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Yearly Archives: 2021

Surf Class

By Matthew

As I embarked on my Duke Gap Year I promised myself that I would try to learn something and grow as a person from each every experience I chose to undertake, and I have definitely kept true to that goal.  Living for two months in Puerto Pilon, Costa Rica, offered unique and spectacular opportunities to follow through on my education through exploration but I learned even more than hoped on this incredible journey.
I was able to explore the surrounding ecosystem with the CR nature guide found in the book box in our bungalow.  I worked on my Spanish the entire time but with laser-like focus while ordering food, and I even learned that 30 spf sunscreen does little to protect my skin. Believe it or not though, with all the amazing things to learn from during my time in that small town, the most beneficial classroom was the water.  It was almost like I was in my own covid cohort and my surf curriculum included Physical Education, Geography, Science and Accelerated Spanish all in one beautiful setting. 
Spanish in the surf line up was a core class and one of my favorite subjects. The learning environment was different from high school, and contrary to the peaceful classroom a good bit of my learning was done through loud exclamations and conversations whilst being pounded on the inside by a surprise set of waves. I would learn a lot of explicit phrases from interactions with the locals, but I would also learn about descriptors of waves, drama between friends, tales of the work day, and even how to defend myself from angry Frenchmen (who curiously also spoke Spanish).  Between sets though, I was able to practice telling people about myself, my home, and what brought me to this small town, along with asking and learning about other people’s lives and families. Everything I learned about the surrounding area also came from my conversations in the surf. With the overlap between Spanish and geography I learned about the Osa, wildlife sanctuaries, other surf breaks, and empanada spots for our return trip up north. Google Translate consisted of hand signals. My vocabulary grew immensely through the basic actions that accompanied new words.  I learned how to say alligator and crocodile as lifesaving advice as to which rivers we could swim in and which to avoid. This may seem like a very unorthodox way of practicing a new language but I would take doing so on one of the best surf breaks in the world over an online zoom or classroom any day of the week.
The Pacific Ocean also provided research topics for Science class. After every surf session I would come back with a new animal or phenomena I needed to learn more about. After being stung several days in a row by something called Hilo de Oro, I decided to do some research and ask around about it. After talking with several locals I realized I was lucky that I barely reacted to this jelly fish, where they came from and how common they were. My learning regimen continued with tides, currents, turtles, flying fish (who knew those things were real!), dolphin surfing the waves alongside me, and where the incredible shells came from.  I also decided to look into bioluminescence after one of our early morning surf sessions in complete darkness, where each turn and paddle stroke was marked by a ripples of blue water. That incredible morning was one of the coolest moments ever, and gave way to an appreciation of one of the most amazing and beautiful events in nature. It was special knowing that nearly every event in the world is captured on camera these days and shared with the world, and yet these moments were experienced by me, my three friends.  I wouldn’t necessarily say I could skip college level science classes based on this experience, but it sure would be tempting.
Everything I learned from the simple activity of surfing embodied the idea that with the right curiosity and mindset you can learn quite a lot from just a little. I expect the classrooms at Duke to look a little different but I plan on bringing that same inquisitiveness and thirst for knowledge that I did every day to the Selea surf break.

The Arts’ Pandemic Pivot

By Camille

When Covid hit last March, ballet was the first thing in my life to be affected. I distinctly remember having tickets to see San Francisco Ballet perform on March 14th, a Saturday, and being so disappointed to find out earlier in the week that the performance had been postponed. At the time, I thought that this rain check was disappointing, but little did I know that soon after my whole life would come grinding to a halt. Next came the school closures and the suspension of ballet classes at my studio. As I watched many industries turn to Zoom, I saw that the arts were falling behind. My grandfather, a professional jazz pianist, was suddenly out of work, and I saw pleas from desperate artists flooding my Instagram feed every time I opened up my phone. My high school, which had a specialized arts program, came up short in funding for the next school year as a result of our major fundraising gala being switched to a virtual format. In short, the arts didn’t have the luxury of creating a semblance of normalcy in a virtual world. 

Over the past year, I’ve seen artists do what they do best: think creatively. By mid-April, I began to see videos popping up of dancers creating DIY home studio spaces. Soon after, many dance suppliers began creating small rectangles of flooring meant specifically for in-home space constraints. I had a lot of fun setting up my own in-home dance space, and I’m actually thinking about keeping it once life goes back to normal. The convenience of rolling out of bed and taking class is unparalleled, and I love being able to work through classes on YouTube at my own pace.

