SAUJS is proud to have once again facilitated the Birthright Tour to Israel, where South African students got to experience Israel for the first time. Our madrich describes the highlights of the tour.
When I first applied to go on Birthright South Africa 2017 as a madrich (councillor), I didn’t know what was to be expected. Having been to Israel on three previous occasions, this would be my first opportunity to visit in some sort of a leadership position.
With the phenomenal experiences that I had, my goal was to provide the Birthright participants with an insightful and bonding experience, one that would forever connect them to the Holy Land. After an excruciating three hour wait in the queue at passport control at Ben-Gurion Airport on the Tuesday morning, our tour eventually commenced...
We were joined by a mixed group of Israelis. They provided invaluable insight into the culture and intricacies of their country (throughout the tour).
With everyone “on board” the tour kicked off, and we spent the first two days in Tiberias. We saw the north of the country during the day, and then had the opportunity to relax and get to know each other in the evenings.
The North was both educational and fun, with highlights including kayaking on the Jordan River and a tour of the ancient and mystical city of Safed.
On the Thursday, we travelled from Tiberias to Jerusalem, and over the course of three days, we explored much of the city. After experiencing the electric atmosphere of the Mahane Yehuda Market on a Friday afternoon, we walked to the Kotel (Western Wall) for Kabbalat Shabbat. There we experienced an incredible Friday night service, which pulled at our heartstrings. The group spent a relaxing Shabbos in the city centre, which gave everyone an opportunity to gather their thoughts from the preceding week’s hectic schedule.
We then made our way to the Negev region on Sunday, following an emotional visit to Har Herzl (military cemetery). The Israeli soldiers’ presence made the experience more poignant and meaningful. We then spent the night in Bedouin tents and spent the next day exploring the surrounding area. On Monday we spent the night in Arad, which is located on the border of the Negev and Judean deserts.
A magnificent sunrise greeted us upon summiting Masada, and the day continued with a visit to the Dead Sea. Everyone enjoyed floating in the lowest place on the planet - a tourist must! We travelled onwards towards Tel Aviv that evening and spent the next two days in the bustling city, before our departure.
Birthright was far more enjoyable and inspiring than I could have ever imagined. There is no doubt in my mind that every one of the participants had an amazing time and will be returning to Israel soon! A special bond was formed between everyone, and we all left having made some great new friends.
Written by Isaac Lipschitz
Isaac is one of two SAUJS madrichim that led the group on the 2017 Birthright Tour.