If I were to go home and tell my friends about our Birthright Israel trip, most would be able to relate to hiking, beaches, and city life. But what makes this trip unique are the things that they cannot relate to -- the cultural and religious connection that we feel while we're here.
My group is literally spending 10 days on land that our oldest ancestors are tethered to. Over the past four days, I have seen scenic land and have heard sad stories. We've visited areas where the scars of conflict from thousands of years of hatred and dispute can still be seen.
Seeing the country firsthand changes how I understand the conflicts. Birthright is about educating. It is very easy to make judgments about things that you haven't seen first hand, and this trip gives us a real look at Israel's issues.
The trip has also given us a chance to see the beauty within Israel. I have seen its landscape, its culture, and its people. There is something special about walking through streets that are hundreds of years old. This is my first time going to Israel, but it doesn't feel that way.
Zach Lowenberger is a sophomore at NC State from Charlotte.