New World Holy Land

A New World in the Holy Land

Traveling to Israel on the Birthright Trip

New World Holy LandWhen I went to Israel, I went with a group of Jewish students that were on a Birthright trip, which consisted of 40 students and eight Israeli soldiers.  The trip was completely free for Jewish students, who were given the opportunity to experience Israel for the first time so that they could learn about the culture, the country, and the history.

To me, Israel is a beautiful country that is unlike any other.  It is only the size of New Jersey and yet there is so much culture, geography and beauty.  There are so many places to see, things to do, and so much to learn about this beautiful place. 

Upon our arrival to Israel, my group spent a few days in the North in Tiberius.  This part of the country is hilly, with forests and mountainous terrain.  We spent some time hiking in the mountains and really getting a feel for the geography.  Our visit was during January, so the weather was about 60 degrees.  

 “The weather was great for the time of year we went, which is usually sunny and brisk. It was the perfect weather for the activities we were going to do,” said Jess Laso, senior at the University of Rhode Island.

After a few days we travelled through Jerusalem where the land is dry, with mountains of dirt and desert for miles and miles.  Jerusalem is on a mountain and has places that are thousands of years old. 

There are so many places in Israel that are worth visiting, such as the Western Wall, also located in Jerusalem. It is enormous, and a person can just feel the power and history emanating from this magnificent wall. 

Derek Moses, junior at The College of New Jersey, said,  “I made my religious grandfather proud, who I’m named after but never met, by wearing his yamaka and putting on tefillin at the wall.”

Millions of people travel to this point every year to pray for their loved ones who have passed and for those who need guidance.  No matter what your religion, this place is sacred. 

“I had the opportunity to leave a note in the wall for my family who has been suffering through some hardships. As I placed a note inside the wall it gave me hope that I haven’t had in a long time; hope that things are going to get better,” said Moses.

There are many other interesting sights to see in Jerusalem.  Just walking through any part of this city is worth a person’s time.  The city is splendid, and its charm will attract anybody that goes there. 

“It is packed with people dancing and singing on random streets. Someone would just show up with a boom box and start blasting music,” said Nennecke.

Tel-Aviv, another Israeli city, is on the water and was about 70 degrees in January.  Many have compared this city to Miami, with its oceanfront night clubs, palm trees, and neon lights.

Kayla Nennecke, senior at Seton Hall University, said,  “Tel Aviv was an unbelievable city that was very similar to South Beach in Miami, Florida. It offered a ton of night life. The streets were filled with clubs and bars.”

Another not so hidden gem that Israel has is the Dead Sea.  The Dead Sea is one of the most intriguing places on earth.  It is the lowest dry land on earth, and so most spots require a minor hike down a sandy mountain. 

“The water is completely clear and a warm temperature. It is a beautiful turquoise blue that sparkles,” said Heidi Bernknopf, 21, senior at Pennsylvania State University.

Instead of encountering rocks and sand when getting into the water, a person must climb over giant salt rocks that will slice your feet open unless you’re wearing water shoes. 

Bernknopf said, “I was tying my friend’s bathing suit and I flipped over and fell on a salt mound and cut my leg up. I then lost my contact and the salt water was burning my eyes.”

The water is so high in salt that your body will float buoyantly as if you are lighter than air.  Unlike regular water, the sea has an oily texture that leaves your skin feeling soft and silky. 

“I felt like I just applied an en tire bottle of lotion to my skin; it was so soft,” said Bernknopf.

While visiting a part of the country near Jerusalem, we had the opportunity to ride camels.  This was an experience to say the least.  The camels were about the size of a large horse. 

“The 20 camels were sitting there so calmly waiting to take the 40 of us on our first adventure through the bare desert. The ride itself, although not as comfortable as I had expected, was incredible,” said Bernknopf.

 They were grunting and snorting as we all climbed up onto their backs. “The camels made me feel even more immersed in the culture then I already was,” said Bernknopf.

 The beauty that this country holds in its geography, its people, and its wildlife is just surreal. The culture in Israel is so powerful; and tourists can’t help but feel welcome wherever they go.  The people will talk to anybody willing to listen about their love for their country and the place they call home.  After traveling to many places around the world, I had never seen a country with so much pride and love for one another and for the place they call home. 

If you are a Jewish student that is interested in attending a Birthright trip to Israel, contact Yaakov Greenberg at or go to today. 

PHOTO COURTESY of Michelle Gilman