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Birthright Israel: Renewal, Recovery, and Discovery

November 5, 2019 at 5:18 am
by Daniel Cohen • Chesterfield, VA Birthright Israel Alumnus 2019

In Summer 2019, I ventured to Israel on a Birthright Israel trip focused on renewal. The goal of this trip is to reconnect young people, like myself, who are in recovery or are impacted by addiction with their Jewish heritage and help us reclaim our roles as active members in the Jewish community.

As far as I can remember, I have always wanted to go a Birthright Israel trip. I always assumed I would go as soon as I was old enough, but life got in the way. By the time I turned 26, I had thought it was too late, and because of my addiction struggles, a Birthright Israel trip was not even in the picture. I began my recovery journey later that year, and my sister told me about the change in Birthright’s eligibility and that there was a recovery trip. I had no idea niche trips like this existed, but once I found out, I am so glad they do. I would not have gone on any other trip!

I was excited about Birthright Israel because I am interested in the history of the land, and I learned a lot, like a lot a lot on this trip. While we were in Tzfat, I also learned about the spiritual side of Judaism, which I was not familiar with. Even as we walked through a cemetery, I learned about my last name, Cohen, and that it is an old tradition that Cohen’s do not go inside. All in all, I could keep listing things I discovered on Birthright Israel, like about Israel’s booming startup culture – I always knew Israelis were resourceful, but seeing and experiencing it really impressed me. It’s made me passionate about the country, its economy, and my future career goals.

Our tour educator, Gabriel, was smart as heck. Unbeknownst to me, he was actually my cousin’s guide, as well. Gabriel did a very good job of explaining what we were doing and the significance of it.

Before Birthright Israel, I half expected I’d go to Israel and be walking around a war zone. I mean, I knew it wasn’t really like that, but I also wasn’t entirely sure. Now I know Israel is a really beautiful place, rich with history and culture.

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