In the dance world, the next creative solution that was born was outdoor classes. I never thought ballet could be effectively done outdoors until I saw the tents my studio set up. Fully floored and outfitted with barres and lights, they almost resembled the studio experience I had grown so used to. In some ways they surpassed it, with the fresh air and lack of mirrors creating a new type of sensory experience.


As we get closer to seeing live performances as a reality again, I couldn’t be more excited to finally reschedule that San Francisco Ballet performance. As it turns out, it never really was canceled, just postponed for an extended chunk of time.

Experiencing the Israeli – Palestinian Conflict  

By Maia

Unexpected changes feel like the theme of this year, especially for those of us on gap years. A few weeks ago, I spent four days in an intense seminar on the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. I listened to twenty-three speakers with a range of opinions and diverse contributions aimed at resolving or easing the conflict. The seminar gave me some clarity on my political views, and also emphasized how stagnant the conflict has been in the last few years and especially since the beginning of the pandemic. Visiting some of the most contentious, awful places of tragedy in Jerusalem and the West Bank gave me the sense that although things have been stagnant for some time, the lack of progress had not meant an acceptance of the current situation but that it was only a matter of time until things boiled over. With recent escalations during the last few weeks and on Jerusalem Day, the celebration of the Israeli presence in Jerusalem, and the capture of the city during the Six-Day War of 1967, we are now in the most intense state of conflict in seven years.  

My opinions that slowly crystallized and became more nuanced during the conflict seminar I participated in now feel irrelevant. In a matter of days, I’ve learned that opinions stop mattering when people are dying. I’m living in such a different social environment than the one I see on social media. In Israel, it feels like, regardless of what people believe, everyone just wants the suffering to end. It feels impossible to engage with people across the world arguing over which side is right and whose situation justifies violence. Frankly, I find it impossible to understand hatred and the spread of false information when I only feel pain for those around me. Sure, I disagree with certain actions and policies but it’s not something I can think about right now, let alone rationally.  

I don’t know what this period of my gap year will mean for me in the long run. I will not forget it, nor do I want anyone to live through this reality. I know that this last month will require months of processing, and I’ll slowly derive meaning and a sense of purpose and action. Sadly, in less than a month my program ends I’ll fly back home. In a weird way, my year is ending similarly to how it started. I’m ending my year in a sort of quarantine, unable to go to parts of Jerusalem and Israel that are unsafe right now. This means I have the privilege of spending my last moments more intimately hanging out with my friends in our apartment, supporting each other through these difficult days. I don’t know if it diminishes from the moment to acknowledge the beautiful connections during times of pain. We hold on to each other more tightly, and hopefully the love we feel for those far from us, that fuels emotional arguments on social media, will be the hope that pushes us out of this moment. 


Close Quarters

By Sami

Me and my roommates in our humble abode.



I spent a weekend at Inbal’s house where I was fed some insanely delicious Tunisian food. I loved it so much that I asked her to teach me how to make stuffed grape leaves one night in her apartment.


As I’ve begun thinking about moving onto Duke’s campus next fall, I’ve been wondering how much I’ll miss living in my dorm in Jerusalem. As much as I am looking forward to moving into college dorms, I’ve only now started to appreciate how good I have it here. Of all the ways I’ve changed and grown over the last eight months, the comfort I feel living full time among other students and the amount I’ve matured socially has really become apparent. I believe that’s largely due to the fact that I’ve not only lived in the same building as sixty-five other students, but I’ve been on the exact same schedule as all of them too. Whereas in college, I’ll likely run into a few dorm mates occasionally and spend a few social hours a day in my hall, this year (largely due to Covid) I’ve spent most of my free nights together with my entire program in our small building. Although it felt a little overwhelming at first, living in the same apartment with four other people makes getting bored pretty difficult, and when I am bored I know I have dozens of friends within a thirty-second walk from my door. Because of our constant social atmosphere, within eight months I’ve gotten closer with many of these kids than I did with some of my closest friends back home. Although I considered myself to be very independent before I came, and still do, I believe I’ve gotten incredibly comfortable with the uniquely intense social environment of my program. I’ll get back to my apartment after a long day of classes, and the first thing I do after setting my bag down is walk into our next-door apartment to relax with five or six dorm mates instead of resting on my own. I’ll always be thankful for the special living situation I had this year, with all of the comfort, daily excitement, and close friends it’s allowed me to gain. So, for anyone who is scared of transitioning from solo life to dorm life, I can confidently say diving straight into something as intense as this will certainly get you acclimated quickly.

