WHAT makes Israel, Israel? For me, it’s all about the people.
Earlier this year, I spent five months living in Tel Aviv, on the Aardvark Israel Program. I had visited Israel a few times before with my family, but this year, I really wanted to live in our Jewish homeland and embrace all that it has to offer. But the aspect which made Israel feel like home – a place of safety, comfort, vulnerability and connection – was the people.
During my final year of high school at Moriah College last year, I was a Jewish life and Zionism captain. I had always felt a strong connection to my Jewish identity and Israel, but had never felt this strong of a connection until now.
I started my semester in Israel somewhat overwhelmed. On Aardvark, I was committed to stepping out of my bubble, where everyone knows everyone. Having completed the Aardvark program, and now reflecting on my time in Israel, I have realised just how grateful I am to have had this once-in-a-lifetime experience. I have learnt a lot about myself this year – I know that I have built resilience, and have gained the confidence to worry less about what other people think of me. And it’s the people I met this year who helped me grow.
At the end of the semester, my madrichah read an excerpt from a poem by Noam Horev called The Temporary People and it has stuck with me ever since.
“The temporary people arrive just at the times that we need them. They come to teach us a lesson.
Teach us something about ourselves …
Help us cope …
… Change our perspective …
… Close a circle.
Then, at a certain moment – they leave.
It doesn’t make them less important or less significant.
… These temporary people will have a whole, deep and essential chapter.”
This piece is a thank you to all those temporary people for changing the way I think, feel and see the world now.
Who were they?
The 300-plus participants on the program from all over the world, the madrichim and Aardvark Israel staff, our guest speakers and teachers, my colleagues at my internship, members from our partnering mechina, and then the Israelis – both Jewish and non-Jewish.
This year, I have realised that Israel isn’t the easiest place to live – and Israelis aren’t the easiest people to live with. But what I admire about them is their appreciation of life – and how they realise that life moves on. Always.
I’ll never forget walking the streets on the morning after a Tel Aviv shooting, not understanding why the streets were full like usual and why everyone was out and about with smiles on their faces. That moment showed me that even when horrible things happen, Israelis don’t pause their lives. Life just moves on, and is celebrated. And when good things happen, well, life is really celebrated.
This year, I know I have grown as a Zionist and a Jew.
At the Masa Yom Hazikaron ceremony, I felt so connected with Israel and other young Jewish adults who live in the Diaspora. I realised what a key part Israel plays in our lives, and how fortunate we are to have Israel as our second home. Singing Hatikvah and listening to the siren in silence with thousands of young Jews and soldiers was such an emotional experience, and I just felt a sense of pride, to be standing among the next generation of Jewish leaders, who will continue to stand up for our homeland.
At the end of the semester, I was asked to deliver the final address at the program closing ceremony, where I finished off with: “For the past few years in Sydney, I have felt out of place and haven’t really found my people – but now, I feel like I have, and I feel like I belonged here. Thank you all so much for making Israel the most memorable experience of my life so far.”
Living in Israel, I loved the places we visited, the history we learnt about, and of course the food (even though I’ve eaten enough falafels to last a lifetime!). But above all, it’s all about the people.
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