Alumni Spotlight - Chantal Efrat
Chantal Efrat – AMHSI Spring Semester, 2019
From: Bergen County, NJ
AMHSI Teacher: Michael Glassman
Where are you now: I made Aliyah in 2021, as soon as I finished high school. I am currently serving in the IDF Tank Corp as a shooting instructor. When not on base, I live in Givatayim. My IDF service was supposed to be up in January, but there is a good chance I will extend it. After the army, I plan to go to university here in Israel.
Aspirations: I don’t yet know what I want to do exactly, but I know I want to work for myself. Perhaps I’ll be an entrepreneur of some sort.
How did your time at AMHSI affect your life choices?
AMHSI was a turning point, for me, personally. Specifically, there was an activity we did at Gadna that totally shaped the way I thought about Israel and my future. We were at Ben-Gurion’s grave, and our commander put one sign that said, “U.S.A” on one side, and a sign that said “Israel” on the other. Then she started asking questions, such as, “Where do you feel safest? Where do you see yourself raising a family?” And so on. After each question, we were supposed to stand next to the sign that expressed our thoughts. At the beginning, I was squarely in the U.S.A corner. But then, as the questions got deeper, I found myself going over to the Israel side more and more. Even the question about where I feel the safest. Of course I am going to choose the U.S.A, because that is where my parents live. And who doesn’t feel safest with their parents? But then I started to think more independently. It wasn’t about my current family anymore, but about the family I was going to build. And that’s when the full weight of the history and the experience in Israel descended upon me. I knew my future was here, in Israel.
If I could do a specific tiyul over again, it would have to be Yam L'Yam. It was just so unlike anything I ever would have done back at home in New Jersey. I remember thinking about what everyone else from home would be doing at that moment. They would have been sitting in a classroom in school. And here I was, doing THIS. I was hiking up and down mountains with my friends, crossing the Land of Israel. It felt so cool.
How has the current war affected you?
It has certainly consumed me. I am an active soldier in the IDF, so it has been pretty much my focus 24/7. There is a constant uneasy feeling. I have left base for only 24 hours in the last month. I haven’t seen my boyfriend, family, or friends. I was supposed to fly to the States for a cousin’s bar mitzvah. Obviously, that didn’t happen. But at the same time, I feel I am exactly where I am supposed to be. In the future, I will be able to look back and tell my grandkids with pride where I was and what I did during the war.
To my parents, I want to say “Thank You.” You have been so supportive of my life choices. You taught me to appreciate my Judaism and my Israeli-ness. I know it’s difficult to have your daughter over here in the IDF during these times. Thank you for supporting me as I do what I believe is the right thing.
To my friends and former classmates from AMHSI, what a crazy experience we had! I hope we will have a reunion at some point. And when you come back to visit Israel, give me a call and I’ll take you to Sabich HaOved in Givatayim. It’s the best meal you will ever eat in your life.