Friday, September 7, 2012

Sharing Stories of an Adult Birthright Mission

Zach and Ali Shuman at the Mega Event!
San Diego community members Zach and Ali Shuman recently went on their first ever Birthright Adult Mission, and wanted to share their experince with the community!  Read about their journey, their new appreciattion, and renewed dedication for the preservation of Israel and Jewish life! Zach and Ali shared:

It is the "apparent" random intersection of events in one's life that many times leads to profound and permanent changes in the course of your life. Such is the case for us as we recently completed the first ever donor mission to Israel sponsored by Taglit Birthright Israel. Several years ago we encouraged our daughters to apply for a Birthright trip, not because we thought it would have profound impact on their lives or ours, but because it seemed like a nice opportunity for them to see Israel, and to understand a bit more about their heritage. The girls went, and we began to fully realize the impact of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Their enthusiasm for Israel, their heritage was evident and lasting and we were able to witness first-hand the life altering experiences brought to these children of the Diaspora. As time passed, we became more convinced of the importance of Birthright for Israel, for the Diaspora and for us. So, the Unintended Consequence of our encouragement to our daughters to go on Birthright produced our decision to join the first Donor's Mission to Israel on behalf of Birthright. 

We timed our arrival in Israel to meet our eldest son who was completing his Birthright trip. We met in Tel Aviv and spent about five days together before the meeting up with the participants in the Birthright Donor mission. We watched in amazement as our son took to Tel Aviv (and Israel) like a fish takes to water; we were sad to send him home, but excited to meet our fellow travelers and to begin, what turned out to be an extraordinary trip. If you are reading this memoir you likely don't need a play by play of our trip as we visited many of the sites that people visit while in Israel. What was extraordinary for us on this trip was meeting with, talking with and dining with some people that we knew of in Israeli society, and meeting with the young soldiers (IDF members) who had themselves participated in the Taglit program. It is this latter experience that was the most moving, the most poignant, powerful part of our journey; more on that in a moment.  
Our fellow mission members were a generational and political cross-section of American Judaism; the cast of characters included the elderly matriarch with the energy and spirit of a woman 1/4 her age, to a former Taglit participant who seemed to be strangely afflicted with a condition allowing him to tour with the Donor group during the day, and visit interesting sites into the wee hours of the nights… and all manner of persona in-between. 

Bithright Mission Dinner with IDF Soldiers
For us the highlight of the trip was meeting with the young soldiers who had participated in the Taglit program by joining a group of Diaspora youth for generally five days of a Birthright trip. The personal stories of these “kids” were fascinating; from the Ethiopian born Intelligence officer to the Army bomb disposal officer (I could not help but ask, “Don’t your parents worry about you?) to the submarine officer, all of these bright, articulate “kids” reported several consistent themes when discussing their Birthright experiences. First, it is considered a desirable“assignment” to be allowed to participate in Taglit. Second, for most of them it seemed to positively change their perspective on Diaspora Jewish “kids”. Third, they all reported back to their units with more enthusiasm, which was notable and beneficial to their units. 

Anecdotally, we heard stories of soldiers who participated in Birthright have felt an even greater sense of purpose after their Birthright experiences as they understood in real terms how they serve not only for the benefit if Israel, but, they serve and defend for Jews in the Diaspora as well. 

The tour organizers made sure that we had the opportunity to interact with participants on Birthright trips while we were in Israel. All the “kids” were very appreciative and had that youthful electricity running through their eyes as they explained to us the deep and profoundly moving their Birthright experiences had been to that point. 
Birthright Mega Event
So, as far as the Law of Unintended Consequences goes…it is alive and well in our lives as we commit ourselves to insuring that those “kids” of in the Diaspora have the experiences that our “kids” have had with Israel, their heritage and their souls.


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