As you may be able to tell from my background photo Israel is a huge part of my life. I grew up in a Conservative Jewish home and always hear about everything going on in Israel and why the country is so amazing and that I needed to at least visit. Well I finally got the chance to visit the place that Jews call "home" in back in the summer of 2009, between my junior and senior year in high school. I got the amazing opportunity to go on a trip with my youth group United Synagogue Youth (USY) for six weeks to Eastern Europe and Israel. After touring around Poland and Czech and seeing a handful of concentration camps and previously inhabited Jewish quarters, we flew over to Tel Aviv and saw Jerusalem. We went from Auschwitz, where over a million Jews were brutally murdered, to Jerusalem, where Jewish life thrives, all within around a 24 hour period. Seeing Israel for the first time was unbelievable, and all I wanted after I got home that August was to return as soon as possible. Fast forward a year and that is exactly what happened.
Another item on this page you may have noticed is under the education section; mainly the Hebrew University of Jerusalem entry. No, that is not there because I saw the campus when I was in Israel for a few weeks; I actually attended class there – or rather at the Rothberg International School within the university. Instead of going straight to college after I graduated high school, I decided to take go back to Israel on a gap year program called Nativ. I studied for a semester at Hebrew University, and I volunteered at a place for adults and children with specials needs for the second semester. I rekindled my love for Israel and got to live in Israel and become more than just a tourist. I got to experience the day to day life of an Israeli, as well as connect to people in their language, not mine – though only at maybe a kindergarten level.
Living in Israel for a year was a truly life-changing experience. Not only did I create life-long friendships, I strengthened an unbreakable bond with my homeland. I got to walk the streets as a citizen, and got to see the true culture of the country and its people. It may not have been a difficult decision to spend my freshman year there, but it was definitely tough to get on that plane in Tel Aviv at the end of nine amazing, unforgettable months.