Literally Unpacking My Birthright Experience
Interview with Michelle Cahn
Birthright alum Michelle Cahn just started unpacking from her trip to Israel (literally) with Bus 639 in June. Michelle, who recently graduated from college where she studied theatre directing, is an aspiring artist and director who fell in love with hummus and za’atar on the trip. Her favorite experience?
“I loved climbing Masada to see the sun rise. When we reached the top, our eight Israeli soldiers taught us the song Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu which we sung together.
It’s a song I hadn’t heard in years, but the minute I heard the tune it felt familiar…”
Why Israel? Why now?
MC: I have always wanted to visit Israel and as new college grad (with a serious case of wanderlust) it felt like perfect timing to go this summer.
What was your favorite experience on the trip?
MC: I loved climbing Masada to see the sun rise. When we reached the top, before the sun had started to rise, our eight Israeli soldiers taught us the song Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu which we sung together. It’s a song I hadn’t heard in years, but the minute I heard the tune it felt familiar.
There was this great moment after we had stopped singing where all of our group noticed at the same time that the sun was beginning to rise over the Dead Sea. I also quite enjoyed the running down Masada via the snake path!
What was your “a-ha” moment on the trip?
MC: On one of the last day’s of the trip we were on the bus traveling from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, and I found myself with my eyes glued to the window taking in the journey and I was overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude for being able to experience Israel with the group I was with. In ten days we had formed our own little community.
While we all come from different places, different ideologies, backgrounds and vocations that carry with them their own communities, it’s incredibly humbling to realize that we are also part of a faith that connects us in a way that interests and vocations cannot achieve in the same exact way. It’s nice to know that Judaism brings with it a built in community of people who share at least one thing in common with you regardless of how different you might be in your interests and otherwise. And looking back at this trip we all certainly have our individual memories and a-ha moments, but I guess my a-ha moment was the joy of discovering that we were sharing in this great collective memory.
How are you bringing Israel home?
MC: I have been visiting my local kosher markets to pick up groceries I can’t get elsewhere and making Israeli food and variations of Israeli foods for friends. Kale Chips seasoned with za’atar have been a hit.
What are your plans for the High Holidays?
MC: I’m moving around that time to NYC and I’m planning to find services I can attend nearby!
Michelle Cahn is a recent graduate of a theatre directing program and lives in Los Angeles, CA. She participated in a Kesher Taglit-Birthright Israel trip in June 2013.