There is no trip as special or remarkable as the adult teen tour that is Taglit-Birthright. Bonding in record timing, eating delicious food and reconnecting to your roots all in 10 days can only happen in one place: Israel.
Birthright has this insane ability to make you appreciate so many underrated facets of your life and your culture, which is especially important to be reminded of while we’re in our early 20s.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about because you haven’t gone, this post will certainly convince you to apply. And if you do know what I’m talking about, well this is only going to make you miss Israel even more.
Here are the 38 things you don’t appreciate until you go on Birthright.
You would think that Jews would be good at talking down prices, but alas, our lack of haggling experience in the US has severely crippled us when it comes to shopping in The Shuk.
Just tell yourself that you are doing a mitzvah by paying full price for that evil eye bracelet (which you know only cost 10 shekel to make).
2. Having your entire schedule planned for 10 days
You don’t appreciate having a set schedule until you’re back home and realize that Jewish boys can barely plan a date night. It’s a good thing we left this up to Taglit.
3. Hummus... for breakfast
When you’re eating questionable hotel food for 10 days straight, hummus for breakfast, lunch and dinner really doesn’t seem all that bad. And then you try Sabra again…
4. Your ability to hold it in
Three-hour bus rides without a bathroom on board teaches you a lot about your personal limitations. You and the camels have much more in common than previously thought.
5. Feeling connected to something bigger than yourself
Israel’s splendor, coupled with the acknowledgement that practically everyone around you is Jewish, imparts a special and specific feeling inside that is noticeably absent when you return to the States.
You feel unexplainably different when you’re in Israel -- it’s like finally being at home, but in a very unique sense of the word.
When your sole connection to the outside world (aka updates on your favorite sports team) is the few moments you have solid Internet on the bus, you begin to appreciate WiFi in a whole new way.
Once a trendy motif representing the hand of G-d, the hamsa now takes on new meaning for you and every other JAP who needs to buy presents for her friends: a trendy motif that you purchased in Israel.
8. What you learned in Hebrew school
It finally all makes sense now! They weren’t just making things up and calling it “The Holy Bible.”
9. Talking about feelings
Birthright proves you don’t need to be high to have deep, intellectual conversations about everything from the Arab-Israeli Conflict to what you should eat on Shabbat. When you’re not all forming a circle to share your feelings, you’re on the free WiFi.
10. Making new friends
By the time you’re out of college, the last thing you think about needing are new friends. But then you realize how special it is that there are still Jewish people you haven’t met and who actually live outside of the Tri-State area.
Even though it was only for 10 days, the friendships you make on Birthright are genuine and ones that you can always revisit, regardless of how much time has passed.
11. Reconnecting with your spirituality
A lot of us forget about our faith and traditions once we move out and miss the first Passover seder. Birthright reinstills these Judaic values and reminds us why it is important to continue to carry out our customs.
12. Iced coffee
What you’ve been drinking for 10 days is really a Starbucks blended mocha frappucino from a piña colada machine. Can’t say we didn’t enjoy it immensely, but when we’re hiking Masada at 5 am, we need real caffeine.
13. The Hebrew language
You don’t realize you’re missing out on speaking a beautiful language until everyone around you can speak it... on top of your one-note English. Words are just more fun in Hebrew. Sababa.
14. Sleeping in Bedouin tents
After chowing down on that incredible meal in the Bedouin tents and dancing at the bonfire, we almost thought we could drop our lives back home and move to the desert. Then we realized we couldn’t handle all the stray cats.
15. Being raised Jewish
You don’t fully appreciate your Jewish heritage until you are brainwashed -- errr convinced -- that you have come from a long lineage of chosen people who have bravely fought to defend your culture.
16. Orthodox people and rabbis
Who knew really religious individuals could be so cool, especially when they’re drunk? Despite appearing austere and rule-driven, the Orthodox community knows how to get down even harder than we do. Which is exactly why they have to take a day of rest every Saturday.
17. Counting to 48
Just kidding, the count-offs sucked. Every time -- and were made worse by that one kid who was never paying attention.
