View from on top of Massada
The Messiah has come!

When my friend Dave told me about Birth Right a few years ago, I thought it sounded too good to be true.  A 10 day free trip to Israel with airfare, hotels, and food all completely paid for?..No jew I knew would front that bill. Well, it was true, and a couple years back, just for being Jewish, I got to on one of the most fun, interesting and enlightening trips of my whole life.

Mazol Tov to Me, 8 Years of Hebrew School Finally Paid Off (Sort of)!

Mother and Son at Bart Mitzva
My Mom and I at my Bar Mitzva in 2000

The Birth Right website qualifies anyone 18-26 with any part Jewish, Jewish enough for the free trip.  My friend Dave and I signed up for one of the Birth Right programs called Israel Outdoors in which the majority of our trip was spent hiking around the many amazing cities, scenery and fun places Israel has to offer.  Are you wondering how all of this was free yet?Well, Birth Right is sponsored by Israel itself as well as some extremely wealthy Jews with the goal of building Jewish pride and support for the state of Israel.  Of course there is a little brainwashing attempted, but its only fair, and it wasn´t that bad.  They just talked about how being Jewish is more of a unique heritage than a religious devotion and how it’s important to preserve that heritage.

The Birthright program will even let you extend your free ticket home for however you long you want, for free!  I seriously regret not doing this before hand as I ended up going back to Israel later that summer for 3 weeks on my own dime!  It is truly a magnificant place to visit, even if you’re not Jewish.  There is so much of the world’s history there, that anyone can appreciate what the small country (only the size of dirty jerz) has to offer just beyond its heavily guarded borders.

Beer, the Beach and Machine Guns?

The Beach in Tel Aviv
Chillin on the Beach in Tel Aviv…With my M16!

I never once felt unsafe while I was in Israel.  Birth Right goes to the nth degree to make outside visitors feel extra safe by even assigning armed guards to every tour bus.  The guards just happen to be kids the same age as the birth righters who are in their few years of mandatory military service.  They get to wear normal street clothes and partake on all of the same fun activities as us (including boozing), but just happen to have a couple M16’s slung around their shoulders at all times, not akward or anything.  In fact, it seems like everyone in Israel has a gun, even the valet attendants.

Israel has Something for Every Jew

Hiking trails in the Golan Heights
Hiking in the Golan Heights
View from the The Bahá’í Gardens in Haifa
The Bahá’í Gardens in Haifa

Whether you wear a black suit complete with top hat and walk to Synagogue every Saturday, or you’re just an upper-middle class Jew from Long Island that happens to have a last name  like Cohen, Jacobson or Goldstein, there is a Birth Right program for you.   My friend Dave and I are really not so religious (him some, me none) and therefore opted for the Israel Outdoors option.  If hiking, or even walking isn’t your thing, there are programs where you can spend 99% of your time shuttled around in luxury air-conditioned bus and dropped off at every site of interest.  Regardless, it’s all paid for and Israel just wants you to see what its made of, and I’m sure you will be impressed.

Horseback riding in Herzliya Israel
Horseback riding in Herzliya Israel

If you’ve been to Israel, what is one word you would use to describe your experience?