By Samantha Rosen
For the Mitzpeh
As this university’s students going on Birthright this summer gathered in the Maryland Hillel dining room enjoying Shabbat dinner, they reflected on what they are most excited for during their time in Israel.
Birthright Israel, a historical partnership between the people of Israel and Jewish philanthropists, gifts 10-day trips to Jewish young adults ages 18 to 26. The gift covers airfare, hotel, transportation, food and other associated land costs, according to Birthright Israel’s website.
Every semester Hillel recruits students to come with them on Birthright. This year, there will be four buses of students in Israel in May and a fifth bus in June, taking over 200 students. On Friday night, Hillel hosted a Birthright Send-Off Shabbat dinner as a final chance for students to meet each other before the trip.
“We think it is a good way for everyone to get to know other people on the bus,” Jessa Cameron, Hillel Springboard innovation fellow and trip leader said. “It’s also nice to think about celebrating Shabbat all together here, and how different and exciting and positive it is going to be in Israel.”
While listening to Israeli songs, eating Israeli food and saying the Shabbat prayers, students went around the room saying what they are excited for while in Israel. Answers ranged from students who are excited to experience Israel for the first time and students who are excited for nights out in Tel Aviv.
“I’m excited to see the place where my ancestors are from,” sophomore communications and criminology major Peyton Nir said. “I guess I’m nervous about bomb threats, though, and I don’t want to end up in an area where I have to go into a bomb shelter.”
Although Israel and the Middle East have a reputation for political tension and military conflict, Cameron confirmed that there have never been any safety issues while on Birthright.
Bus leaders have been to Israel numerous times, however, they also expressed how excited they are for this trip.
“It’s always fun getting to know new students and connecting with students I already know in a setting outside campus,” Talia Orencel, Director of Engagement and Social Justice at Hillel and trip leader, said. “Plus, every experience in Israel is an amazing, different experience.
The first four groups of students leave for Israel on May 20. Until then, Hillel has various other non-Birthright affiliated events, including Israel Week, which is next week, where students can attend to engage with other students and learn about Israel.