Welcome to this week’s That One Time In – the feature where fellow travelers share their stories of travel, adventure and everything in between. If you would like to take part please get in touch – email@example.com or @WhereinWorldKP – I would love to hear from you!
This week’s That One Time In highlights Adriana Campos Korn’s journey through Birthright. Coming from their website: “The vision of Taglit-Birthright Israel is to strengthen Jewish identity, Jewish communities and solidarity with Israel by providing a 10-day trip to Israel for young Jewish people.” In other words, young adults up to the age of 26 of Jewish heritage are given the opportunity to experience a *free* 10 day trip to travel and feel more connected to Israel.
Adriana Campos Korn, 21, is a recent graduate from Florida State University majoring in International Affairs and Political Science. She decided to take this opportunity of a lifetime, and she quickly learned that this was much more than a free trip.
When I found out I was accepted into the summer birthright trip I thought I would burst at the seams from the joy I felt inside. For too long, I had been hearing both from my grandpa, my best friend Lindsey and from other friends who had gone on birthright trips before me about this tiny strip of land that shares its border with Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon. They talked of all the wonders and the amazing times they had shared, and their point of view alone – that is one that didn’t involve war and conflict – was all it took to make me want to take that journey too.
I arrived at JFK alone and feeling a bit lost. I didn’t know many people going on the trip and those I knew I didn’t know well. All I could say for sure is that we would have early mornings and late nights and that was enough for me. The rest I would take with open arms.
This feeling of being lost as it turns out didn’t last very long. After a couple hours together I knew the people sharing my experience with me would be like family – one who I could share thousands of years of history with. Having this family with me also made waking up at 6am easy and staying up way past midnight even easier.
On one of these late nights as we sat in a circle drinking wine and hassling the soldiers with too many questions I was able to see from a new point of view, one that I would take with me forever. On our journey we went high up as we hiked Masada and the Ein Avdat Nature Reserve and the Arbel Cliffs. We also went underground to see the ancient Roman Aqueducts and the grottoes carved by the waves of the Mediterranean and floated along the lowest point on earth – the Dead Sea. But these things and everything else we saw was seen through wondrous eyes. As someone seeing Israel for the first time I was lucky enough to experience the greatness and beauty left behind from war and ruins without having to actually experience any of the loss. This, however, was not the case for the soldiers sharing in with us.
To the soldiers this was an opportunity they wouldn’t miss. A chance to leave their posts behind and even just for 5 days be able to act their age and see their country with fresh eyes, eyes that hadn’t experienced destruction first hand.
To me, it was as important to learn from them what it was like to see through their eyes as it was important for them to learn what it was like to see through ours and realize that despite our differing points of view we were the same.
When I had envisioned myself coming I thought I would have some sort of epiphany about where I was, as if the bones that make up my body would somehow evolve because they would know where they were standing. On the third day while awaiting for this feeling, something did hit me, it just wasn’t what I thought it would be. On every journey we took every day there was one common message that came from it all: “Israel is home.” Being in Israel didn’t make me feel like I had been sent to stand in some strange world unlike mine but rather to show me all the ways in which it could be mine – whether riding a camel through the Israeli desert, or floating in the celestial waters of the Dead Sea or praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem or dancing the night away in Tel Aviv with my Israeli soldiers.
It had been a home for those who fled Egypt thousands of years before me, it had been a home for those seeking refuge after the Second World War, it had become a home for those who had come on birthright before me and it would be a home for me now.