June marked the one-year anniversary of my trip to Israel last year, so I took some time to reflect on my experience. This time last year I was readjusting back to the eastern time zone and getting back from a ten-day trip called Birthright, aka a free trip for jews. As the pictures and memories have flooded my On This Day feature on Facebook, I remember all of the places I visited, the stories I heard, the history I learned and the amazing people I met along the way.
Did you know that you can fit the entire country of Israel within Florida eight times? EIGHT TIMES! It may seem like it would be an easy country to explore in ten whole days. Well, that’s what I thought at least. While the trip I was on brought me to countless cities and historical sites, time was limited and the ability to truly enjoy and grasp everything that the country has to offer in just ten days is somewhat impossible. The experience opens your eyes to a new way of viewing life but also leaves you with wanting more. While there is so much of the world out there that I have yet to see and aspire to see, Israel will hold a special place in my heart that I hope to one day get back to. Whether it be in the near future or in my later years, it is a country that I will support from thousands of miles away during my lifetime. Birthright is an incredible concept and I am so lucky to have been given the opportunity to embark on such an eye-opening journey across the world from my roots in South Florida.
I’d like to share some of my favorite memories from the trip. While it’s hard to narrow down ten days filled with unforgettable memories, here are some that stood out to me:
- River rafting in the Jordan River was one of my favorite experiences of the trip. As someone who often kayaks on the west coast of Florida it was an incredible experience to be paddling on the other side of the world in a completely new body of water. While my group made our way down the river, many Israelis were enjoying their day river-side and greeting us as we passed. The views didn’t hurt to have mountains in the far distance, overlooking the water we just paddled through. As a native Floridian, this was a view I never expected to see. But I soaked in every moment, literally!
- In Tel-Aviv I went on a graffiti tour. While Tel Aviv in itself was comparable to Miami with a beautiful beach surrounding a city-like scene for millennials to enjoy, the history behind the raw-form of graffiti in the suburb of Florence was truly breathtaking. The tour guide brought us behind buildings and back roads to show us pieces of art that would hold deeper messages than meet the eye. I’m not typically someone to go to an art museum, but the graffiti that I saw was constructed with such meaning it made me challenge my first-impressions to search for the deeper meaning that the artist construed. I had zero expectations when exploring Tel Aviv, but the graffiti tour showed me that there is always more than meets the eye and opened my mind.
- If I had to narrow it down to my top three memories, there is one entire day that particularly stands out to me. The night prior we slept outside in the Bedouin tents where we hiked out in the middle of the desert and looked up to a clear sky of stars, sat by a campfire sung songs and slept in one big tent. The next morning role call was at 7 AM where we immediately jumped on camels for a ride around the desert. (Unfortunately it was a Thursday, so all hump day jokes were sadly just missed by 24 hours). Following the thrilling camel rides, we traveled to Masada. Not only is the historical value of Masada extremely meaningful, but so is the physical challenge that is completed once you get to the top. While learning about the history was very special, I also held myself accountable to accomplishing physical challenges I never expected myself to in the past. Looking down from the top of Masada in the middle of an extremely hot day in the middle of June is a feeling that I will never be able to forget. Overlooking the multiple shades of blue from the Dead Sea and the heights of the desert were unexplainable. After Masada we floated in the Dead Sea – a day I will never forget!
Overall, I could clearly go on with more memories from my trip but I will leave it at this. If there is anything I learned it would be to never limit yourself and your ability to experience anything that may come your way. The trip gave me a little taste of Israel and allowed me to immerse myself outside of comfort zone; I can’t wait to make my way back one-day!
*This post only touches the surface, I will be sharing additional blogs that reflect my trip to Israel on a deeper level, including my experiences of traveling throughout the country with a disability.*