Saturday, June 12, 2010

Nativ: Reflections on a Significant Year


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

*Education system



Things to Miss About Israel:



*Shabbat and Chaggim

*Lack of Kashrut issues

*Ivrit, obviously

*Inability to buy a bottle of wine in this country at my age


*The vast natural features of the land

*Mizrahi music

*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…


Kol Tuv,



Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Shabbat & Nativ Closure



Wow, it's unthinkable.  This blog post literally closes a chapter of my life, as this will be the last descriptive entry about my year in Israel (I will God willing post a couple of reflective pieces).  I think keeping up with this blog is one of the best decisions I made this year in terms of the long run.


I missed the first Shabbat of the year, but for Kabbalat Shabbat they went to Yemin Moshe and davened at the Old City overlook.  To top off the year, we went again to Yemin Moshe and davened together as Nativ.  Yossi was the sha"tz for Kabbalat Shabbat and Elkana for Ma'ariv – at least I found that to be special for us.  People stood scattered across the stone plaza, some davening intensely, others just admiring the setting.  A little into Kabbalat Shabbat, the siren went off – in the first Jewish settlement in Jerusalem outside of the Old City.  After Mizmor L'David, while singing its niggun, we created circles and danced together out of love for Shabbat and the Land of Israel.  Then Yossi chose Im Eshkachech as the tune for Lecha Dodi – certainly an emotional moment as we overlooked the Old City.  There's not too much to tell about the dinner that followed.  Immediately after dinner was Nativ-a-Tisch, with the largest group of the year singing favorites from the year, including many tunes people learned during the year.  V'yitnu lecha keter melucha (a song I brought to the tisch at the beginning of the year and a Nativ favorite going back a few years) was at its best.


Shabbat morning I went to Yakar, a favorite of mine from this year.  I walked to and fro with Cori and had some good conversations about the spiritual realities of Nativ and the Jewish world.  I received an aliyah at schul, and there was a brit milah after – very cool!  Lunch happened, a nap, and then Yossi's program.  This was also something done at the beginning of the year that I missed; it's similar to "boundary breakers" but most of the questions were to be answered in a word or phrase.  It starts with mundane questions, like "what's your favorite movie," and then escalates to questions about questions about the impact of this year, etc.  Part of the point was to see where people have gotten to since the beginning of the year.  Afterwards was Mincha, and the big end of the year talk with Yossi.  He delivered a strong message about the importance of being good lay leaders and bringing positive change to our Jewish communities and admonished fiercely (but necessarily) against intermarriage as the downfall of our people.  Finally, our last seudat shlishit (thank God because those always sucked) and singing, then Ma'ariv and Havdalah.  Motza'ei Shabbat I just hung around and went out a little bit – I bought my last bottle of wine for a very long time.


Sunday – our last day, wow!!!  When you spend a long time doing something, it's hard to imagine any sort of routine coming to an end, and waking up in Jerusalem for the last time (given that we knew we were coming back even when we weren't officially there) was weird.  I woke up on the earlier side to daven at the Hurva Synagogue in the Old City, a synagogue established a number of centuries ago that has been destroyed and refurbished a few times – most recently destroyed in 1948 by the Jordanians and most recently refurbished in March of this year – so I wanted to see it before leaving.  I then went to the shuk with Sender to do some last shopping, and then I had to start packing.  At 1 p.m. Yeruham track left for the Anna Ticho house for our end-of-year banquet, and at 4:30 we had our all-Nativ banquet (basically snacks and presentations).  And then that was it – we left Beit Nativ for good, went to the airport, v'zehu.  My thoughts going to the airport will appear in the larger reflections I will write soon.


Kol Tuv,