Chanukah has come early this year! Okay, maybe it came exactly when expected this year, but there's some very exciting news you should know about if you don't already know about it. The news is that the wonderful program, Birthright Israel, which gives young Jews a free 10-day trip to Israel, will be starting to give not-as-young Jews free trips to Israel!
That's because starting next year they will be introducing new trips for 27- to 32-year-olds! That's six more years in case you haven't taken advantage of this FREE trip to Israel that DOESN'T COST ANYTHING for only ZERO EASY PAYMENTS OF ZERO DOLLARS!
Why am I yelling?
Oh, because it's a FREE trip to Israel in which you can go while truly being an adult! Well, being an adult in years at least. As far as maturity, only the bus you will be travelling with on your FREE TRIP TO ISRAEL will judge.
If you haven't gone on this once-in-a-lifetime trip, then let me try and sell it to you. Me trying to sell it is a bit ironic because, IT'S FREE! Not sure if I mentioned that. Okay, no more caps.
Anyway, for me, it's been almost six years since I went and the experience is still with me over a half a decade later. In fact I would say it was somewhat of a catalyst for my adult life because within the following year I had moved out of my parents' house to the city and got my first real job. I'm not saying that it was directly because I went to Israel that this happened, but I had never not been to Israel when I moved out of my parents' house and got my first real job, so you do the math.
That's not even mentioning that by being on the trip, I got connected to a lot of new Jewish friends and Oy!Chicago, the very website that I'm writing this very article for. The fact is, there ain't no stronger connection than a Jewish connection. Although the most elusive of all connections is the Rainbow Connection. But some day … I'll find it.
One other thing that has stuck with me from Israel that I have appreciated a lot more in my adult life is the food. Oh the food. My love of shawarma became a visceral thing on that trip and it's never left me. Also, I now feel that all chocolate made in America is subpar to Israel, because Israeli chocolate is Elite. (See what I did there?) And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the delectable treat that is Bamba, which is essentially peanut butter-flavored puffy Cheetos. And lucky for me, and you too I suppose, Trader Joe's just started stocking it. But finally, my eyes were opened to the unique peculiarity that is "milk in a bag" -- a concept I replicate at home that, when I drink on the CTA, gets many unfair stares.
Now one of the most pivotal benefits of my trip was choosing to go on Birthright through Shorashim, because we got to have the added experience of having Israelis with us for the whole trip. This gave an entire extra layer of understanding towards some of the country's cultural differences (standing in lines basically doesn't exist) and education about how great of a country Israel is (they have "milk in a bag"). And really, this trip taught me you should have Israelis with you not just for the whole trip, but for your whole life, because they are the coolest people. And I say that having met Bozo.
So I was very happy to get to go on this trip at the high end of the age range as I feel the older you get, the more you appreciate and understand of the world around you. It's like how I enjoy the idea of having a bar or bat mitzvah at 18 instead of 13.
You see, when I went on Birthright, I was 24 (going on 25!) and wholeheartedly understood and appreciated all I saw and experienced. At this point, being five years older (almost six!) and understanding a lot more about who I am would and what I care about in the world would have only made this experience that much better.
So to all of you yet-to-be Birthrighted Jews in the 27-32 age range that now get this additional chance to go on the best decision I almost didn't make, make the best decision you definitely should make. Apply to Birthright. Especially through Shorashim, because I loved my experience with that organization and may or may not have some strong family ties to them at this point. Then go to Israel and enjoy all the adult perspective you will get that now that you have this special new opportunity -- like how life's grandest adventure is getting "milk in a bag."