Are you asking yourself the following question:
“Is Birthright-Israel just “too Jewish” for me?”
Its a reasonable question asked by many potential candidates and sadly they sometimes decide for themselves that it just seems to be too Jewish for them. They never apply, and so never experience the best 10 days of their lives. That’s such a pity because the answer I know Birthright Israel would give ( and Sachlav | Israelonthehouse) would be a resounding “NO. As long as you are eligible for a trip, it will definitely not be “too Jewish” for you!”
But lets take a step back – Whats the real question that’s being asked? It isn’t whether Birthright Israel is too Jewish, but rather…
“Am I Jewish enough?”,or even “Will everyone else know so much more about Judaism and make me look bad?”.
This challenge of confidence is a very real barrier that stops some people from ever receiving their birthright. I hope that in this short blog I can give you some information to answer this question properly:
Firstly as Israelonthehouse is one of Birthright-Israel’s largest providers, we get to meet and work with thousands of participants every year, and one thing we’ve learned is that there are no typical participants! For some Birthright Israel is the most Jewish thing they have ever done – they do not come from observant families, and they didn’t attend Temple growing up; other participants have Israeli parents who live in the US, but they have never visited Israel themselves – they speak Hebrew, but at the same time they have never stepped foot inside a Temple; of course we have participants who grew up deeply involved in their Temple or Jewish youth group; we also have many participants with just one Jewish parent; others who converted; we have participants who went to Jewish day schools and others who’s only connection to Judaism prior to the trip is the knowledge that one of their parents was born Jewish. You’ll find all of these people on virtually every bus – you won’t ever feel that you weren’t Jewish enough – we promise!
Its also worth remembering that a Birthright-Israel trip is about discovering this country, which is the world’s only Jewish state since Roman times – and modern Israel isn’t a theocracy run by the rabbis, but a liberal democracy. Judaism is at the core of Israel’s self imagine and soul, but 70% of Israelis class themselves as secular. All of us here weave our personal Jewish identity into our Israeli identity, and an Israelonthehouse Birthright group is the same – you’ll have the opportunity for spirituality if you want it, but nobody is ever made to to feel uncomfortable with this type of programming. Israelonethehouse is really proud of its reputation for making every Jew, regardless of the Judaism in their background, feel comfortable and fully included.
Our itinerary is about discovering both the ancient land of Israel and the modern state of Israel – the majority of the people on your bus will not have visited Israel before, regardless of how much Jewish life they were involved in growing up – its a level playing field as you discover this amazing little country together, led by a superb tour guide. There’s no such thing as “not Jewish enough” as you ride a camel, hike the Banias Falls, float in the Dead Sea or sample the Tel Aviv nightlife! When you explore the Holocaust at the superb Yad Vashem museum, you’ll realize that just as for the victims themselves, there is no minimum Jewish background required to learn about what happened.
I can guess the question that may be forming in some readers minds:
“Fine…but you haven’t mentioned the really Jewish stuff – Shabbat, holy places etc”.
Our philosophy at Israelonthehouse, is that these are very individual experiences and that needs to be respected – these elements are without a doubt an important part of our trips because Israel is a Jewish state, and they are an important part of Israeli society itself, but we work really hard to make sure that everybody feels comfortable and included in these experiences. Shabbat is a day of rest in Israel, whether you are Orthodox or secular – that may mean synagogue or the beach! So too on our trips, Shabbat is a quieter day, with festive meals, some singing, games, and yes prayer for those that want, a light hike for others. Visiting the Western (Wailing) Wall is a powerful moment for all our groups – the holiest site in the Jewish world, and we allow time to photograph or pray; to wander around, or to sit and think – as I said, its up to the individual! So too with the mystical city of Tsfat aka Safed – you can’t ignore the influence of Kabbala there, but its up to the individual what to take from that place – I guarantee you’ll all be talking about it on the bus afterwards!
So look, all I’m saying is that you are indeed, without doubt, most definitely ‘Jewish enough’ for this experience – it’s made for you, whoever you are – so don’t deny yourself what I promise will be the most incredible 10 days of your life because of a lack of confidence in your Jewishness – in fact what could help you overcome these concerns more than exploring the land where Judaism started?
In summary GO FOR IT !