So I just came back from my Birthright trip to Israel and to anyone who has not yet gone, I highly, highly recommend it. Not only did it give me a chance to see the Holy Land, but gave me so much more perspective on the history and culture of the Jewish people. You can learn it from afar, but actually experiencing it first hand was enlightening and fascinating. Israel seems like a small country and it is, relatively speaking, yet there's so much to see and experience. It's hard to convey the feeling of walking on streets and squares paved with stones that are thousands of years old. You're literally breathing history. The visits to the Golan Heights (the site of the Six Day War), the city of Tsfat (birthplace of Kabbalah) and tour of the Old Jerusalem were especially memorable. It made feel connected to my heritage and really see where it all came from. It gave me a new sense of spirituality that I didn't have before. It's almost as if you can feel G*d's presence in Israel, especially in the Old City.
This trip has strengthened my Jewish identity and at the same time raised my curiosity to explore further. It's interesting, but my return from Israel marks a 6-month point in the life of our House. So it's almost as if we begin a new era, with the first being more experimental. I would like to bring my zeal for Israel along with my new-found knowledge to our community here in Chicago and share with them the wonderful experience that I had. The long-term effects of this remain to be seen.