I definitely am going to go back someday.
Israel was my first real opportunity to travel across the world to somewhere I have never been. Because of the people I met and things I experienced, my life took a few turns and I was lead to many opportunities I would never have had. One of the most incredible was giving me the courage to audition for the Chico State theater department, just for fun. That lead to me spending a year in a glee type class, where we would sing and dance and preform for schools and senior centers in the area. It was an awesome thing for me, and something that I would never have done if I hadn’t gone to Israel. The most important thing Israel did to me was give me the travel bug. I want to go everywhere, explore everything I can and learn about different cultures and lifestyles. I want to open my mind to new things, and most importantly, I don’t want to be limited to living and being any one location.