Apartment #3 just next door houses spontaneous dance parties, dinners, and the occasional fashion show pictured here.
No one is ever left hungry in our building because someone always has leftovers. I thanked my friend for always giving me baked goods with this sour cream coffee cake (it disappeared in about ten seconds).


The Israeli-Jewish Springtime Trifecta

By Abby

Every year around springtime Jews worldwide, and especially in Israel, celebrate three days: Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Yom Hazikaron (Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers and Casualties of Terrorist Attacks), and Yom Ha’azmaout (Independence Day).
Yom Hashoah is a really powerful day at home as well as here in Israel. At home, my school would bring in a Holocaust survivor or a survivor’s family member to tell us his or her story, and we would stand for a minute-long siren played on the school loudspeaker. Here, one of my friends’ grandfathers told his story, and we stood for the siren that was blasted over the country-wide loudspeaker. In Israel, everything stops during the siren: all meetings, TVbroadcasts, vehicles on the streets and highways stop and everyone stands.
Six days later was Yom Hazikaron. I didn’t have the highest of expectations because, at home, the ceremonies we had at school were always contrived and lacking immediacy. It began with an 8:00 pm country-wide siren — in the Jewish calendar days start and end at nightfall not at midnight — followed by a ceremony. We sat in a circle on the floor, and anyone who knew of a fallen soldier or a casualty of a terrorist attack told their story and a song was sung and a candle lit in their honor. We sat there for 4 hours because around 25 out of 70 had stories to tell about family friends, neighbors, cousins, cousins’ friends…The stories made me sad, the songs made me weep, and the number of stories made me feel guilty. As a Jew, Israel belongs to me just as much as it does to any native-born Israeli. But can I just sit happily in America and come to Israel whenever I want while Israelis die left and right? What kind of a Zionist am I, choosing to go to Duke over serving in the IDF (Israeli DefenseForces)?
The next day I woke up early and took the bus to Har Herzl (Israeli National Cemetery) with some friends for the 11:00 am nationwide siren. Families of fallen soldiers, current soldiers, and people like me who wanted to pay their respects properly were huddled around all the graves. You can’t get more immediate than standing at the foot of a grave of a fallen soldier.
That evening, I attended a tekes ma’avar (transitional ceremony) marking the end of YomHazikaron and the start of Yom Haatzmaut. It began with some slow songs and then we raised the Israeli flag, symbolizing the rising of spirits. I performed in a dance with a boy from the neighborhood whom I mentor. Then I attended a Hallel service, a prayer of praise sung on specific celebratory days. Later that night my friends and I went to center city. Usually, there are a bunch of free concerts in the middle of Jerusalem that you can go to, but because of Corona you had to reserve tickets; while we didn’t score tickets to the hottest concerts, we went to a cover band concert of Israeli classics. I was happily surprised that I knew most of the songs and had a great time singing and dancing. We spent the rest of the night enjoying the festive atmosphere of the city (think Time Square NYE). I got a couple hours of sleep and then went to two friends’ family BBQs. The meat was incredible and let’s just say my stomach was both satisfied and furious at me.
Yom Haatzmaut was a thrilling 24 hours, but, in general, I don’t think it quite reached its potential – a sentiment a lot of my Israeli friends agreed with. The day had a joyous celebratory atmosphere of eating, singing, drinking, and dancing with family and friends, but I think the presumed pride got lost in the desire to enjoy the celebrations.
These three days galvanized my inner Zionism, and I have a lot of thinking to do about how these feelings fit in with the rest of my life and values. I wish I could elaborate more on this last sentence, but I’m not yet at that stage. I can tell you, however, that I am ecstatic about attending Duke in the meantime and learning about the many facets, wonders, and challenges of America.

