For LGBTQ Jews, Niche Birthright Israel Trip Offers Raw Emotion and Self-Discovery

Since 2000, Birthright has provided free 10-day educational and cultural trips to Israel for more than 500,000 Jews ages 18-26. Niche Birthright trips like the LGBTQ trip ensure that all eligible participants feel they have a place in the often transformative experience of discovering Israel.

Bex Zank: “I came to Israel in attempt to get in touch with my Jewish culture, and ended up figuring something much more about myself, being around and embraced by so many amazing lgbtq people. I have always known I wasn’t like my girl friends…” Instagram

“It’s a deconstructed Star of David,” said Amy Osaiason, showing off the arm tattoo that she and two other LGBTQ Birthright Israel trip participants had just gotten in Tel Aviv’s Shuk HaCarmel market.

“This is the 18th tattoo for the two others, and this is my second,” she said. “It’s symbolic of this trip to Israel and it points to my other tattoo, the chai (the Hebrew word for ‘life’ and the numerical equivalent of 18) on my wrist that I got as a result of my first trip to Israel.”

Bex Zank, another participant on the trip, then showed a tattoo, a “95,” which represented both the year Zank was born and the group’s Birthright bus number.

Zank recounted the events of the previous night, which some trip participants called the most meaningful night of their lives and the first time they could be exactly who they are. The group sat around a campfire, sharing their coming-out stories. Bex came out as non-binary—not fully identifying as male or female.

As Zank began to cry, describing coming out on Instagram while riding a camel in the mountains, a group of new friends linked arms and hugged each other in support.

“I’ve cried more this week than I’ve ever cried in my life,” Zank said. Continue reading on JNS