Many people remember that as I went through the gap-year choosing process, as part of the college search, my initial thoughts were to attend yeshiva. The option in which I was most interested was Yeshivat Ma'ale Gilboa. But I never applied; I ended up choosing soon enough to do Nativ.
So the question, mostly towards the end of the year though I thought about it throughout, is did I make the right choice? In the end, as I reflect on my year, my goal is to have felt that I gained and grew more than I could have on any other option I was considering. Am I okay with not having spent the second half of my year in a Beit Midrash? Did the environment and the group dynamic fit my needs?
When it comes down to an overall Israel experience, I think Nativ was one of the best options for me. I feel that it provides for a very holistic experience: taking advantage of the land for tiyyulim and weekend traveling, speakers and seminars devoted to understanding the State of Israel, and experiencing Israel as the Jewish State – chagim were amazing. While we (or at least I) did not interact too closely with Israeli Jerusalem residents, Yeruham was the place where we got to know Israeli Jews and really see from one perspective what Israeli society is like. The time we spent there was invaluable to seeing the important development of our State.
Religiously, Nativ was not always easy. My intellectual and spiritual goals were sizably different than those of most people in the group, and at times that was challenging. Sometimes it was a fundamental difference in keeping Shabbat; other times it had to do with my concern for piety. Nevertheless, there were many awesome moments throughout the year in which I enjoyed the religious passion on Shabbat and chaggim. Where learning is concerned, I know I'll have many opportunities to come back to Israel and learn and just learn in general; Maryland will be great for that.
Someone asked me today if the program was great because of being in Israel or the people. The answer is both; yet having people with whom to enjoy being in the moment makes a huge difference. I met some great people this year, bonds that I know will last for a long time. I am grateful to everyone who made my year what it was, and I'm glad I got to know these people as well as I did, and of course wish sometimes that maybe I would have gotten to know people more.
Here are some lists for summing up the year:
Things Not to be Missed about Israel:
*Israeli Bus/Taxis and those Drivers
*Agron Se'udat Shlishit on Shabbat
Things to Miss About Israel:
*Shabbat and Chaggim
*Lack of Kashrut issues
*Inability to buy a bottle of wine in this country at my age
*The vast natural features of the land
*Israeli sense of formality
*Jewish unity and identity – instant connections with all Jews
Favorite Shabbat: Tzfat
Favorite Chag: Yom Kippur or Pesach
Favorite Places to Eat: Schnitzi, Tito Bravo, Sbarro
Favorite Schul: Yakar
Favorite Place to Chill: Yeruham Park
Other Great Moments of the Year (in no particular order necessarily):
10. The Mumps
9. Desert Survival Jeep Ride
8. Shabbat Hospitality by locals in Jerusalem as well as Yeruham
7. Yemin Moshe singing on Rosh Hashanah
6. Yom Kippur on King George Street
5. Yom Hazikaron/Ha'atzmaut Transition
4. Archaeological Dig
3. Camping on Shabbat, especially Har Meron
2. Matisyahu and Idan Raichel Concerts
1. 1st Bus Ride from Ben Gurion to Jerusalem
It's hard to pinpoint specific things, but these are things that stick out in my mind…
This culminates my yearlong escapades. Be'ezrat Hashem, there will be another one of these soon…