“It really opened my eyes in so many different ways” - David P
“Can’t reiterate enough how lucky we all felt to have our soldiers with us for all 10 days” - Josh S
“This trip has really made a giant impact in my life and I will never forget it!” - Natalie R
“The experience is so intense that if you even stop to think you’ll miss something extraordinary” - Jamie F
Robyn Rubalcaba, 26, Irvine
The OC Way 2014
"All my life I have celebrated both Christmas and Hanukah because I have parents who come from two different religious backgrounds. My mom’s side of the family is the Jewish side of my family, but other than celebrating major holidays I haven’t ever really known much about Judaism. When I heard about the Birthright Israel trip I knew that it was something I wanted to do because not only would it be a chance for me to travel to another country, but it would allow me to really learn more about what it means to be Jewish.
When I got accepted to go on this journey to Israel I was so excited. My main expectations of the trip were to be able to go to Israel and return home with a better sense of understanding of the Jewish culture and to hopefully meet a few people that would become my good friends. My expectations were beyond exceeded. I came home with not only more knowledge of the culture in both religious and spiritual aspects, but I came home with a greater appreciation. The main thing I am excited to say I came back home with is not a few friends, but an entirely new family. Growing up I didn’t have many Jewish friends so I used to be embarrassed to tell people that I was Jewish. Each year I have cared less and less about what people think, but this trip has completely help me let go of any negative feelings and made me proud to embrace my Judaism.
Every activity we did on this trip was great in its own way, but my most memorable moment was when we all gathered together in a large circle in a cave on top of Masada and sang “Hallelujah.” At that moment I felt so connected with everyone around me and I just knew there was nowhere else in the world I would have rather been then right there in that cave surrounded by my new family.
This trip has greatly changed my relationship with Israel. One of the main reasons for this is because of the soldiers and Israelis that we had in our group. Being able to interact with them helped to give a sense of understanding of the people of Israel. I know that some other groups only get their soldiers for 4 days, but we got ours for all 10 days, which allowed me to form very strong bonds with them. Knowing that we all came back to the U.S. and they still are in Israel makes it very important for me to continue to keep up to date on the news about Israel because I have family there now. Israel is an amazing country full of such culture and so many kind and accepting people. Before knowing about the trip I don’t think I had ever even thought about going to Israel, but I am so grateful that I got the opportunity to go. I can’t wait to go back again.
Overall, Birthright Israel changed my life. I left the trip with a greater sense of self and with a greater appreciation for the Jewish culture. One of the greatest things that came out of this trip is that I left with about 45 new friends, all of which make up this second family I now have; I couldn’t be more thankful for that. If anyone asked me if they should go on a Birthright Israel trip it wouldn’t even take me one second to yell out the word “yes.” Without a doubt, any person who is able to receive the gift of this journey should take it. It is the chance of a lifetime and an experience that will be remembered forever."