Before going to Israel, I was questioning a few things. What is my relationship with Judaism? With Israel? Being raised with a Jewish father and a Christian mother, we most often celebrated and explored Christian holidays like Easter and Christmas. It wasn’t until university that I began exploring the Jewish side of my identity and started being active in Ottawa’s Jewish community, particularly Hillel Ottawa.
But I wanted more. I wanted an immersive experience like no other, where I could enjoy myself while at the same time coming to understand the Jewish part of my identity. CIE Birthright Israel presented itself, but I was hesitant to apply. Would I be accepted, only being partly Jewish? I felt like I didn’t know enough about Judaism to be able to go. So the summer before I actually went, I applied then backed out.
After deliberating for a year, I decided I would apply again. What changed, you might ask? In Ottawa I was able to live with a family friend who happened to be Jewish. I was able to experience things like Shabbat, Passover, and Rosh Hashanah for the first time. I would attend Shul whenever I was able, and I instantly fell in love with the culture. The warmth and closeness of the people, the laughs in between bites of food, and the history were all things I was looking to experience more of. Birthright was the first thing I thought of.
The amalgamation of everything I was looking to experience came true on my Birthright trip. Everywhere from camping in the Bedouin desert to riding scooters in Tel Aviv. Everyone from my tour guide Barak, to my trip leaders Akilah and Max, to all of the participants. Everything from praying together, to being Mitzvah’d at the Western Wall.
I could never thank CIE: Birthright Israel enough for providing me with the opportunity to learn and have fun all at once. I hope to go back to Israel as a Madrichim and provide participants with the same experience I had.