Religion & Beliefs

Blogging Birthright: The Best Things in Life Are Free?

Tomorrow I’m embarking on my first trip to Israel, with 39 people I’ve never met. The only part of the trip I planned was my bus ride from Manhattan to Newark airport, which is about as exciting as watching two … Read More

By / January 29, 2008

Tomorrow I’m embarking on my first trip to Israel, with 39 people I’ve never met. The only part of the trip I planned was my bus ride from Manhattan to Newark airport, which is about as exciting as watching two episodes of Columbo in a row. I will be unable to escape these people for ten days, and I must spend one night in a tent in the desert. But I’m okay with all of this because I'm not paying for any of it. They say the best things in life are free, right? So thank you, Birthright Israel. I’ve always wanted to be religious but never have been. I just never felt connected to religion. I don't believe in God, I don’t believe in the Bible, and I live happily this way. Judaism is my ethnic identity, culture, and heritage—not my religion. As for Zionism: It doesn’t top my list of vital issues. Case in point: I will pick up the Times and turn straight to the Election '08 page, but I have never turned straight to the “Israel [Got] Bombed Again” page. I just don’t think about it much. I signed up for this trip because I love to travel. I guess I also hope to figure out if I want religion to play a role in my life, but ultimately, I’m in this for a free trip to what I’ve heard is one of the coolest countries on Earth.
Of course, I expect this experience to be rife with attempts at brainwashing. Normally, this would turn me off, but the fact that it’s free means nothing about this trip turns me off. Besides, my brain is safeguarded by an innate membrane of skepticism—a natural defense that will be reinforced by my in-flight reading of Foreskin's Lament (at least until the Ambien my friend gave me kicks in). If I do change my mind, I want it to be deliberate rather than involuntary. Despite the knots in my stomach, my brain tells me that this trip will be fun. I love traveling, I love meeting new people, and I love not having to pay for stuff. Then again, I'm a bit of a girly diva and hope I’ll be able to handle feeling filthy for ten days (the provided packing list says “expect to be dirty”). Though I’m not open to religious propaganda, I am open to new secular experiences. If I do have to run around with greasy skin and mismatched clothes, I'll gladly let my inner-geek shine like the Hanukkah candles I thought really hard about buying this year.

Next up: Day 1, or Orthodox Hippies and Badass Babes