Unexpected Opportunities

By Camille

As I’m journeying through my gap year, I’m realizing that in life, opportunities have a strange way of showing up when you least expect them. In March of last year, I remember closing my computer and being hit with the realization that this was my last ever meeting with Marin Teen Girl, an organization that I had volunteered with throughout high school. I had grown to love the group of girls I worked with and the perfect balance of business and fun we achieved at each meeting. Little did I know that I’d soon make the decision to take a year off from school, and the opportunity for me to take on a leadership role within the organization would arise.
Marin Teen Girl was formed a couple years ago, when the Marin Women’s Commission (a body of my county’s local government) began to envision a women’s empowerment conference, created by girls, for girls. The overarching goal was to connect girls from all over the county, while presenting them with informative workshops and providing powerful examples of successful women. Since its inception, the annual conference has grown in both scope and popularity, with women such as Pamela Hamamoto, former ambassador to the UN in Geneva, serving as speakers.Attendees gathered for the keynote address in March 2019.
In past years, I’ve served on the committee of ambassadors who are responsible for organizing the event for around three hundred teen girls. The group of ambassadors handles everything from brainstorming workshop topics and contacting potential speakers to advertising and recruiting donations from local businesses. This is done with the support of the Marin Women’s Commission, but ultimately it is up to the ambassadors to successfully execute the event.
While serving on this group for multiple years, I’ve learned the ins and outs of what goes into planning the conference. With the new found time and flexibility my gap year has provided, I have been able to step up as co-leader of the ambassador committee and help guide the ambassadors through the planning stages.
When I accepted the role, I knew that this year was going to look unlike any other in the history of the conference. The pandemic has not only caused us to shift our planning meetings completely online but has also forced us to completely rethink the structure of the conference. Many key conference day experiences-such as goody bags and group lunch hour-are simply not feasible this year.
However, in the face of these challenges there has also been an overwhelming number of positive results coming from our need to adapt. Because a zoom event requires much less logistical planning, we made the decision to create a monthly speaker series leading up to the conference, allowing girls to attend more workshops than they would have in just one weekend. This began in November, and so far, we’ve been able to offer a female empowerment themed yoga class, a body positivity workshop, and a workshop centered around mindset and goal setting for the new year. Because of the online format for these workshops, we’ve reached a much more diverse population of girls than ever before.
Working with a small group of our ambassadors at a planning meeting


A promotional flyer for one of our workshops
Looking forward to the conference in March, we are currently in the final stages of selecting and reaching out to speakers. While the event will certainly look and feel much different, I think that many of the adaptations we’ve made this year will be carried over into future years. Even when an in-person event becomes feasible, the monthly zoom speaker series has proved to be a fun way to engage prospective attendees leading up to the event. While I am disappointed that we won’t be able to offer the conference experience I am used to, it feels good to know that working through the challenges we were faced with has led to some unexpected positivity.

Here Goes Nothing!

By Zachary

It’s been an eventful couple weeks since you all heard from me! First of all, I quit my job at City Year, but I knew that I was going to have to do this for a while. My experience with City Year, despite not being ideal, was still impactful. I will miss the people I met there and wish them all the best.
After leaving City Year, I prepared for my trip with HMI, which is scheduled to last for about 80 days. I did this by going on long walks either alone or with my dog through Brooklyn Bridge Park. At some point the temperature made going through the park daily not a viable option, but we did continue to do what we could when my pup and I could bear it.


I am both very excited and nervous for the trip. Even though I have done similar trips, this time I will be doing it with a completely new group of people, unlike the other times when I did trips with some of my closest friends. Also, the contents of the trip being different contributes to my nervousness. Specifically, the skiing section. It is simultaneously the part I am most excited about and most skittish about. I have never really done anything like it, but it looks really fun.
I flew out to Phoenix to start the program this morning. I slept for most of the flight here so it “flew” by. After the flight, I met the other people who had also arrived today. Thus far the group seems friendly. It seems the people here have a wide spectrum of experience with doing trips like this, ranging from no experience at all to extremely experienced. We drove for two hours from the airport to the place we will be staying for the next few days. Once we all arrived, we did some icebreaker activities, had dinner, and talked a little bit. Everybody went to their rooms for the night and here I am writing this blog. Breakfast is at 8:00 AM tomorrow so I am going to go to bed now so I am ready for tomorrow. I won’t have my phone for about 80 days after tonight, so this will be my last blog for a little bit. See you all on the other side!

