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Washington State

Israel: leaving but always in memory

From the day I returned to my motherland, until the last day on campus when I watched my home fly by before my eyes. The beginning was also an end and the end was also a beginning. The moment I got off the plane, the person I was before ended; and as I leave, it is the beginning of a new life. The experiences I had will lead me into the future as a Jew and as an adult who will be expected to contribute to society. The whole session I worked towards a couple goals the whole time. I now look back and see how well I succeeded as an individual in coming out of the program with more than a few fond memories.

One of my goals during the program was to come out of the experience as a more independent person. And I think that I definitely achieved this goal. Although there have been madrichim and supportive staff over the past four months, in general I have had to take the initiative on most matters, like help with school or a problem in the dorm. Probably the most important life skill I learned was financing. There were always so many great foods, deserts and souvenirs to buy in Israel that it was a little overwhelming. As the program progressed, the situation of my funds became less than ideal. I had to start making the executive decisions to stop spending money, even when all my friends were going to King Meat. By the end, I actually ended with a little bit of extra money. Managing school was also difficult but I always had friends willing to tutor and help me.

Another goal of mine was to experience Israeli culture. I have also achieved this goal. At first it felt like I was just in hot, dry America. But after about two months I became a lot more cultured. I learned how to bargain in a shuk, order things from a restaurant, walk around without having every Israeli on the street tell me to “zuz”, and practice Shabbat in all the different houses I went to. I feel a lot more at home in Israel than I did when I went for my first time. The real awakening was when I realized that most of the people I saw on the street were Jewish. Coming home I got a little sad when I didn't see bamba and bisli on the shelves.

My last goal was to make friends. On this trip, I made some of the best friends of my life. It was only awkward for a few days before we were already close. And only a couple months before we were stupendous friends.

On AMHSI, I developed one more goal that I did not have before the trip. And that is to protect my Judaism. From all the Tiyuls we went on, especially Poland, I learned how old and amazing history of the Jews is. It is something that I will hold onto and teach my children. Being Jewish in the Jewish state has been one of the happiest times of my life. I have never felt as free to be myself and be more than just a Jew. In Israel I don’t have to be Jewish all the time, yet I am always Jewish. This goal will extend past the program for me, and will change my future no matter where it takes me.