10 Reasons To Sign Up for AU's Summer 2016 Israel Trip

If you’re from a Jewish family, or know anyone who comes from a Jewish background, you’ve probably heard of this magical free trip where some far-off mystical organization pays for thousands of people to go on a trip Israel. Impossible, you say? Wrong! I can vouch for this mysterious trip being 100% real, and YES, they do actually send you for free. Here are ten reasons why you should take advantage of this amazing opportunity:

1. It’s a free trip. That should be your first incentive to go. Who doesn’t love free things? ESPECIALLY college kids. That’s all I needed to be persuaded. Have I mentioned that it’s free yet?

2. The sightsFrom Masada to the Dead Sea, there is a beautiful historical or natural sight for everybody to see and appreciate in Israel.

 

3. The soldiersGoing into the trip, I had heard a lot of things about soldiers coming on the trip with us, but I didn’t know much else. For five days, current soldiers nearing the end of their term in the IDF (the Israel Defense Forces) join your bus. They arrive in uniform, which can be intimidating, but minutes later, they have transformed into regular teenagers and adults, just like you. One of my closest friendships formed on the trip was with a soldier in the Israeli Air Force, who I’m still talking to, a few months later, and plan on being in contact with for quite some time. The opportunity to create relationships with people from a different culture and a different place is an incredible one.

4. The lifetime’s worth of friendshipsBefore going on my trip, I was very doubtful of this claim. How can I become close to people I’ve known for only ten days? Well, you’d be surprised. In fact, next year I’m planning on living with somebody I got to know through this trip, even though we lived in the same dorm! The people from my trip who go to American University are more friendly faces on campus, and the people who came with our bus from other schools recently came to visit the rest of us here.

  5. The foodIf you've never had shawarma, you're missing out. Shawarma, falafel, and hummus will quickly become part of your daily vocabulary. Not only that, but if you get the chance, you can try shakshuka, an incredible Israeli food consisting of tomatoes and eggs. Simple, but delicious. Israel is also home to a variety of interesting snacks, as well as great coffee. Ever heard of Cafe Aroma? Israel is the origin country of this delicious coffee chain, known for not only providing it’s customers with delicious coffee, but also for the complimentary chocolate that comes with your order.

 

6. Camels. Being dragged out of your tent at 6am to ride a lanky desert animal seems unappealing at first, but once you’re there, the sunrise and the crew of camels and your friends is worth the early bird alarm.

(If you’re lucky, you’ll even make it into the official Birthright Israel promotion video like we did!)

Plus, look how goofy-looking they are. How could you not want to ride a camel? The photo opportunities are endless.

7. The Dead Sea. Trust me, your skin has never felt smoother. You get to cover yourself in the mud of the saltiest of salty waters, float around aimlessly, and have the time of your life. Just be careful not to get any in your mouth or your eyes; it burns like nobody’s business, and DEFINITELY don’t shave at least a day before going!

8. Jeep rides and the Golan HeightsAt the shared borders of Lebanon, Syria, and Israel, you not only get to experience a really cool historical site, you also get to follow up with a rugged Jeep ride with locals through the back trails of the hills of the Golan Heights.

9. A chance to embrace your Jewish heritageI’m one of the least traditionally “Jewish” people I know, but there’s a certain sense of community you learn to appreciate and embrace while on this trip. From the group bonding that goes on among you and your bus, to the fact that the majority of the population of Israel has something in common, you will always have something to talk about. Not only that, but almost every place you go is a historical site of some sort, and will fuel a connection to the people and peers around you.

 

10. You can extend your trip. Not only do you get to spend ten days doing crazy cool things with a bunch of new people and exploring a country for free, you can also choose to stay longer. For a small fee, you can extend your trip for up to three months and still use your return flight ticket that Birthright gifted you. How awesome is that? So if you’ve got friends or family in Israel, since you’re already there, you are free to stay there longer. How could you pass up on that chance?

11. BONUS POINT. Tel Aviv! Tel Aviv, ya habibi, Tel Aviv,” will become a phrase that you will react to by switching into dance party mode whenever you hear it for the rest of your life. Tel Aviv is not just a catchy song, but also a beautiful city, and the modern day port of Israel. Dip your toes into the Mediterranean while you find yourself on the border between the oldest and the newest cities in Israel, the old historical port of Jaffa, and the fairly new city of Tel Aviv.

If you still don’t believe me, ask around about this trip. The chances are high that you know somebody who has been, plans on going, or knows somebody who has gone to Israel through Birthright. It’s an incredible, life-changing experience, which sounds cliche, but I promise you will leave with friendships and experiences that you won’t find anywhere else.

Here is the link directly to American University’s information page, all about Birthright and how to sign up for it. http://au.hillel.org/israel/birthright-israel

As the Israelis love to say, “Yalla!” or, “Let’s go!”

Photo Credit: Jordan Adler, Dani Rosen, Jason Benkendorf, and author.