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Birthright Trips to Israel!

Posted by on Monday, June 23, 2014 in News.

At the end of the school year, there was one more experience that two groups of students were highly anticipating. Instead of making the trek home somewhere here in the U.S., students from both Vanderbilt Hillel and Vanderbilt Chabad journeyed to Israel on one of the annual Birthright Trips. Student who met the qualifying criteria were able to join in for a free 10 day trip to Israel.

Partnering with Taglit-Birthright Israel and IsraelExperts to provide an amazing and totally free of charge 10 day Israel experience for our students, the trips would include seeing the sun rise after scaling Masada, watching the sun set over the Mediterranean, dropping a note in the Western Wall, and even riding a camel.

We asked Rabbi Joshua Barton of Vanderbilt Hillel and Rabbi Shlomo Rothstein of Vanderbilt Chabad to tell us about their experiences this year.

Rabbi Joshua:

Starting May 11th, forty Vanderbilt students toured Israel for ten days with Hillel’s Birthright: Israel program.  Students explored Jewish history, culture, and identity through the lens of the modern State of Israel.  The tour included trips to the Galilee, a kibbutz in the Negev desert, as well as the cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.  Students also had the opportunity to learn about the special security concerns that Israel faces, as well as the opportunities and challenges involved in achieving peace in the region.  Students did everything from praying at the Western Wall, to floating in the Dead Sea, to meeting an Israeli Arab woman and hearing her story.  The trip was educational, challenging, and fun, but above all inspirational and uplifting.”

Rabbi Shlomo of Vanderbilt Chabad:

55 Vanderbilt students, 3 weeks, International trip – it sounds like a party – and it was,  but this trip changes lives.

I recently returned from leading 2 Birthright trips which are organized trips to Israel for young Jews living outside of Israel. IT WAS AWESOME!

Over the course of 10 days we explore ancient Jewish history like King David, the Holy Temples and Western Wall in Jerusalem, places where the stories in the Torah happened, Biblical prophets and the first synagogues. We also experience the modern culture, political landscape, Israeli food, shopping, nightlife and what it means to live in Israel now. Personally I find that the real soul of the trip is when the students connect to their tradition and heritage.

A mother of a participant recently told me that her daughter came back and asked to have family Shabbat dinners for the first time, another student pledged to reconnect with some of the particular Jewish traditions. One thing that is particularly insightful is what the country is actually like as opposed to how it’s portrayed in the media. Israel itself is extremely diverse and Jews, Muslims, Christians and many other religions and cultures coexist side by side.

All in all it was a trip of a life time that was fun, social, enlightening and life enhancing. It greatly added to the Jewish experience, identity and pride of all that went. Israel was the Birthplace of Judaism 3 thousand years ago and it still breathes new life into being Jewish today.