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Is r a e l
Birthright Israel
What Birthright
Meant To Me
By Michael Markel
I grew up in a house where Judaism was always present. Whether
it be at our weekly Shabbat dinners, evenings spent volunteering
at our synagogue or yearly holiday celebrations – of which Passover
was always my favorite – I never needed help reminding me of my Jewish
heritage. Studying in a Jewish high school only further strengthened my already
strong Jewish identity and added new layers to it. For the first time, I was lucky enough to learn how
to speak Hebrew, along with gaining a better understanding of the history of Judaism. Thus began my
introduction to the state of Israel, one which would ultimately come to define one of the most important
chapters of my life.
Fast-forward about ten years, and I’m preparing for my first trip to Israel with the Taglit-Birthright
experience. By this time, I already had a brother who had moved to Israel in order to study medicine, a
goal which I also sought to pursue when my time would come. I couldn’t wait to visit the many historical
and cultural landmarks I had only ever learned of in school and, when the magical, whirlwind, 10-day trip
would come to a close, spend some quality time with my brother in Haifa. I always told myself, however,
that moving to Israel wouldn’t be for me. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t wait to visit, but, I wanted to
make my own path to one day practice medicine. I naively thought that living in Israel wouldn’t be for
me. I was wrong.
Taglit was an incredible trip, one which really opened my eyes to the beauty contained within this tiny
country. My three weeks living with my brother, however, and being (somewhat) immersed in the daily
life and culture of Israel, made me realize that this was a special place. A place in which, at one time or
another, I would want to live. Everything about it appealed to me.
The freedom of being able to live in a shamelessly Jewish state at a time where I would often opt out of
wearing my Magen David necklace back home, could not be understated. For me, being in Israel for a day, a
month or for years at a time, brings with it a certain sense of intrinsic belonging. More than that, however, is
the Israeli culture. Anyone who’s visited Israel has experienced firsthand the peoples’ hospitality, generosity
and overall “Sabra” personality (prickly on the outside, sweet and soft on the inside).
My whole life, from the Shabbat table to countless hours spent at the synagogue, from my years in a
Jewish high school to my memorable first trip to Israel – have led me to where I am today. After leaving
Israel that first time, I would go on to apply, and be accepted,to study medicine at Technion University in
Haifa. I am currently in my second year of studies here, and I’m absolutely loving it. It hasn’t always been
easy, moving 4,000 miles away from my family and friends but I know that I wouldn’t change a second of
it. I step outside, wearing my Magen David necklace, and take a 5-minute walk to the Mediterranean Sea,
a walk during which I hear people speaking (ok, fine – maybe some yelling) in Hebrew, Russian, Arabic,
English and more. I’m not only pursuing my dream of becoming a doctor, but I’m also blessed enough to
be doing it all while living in the homeland of the Jewish people – of my people.
The Real Florida Jewish Directory 2020
Sarasota-Israel 2020 199-242_ v2.indd 230
1/7/20 2:07 PM

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