My Birthright Journey to Israel by Rebecca Boro, Camp Ramah New England, Vocational Education Participant
Going to Israel is a dream for many people; going to Israel on Birthright is an experience where you can go to Israel with like-minded peers. Last month, I went to Israel on a Birthright trip specifically designed for alumni and current participants of Ramah Tikvah programs. There were participants and staff from many of the Ramah camps including Ramah New England, Poconos, Wisconsin, Ojai, Galim, Berkshires, and Canada. We went to sites that were already favorites: such as the Kotel (Western Wall), the Dead Sea, and Masada. We also went to some sites that became new favorites of mine: such as Neot Kedumim, the Anu Museum, and the Children’s Museum.
Masada and the Dead Sea were on the same day. Because our group had a wide range of skills and abilities, the staff decided it would be best to get to Masada by cable car, rather than the Roman ramp or snake path. Once near the top, our guide taught us the word for family (mishpacha), which we then screamed from the top to hear the echo bouncing back. While driving to the Dead Sea, we learned that the waters are receding three meters (about ten feet) every year! Some of us attempted to float while others waded, and a few others watched from the beach (I was one of the floaters). Getting to the Western Wall was tricky because there were many other groups and people trying to reach the Wall. Once we reached the Wall, we put our notes into the cracks and said the Shema.
Neot Kedumim, located halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, is a beautiful nature preserve, not only because of the abundant variety of flowers and trees, but also because of what we learned there. We learned about the seven species and how they were used in ancient times; for example, they didn’t only use oil to cook with, they also used it as a body lubricant akin to lotion. We also made bisamim (spice bags used for havdallah) and fresh za’atar; we used a mortar and pestle to grind the fresh hyssop leaves.
The Children’s Museum in Holon had two options for tours; the blind experience or the deaf experience; the staff decided that our group would better understand and enjoy the deaf experience. We wore noise-canceling headphones so that we wouldn’t be able to hear anything. Even our museum guide was deaf! We learned that Hebrew sign language is different from American sign language.
The Anu Museum in Tel Aviv showed us different periods of Jewish living and Jewish life. For example, we saw two different types of Torah covers; the velvet one most of us are used to, and a wooden one that opens up to reveal the Torah. We also saw replicas of synagogues and learned how they evolved due to the inventions of new building materials and styles.
Going on Birthright with Tikvah participants and staff from across the United States and Canada was an experience I will never forget. I will cherish these memories forever. I want to thank Howard Blas and the National Ramah Commission, Tailormade Tours, and Taglit/Birthright for allowing us all to have this once in a lifetime experience. I would also like to thank my parents for instilling in me a love of Judaism, learning, and Israel.