Israel – The Taglit Birthright Program

The Dead Sea in Israel

I have mentioned in my blog that my father is of Colombian descent and I have also written a little about my love for Colombian cuisine (Mondongo, in particular). What I have not mentioned is that the other half of my heritage is Eastern European; specifically Russian. My mother’s side is of Jewish heritage as a result. And while it is fascinating to most just how a Colombian priest and a Russian Jew met, believe me when I say the truth behind it reveals nothing as ironic as my parent’s subsequent marriage and procreation.

Parents and I

Needless to say, I am proud of the fact that I come from two very distinguishable ethnic backgrounds, both special in their own right. And since I have experienced Colombia and what South Americans have to offer, my next adventure involves immersing myself in the Jewish culture. To do this, I am planning on visiting Israel this winter.

Now before getting ahead of myself, and also confusing anyone reading this, I will establish the specific details regarding my ability to actually visit Israel. in 1994, a not-for-profit organization was created titled Taglit Birthright Israel. Taglit, which means discovery in Hebrew, was the brainchild of various Jewish organizations, individuals and philanthropists alike, hoping to educate those of Jewish heritage about their motherland, and to also assuage any kind of hostilities or ignorance associated with Israel and foreign relations.

Any individual who can prove one of their parents is Jewish, and that they also do not actively practice any religion, or any religion other than Judaism, is cleared for potential acceptance to the Taglit Birthright program. I say potentially because unfortunately the demand is high and thousands of people apply each season to go to Israel, which exceeds the allowed number of participants. I plan on registering this fall, when the next round of applications is open, so that I can make a winter trip.

What is amazing about this program is that new individuals, as well as the Israeli government, have continued to pledge more funds in order to not only keep this program running, but to increase the number of allowed participants for each trip. An additional $105 million alone was pledged in 2011 in order to expand involvement. Clearly Israel loves the tourism, but it is profoundly touching how many Jewish individuals are willing to put forth their personal fortunes  in order for strangers between the ages of 18 and 27 to visit the country of their oldest ancestors. What an amazing gift.

The Western Wall

But to get to my point, as I do digress, I had never really considered this trip unfortunately until now, and it is almost too late. My older sister has already reached 27 years of age, and my little sister turns 18 next year, by the time which I will be too old to participate. So it is up to me; I am the sole remaining daughter of my mother who can attempt to achieve the feat that is walking upon ground where our most ancient ancestors did the same. It is a great responsibility, but I am up to the challenge.

I would also very much would like to learn Hebrew. What could be more exhilarating than learning THE original language, one that is still spoken today? (And don’t start with me about learning Spanish. I know..I am still working on that and I’m a bit behind, but I can do more than one!). Either way, visiting Israel would be amazing, and I am sure it is quite the experience, Jewish or non-Jewish. So this Colombian-Jewish girl is going to get her tuchus (anyone know Yiddish?) to Israel, no matter how hard she has to try.

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About Paulette Hernandez

My name is Paulette Hernandez (aka Globetrotting Foodie) and I am an intern for Marginal Boundaries. I have traveled to Bogota, Medellin, and Cisneros, Colombia a number of times to visit my family, and I have also had the opportunity to travel to Dubai, UAE and Montreal, Canada. I have always enjoyed traveling and hope to continue to do so. What I truly enjoy about traveling is all of the delicious, cheap, and readily available food! I think recipes passed down generations are the gateway into an unknown culture and that a person can learn a lot about a country’s past and present through their local cuisine. The way to my heart is my stomach, and thus I also learn the heart and soul of a culture!

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