For ten days this winter break, the Tufts Hillel Winter Birthright trip traveled through Israel, experiencing the country's culture and sights first-hand. With the support of our trip provider, Shorashim, our guide, Tzach, and Tufts Hillel's Sara Legasey and Abby Calish, we were exposed to a unique and comprehensive array of activities, people, and discussions in Israel.
As the International Vice President of Education at Taglit Birthright, Dr. Zohar Raviv, told our group, Birthright aims to leave its participants with more questions by the trip's end than when they first land. To engage in the complex and challenging issues currently facing Israel, we were provided a high-level understanding of the country's history through our travels. We learned of the region's history through a lecture at Givav Haviva, an institute dedicated to building bridges between Arab and Israeli communities; of Israel's founding at the Independence Museum and at Ben Gurion's grave; of its wars at Mt. Bental, a fortified base overlooking the Syrian border. We used this to debate the current state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the position of Arab-Israelis and Arab communities in Israel, the advancement of Bedouin women in society, and many topics in between.
While Israel's beauty is evident throughout the country, Birthright participants experience some of the best sights the land has to offer, from the rolling hills of the Golan Heights to the twisting ravines of the Negev. Simultaneously, we engaged with Israel's culture: nights out in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, lunches in open-air markets, and tours of youth villages, Mt. Herzl, Yad Vashem, and a community near the Gaza border allowed us to immerse ourselves in the country's varied people and practices. Perhaps more culturally revealing than any activity, however, was the companionship of several active members of the Israeli Defense Force. A feature exclusive to Tufts' Birthright provider Shorashim, these soldiers accompanied us for the entirety of our trip; it is through discussions, games, and shared experiences with them that we came to truly learn the similarities and differences between our cultures.
Although the trip has concluded and we find ourselves back on Tufts campus, we now look forward to continued Birthright programming at Hillel, including group reunions and opportunities to delve deeper into the meaningful discussions we began in Israel.