9 Reasons Why a Trip to Israel Will Change Your Life

I was lucky enough to spend my freshman year studying abroad in Israel, and I wouldn't have had it any other way. Durig my nine months abroad I learned more about myself than I ever thought I would, I explored places and challenged myself in ways I never thought possible, and I fell in love with the most beautiful country in the world. The news constantly bombards us with negative images of the conflicts in the Middle East, but truthfully there is so much love and beauty among the region beyond what we see. The best way to experience it is to go and experience it for yourself. 

American University sends students on trips to Israel through Birthright. The trip is an amazing, totally free, non-religious 10 day exploration of Israel. Birthright takes you through ancient sights and incredible hikes, and builds friendships and a community with other AU students. The program is open to Jewish students (those who have at least one parent who is Jewish), who are between the age of 18-26 and have not spent time in Israel on a organized, peer group trip since starting college. I unfortunatly am not eligable for Birthright because of my time abroad, but I try to encourage everyone I can to experience everything Israel has to offer through this program. 

1. The hikes are unreal.

A classic Israel vacation includes visiting the top of Masada, a mountain that overlooks the dead sea and holds hundreds of years of history. Typical trips include a sunrise hike to the top, which is like nothing you have ever experienced before. Outdoor activities are a major part of Israeli culture, so the fun doesn't stop at Masada. Birthright takes you on tons of other killer hikes, kayaking trips, off roading and more. 

2. The food is to die for, and the markets are perfect for Instagram.

Some of my foundest memories are walking through the Jerusalem markets drinking fresh squeezed orange juice and nibbling on gummies, dried fruits, nuts, cookies, bread and fresh produce. During the summer time, mountains of strawberries cover the tables, and by night fall locals sit at the bars sipping on wine and beer. The fresh, baked goods fill the outdoor marketplace with sweetness, and the hustle and bustle of the market makes you feel like a true Israeli. 

3. You get to float in Dead Sea.

The Dead Sea is one of the most iconic tourist spots in Israel, and it deserves it's reputation. It's the only place in the world it's acceptable to lather yourself in mud, before snapping some super cute mud-mask photos. Afterwards, you can clean yourself off in the incredible waters of the Dead Sea, which have such a high salt content you instantly float to the top. You can then treat yourself to the sulfur pools and hot springs near by. Talk about the best kind of spa day!

4. It's your chance to ride a camel at the Bedouin tents.

The Bedouin tents are always a highlight to every Israel trip. You get to enjoy evenings sleeping under the starts after an amazing Bedouin dinner, and wake up to camel rides in the Negev desert. When are you ever going to get another opportunity to ride a camel? Camel rides are great opportunities for some killer photos, and you can't forget to name your new furry friend. 

5. It's your chance to meet Israeli soldiers.

Current Israeli soldiers accompany many Birthright trips, which is an awesome opportunity for American college students. Spending time with soldiers is a great way to get all of your questions answered and make connections with Israelis that are your own age. Who can forget how dreamy they are with their cute accents and in uniform? 

6. You get to party in Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv is known for it's crazy clubs and great party scene. Birthright at American University typically spends more than one day to visit the beachside city. Tel Aviv has a totally different culture than the rest of Israel with a glorious outdoor market, delicious restaurants, beautiful beaches and fantastic nightlife; you really can't go wrong. 

7. You get to drink some delicious wine.

An exciting part for the younger Birthright participants is the 18+ drinking age in Israel. Many Birthright trips will tour some of the massive wineries in the north, including some gorgeous views and tasty samples. You can also spend some evenings out for a drink, so be sure to try local favorites like Israeli wine and Goldstar beer. 

8. You can buy some gorgeous jewelry.

The art of Israel is out of this world, especially when it comes to their hand made jewelry. I picked up quite a few stunning necklaces during my time is Safed, which has a massive artists market. Always remember to bargain down prices with the vendors, because they can be a little sneaky when it comes to selling to Americans. Once you get the price down, the pieces are a great addition to any collection. 

9. It's an opportunity to re-connect with your heritage and build amazing friendships with other AU students.

Birthright isn't necessarily a religious experience, but a way to reconnect with your ancestry and build bonds within the Jewish community at American University. Interested in trying out a new adventure? Sign up for the spring or summer 2016 trip at www.freeisraeltrip.org/go or contact [email protected]

 

Photo Credits: 1, 2 author owns all other photos