My birthright trip to Israel has been the most eye-opening experience of my life.
The trip is designed for young Jewish adults to discover their Jewish identity, but this journey helped me explore a whole lot more about myself than just my religion.
Living in New Jersey, you can sometimes get stuck in your own bubble and forget that there's an entire world out there. There is more to life than just Wawa and pizza shops. Going to Israel allowed me to see how unique, special, and interesting the country is.
I was given the chance to explore Israel and experience amazing things with 36 other young Jewish adults.
We went kayaking in the Jordan River, rode on camels, floated in the Dead Sea, and ascended Masada with the Roman Ramp at five o'clock in the morning.
We walked through the streets of Tzfat and Tel Aviv, and witnessed the different cultural aspects of their cities.
Eight Israeli soldiers joined our group and that was really exciting. It was a chance for me to learn how other people my age live. The experience taught me that while there were many differences between the Israelis and Americans, there were more similarities. We all watch the same Netflix shows, listen to the same music, like to laugh, and have a good time.
What an experience it was to be able to, just for a few days, peek into the worlds of other people my age who have completely different lives.
It reminds you that while there is a lot of hate being spread around the world, taking the time to visit a foreign country and meet the people can show you how, at the end of the day, though we may eat different foods and speak different languages, we're all really the same.
The best part of the trip was the friendships that developed. Most of the group started out as complete strangers, but by the end of the ten days, we all formed a bond that we'll never forget.
Experiencing the nightlife of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv with a really great group of people was so much fun. We created so many memories together and shared many jokes and laughs. The friendships made 6,000 miles away from home didn't seem so far.
Day 11 was the hardest because we had to say goodbye to our friends and to a place that was new and strange to us, yet also felt like home at the same time. Day 11 will go on forever because of the friendships, the laughs, the sights, and the memories that will never be forgotten.
The most magical moment was when we slept overnight in the Judean desert. When it was pitch black outside, our staff leaders told us all to lay down, not to say a word, not to make a sound, and to just look up at the night sky with all the stars shining down on us.
It was the most peaceful silence of my life. It was a time of reflection of not only the trip but my whole life. It was a cathartic moment in my life because I felt that all the negative emotions I had were just released into the sky.
I saw a new land and was exposed to a new culture and language. While in Israel, I had no worries about school, work, or life in general. I simply lived and that's what I took away from the Holy Land. It showed me how to appreciate my life and the people in it.
It almost seems impossible how 10 days can change a person's life, but my whole world has transformed and it's one of the most liberating feelings.
I've never felt so free and alive before.
Everything was scary at first when we first arrived there, but most things always start out that way until it turns into something beautiful, exciting, and life-changing.
I've been waiting for a moment like this in my life, a moment of clarity, and it happened at the most unexpected time in the most unexpected place with the most unexpected people, but life always seems to work out that way.
I'm a better person because of my birthright trip, so if you have the ability to go, take that opportunity because it will completely affect your life.
How lucky am I to have gained such a wonderful experience that altered how I view the world and the people that live in it.
This trip made me feel free and alive.
It's amazing how your whole perspective on life can change within 10 days. That's all it took for me. 10 days to realize how beautiful, big, and fascinating the world is out there.