11 September 2018
By Charlotte Kaye, Shorashim Bus 116
I never expected Birthright Israel to be more than a fun break from routine and a way to make friends in a city that I still feel new to. What I found instead was an experience that completely transformed the way I view myself and the world around me.
I work in politics, and people always assume my position on Israel because I’m Jewish. I never challenged this assumption, but I also struggled to understand it. One of my best friends growing up was half Israeli, and I had a few acquaintances that moved to Israel after graduation. Despite this, Israel has always been a place that felt familiar from afar but, not a place that I fully understood.
Shorashim is marketed as a Birthright experience that includes traveling Israel with Israelis. The seven Israeli participants on our trip were with us from the first bus from the airport, to the very last activity on our last night. What made this trip out of DC unique, was that all of the Israelis also worked in politics. I developed an immediate connection with them, learning that we each have some of the same day to day struggles and also have similar plans for our lives and our careers.
I was fortunate enough to extend my Birthright trip an extra week in Israel, and despite the fact that the Israelis on our trip had already spent a full seven days with me (!!!), they welcomed me to their cities and to their lives with completely open arms. I tried their favorite restaurants, went to their favorite beaches, and felt like I was visiting old friends. Both during and after Birthright, we had late nights and long bus rides together, and developed friendships that helped me understand at a deeper level why our communities and countries have such strong connections to one another. While Birthright was both a fun break from routine and a way to make new friends in DC, I left the experience with more of an understanding of who I am as both a young Jewish adult and supporter of Israel.