Birthright Israel announced on December 19, 2023 that it would resume Birthright trips in January, 2024. Emma Provence, of Castle Rock, is currently on one of the first trips to return to Israel, and we sent her four questions.
What prompted you to take a Birthright trip at this fraught time?
I had personally heard about the trip from other women at my Hillel at college but also knew about the trip from my mother who went on her birthright trip when she was my age! I thought it would be fun and a great way to explore my Judaism. When October 7th happened I can’t deny I was scared and hesitant to attend the trip. Leading up to the trip I would lay awake at night contemplating if this was the right decision, I decided that this was an important time to go. That going now would give me so much perspective into the conflict and would expose me to so much more than a typical trip could’ve provided me. I don’t regret my decision for even a second.
Describe some of the highlights of the trip for you. What are your main takeaways so far?
One of the biggest highlights so far have honestly been the friends I have made this trip. Everyone here is so diverse in their experience and so kind, they immediately made me feel welcomed and apart of a family. I know I will never forget any of them and hope our friendships continue. I also have loved all of the hikes and the ATV riding, they have allowed me to experience the beauty of Israel! Lastly, the experience with the Circassian people was amazing to me as I love to learn about other cultures and their language shares the Cyrillic alphabet with Russian (which is the language I study in school). One of my biggest takeaways for the trip has been that although we all embrace our Judaism differently we all can share in the fact we are Jewish and proud.
What one or two things most surprised you?
One thing that surprised me is just how much I have in common with people, specifically the Israeli’s who joined our trip. Me and one of the Israeli women were able to bond over the similarities between the IDF Bunks and my Sororities Cold Room! We both laughed about having the same problems! I was also able to bond with them about music! It’s just amazing to me how we are able to connect despite coming from opposite sides of the world.
Tell us about your connections, if any, to the Jewish community in Colorado. What has your Jewish journey been like up to this point?
I was honestly one of few Jewish individuals in my home town so I didn’t grow up super Jewish. My parents made an effort to expose me to my Jewish roots but it was hard as we lived 45 mins from the nearest synagogue. When I came to college I stopped by the Hillel table at my university on a whim and joined the group. Through my Hillel I had experienced Shabbat and Yom Kipper for the first time! Going on birthright was my next step in exploring my Jewish identity and just simply learning more about a side to myself that I was unable to explore before. This trip is even giving me the chance to have my Bat Mitzvah alongside other members of my trip!
Thank you, Emma, for sharing your experience with the Boulder Jewish News! Safe travels!