I’m going to Israel!” were the first words I yelled when I got my acceptance letter for the 2011 Taglit-Birthright Israel trip. I have always wanted to visit Israel and this was finally my opportunity. My 10 days traveling through the homeland, Jan. 5-15, were full of both fun and educational experiences; the time flew by! Our group of 40 Muhlenberg College classmates was accompanied by two Muhlenberg alumni chaperones, a tour guide, and a medic. Eight Israeli soldiers also joined us for five of our days. Each individual added a unique personality to the trip. I’ll never forget the words our tour guide welcomed us with upon our arrival: “Welcome home!”
Although all the days in Israel were more than memorable, my favorite was the day we woke up at 4:45 a.m. in the Bedouin tents where we had spent the night to climb Masada. Seeing the sunrise from the top of Masada was breathtaking. After returning to the tents for a delicious Israeli breakfast — including pita, hummus, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, tahini, eggs, and more — we rode camels through the desert. When we got back on the bus, we took the windy roads through the desert and traveled to the Dead Sea. The weather was perfect for sightseeing throughout the whole trip, but the weather during our time at the Dead Sea was gorgeous! After letting the mud that we smeared over our bodies dry, we walked into the water. I sat down, and gravity seemed to be nonexistent. I just floated on the surface of the water. I knew of course that this would happen, but actually experiencing it is a one-of-a-kind sensation.
During one of our first days in Israel, we visited the Kotel in Jerusalem, which I had learned so much about in Hebrew school. Before going, I wrote a note to put in the crevices of the Wall, and I had also brought notes written by my parents. Walking up to the Kotel was very moving. As I touched the Wall and placed my note in a small crevice, I stood there thinking and focusing on how proud I was to be in the State of Israel and to be a Jew.
During my trip I kept saying, “I can’t believe I am in Israel.” And now that I am back, I constantly think, “Was I really there?” It all feels like it was just a dream. My trip to Israel resulted in wonderful memories and friendships that I will cherish forever.