By Nick Leininger
Most Nazi’s wish they had eyes like meGreen with envyThe alt-Reich is feeling blueThey don’t see what I seeThings aren’t always what they seemAn equal fare can never be fairFair skin doesn’t change a person’s worthHere’s a penny for your thoughtsHate isn’t for the faint of heart, it’s for the heartlessThe karmic Ferris wheel turns at the pace of its passengersI ask God for peace but am by no means a pacifistI only implement my creative violence in self-defenseBuild the fence so we can knock it downThe pen is mightier than the sword, luckily I’m proficient with bothMy mother prayed for me to look whiteBecause those of the darker shade are preyed uponI want my kids to look ambiguousThat way no-one will ever know where they’re “from”Most Nazi’s wish they had eyes like meI see them for the cowards they really are
As the days grew closer flags began to sprout up all across the country. From highways to car windows to apartment porches- it was as if someone had sprinkled blue and white from above. Yom Hazikaron, the day we remember Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror, starts at the same exact moment across the country with a siren. (Jewish Holidays,Yom Hazikaron, and Yom Hatzmaut included start at night and continue into the day).
During the day there is an another siren that rings out, a moment of silence with which we begin to reflect and remember the 23,544 lives that have been lost. Each life leaving behind parents, siblings, loved ones, and friends.
This year I spent the morning at Har Herzel– the military cemetery in Jerusalem. Thousands of peopl were at Har Herzel on Yom HaZikaron, some to visit loved ones they had lost, and others to pay respect to the people who gave their lives protecting the country. When the siren went off at Har Herzel, you could hear the silence across the whole country; no one moved, and no one spoke. Yom Hazikaron affects every single Israeli has either experiencee personal loss or second hand loss.
As Yom Hazikaron ends, Yom Hatzmaut– Israel Independence Day, begins. We celebrate the country we have, the country that the fallen have sacrificed their lives for. Yom Hatzmaut is entirely about celebration. From Monday evening until Tuesday people are celebrating nonstop. At night, the streets of cities are packed with people dancing, and celebrating. In communities everywhere there are performances, fireworks, and festivity wherever you go. I saw fireworks light up the sky, walked around Jerusalem, and was even invited to a strangers barbeque. On Yom Hatzmaut the entire country shuts down, and people spend their days with family. All of the parks and beaches are packed with families barequing, and playing sports.
These two days are about the unity of the Jewish people, and the country. For me, being in the country at this time made me feel even more like I am part of a family.
By: Anna Kaplan
We all have expectations. Expectations for ourselves of what we want to accomplish. Going into this year abroad I had expectations to have an amazing year, and I did, but not in the way I expected. I was going in with a false reality expecting every single aspect of my year abroad to be perfect. Spoiler alert- nothing in life is perfect.
When people tell you how amazing living abroad is they forget to mention everything in between. They leave out the adjustment period in the beginning- the part about being in a strange place with a bunch of people you don’t know. They forget to mention the part about learning a different currency, busing system, and language. Although, in the end having to learn all of those contributed to my year. After all, you have not truly spent a year in Israel until you have gotten stranded on a highway in the middle of the night, waiting for your next bus. As for the language, I adjusted so much to speaking Hebrew that I have to stop myself from saying Kamah Zeh Oleh (how much does this cost) now that I’m back in America. As for the currency? Well my wallet is still full of shekels…
Any one can think back on a life experience, and pin point things they wish they had done differently, and make a list of could haves. However, I choose to think of all that I did. From the four am hike, running my first 5km and 10km, visiting the Western Wall so many times I lost count, spending Shabbat with thousands of people in Hebron, and everything in between.
Looking back on the past year I can say without a doubt I’m happy I spent the past year in Israel. Not only did I learn so many new things, but I also learned so much about myself. One could say I could have learnt those things anywhere, but they would be wrong. There is nowhere else in the world like Israel. Walk the streets, and you will see that is a one of a kind place, a place where everyone is family, a place with an unparalleled amount of culture and history.
There is a place of only 20,770 square kilometers. It is surrounded by countries in turmoil, yet it stands resolute. It stands as a pinnacle of peace, and for many a symbol of hope. Israel was a dream of thousands less than eighty years ago, and today Israel encompasses the dreams of millions.
