By Claudia BalthazarStaff Writer
Hofstra University students had the opportunity to go on a 10-day trip to Israel through the Taglit-Birthright Israel: Hillel Trip from 6 Jan. 2013 to 17 Jan. 2013.
“It was honestly one of the best experiences of my life,” said Lindsay Sher, sophomore at Hofstra who was one of the 21 Hofstra students who attended the trip in January -- right around the time of the Israeli elections.
The Birthright Israel trip is offered through different organizations for students who apply to the program with the belief that it is their birth right, as a Jew, to visit Israel and learn about its history.
Logan Richmond, a sophomore at Hofstra, attended the trip through the Young Judaea program in the summer of 2012. It was his third time applying for the spot and he was determined to go on the trip since he believes it was his duty as an active Jew in the community to take advantage of such an opportunity.
“The best part of this trip was the great friends that I made," said Richmond, president of Chabot at Hofstra. "I went to a Hebrew high school and attended a Jewish choir and I’ve made more friends on this trip than I’ve ever done before.”
“What really made my experience is when we visited an actual desert,” Richmond said. “The tour guide told us to look up at the sky and think about our experience here and our forefathers who came to this country. And as I’m looking at the stars, I noticed the fighter planes above us and realized that Israel is still at war.” This was all before the conflict that started in November with the communities in southern Israel and Gaza.
Other participants from Hofstra that went on the trip in January enjoyed their experience as well.
“The worst part of it was every night just before bed when I had to close my eyes because I knew there was so much more to see, so much more to do,” said Zach Dane, first year graduate student.
One of his greatest experiences was during Mifgash, when eight Israeli soldiers came to spend half of the trip with them. One of the soldiers is from Roslyn and visited Hofstra a few weeks ago. When he turned 18, he joined the Israeli Defense Force because he was passionate about the cause.
“[Meeting the soldiers] made me really grateful for the education that I have the opportunity for," said Sher. "We met soldiers that were about our age and who, right after high school, went to the army.”
Despite the current conflict there, Dane said he heard that it was the safest it’s ever been in years and the group was fully protected by guards on the trip.
“If there was any doubt that this trip wouldn’t be a positive experience for all participants, we wouldn’t have run the trip,” said Mara Ganz, director of special projects for Hillel. Ganz was one of the faculty members on the trip who dealt with recruiting, registration and interviews.
Ganz was a participant on the Birthright trip when she was younger and had a wonderful experience, as the current participants did now.
“It changed my life and in 10 days you see so much,” Ganz said. “It allows you to open your mind to news things. There’s no reason to not take advantage of this opportunity.” Ganz eventually went back to Israel for 5 months then spent 2 years living there.
Hofstra’s first time participating in the Taglit-Birthright: Hillel trip was back in the year 2000 and it continues to participate.