Students at University of Richmond have begun the application process for this year's Taglit-Birthright Israel, a free ten-day trip to Israel.
Birthright, a not-for-profit educational organization, was founded in 1994. It offers a trip for young Jewish adults ages 18-26.
The purpose of the trip is to instill a love of Israel in the coming generations, said Andrew Goodman, Director of Jewish Life and campus rabbi. Sponsors of the trip want to ensure that future generations will have a connection to Israel, he said.
To be eligible for the trip, an applicant must have completed high school and have at least one parent of Jewish descent. An applicant must not have lived in Israel after the age of 12 nor have traveled to Israel on a peer educational trip.
"Israel is an incredible place," Rachel Poplack, a sophomore who attended the trip in May 2012, wrote in an email. "There is nothing like being in the majority when you have spent your whole life being in a religious minority."
Throughout the course of the trip, Poplack rode camels in the desert, hiked an abandoned mine field, kayaked in the Jordan River, climbed Masada and swam in the Dead Sea, among many other activities, she said.
Her two favorite parts of the trip were being covered with mud in the Dead Sea and visiting the Western Wall on Shabbat evening, she said.
"No matter how religious you are or what prayer means to you," she said, "when you walk up to the Wall and see the men and women separated and see people sobbing as they stick prayers into the cracks between the stones, it moves you."
Students can gain from Birthright personally and in the greater political and academic sense, she said. Poplack said she learned a lot about herself, the people she was with and most of all, the country.
Poplack has been able to share her stories with students at Richmond. She has talked about her trip to Israel in her Economics, Constitutional Law, and Doctors Becoming Doctors classes.
Sarah Roden, a junior who attended Birthright in 2011, loved Israel so much that she participated in an intensive travel seminar through the university last summer, Pilgrimage: Israel, and ended up staying an extra week, she said.
Traveling through Israel for the first time gave her a new perspective, Roden said. She made many friends from all over Israel and learned much about Jewish history, she said.
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Not everyone who applies for the trip will go initially because of the large number of applicants, Goodman said.
Contact reporter Brooke Knetzger at email@example.com
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