So I've decided that I'll be joining the Travel Tuesday link-up every week! Each Tuesday will be a different destination I've been to, and will essentially be a giant photo dump (see also: this one). Basically, this is an excuse for me to go through all my photos and relive some truly amazing memories. I'm pretty pumped. :)
For my first installment, I'm going back to a trip that kicked off the most epic year of travel in my life (so far?): Israel!
I went to Israel in May of 2011 with a birthright group from University of Miami Hillel. If you're unfamiliar with birthright, it essentially means that all Jewish people have a (duh) birthright to visit Israel, so there's a group that funds these trips for young Jewish adults. I'm probably not explaining this well at all. Basically, it means a free trip to Israel. Yes please!
Everyone I knew that had already been on birthright gushed and raved about how that trip changed their life. I was kind of skeptical, as I'm not a particularly spiritual or religious person. But more than three years later, I can honestly say that that trip did change my life.
I actually do feel much more connected to Judaism. Do I believe in god? I still don't think so, but that didn't stop me from being totally overwhelmed and crying when we visited the Western Wall on Shabbat. We spent most of the 10 days traveling with a group of Israeli soldiers who were our age, who wanted nothing more than to be in our shoes and go to school, who had ridden camels but never ridden horses, who love watching Friends and That '70s Show, and that alone was astronomical in changing my perspective on the world. As a Jew in America, I've never been a part of the majority... but in Israel, on Fridays, everyone greets absolutely everybody else with "shabbat shalom." We visited the Old City of Jerusalem and the new city in Tel Aviv, hiked valleys and deserts (where I broke my toe, oops) and Masada, swam in the Dead Sea and kayaked on the Jordan River, stayed at a kibbutz and in a Bedouin tent, rode camels, visited David Ben Gurion's grave and a military cemetery and Yad Vashem, ate shawarma and hummus (all. of. the. hummus)... and everything was amazing. Except, of course, the broken toe. And the ear infection. And the fact that the mere sight of hummus made me nauseous for several months afterwards.
I highly recommend traveling there if you ever get the opportunity to, even if you're not Jewish. It's an absolutely beautiful place, and so unbelievably full of history. And, for the record, not once did I ever feel like I was in danger.
(Also, if you're wondering about the title... the shekel is Israel's currency, and "sherutim" means "bathroom." It's just one of the few Hebrew words I learned and still remember, and I liked the alliteration. Hah.)
For my original posts on this trip, see here and here!