facebookfacebook facebook pj library campaign me ter










The strength of our Jewish community is our membership. We are blessed by so many warm and caring individuals and families that make our community a great place to live and work. Our member Q & A section seeks to tap into that community spirit and find the mitzvot motivation of our members.

Allison Cohen particpated in a Birthright trip in July 2011. She was gracious to share her experiences with us below. Click here to read and learn more about Birthright programs.


My first trip to Israel began with a familiar face, when I ran into Kathryn Schmidt on the first day of my Birthright program.  I was 6,875 miles from home with 40 new friends on my Boston University Birthright trip when I unexpectantly ran into Kathryn at Dagania Kibbutz in northern Israel.  It was great to see her and we had a few minutes of fun, but Birthright is a fast paced highly programmed tour and my group was soon outdoors hiking the Golan Heights. (Click here to see photos of Allison's trip.)

My group spent two nights at Dagania, the oldest kibbutz in Israel.  It was our base for Jilabun hike of the Golan Heights, rafting on the Jordan River, and learning about sustainable farming in the desert.

Our third day took us to Tzfat, the center of Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah.  We visited a Sephardic synagogue with beautiful old, ornate ark, and learned about glass blowing from Sheva Chaya, a Denver native who made aliyah. We continued on our journey to Haifa where we picked up eight Israeli soldiers to complete our tour group. Outside of Haifa we learned about the largest fire in Israeli history and gained a newfound respect for Israeli bravery as the firefighter told stories of battling this massive blaze. For dinner we were invited to the house of the CEO of Sachlav, for a barbeque and to celebrate his 50th birthday. Sachlav is a recognized organizer of Taglit-Birthright Israel trips. After the delicious cook out, we stayed at Almog Kibbutz just outside Jerusalem.

Seeing Jerusalem for the first time was very emotional.  As we overlooked the city, we toasted with wine, and sang the Shehecheyanu.  We then explored Yad Vasham for a sobering day of education and then continued our exploration of Jerusalem.  Hanging out with our new Israeli soldier friends was especially fun.  It is hard to imagine their commitment and strength for their country.  That evening we learned about Israeli culture from a filmmaker who showed us two short films. We continued out cultural learning with a night out in the city.

The next morning we visited the temple and the western wall, where we would return later that night for Shabbat. My first experience at the Kotel was intimidating as I wedged my written prayers into a crack. After a quick lunch in the neighborhood, we went shopping at the open market for fresh fruits for our Oneg Shabbat and explored the Old City.  We returned to the hotel early to prepare for Shabbat. Shabbat in Jerusalem was inspiring, as we walked back to the Kotel.  On Friday night we passed countless groups outside singing or lighting candles, welcoming Shabbat in their own way. Once at the western wall for the second time everyone came together, singing and dancing. During our Oneg Shabbat, the soldiers organized a program concluding with them gifting us dog tags, similiar to what they had received in the army.

Late the next morning we awoke for a tour of the neighborhoods surrounding our hotel, Zion. We saw the Knesset and our tour guide Gadi climbed a tree to pick us berries.  He claimed, despite our soldier friend’s denial, that the locals climb trees for berries on a regular basis. After a quick coffee break at one of the few open shops, we had a short Torah study session, followed by the B’nai Mitzvah for three members of our group. That evening we celebrated Havdalah and spent the night shopping on Ben Yehuda Street.

Sunday was an emotional day as we visited Har Hertzl, the military cemetery, and said goodbye to our friends in the Israeli Defense Force. Looking back, the fast friendships that I made with these soldiers were one of the highlights of my trip.  I think the rest of my birthright group would also agree. After our sad farewells, we travelled to the desert to see Ben Gurion’s grave. The day picked up with camel riding in the desert and an overnight in Bedouin tents and a bonfire.

With little sleep, we awoke early in the morning to climb Masada and see the sun rise.  After the beautiful display, our program director, Holland, led us in yoga on top of the fortress, which we then explored. After a quick snack, we went to the Ahava factory before wading into the Dead Sea where we floated and covered ourselves in mud. The last activity of “the longest day” of the trip was a quick hike in Ein Gedi that thankfully ended with us cooling off under a waterfall. That night, we gathered for the naming ceremony of our recent Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.

The next morning, day 10, we arrived in Jaffa, the old city of Tel Aviv, to explore. In the afternoon we moved into Tel Aviv for a relaxed afternoon of shopping in Magen David Square, which hosts weekly art fairs, an open-air market, and shops. Back at our hotel, the Sachlav staff met us to discuss our opportunities to come back to Israel in the future. After dinner, we walked to the Mediterranean Sea to watch the sun set and swim with the jellyfish. For our last night together, we experienced Tel Aviv nightlife.
Our last day began at independence hall where we learned the history of what is now the “Las Vegas of the middle east.” We continued to learn about the history of the city with a visit to Rabin Square and to the oldest ice cream shop in Israel. Our exhausting trip ended with a group discussion, a final game of ooga ooga ooga, and a farewell meal before heading to the airport to make our flight with ten minutes to spare.

My Birthright experience was the trip of a lifetime.  Seeing Israel with friends was a special and unique way to connect with the land and the people.  They are so brave and special.  I will always see Israel in a new perspective.  You read so much about all the Israeli’s have accomplished but you have to see it to believe it.  I encourage everyone to take this type of trip and support Israel in all manners possible.  I hope to return very soon.

  Past Member Q&A's