Nancy Wachtenheim’s two daughters went on a Birthright trip together in January 2012 and came home raving about the land of Israel and their experiences traveling on a 10-day tour with Mayanot Israel. So when Wachtenheim, who lives in Springfield, Va., heard that Mayanot was launching a similar trip for parents of Birthright alumni, she immediately signed up.
She and her husband are now in Israel as part of Mayanot Legacy, an eight-day tour of Israel for the Diaspora baby boomers who have, for more than a dozen years, watched their children embrace Israel on Birthright trips without a way to do so themselves.
Mayanot Legacy is not a Birthright trip. Its participants pay their way, at a pricetag of $1,995 per person, not including airfare. And while many of those in the 72-strong inaugural group have never been to Israel, previous travel here does not disqualify you.
On Thursday, the first-ever Mayanot Legacy trip, which comprises two full buses of travelers, arrived in Jerusalem, where they will be based for the remainder of their trip.
Wachtenheim’s husband Robert Jackson stood with the group as they were preparing to enter Jerusalem’s Old City, which he said was the moment he had been most anticipating ever since touching down in Tel Aviv.
“I had no expectation coming here,” said Jackson, who is in the country for his first time. “What the trip was for me was a chance to finally visualize something. Actually being here is incredibly enlightening for me.”
When he and his wife return home to Virginia, Jackson said, he feels he will be able to talk to his daughters about their time on Birthright in a new way.
“This whole experience is about actually understanding what it is like to be in that homeland,” he said. “We’re just having a blast.”
Zev Jacobson of Israel Maven, the company handling Mayanot Legacy’s land arrangements during the tour, echoed Jackson’s sentiments.
“The program has been going for three days so far and people are on a high,” he said. “We have these adults who didn’t know each other from before, they’re not coming from the same location, and what is uniting them is the fact that their kids all went through this amazing experience.”
Mayanot Legacy, Jacobsen stresses, is not a fundraising trip or a Birthright trip for adults. Rather, it’s a way to give parents a taste of what their kids had, mirroring the Birthright experience and exposing another generation to both Israel and their Jewish heritage.
On this trip, the participants have gone wine tasting in the Carmel, explored the grottoes of Rosh Hanikra, peered through binoculars across the Syrian Border in the Golan Heights, shopped in Safed and gawked at Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Still on the itinerary is a trip to Yad Vashem, camel rides in the Negev, and floating in the Dead Sea.
“When the opportunity for this trip came up, I asked my daughter about it, and she said it’s very similar to what she did on Birthright and it’s fantastic,” said Wachtenheim. “Because of the way it was done for her, she in a way passed it on to me.”
The next Mayanot Legacy tour is scheduled for February 2014.