By Joe Bindert
Jaclyn Mandelbaum took a trip to Israel this past winter break, a trip which she says helped her appreciate her own culture as well as the Israeli contemporary lifestyle. She had the opportunity due to the fact that her natural Jewish heritage provides the “birthright” principle – the idea that every Jewish person should be allowed to visit Israel at some point in their lives. The trip was completely free for forty young adults, all between the ages of 18 and 26. They spent ten days in various locations throughout the country. Jaclyn says she will likely be friends with the people she met for the rest of her life. “The highlight of my trip was having the chance to interact with Israeli peers,” she says. “I learned so much from them. I hope to remain in contact with them forever.”
The trip included a variety of activities, including hiking before dawn, a journey through Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and other various locations throughout the country. She claims the lifestyle is also very different there. Soldiers patrol the areas constantly, and are always carrying various weapons to protect themselves and others, due to the high levels of violence that occur in some parts of Israel and the Middle East in general. The fact that suicide bombings can occur in the country randomly was also very unsettling for the travelers as well, and it has become such a threat in general that even places like shopping malls have to have metal detectors outside in order to prevent suicide bombers from entering.
On a different day, Jaclyn stated that the group met with five Israeli soldiers – all of whom shared different life stories and experiences with her and the others. The stories included accounts of missiles making an impact on local bus stops, the dangers of living in the Gaza area, and tips on how to spot a suicide bomber. One important tip the soldiers shared with the group was to watch for people wearing long sleeve shirts on buses during the summer months, as that is a sure sign that someone is a suicide bomber. Another interesting thing to think about that the solders shared with the group is the fact that enemies of Israel often do not have very current technology in their weapons systems, and therefore are more prone to hitting civilians than vice-versa.
Jaclyn was pleased overall with how the trip worked out. “Israel was a life-altering trip. I have a new appreciation for the country. I would recommend to any Jewish teenager to take advantage of the amazing opportunity that we are given. I am so grateful for the generous philanthropists and the Israeli government who make this trip possible.” She said that the trip gave her great insight into the Israeli culture and way of life that she never would have fully understood had she not been able to see it for herself.
Jaclyn is a 20-year-old Rutgers junior from Marlboro, NJ majoring in Journalism and Media Studies.