My first kiss was on my trip. We were in Tel Aviv, sitting on a roof with some Israeli friends we had made, setting off sparklers and having some fun. Our friend put on some music and we all started dancing, and a young soldier doing his service came over to ask me if I wanted to dance with him. He leaned down and kissed me, and I remember that he tasted like oranges. We never really spoke again — even though I added him on Facebook (sorry, I know, I’m awkward) — but every time I smell oranges I still think of him.
On the trip, you’re mostly in big groups all the time. So it was a rare moment when I found myself floating with just three other guys in the Dead Sea. Of course, the subject of girls comes up almost immediately. I was constructing this elaborate plan about how to win over this one girl I had a huge crush on. Like the 20 year old nerd I was, I’d collected details from stalking her on Facebook, and had planned the exact moment when I’d slip them into conversation. Was just getting into my plan to ‘leave’ my wallet in her room when my buddy’s face went white. Turns out, the girls we were talking about had snuck up behind us and heard my entire scheme. It took only a few hours before every person on my trip knew about it. Miraculously, she liked me anyway.
He was the youngest soldier in our group, and I was the youngest American tourist. The day he joined us, I knew we would be perfect.
Our second night out took us to a place called Lila, or ‘Night,’ in Jerusalem. I got dressed up and ready to dance the night away – with him. At one point in the night, noticed him from the corner of my eye dancing solo. I made my way over – which is to say, really, shoved people out of my way – to him and swayed my body with his to the music.
I later found out that he’d hooked up with one of the older girls on the trip. Alas, I gave up and he and I remained just friends for the rest of the trip.
Fast-forward two years and I’m studying abroad at a major Israeli university. I’m on my way to meet my friends for lunch on campus when I see an oddly familiar face heading my way. I lift up my sunglasses to see better; he lifts up his, squinting his eyes to see if it’s really me. We literally run into each other, stunned. Like those scenes in the movies, we hugged and exclaimed that we couldn’t believe each other is right here.
Of course – it was the hot soldier.
The people were what made the trip truly unforgettable. How often are you thrown into a situation in which you interact so closely with others with a similar shared history as you but also who come from such a variety of backgrounds? The conversations with the Israeli soldiers as well as my group helped me understand the perspectives that others have gained from their experiences. As a result, I have returned home with memories of incredible discussions and new friends from all over!
Everything about my Birthright trip was epic. Besides meeting some of the coolest people from across the world (including rad soldiers who became our best friends) and the action packed days of adventure after adventure, what impacted me most was the opportunity to really connect with myself. Experiencing Israeli culture was wild. Still can’t believe that I watched the sun rise over Masada, hiked into the Ein Gedi waterfall, and floated (FLOATED!) in the Dead Sea all in one day. Also – I’m now addicted to falafel. Just sayin.
He and I were as different as night and day. His Israeli nationality conscripted him to national service, and he spent his days as an engineer, de-fusing bombs for the army Hurt Locker style, and he loved being in the outdoors when he had free time. I was living the cushy life of a college senior already accepted into grad school, enrolled in my final classes required to graduate, and preferring art museums and shopping to anything outdoorsy (reference: Birthright was the first time I had been anything close to hiking since probably my eighth grade forced bonding camping trip). But sometimes, the only commonality you need is the right place at the right time.
Our attraction was instant, and he made me feel special. Out of all the (similarly dressed, equally intelligent, possibly more attractive) girls in my group, he picked me. The first time we kissed, it was straight out of a movie (rainstorm, secluded shed, kibbutz in the middle of the Golan Heights). Rumors about us flew fast, as they are wont to do when you’re trapped in a steel tube with 45 other people for upwards of five hours a day, but I couldn’t be bothered to care. I could not remember the last time someone made me this happy, and as the trip progressed, it became more and more clear to me that the right guy was finally here.