10 Days That Last a Lifetime

If you ever ask yourself how long it takes to make a life changing decision, then Taglit provides the best answer – only 10 days.

by Maryna Gaidak

Just 10 days ago I made Aliyah and received Israeli citizenship. Just two weeks ago I finished a semester-long MASA program in Haifa. And only a year ago I completed my Taglit-Birthright journey.

Participants at a Taglit Mega event for Russian speakers February 2013 (Tel Aviv)
Participants at a Taglit Mega event for Russian speakers February 2013 (Tel Aviv); photo by Amir Rainer.

On February 5th, hundreds of Winter Taglit 2013 Russian-speaking participants gathered in Tel Aviv to celebrate Taglit’s bar-mitzvah. Over these 13 years more than 32 thousand young Russian speaking Jews completed their life changing journey to Israel. Birthright-Taglit has truly become a present to remember for every single one of them.

13 years ago, almost no-one believed that a 10 day trip would succeed in making an impact on the minds of young Jews all over the world. However, only those who were lucky to be at Tel Aviv’s University’s Smolarz Atuditorium last week were able to feel hundreds of hearts beating as one.

photo by Amir Rainer
photo by Amir Rainer

In speaking with participants at the event, Ilona Didenko from Kiev, Ukraine told eJP: “This is my first time in Israel and I was expecting a lot of fun. But this turned out more than fun. This turned out to be something I was lacking in my life, something that helped me to make some complicated decisions and understand what I want. I would never believe that a trip can change someone so much, I can say for sure now that I am proud to be part of this great nation and am grateful for this experience, which I will carry in my heart forever”.

Diana Kotlyarevskaya, from Odessa shared her feelings and emphasized that she participated in Taglit herself and returned as a madricha with two groups already. Diana has been a member of the Taglit family for three years and this is how long it took her to make a final decision to apply for a MASA semester program beginning this fall. She says that the roots of this decision reach back to her Taglit journey, which was a turning point in her life.

Addressing those gathered, Sana Britavsky, executive director of Genesis Philanthropy Group in Israel, mentioned her own experience with Taglit as a guide and her memories of how in every group she saw inspired eyes craving for knowledge and emotions. Ms. Britavsky said that “Genesis is proud to be supporting such an outstanding and highly effective project as Taglit. One of the program’s goals is to give young people a perspective on their Jewish roots, give them a feeling of Israel as a second homeland they belong to, and on the other hand, using events like Mega Taglit to give them direction on where to carry on after their journey. They can take all this newly gained knowledge, inspiration, and energy, and bring it back home to their communities, implement it in their activities, or take a step further and come back to Israel. Whichever path they choose – it is our common success!”

As a result of her work, Bilana Shahar, Director of Alliyah and Israel Experiences was able to see both sides of the project. During her time in Ukraine she saw numerous groups coming to the Jewish Agency preparing to participate in Taglit and then coming back in 10 days. “Those were different people. Maybe it is stones of Jerusalem, maybe it is Israeli people… or the desert, but whatever these young people feel while they are on Taglit puts an imprint on their souls. I think the most important thing for us is to give them something they can base on when thinking about what to do in their lives. I don’t think there could be anything better than a chance to walk roads of your ancestors, feel spirit of your historical homeland and know that it is all yours and you have a right to it.”