After a 9 hour flight from JFK, more than 1000 young Jews arrived in Tel Aviv yesterday afternoon. For some of us, it was our first time leaving the United States, for others, it was our third or fourth time visiting Israel. Hebrew signs and Israel flags waved as we walked through customs. In the airport we were greeted by a tribe of Israeli drummers and tables lined with delicious bread, fruit, and pastries. Our trip had officially begun.
Donning new shirts emblazoned with the Birthright organization logo, the audience of students from all corners of the United States was welcomed to Israel by a speech from Hillel President and CEO Eric Fingerhut. He told us that Monday set the record for the largest number of birthright groups (39) arriving in Israel in a single day.
Since its foundation in 1999, the Taglit Birthright Organization has brought more than 350,000 young Jews to the Holy Land, giving them each an unforgettable 10 – day trip to Israel, free of charge.
My name is Matt Bloom and I’m one of the 40 students from Indiana University currently exploring Israel on bus number 1120. For the next 10 days we will be guided through the country by Ally and Jon, student coordinators at IU Hillel, and our newest Israeli friend, Shakked (pronounced Shaw-ked). Shakked knows everything about Israel. Born and raised in Tel Aviv, her passion is educating students like us about the Holy Land.
Our jeep tour through the Golan Heights today!
Shakked (on left).
Group picture during our hike today!
You’ll be getting a first-hand look into our Birthright experience through this blog. Stay tuned each night to read about our hikes, parties, conversations and adventures across this beautiful country! And most importantly happy New Year!