One month ago today I bit the bullet and actually went on the dreaded Birthright trip. I know- I’m about as surprised as you are, given what you could call my original dead-set hesitation to participating in a radically propagandistic venture. It turns out that a mix of guilt tripping from my non-Jewish friends, being able to go with my best friend, and the prospect of riding a camel was enough to get me to call my own bluff.
So I went.
Lina and I spent approximately 48 hours in transit between San Francisco and Tel Aviv, where we were suddenly living on a bus with 38 extremely East Coast Jews (and later eight Israeli soldiers). Talk about a trip.
The next ten days followed my gradual transition from (basically) refusing to participate, to almost entirely giving in and participating (aside from my iron clad distain for dancing in circles). There was an assortment of hiking, shopping, eating, busing, and listening to great tales of history from our tour guide, Ariel. Oh, and the not unexpected, light-hearted doses of propaganda. It does make sense, to be fair. You, an 18-26 year old with a Jewish relative somewhere in the family tree, get to go to Israel and do all sorts of crazy shit for ten days, for free. All they ask in return is that you come back to Israel, marry a fellow Jew, and have Jewish babies so our people don’t die out.
Seems totally legit to me.
In all seriousness, I did have a great time on Birthright. In addition to witnessing an onstage proposal (one of the most joyful, high energy moments I’ve ever experienced), I met some awesome people, I finally got to see a part of the world I’ve spent several years studying, and most importantly I got to do something crazy with my best friend. I’m hesitant to get too into the religious aspect of things, as I’ve always connected more with the cultural side of Judaism, and I think that still holds true. To be honest I like anything that gets everyone together for dinner. Also hesitant to get into the political side of things, except to say that everything looks different on the ground.
If you have the opportunity to go on Birthright I’d say go for it. Whether or not you need to have Jewish babies to repay the debt, well, that part is up to you.