Op-Ed by Marc Shapiro
This past winter break, I went on Taglit Birthright through American University Hillel. The experience was unbelievable, and I would highly recommend going. I created these 20 unofficial rules as a guide for having a great and meaningful experience. Most of these rules I followed, some of them I didn’t but wish I did.
1. Go on birthright if you have the opportunity to do so. Whether you have always dreamt of going to Israel or have never even considered it, the experience is much too valuable to ignore.
2. The opportunity to see Israel is a privilege that most of your ancestors never had. Keep that in mind your entire trip.
3. Don’t look at your phone too much. I admit I broke this rule many times but it really is important to be present. Instagram will still be there when you get home.
4. Your entire view of Israel should not be formed by birthright alone. Keep following Israeli news after your trip so you can continue to learn. Consider visiting again to gain a new perspective.
5. You don’t have to be friends with everyone, but you have to be friendly with everyone, including program staff.
6. Whether it’s about politics, history or anything else, ask any question you have, whenever you have one. You will rarely get an unsatisfying answer.
7. Ask difficult questions about Israel. Whoever you’re asking will not only answer but will be glad you asked.
8. Your opinion is welcome. Whether you think falafel isn’t all that good or you think settlers should leave the West Bank; voice your opinion.
9. The Israeli soldiers on your trip are extremely friendly and want to get to know you. Make an effort to interact with them regularly.
10. There are many different types of Israeli food. If you don’t like one thing, you’ll probably like another. It is very hard to find good Israeli food anywhere else, so try as much variety as you can.
11. If you aren’t very religious, do your best to participate in the religious activities anyways. If you are more religious, welcome the less experienced participants so they don’t feel bad about not knowing as much.
12. Only sleep on the bus if most of the bus is sleeping, and never put your headphones in on the bus. Great conversations and bonding happen on the bus, but only if you are actively participating.
13. The other participants definitely want to be your friend but probably don’t want to be your boyfriend/girlfriend. Try to remember that.
14. A ten-day trip to Israel typically costs thousands of dollars, yet you’re there for free. Do what the program coordinators tell you; they really don’t demand very much.
15. Bring a digital camera and take lots of pictures. You will get amazing shots and won’t have to deal with a huge clutter of pictures on your phone.
16. Embrace the social component of the trip.
17. It’s never too late to talk to, or even get a meal with someone on your trip you haven’t talked to much.
18. If you don’t know everyone’s name by the end of the trip, you didn’t do it right.
19. If you come back to Israel, go to places you didn’t see on Birthright. You will see many amazing sights on Birthright, but there are more nuanced places to explore as well.
20. Not everything you will see is as picturesque as the Western Wall or Mosada, but everything is interesting. Give every place a chance, and you’ll be surprised by the history and beauty of everywhere you go.
Marc is a sophomore from Chevy Chase, Maryland who is pursuing a double major in Communication Studies and History. Marc is a lifelong DC sports fan, who has a passion for Israeli Affairs.