Walking the Land of Milk and Honey


Ms. Wittenberg and Ms. Wombough having fun in Israel.

by Ariel Shilitz, Staff Writer

Two faculty members traveled to Israel together this summer, without even knowing that they’d be on the same trip.

Math teacher, Ms. Leah Wittenberg, and Student Assistant Counselor, Ms. Heather Wombough, traveled for a ten day trip to Israel sponsored by Taglit-Birthright.

From July 1st to 10th, Wittenberg and Wombough spent their time touring the country and learning about the history of multiple Israeli cities.

Both Wombough and Wittenberg heard about Birthright through friends. This was Wittenberg’s last chance to apply for the trip (because of eligibility requirements). The Birthright trip is, surprisingly, free of charge, which appeals to everyone who is interested.

This summer was Ms. Wombough’s second time in Israel and, while there, she quickly came to a conclusion about how much she loves camels.

“I love camels, and I really wanted to ride a camel,” she said. Wittenberg, too, was looking forward to riding a camel but she was really hoping to get a tan and float in the Dead Sea.

Although the trip is called a “tour,” not every second was guided. Wombough described it like “a high school field trip.”

“It was a tour, and we were given a certain amount of time and a certain area that we were allowed to go,” Wittenberg said. Wombough concurred, “We had a very short time to explore. When we were at the hotel, though, we did whatever we wanted.”

According to the official Birthright Israel website, “Taglit-Birthright Israel is a unique, historical partnership between the people of Israel through their government, local Jewish communities, and leading Jewish philanthropists.” This organization offers a “gift” to all of the participants. It is a “gift of first time,” and a peer group, educational trip for young Jewish adults. This gift includes round trip airfare, hotel accommodations, transportation, at least two meals a day, and other costs to visit sites around the country.

Birthright is only eligible to individuals who are identified as Jewish, have at least one Jewish born parent, or have gone through a complete conversion through a recognized Jewish denomination. There is an age limit from 18-27 and only individuals who have graduated high-school may attend.

With people from all different backgrounds and countries, Wittenberg and Wombough both agreed that all of the participants were all friendly, welcoming, and nice.

Along with a tour guide, there are Israeli soldiers that travel with each group. This brings an entirely new aspect to the tour. The purpose of having an Israeli soldier travel with the group is for the participants and the soldiers to get to know each other and to better understand each other’s world views and their Jewish identity. The soldiers share stories about their lives but not necessarily from being in the army.

“None of them actually saw combat,” Wittenberg said, “They all either worked on computers or they trained new officers.” Wombough said that the stories the soldiers told were “not [about] even being in the army, but they were about their everyday life,” she said. “How similar they are to us… and [how] their lives aren’t totally consumed on how we look at it [as a militaristic society].”

As a Middle Eastern country, Israel tends to have a reputation of being a dangerous State. Wombough said that only felt concerned once during the entire trip, when her group was near the Syrian border and she heard something go off.

“I never felt in danger because they wouldn’t have let us be there,” Wombough said. When asked if there was any time during the trip that she felt in danger, Wittenberg responded with a short and simple answer, “Never.”

Both Glen Rock staff members would one-hundred percent recommend Birthright to others.

Wittenberg described Birthright as “such a great trip.”

Wombough said, “It was a really unexpected, really fantastic vacation.”