One of the great parts of any birthright israel trip are the mifgashim. Basically half way through the trip we are joined by 8 Israelis. Since they are the same age as the trip participants, they are always soldiers. The soldiers love the opportunity to get a few days off from their army duties and the trippers are usually eager to meet their Israeli peers. Our soldiers showed up this past Friday and they have already totally bonded with the trip participants. I am uploading their pics below but later I will introduce each of them – tell you where they are from, what they do and how/if they are enjoying their break so far.
Shani Ostreicher, from North Tel Aviv. Army social worker
Before the army, I worked as a counsellor in a Jewish summer camp in Minneapolis specializing in Hebrew (of course) and nature. One of the interesting things about that job was that I discovered that I really enjoy representing Israel. Joining this Taglit-birthright israel trip represented just another opportunit for me to let people know more about Israel. The group has been really cool so far – they really want to learn about my life, about Israel and about their Jewish identities. Taglit-birthright israel is a great program – it’s great for Israel’s economy and I think it will affect the trip particpants in a positive way with respect to their Judaism.
Moriel Lazarus, from Tel Aviv, Army Social Worker, lead singer of Strawberry Jam
I wanted to join a Taglit birthright israel trip because my older brother was on it and he said it was a great experience. Every year I’d see the trip participants having a good time in Tel Aviv and I was psyched that now I could join them. So far it’s been better than I expected. I was born in Boston before my family made Aliyah so Americans are not these exotic, mysterious creatures to me. I am also enjoying the opportunity to tour my country and learn new things about it.
Adi Peleg, from Ramat Gan. Paratrooper – Computer Specialist
The trip has been great so far. I lve any opportunity to to travel in Israel and the group has been really cute so far. They certainly know how to have a good time! This trip is worth it because it will help strengthen Jewish diasporah ties to Israel. Many of the trip participants don’t seem to know much about Judaism or Israel but living where they live I guess it’s understandable – but that’s what maes this trip so important.
Yoni Busbib, from Jerusalem. Paratrooper 101st Unit
I came on Taglit-birthright israel to meet new people and to have a few days break from the army. I have lots of Jewish family in Europe and in the States, so American Jews are not a new thing to me. Also I live in Jerusalem so I know many Americans there. The trip participants are wonderful but their mentality is totally different from that of a typical Israeli. Those of us in the army just think of different things than young American Jews – this doesn’t stop us from bonding though. We are both curious about each others lives. Their lives begin at 18 whereas we’re getting ready to sacrifice 3 years of our lives. This creates differences but none that cannot be overcome by our shared Jewish identities. I’d love it if they all moved to Israel!
Mark Katson, from Afula. Paratrooper (Sayeret)
I had no idea what to expect from this trip, but I was looking forward to a couple of days off from my Army duty. So far the trip participants have been really nice and to me and I am having a great time.
Roi Duek, from Kibbutz Ha Ma’apil. Paratrooper 101st Unit
I came on this trip because I wanted to contrast the image of Israel with the reality. It’s not all wars and conflict – for me it’s like paradise. I wanted to help create bonds with Israel, I wanted to teach these kids about their religion and their identities. I am horrified by how many of them will intermarry and I want to do my share to help prevent that. The trip’s been pretty good so far, I am having a great time but meeting American Jews helps me appreciate Israel so much more. I met several trip participants who have been fantastic, warm and friendly. American Jews and Israelis are so different. At the same age it seems we have gone through so much more than they have – but I don’t resent them for that. They are all basically good kids but it’s a shame their parents didn’t teach some of them a little more about their identity.
Corinne Shalev, from Pardes Channah. Boot Camp Instructor
I heard of Taglit-birthright Israel before I began my army service. I signed on for this trip because I was looking forward to meeting American Jews my age and thought it would be fun to tour the country with them. The trip participants are really nice and I like the way everyone gets along. I was surprised how even I, after having toured the country so much in school, still managed to learn new things.
Nir Tayer from Moshav Tquma. Paratrooper (Sayeret)
I joined this Taglit-birthright israel trip in order to see a different culture from what I am used to and to meet people I’ve never met before. I don’t live in a big city so I don’t have much opportunity to socialize with American Jews my age. And the trip participants are so American, not at all like Israelis – which is a good thing! They are eager to talk and are curious about everything – my Moshav, what it’s like living in an agricultural community, what the army is like, everything! Some of them didn’t know about last summer’s war in Lebanon so we certainly had what to talk about.