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Discovery Shouldn’t End After 26

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This time last week, I was flying back to New York after staffing a Birthright trip. The trip was amazing but it was also bittersweet as the group I staffed was one of — if not the very — last trips for anyone between the ages of 27-32. After five years, Taglit-Birthright has reverted to the original age group of 18-26 – a decision which will be a huge mistake.

I understand the reasoning behind it: participation in the younger groups is lacking since young Jews realize they have more time to take advantage of the trip to Israel. Okay, I get it, but why should those of us who are older suffer for that?

Some people are surprised to learn I only went on Birthright when I was 28. Yes, I was part of the 27-32 group in January 2019. How is it that an ardent Zionist, pro-Israel, Jewish activist, could only have gone on this trip less than four years ago? Well, it was this trip that made me realize how important it was to be an ardent Zionist, pro-Israel, Jewish activist.

Speaking from my experience — and the experiences of others who have been part of the older groups — I can say with absolute certainty, it is vital to keep the 27-32 trips alive. Yes, the younger groups are important too, especially since they provide college students with tools to fight on-campus antisemitism, BUT — and I can’t stress this enough — there is an appreciation for this opportunity amongst older participants that tends to be lacking in the younger ones.

The first time I visited Tzfat on my own Birthright trip, I met a woman who ran the local mikveh and she said something quite clever: Jews are like ice cream; we come in different flavors and can be made from different milks but regardless of whether we are chocolate or pistachio, whole milk or soy, we are all still Jews and our diversity is beautiful. For many Jews, we don’t truly begin to appreciate our own special brand of Judaism and what we have to offer to the ice cream party until we’re older.

If I had gone on the trip in my early 20s, I definitely would not have been able to grasp everything that Israel not only is, but is also meant to be. Yes, it’s beautiful and the sights are breathtaking — but Israel itself and everything it represents may very well have been lost on me. And I’ve been told the same thing from not just participants in my own group, but from others who have gone on the older trips. Some — many — of us are not ready to embrace our culture and our heritage when we’re younger. For many in the younger groups, a trip to Israel is a 10-day party — an opportunity to get away from their studies and enjoy a country where the legal drinking age is 18 instead of........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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