A student shares his Taglit-Birthright Israel experience with Sheldon Adelson.
(Tel Aviv -December 26, 2007) The first time megaphilanthropist Sheldon Adelson visited Israel he wore his late father's shoes.
Adelson donned the shoes to honor the memory of his father and to realize, if only symbolically, his unfulfilled dream of a visit to Israel. The Las Vegas magnate has made the same dream a reality for thousands of students by giving the Taglit-Birthright Israel program $30 million last year.
Adelson related the story to Hillel students who were participating in the Taglit program from Indiana University, Canada and Broward and Palm Beach (Florida) at Tel Aviv's Independence Hall. He explained that he decided to support the Taglit program so that his own young children would not have to miss a Taglit trip by being put on a "waiting list." Hillel is bringing 3,000 students to Israel this winter through Taglit.
Indiana University student Mathew Careskey thanked Adelson on behalf of all the student participants and, particularly, those saved from the waiting list by Adelson's donation.
Jarret Shapiro, a third-year student a Philadelphiaâ‚¬â„¢s Drexel University, says that the Taglit trip was existentially meaningful for him. "As we toured from city to city, we heard stories of faith, struggle and unity that made some of our everyday life back in the States seem trivial by comparison," says Shapiro, a sports-management major. One of the high points of the trip for Shapiro was spending five days with Israeli soldiers who accompanied the students on their journey.
"I saw a little piece of myself in them, and they saw themselves in us," Shapiro said.
One of those soldiers, Merav Tenenbaum of Rishon Letzion, derived great meaning from her participation. She recalled visiting the Mt. Herzl military cemetery with the students where one of her fellow soldiers told the story of a fallen friend at his graveside. "The sacrifice the Israeli army makes became clear to me that day," she said.
"I look at my national service in a new way," she added. "Before I just saw it as something that I had to do, something that was natural for an Israeli. But now I see myself as a representative and a defender of the Jewish people. It is the best thing I ever did in the army and the perfect way to end my service. I will never forget it."
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