10 Days Is All It Takes To Change Your Life



July 6, 2016

Click here to register for your Birthright Israel experience.

Reflecting on my recent Birthright Israel trip through Hillel International, I would never have imagined  that a 10-day trip with strangers could affect me so profoundly. Of course, Israel was always a big part of my life. After all, my father was born there. I remember hearing his stories of growing up in Ramble and spending weekends in Tel Aviv. Even though I had visited Israel when I was 3 years old, it was a different experience walking the same streets at the age of 21. Israel is advancing in so many ways. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this ever-changing country.

Israel has changed me, too, and for the better. Going there as  an adult allowed me to see different forms of Judaism, how Jews like me practice our religion in different ways. It allowed me to  see firsthand how Israel really is, instead of just seeing negative images on the news. I would never have been able to picture  myself walking the streets of Israel on Shabbat on my way to a synagogue. Or visiting the Western Wall to see Jewish people from all over the world come and whisper their prayers, hopes and dreams. I was even able to learn about Jewish mysticism in Tzfat, an aspect of our tradition I never knew existed, by meeting the Kabbalist painter Avraham Loewenthal. His passion and wisdom have inspired me and will stay with me forever.

I remember that when I first started telling people I was  going to Israel, the first question most of them would ask me  was, “Really? Why?” or “Wow, be careful, I heard it’s dangerous.”  I hate to say it, but after hearing this so many times, I started  to worry I wasn’t going to be safe. However, after seeing the  beautiful country, I have  no doubts that you are  safe visiting there. While threats loom, nothing will degrade the quality of life  for Israeli citizens.

I tried to take as many  pictures to show people the true beauty of the country. But the experiences of  rafting in the Jordan River and exploring Tel Aviv at night can never be fully captured in  any picture. I now confidently go up to strangers — Jewish and non-Jewish — and encourage them to take a trip there.

My journey and experience in Israel influenced me in more ways that I can say. I was able to learn so much in 10 days with 49  people I can now call my best friends. Going to Israel allowed me to connect more to my spiritual side and ask questions of myself I would have never thought to ask before. I thought I knew myself before this trip, but in all honesty, I realize now that I still have a lot more growing to do. I truly hope more people are able to go to Israel to experience this journey for themselves.

When I had to leave Israel, I looked out my window and said, “See you later!” but not goodbye. I can see Israel in my future, and I am already planning my next visit.

Elinor Taieb is a member of the Class of 2016 at Florida State University.

Click here to register for your Birthright Israel experience.