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January 24, 2018
By: Caroline Freiberg, Honeymoon Israel San Diego September 2017 participant

It’s been 5 months since we’ve returned home and I can say with total confidence that the Honeymoon Israel San Diego in September 2017 shattered all expectations. While I was preparing to leave for the trip, there were so many thoughts and questions racing through my head. The most daunting of these questions was, “Why the heck am I traveling across the world on a 16 hour flight, to a country I have been raised to be terrified of with a totally different language and culture, with my new husband and a bunch of strangers that might try to make me more Jewish?”

Fair question, right?

Now that I’m home, I’ve had so much time to embrace and absorb everything that I experienced abroad. I can look back and say, with total confidence, that fair question of mine was from a ‘me’ that was naïve and close-minded and really, had no idea that I was about to venture on the most life-changing, enriching and fulfilling experience.

You may be thinking…how did this drastic change come about in just 9 short days? Well, there’s a lot of reasons, but when it comes to it, the word I think of most frequently is: family. Our Honeymoon Israel group became a family – and it sounds like this is not unique to our group at all – it’s something magical that happens on all Honeymoon Israel experiences. We became a family that learned together, ate together, traveled together, laughed together, sang together, prayed together, embraced together, and created unforgettable memories…together.

Because every trip has its quirks, I also learned 3 very important lessons that I think could be helpful to any Honeymoon Israel couple who is preparing to take off for their own 9-day journey in the future:

LESSON 1: The Israeli hotel breakfast buffets are worth ALL the hype

If you’re a foodie, it was mind blowing. If you’re not a foodie, it was mind blowing. Get ready to start your days off on the best, most delicious foot. My first breakfast buffet at our hotel in Tel Aviv was something that I will never forget. The fruit, the cheese, the baked goods, the cookie crisp cereal, the yogurt, the shakshuka and… the chocolate milk. Yes please. My favorite part was the beautiful, fresh honeycomb machine that I actually almost stuck in my suitcase when no one was looking…

While not at all the same as breakfast, I do want to note that if you like cocktails, you must know that ordering a ‘double’ cocktail in Israel means paying almost 4x more for only a little more alcohol. Would have been helpful for me to know before I ordered a $50 “double” gin and tonic! Lesson learned.

LESSON 2: Get Ready to SHARE

I would consider myself an extroverted introvert. Meaning, in different social situations, I have different reactions. One of the most unique parts of the Honeymoon Israel experience is the integration of the Honeymoon Israel conversations. They are dedicated times throughout the trip where the group gets together for a facilitated chat about relationships, marriage, family, faith, challenges and life.

When we gathered for our first Honeymoon Israel Conversation after our first 36 hours together, it was a bit unnerving. How are we going to open up to one another in such a personal way? What I soon realized is that while we each may have felt nervous in that moment, we all came on Honeymoon Israel “ready” to explore these aspects of our life in a deep and meaningful way. We knew that Honeymoon Israel wasn’t just a “normal” vacation. Before I knew it, we were all oversharing (in the best way possible), holding hands and leaning on one another like we had known one another for 20 years. What could have seemed like an uncomfortable situation, quickly turned into a bond of friendship, without judgment or skeptism.

LESSON 3: Be prepared to fall in love with your partner all over again

My husband was born in Israel. He’s had a constant battle with his identity being raised as a Jew, but no real idea of how to carry that over to his everyday life. For me, I was born in California to a conservative Christian home. When we met, I had no idea where to begin in understanding his identity as a Jew and how I would fit into it. Even more importantly, we both didn’t know how we would find the ways to incorporate the most important and best parts of our backgrounds and traditions to create our own future together. The Honeymoon Israel experience opened our minds to a world of collaboration in these areas, rather than competition. The experience and friends we made gave each of us an understanding that made us turn the pressure to “figure it all out” into something that helped our marriage blossom. We now had a shared experience in my husband’s homeland and it sparked a new sense of unity and comfort to open our hearts and minds to the opportunities we may have missed otherwise. We fell in love all over again, and for this, we are eternally grateful.