The Power of a Bike

By Matthew 
How do you get around without a car when nothing is nearby? That is a problem I had to face with four of my friends in a small town in the southwest corner of Costa Rica. The only guaranteed ride was to and from work, and buses definitely did not come on the hour and half hour like in my hometown. So typically, we walked. If you were lucky you could hop in a friendly (looking) passing car with a raised thumb and your best smile, but those came few and far between. We would take afternoon trips to the store or full day trips to town if we had aspirations of purchasing rare and exotic items such as cheese (which was a key ingredient in my rice bean and cheese dish served twice per day on average). This wasn’t really a problem until one day our boss took us on a drive up the coast and pointed out all these super cool places we could explore and a truckload of new things to do. Now I’m super active and absolutely not afraid of a good walk or long jog, but it quickly became obvious there was no way I was going to be able to come close to fully taking advantage of this beautiful place.
Pilon is a Costa Rican fishing village with a population of 175 people, with not a single paved road in any of the surrounding towns. I am currently about half way through my stay, working with new friends  to orchestrate a move of an acquaintance’s property, using shipping containers as short term storage while also doing renovations on two different properties in town. In our free time we would explore the jungle covered mountains and beautiful coast in the surrounding areas, surfing on one of the best surf breaks in the world and finally playing stick rock and rock bocce, some of the more barbaric games ever invented on random beaches between towns.  The last thing that made it out of the old house but not quite into the shipping containers were two rusted bikes with flat tires that we took back to our home. These bikes would be dismissed as useless hunks of metal in almost any normal garage, but to me they were beautiful stallions that had the potential to give me access to boundless adventure, exploration, and more cheese.
We spent the day after our road trip fixing up the ancient bikes and before long, I was off.  I have been biking and exploring something new about this incredible country almost every day.  We’ve been cliff jumping, hiking along rivers, scouting wildlife in the mountains and finding new beach spots.  I have been doing it all and making the most of this beautiful place I am living in because of my access to wheels. The bike has also served as an escape, as it allows me to get out of the “house” ( one bedroom, one bath, with outdoor seating and kitchen) which gets pretty crowded and overwhelming with four other boys.  The rides themselves were fun in their own right, but they offered a chance to think and reflect on life while taking focus off sweating buckets on a dirt road to anywhere. I have learned much about myself through journey to new destinations via my bike.  Thinking about where I am and where I’m going is utterly fascinating given the crazy year we’ve all had.  While the bike initially provided a means to scout move waves and buy more cheese, it ended up giving me time and space to explore my thoughts.  
The unusual year off school is quickly coming to a close and I’m starting to realize how uniquely I’ve grown by taking this alternate route to Duke.  I am as excited as I was a year ago, but now I’m a little more informed and the most basic broken down bike has helped facilitate my journey.  

Greetings from France!

By Sofia


I think the best place to start this post is a summary of the last two months. On February 25th, I made the long flight from San Francisco to Toulouse, France. Though I was undeniably nervous about the trip, I’m becoming more and more used to picking up my life every 3-4 months and completely changing scenery. I really only lost it saying goodbye to my puppy (my family never sends enough photos of him), and I think that’s a fair concession.


Life here in Toulouse is great. I’m going to make a bit of a bizarre admission: I came to France thinking I hated language classes, just hoping I could suffer through them and still enjoy this incredible country. That is no longer the case! I am LOVING learning French. There has been a tangible progression of my skills, and I can literally feel my brain rewiring to start thinking in French.

Most days consist of me going to my French language class from 9:15 to 1, and then grabbing lunch with friends or going on a walk! With numerous COVID restrictions in place, almost every day ends up with me in one of the gorgeous parks here in the city. I’m very much an outdoors person, if you couldn’t tell by my 7 week backpacking trip, so getting to be among trees and flowers feels like a daily recharge. Honestly, there’s magic to living anonymously in a foreign city—it’s even picturesque when I run out to grab groceries.

Going on these adventures during COVID has made me increasingly aware of my responsibility to society—not in a global, philanthropic sense, but in a safety precautions/not spread COVID sense. I recognize the privilege of being able to travel right now, and to the best of my abilities try to make sure that I’m taking the necessary precautions to ensure my safety and the safety of those around me.

Unfortunately, because of this very point, my time in France is being cut short. As if it weren’t already obvious, the theme of my gap year is “adapt on the fly.” Since Easter weekend, France has increased its COVID restrictions as the healthcare system is overwhelmed by a third wave. I will be leaving France sooner than expected and continuing my gap year plans in Spain; taking MORE language classes, visiting my family and enjoying a chance to reconnect with my culture! Its a bittersweet end to an incredible time in France.

In a Flash

By Sammy

This past week, Israel had two of its most important holidays: Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaaut. Yom Hazikaron, the Day of Remembrance, is a day full of sadness, stories, and broken hearts, as the entire country remembers its fallen soldiers who died to protect the country. Then, right when the sun sets on Wednesday evening, the entire country shifts in a flash to celebrate Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s joyous Day of Independence. So how does an entire country transition so seemingly seamlessly from sadness to celebration? And why are these two contradictory holidays so close together?

