The Birthright program, also known as Taglit (Hebrew for “discovery”), has a variety of trip providers. Each organization has a different way to expose young Jewish people to the world of Israel: some are very religious, some party hard, some focus on the food.
I chose to travel with Israel Outdoors, which takes us hiking, biking, swimming, camel riding and rafting through Israel.
On our first full day in the home land, we jumped into things with a hike in the Golan Heights, which is in the northern part of Israel.
Gorgeous waterfalls and lush foliage lined the way, and the group bonding continued as we trekked through the humid day.
After our hike, we drove up to Mount Bental and perched on a hillside with some UN soldiers and a view straight into Syria.
Less than two miles away, mortars exploded below us and we could hear the pop-pop-pop of machine gun fire. It was unreal to watch plumes of white smoke curl into the sky, knowing a civil war was raging so close (don’t worry Mom, we were totally safe).
After our close encounter with war, we lightened the mood with a trip to the Olea Essence olive oil factory, where we learned about this ancient art. We sampled different flavors and cosmetic products made with the byproducts.
The last stop of the day was a dip in the Sea of Galilee (although it’s technically a freshwater lake!). We zipped around on a banana boat, and lounged in the cool waters.
Back at the hotel, we finished the day with a performance from Gilad Vital, an Israeli rock star. He played us some tunes, told us some stories and got us jamming. His Snoop Dogg cover was the highlight of the night!
Needless to say, we slept HARD!