The idea that I am spending this year living amongst remarkable people is unimaginable. Israel is unique in that every person has a story. What another country can you find people of so many different countries and backgrounds all living together. The best part is you can see the unification EVERYWHERE. In Jerusalem simply make your way to the the Kotel (the Western Wall). You will see people of all backgrounds, denominations, and religions. The Kotel is a symbol of hope; it is a way of connecting to G-d. As one comes closer towards the wall you can hear the cries of strangers as they pour out their hearts, and the whispers of Hebrew, English, french, and countless other languages, for people have all come to this one place to connect. Travel just an hour west of Jerusalem, and you will find yourself in Tel Aviv. Before, Tel Aviv was “the NYC-of-Israel” it was literal mounds of sands; now Tel Aviv has reached heights beyond the founders greatest dreams. Tel Aviv is the epitome of Israel being a melting pot. In Tel Aviv, you can find people who have come from all over the world to live on its vibrant, thriving streets. From its beaches to its tech centers Tel Aviv contains it all. Every place you go in Israel you can find the unification of people, all you have to do is look. Every place has a rich history and unbelievable story.
Come here, experience it for yourself; go to as many places as you can while you are her. Most importantly, listen to the streets share their story.
Chanukkah has a different significance at every age: at four it means playing dreidel, at fourteen it means presents, at twenty-four it means socializing with friends, and by forty it means family. Every generation of the family gets involved in their own way. It is a remarkable sight to see people of all ages huddled over the menorah to spread the light and remind us of the miracle of Chanukkah. In Israel you are not just celebrating the miracles of the past, but you are also celebrating the miracle of the present – Israel itself.
This picture represents just that. I am in a country that shares the light with every single person. In times of distress, this country comes together like one big family. Whether it was during the war two years ago or the fires in Northern Israel last month; what affects one Israeli citizen, affects every Israeli citizen. This picture is a menorah made of Kasam rockets that were shot at the city of Sderot from terrorists in Gaza. Situated less than a mile from Gaza, Sderot is an incredible city with remarkable people. The citizens there live a normal every day to day life, just like you and me. Even when they are faced with destruction, they fight it by turning it into art.
The beauty and miracle of Chanukkah in Israel does not stop there. As you walk past the bakeries that hug the streets wherever you go, sufganiyot greet you with a smile. As you walk past people, you can sense their happiness; the anticipation of Chanukkah hangs in the air. In Israel the schools have vacation and families take trips all over the country. From Har Hermon to Eilat, they embark on lighting up the holiday by lighting up the country.
People say if you roam the streets of Jerusalem at night the light from the countless menorahs will be enough to light you up from the inside out. Therefore, my tip to you is get to Israel for Chanukkah at least once in your life.
Come here, experience the light and spread it throughout the world.
I could have gone anywhere, nine months is a lot of time. I could have stayed home and gotten a job or hitchhiked across America. However, once I made the decision to take a gap year there was only one option.
I knew I wanted to learn about myself, but I could have done that anywhere. I knew I wanted to travel, but there are a number of countries where I could accomplish that feat. Additionally, I wanted to explore and delve into my religion. Therefore, when choosing what to do with a year off, the decision couldn’t be more clear – Israel!
The beauty of Israel can be summed up into two words – Jewish State. I have spent my life thus far living in the United States. However, this year I am embarking on a journey of studying in Israel for nine months. From studying my religion, to exploring the land, I am partaking in an adventure like no other.
Nine months in a foreign country that, as a Jew, I have the privilege to call home. I can think of no other way to sum up my journey so far except for describing the beauty of being in a Jewish State. I love how when I travel on public buses Jewish and Israeli music welcomes me. I love the atmosphere of hearing Hebrew all around me – from signs to street names to the mumbles I hear on the street – it is all quite a remarkable experience.
In the short time I have been here I have been reminded of Israel’s abundance of history and all the struggles that this country has gone through to be what it is today. No matter how you cross this so called desert of a land, one thing is for sure – it is nothing like a desert.
Israel may be only slightly bigger than the size of New Jersey, but it contains epic-centers for every industry you could think of. Israel may have only been around for sixty-eight years, but it is constantly making ground breaking discoveries in the medical, agricultural, scientific, and technological fields.
Even before all of the technological and medical developments, Israel continues to be a country attracting countless people for its rich history. At the moment I am on my way to the old city, to the kotel, place where not too long ago people dreamed of having the privilege to visit. Today, among other tourists and Israelis I will enter the old city as if I am simply returning home.