Experience Reflection by Rose Haas
These pictures are some of the highlights of my trip to Israel this past May! I went for a total of 20 days. 10 of them were with AU Hillel’s Birthright group and 10 of them were with my mom, who met me in Tel Aviv. The culture was so rich and I met so many interesting people. I’m glad that I decided to go with AU because when I returned to campus I had a bunch of new friends that were on my bus that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. With Birthright, we traveled almost the whole country, staying on a kibbutz in the north, stopping in Haifa, and exploring Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, to name a few places. I’m a Jewish Studies major at AU, so going to Israel was something I have been looking forward to for a long time.
One highlight of the trip was staying in the Bedouin tents. When we arrived, we rode camels and had an amazing dinner while sitting on mats on the ground. At night I remember the air was really warm, there were fire pits burning right outside the tent, and the sky was so dark I could see every star above me. Our group walked out into the desert and everyone spread out; in absolute silence we had time to reflect and think. I remember praying and being grateful for such an amazing opportunity. Standing in nature, I’d never felt closer to G-d or myself.
Saying goodbye to the Birthright group was bittersweet, and I’ll admit, there were definitely a few tears shed. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to keep in touch with everyone I made friends with and I was worried that our dynamics wouldn’t be the same when I returned to campus in the fall. Luckily, everything has been better than expected and I was able to remain in touch with most of the kids on my bus! However, the end of my Birthright adventure only meant it was the start of my next one! My mom met me in the Tel Aviv airport the same day the rest of the group departed. It was also her first time visiting Israel and we got to explore so many neat places together! She and I have always been close and going on a trip with her across the world was very special! I was so excited to be able to show her around Israel since I had just spent the last 10 days there!
Since I hope to be a rabbi in the future, I am taking Hebrew classes at AU to get my skills up to par before I apply to graduate school. One of the most exciting parts about going to a country where they speak almost solely Hebrew was that I got to practice my skills and speak with fluent sabras! During the Birthright portion of my trip I got to hone my Hebrew with the Israeli soldiers on our bus, most of which were about my age. And once I was with my mom, who doesn’t speak a word of Hebrew, I was able to read street signs and menus like a pro. I was so proud of being able to use the skills I am learning at American traveling in the real world.
This semester, I’m enrolled in Intermediate Hebrew at AU and I’m continuing to grow my Hebrew and Jewish Studies skills. Going to Israel for the first time on Birthright was an amazing experience and I’ll probably be going back for graduate school, if not sooner. I look forward to learning more about Israeli culture and sharing my knowledge with other inquisitive students in the future.