Yom Hazikaron started with a trip to Jerusalem. Some of us on the program, including myself, left very early to spectate the bitter struggle between an organization called “Women of the Wall” and the religious men who pray at the Western Wall everyday. We watched as the members of the organization tried to bring in a Torah to pray with at the female section of the Western Wall, while religious men and women blocked their path. The whole situation was extremely messy, with both sides truly dedicated to their point of view. The Women of the Wall sincerely believe in the statement they are making for all Jewish women, illustrating their strong push for equal opportunity between men and women within the religion of Judaism. At the same time, the religious men and women believe that trying to change the time-honored customs of the ancient religion is foolish, and that God does not want these traditions changed. It was very interesting to be a bystander to this conflict, watching how both sides at the Wall thought the other was delusional.

Following the event at the Western Wall, we went to our old campus at Kiryat Moriah in Jerusalem (where we spent the first semester studying), to listen to speakers and watch films about Yom Hazikaron. To begin the day of remembrance, we stood in silence on the grass, waiting for the long wail of the siren. Throughout the whole of Israel, a siren flares up in remembrance for the fallen soldiers. All life stops, and every single Israeli stands for a minute or two, simply listening to the scream of the siren and honoring the day. Various Israelis came to the campus to speak about their lost siblings, children, friends, and fellow soldiers. I felt such a deep connection to the fallen soldiers, realizing that I have been living in a country that these brave troops died to preserve. My connection to the day was magnified, not only from living in Israel for the year, but also because of my age. If I was born in Israel, at eighteen years-old I would currently be in the Israeli army, enlisting along with all my friends. The story of one soldier, Benaya, was especially impactful. Benaya’s brother explained to us how Benaya served in a unit that discovered and cleared out the underground tunnels used by terrorists. After leaving a seemingly clear area, Benaya’s squad walked back to the rest of the unit. A terrorist, hidden beneath a secret entrance, popped out and fired round after round from a machine gun at the retreating soldiers. Miraculously, every single bullet struck Benaya and no one else, as the rest of the squadron quickly took out the terrorist. Benaya’s brother showed us a film of Benaya’s life. Clips were shown of Benaya as a kid, Benaya with his brothers, and most impactfully, Benaya returning home from duty one weekend to surprise his mother. I could easily picture my own family, and I could imagine the crippling, heartbreaking toll it would take on them. Later, a couple of my friends and I bused up North to Holon, where we ran a 5K along with hundreds of other Israelis in remembrance of Benaya. I witnessed each of his family members speak, viewing pain just as fresh as in the video we were shown earlier. Finally, at the end of the day, my friends and I made our way to the bridge overlooking the highway by our apartment. We waited there for the last siren, watching as speeding cars slowed down, pulled over, and stopped. Israelis got out of their cars, and we all stood together as one community.




While somber, I felt such a sense of communal support, knowing that throughout all of Israel, we were all hearing and thinking and remembering the same ideas.

Then, in a flash, Israel transformed. The sun went down, flags went up, music started blasting, and people began flooding the streets. Israel’s day of independence had arrived. I asked my Israeli friend where I should go Wednesday night in Tel Aviv to celebrate Independence Day. He replied: any street! We quickly mobilized, and went to one of the busiest streets in Tel Aviv.


Already, hundreds of people were dancing, laughing, singing, and spraying fake snow out of canisters for some strange reason. Large pick-up trucks pulled up, with giant speakers in the back. These “Nachman” (named after Rabbi Nachman, a venerated teacher of old) vehicles were driven by religious Jews, playing festive Israeli and Jewish songs. My friends and I danced all night with Israelis from all over, celebrating the holiday. The party continued throughout the whole next day, everyone full of joy for the existence of the Jewish state of Israel.



So how does a whole country shift moods in just a flash? How do we jump from a solemn day of remembrance to a joyous one of celebration? Perhaps the two days are not so different after all. The men and women that died serving Israel died with love and dedication for the country in their hearts. They sacrificed their lives to protect Israel, preserving its existence for now and for the future.

Yes, we can never forget the lives lost, never fully overcome the pain of the fallen young men and women, torn from their families and friends. However, we can celebrate what they died to protect and be grateful for the gift of protection and existence that they gave the people of Israel. In some ways, the days are one and the same. We would not have fallen soldiers if we did not receive independence, and no independence without soldiers risking their lives on the battlefield. Israel as a whole must be able to never forget the past and prices paid, but never stop being grateful for their sacrifice and hopeful for the future.