18. Green Doritos
You know exactly what we’re talking about. Jalapeño Doritos are almost as delicious as pizza-flavored Bissli.
19. The Holy sites
Sure, you’ve learned about The Kotel and the Golan Heights, but none of that really sinks in until you’re there in person. And if you’re trying to get us to admit that we cried when we saw the Western Wall, well, yeah. We did. Rub it in, okay?
20. Group pics
Normally group photos of JAPs make us want to get nose jobs and return our high-waisted skirts. On Birthright, however, group photos make us want to hold hands and sing Jewish songs around a campfire and tell each other how we’ll totally remain BFFs when the trip is over.
21. Israeli soldiers
Not only to hook up with, but also their incredibly bright spirits and courage. You can’t help but admire their enlightened worldview and, okay, really, really good looks.
22. Throwback Thursdays
Your TBT game just got a whole lot better with that sunrise-on-the-kinneret shot.
23. Water shoes
Yes, you actually needed them. No, you will never wear them again. And don’t even think about being caught dead in Crocs. They’re still social suicide, especially on a trip with 40 JAPs.
24. Making Aliyah
You used to make fun of your best friend from kindergarten for moving to Israel to become a yoga instructor, but now you actually really understand it. You no longer stalk her on Facebook post-Birthright because it makes you too jealous.
25. Shawarma and falafel
In the past, the smell of those Middle Eastern food trucks would seriously bother you. Now, they make you sad for overstuffed laffa with kosher meat, cabbage salads and french fries.
26. Camel riding
Tell me where you can do this in the United States and I’ll show you a unicorn.
27. Thirty minutes at the beach
Maybe an hour if you were really lucky. Birthright helps you learn serious time management when you only have 20 minutes to shop, eat, go to the bathroom, refill your water and wear a hat at all times.
28. Name tags
As much as you hated wearing them, you were totally grateful when it was day 10 and you couldn’t remember that one guy’s name who made the inappropriate Holocaust joke on the first evening. You just proceeded to call him “douche” for the rest of the trip.
29. Constant sunshine and good weather
Nothing rains on your parade during Birthright. (See what we did there?)
30. Three full meals a day
See what happens when you’re taken care of by Jewish people? The constantly being fed thing is real.
31. Dead Sea
You always see pictures, but until you experience it for yourself, you can’t quite grasp how much fun the Dead Sea is. And how awesome your skin feels after applying the muddy clay. It’s not just for the photo op!
32. Sleeping while sitting upright
Word to the wise: Buy those ridiculous neck pillows in the airport, you’re going to need one.
33. American dollars
The first time you got your dinner bill and it read 150 shekel, it was mildly horrifying. Another thing you appreciate? Dividing by 3.4.
34. Being really comfortable with random strangers
Whether it’s the random strangers you met 10 days ago and now are best friends with, or the actual random strangers you met on the street and bonded over Chanukah with, you’ll never trust any foreigner as readily as you do Israelis.
35. Israel’s magic
When people return from a trip to Israel, they often talk about how magical and special and beautiful it is, and you never fully understand it unless you’ve gone. Where else can you find deserts, oceans, mountains, trees and springs all in a country the size of New Jersey?
Not to mention how interesting its inhabitants are -- everyone you encounter has a unique story or insight he or she is willing to share. It’s why you don’t want to leave and why you’re dying to go back.
36. Alone time
For as much fun as hanging out 24/7 with 47 other people is, it’s also really nice when you have that five minutes alone to yourself... even if it’s only in the bathroom stall.
37. Stray cats
…Only to solidify your position as a “dog person.”
38. Free trips to Israel
Okay, so maybe the 20 shekel you have left in your wallet means that is wasn’t totally free, but you can’t deny that a free trip to Israel is better than any paid vacation.
There’s a reason why it’s so hard to get on a Taglit trip: because everyone wants to go after hearing how life-changing spectacular Birthright truly is. And now you can be one of the thousands who say, “I’m sooooo jealous you’re going on Birthright” and actually mean it.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock