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Aggie Voices

My Aggie Birthright Trip to Israel

talia 1.JPGLooking back at the birthright trip, I realize how much we actually managed to cram in ten days. We went to Tzvat, Tiberias, Tel Aviv, Masada, the Dead Sea, the Bedouin tents, and Jerusalem. We hiked the Banyas, went jeeping in the Golan Heights, were joined by eight of the finest IDF soldiers, walked the streets of Tel Aviv, floated in the Dead Sea, rode camels, visited the Jewish quarter and Western Wall, drank Israeli beer, ate falafel or shawarma pitas almost every day, and concluded with a fun last night together on Ben Yehuda street. Each of us took something different away from the trip, but I think it’s safe to say that each of us enjoyed it more than words can describe.

This birthright trip, and more specifically this group was exceptional in so many ways.  First reason being that we had the best trip educator we could have possibly had. Being an Aggie myself, I am slightly biased toward my aggie rabbi but if you were to ask a non-aggie, they would have said the same thing. Rabbi Yossi taught us so much over the course of this trip: in the mornings, during our daily activities, and especially during Q&A nights on Shabbat. Rabbi kept us laughing on the bus rides and was always there to help if anyone needed. We also wouldn’t have had such an exceptional trip if we had not had Leiah and Tzion, our tour guide and bus driver. They really solidified the exceptionality of this trip and helped us truly appreciate the rich culture of Israel with their passion for the Holy Land. If Mayanot 138, the Howdy Bus had had a different bus driver, tour guide, or educator, our trip would not have gone as smoothly or been as remarkable as it was.

talia 4.jpgI can’t express how meaningful, fun, and life-changing this trip was for me without talking about the incredible group of students that made this trip what it was. It was so beautiful and refreshing to see the diversity of people in this group. Everyone in this group grew up in such different environments with all such unique backgrounds. I’m so glad I had the pleasure of getting to speak one-on-one with so many other young Jewish students exploring their Jewish roots. Just as Rabbi continues to remind us, “every one of us is made in the image of G-d and everyone has a special purpose on this earth”. Understanding this really helps us to better appreciate every person that comes into our lives. This was such a cohesive group of students because everyone was so accepting of each other, which made it that much easier for all of us to get along well. It was truly inspiring to see how much everyone grew over the course of the trip. I especially loved to see how engaged everyone was during Rabbi’s Shabbat Q&A. People asked questions about Judaism and Torah that I never even thought to ask before. I learned so much during those Q&A sessions that made me question my own perspectives on the topics discussed. 

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Although birthright is over, there was one reoccurring theme that many people continued to bring up in the group: getting out of our comfort zone. This message is one that we should keep with us no matter where our lives take us. We should be open to trying new things, asking the tough questions, and maybe even joining a pro-Israel organization on your campus. Thank you for making this trip all that it was, and I can’t wait to see how you put what you learned about Israel to action on your campuses. עם ישראל חי 🇮🇱.

Aggie Voices: My Aggie Birthright Trip

sophie airport.jpgHeading to JFK airport to leave for Birthright, I was both excited and nervous. I didn't know many people on the trip, but I knew that I was going to see incredible cities full of rich history. Not only was I surprised by how inviting everyone was, but I also could not believe the beauty of all the places I was able to visit during my time in Israel. I made lasting friendships and experienced the holy land like I had imagined on the day of my Bat Mitzvah when it seemed out of reach.

I think that the Israeli soldiers were an unforgettable addition to our trip.sophie soldier.jpg Each soldier was excited to be there with us and provided insight into the areas we visited. They were particularly fun to have around when we went to the Carmel Market in Jerusalem because they were able to communicate with the shop owners in Hebrew so we could haggle for a lower price. The soldiers also gave us a taste of what it was like to be an Israeli and shared what they could of both their experiences in the IDF and daily life in Israel. The most impactful time we had with them was visiting Mt. Herzl, a national military cemetery. It was then that I grew a deeper appreciation for the members of the IDF as a large majority of the people there lost their lives at the age of myself and the soldiers.

sophie group.jpgThe most memorable day of the trip started with climbing Masada. We were told the stories of the ruins and explored area. The scenery was so beautiful that it felt like I was looking at a green screen. After hiking down Masada we headed over to the Dead Sea. I still could not believe the beauty that surrounded me and the feeling of floating so effortlessly. It truly was a perfect day from the weather to the scenery. We finished the day by driving down to stay in the Bedouin tents where we all got to sleep together in one tent and grow closer as a group while experiencing the beauty of the endless stars and isolation.

Deciding to go on Birthright with Chabad at Texas A&M was a decision Isophie rabbi.jpg will be forever grateful for. Rabbi Yossi always made each day memorable with his jokes, insights, and the Modeh Ani where we all got to share what we were thankful for. I was able to share my experiences with other Aggies that I can see weekly at events. I think there is something truly special about every individual who played a part in the trip which made the once in a lifetime experience even more impactful.

Sophie Pervere is a Sophmore Mechanical Engineering student at Texas A&M University.

Blessed to Experience Birthright on the #HowdyBus

jackie.jpegMy name is Jackie Rosenthal and I’m a sophomore Business Honors and Management Information Systems Student from Houston, Texas. I just got back from my winter Birthright Trip, led by our own wonderful Rabbi Yossi. I’m so thankful to have done Birthright now as opposed to later because I’m pretty sure it will be the start of yearly trips to Israel for me. 

I didn’t want to leave Israel. Ten days in such a country was way too short. Praying at the Western Wall was touching beyond words. Relaxing in the Dead Sea was an incredible experience, let alone a beautiful sight. Masada was an enjoyable hike and learning opportunity. The markets and bargaining for souvenirs were a blast. The food was AMAZING (even if I am the pickiest eater in the world). The soldiers were so fun to hang out with and learn from. I felt so safe and at home in Israel.

birthright group photo.jpgOne of the best things about my Birthright trip was Yossi’s words. Whether he was leading the Modeh Ani on the bus, sharing stories with us, answering our questions about Judaism in a Q&A session, or talking to me about the history of sites while walking through the cities, I was always learning so much and fulfilling one of the reasons I wanted to join the trip. Before the trip’s start, I was worried we were going to be expected to know a decent amount about Jewish customs, of Israel’s history, and even a little bit of Hebrew. I didn’t want to be left in the dust at “why do we wash our hands in a certain manner before Shabbat dinner” when the whole group had moved on to another topic. However, I didn’t need to be worried. We were Jews of 

all different backgrounds on the trip and everything we needed and wanted to know was explained to us with ease. 

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We also always had the opportunity to ask questions, which I know we all appreciated.

Go on Birthright with Rabbi Yossi soon, join the #HowdyBus family, and then start planning your following trips to Israel. It’s an incredible place; you have to see it for yourself.

 To join the Aggie Birthright Summer 2018 trip on May 22 visit MayanotIsrael.com 

 

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