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Chapters 1 & 2 in Israel

By: Camey VanSant

By Ethan

Through a month and half in Israel, I feel like a tourist and a local simultaneously. Like a tourist, when Israelis speak to me in English, even when I speak to them in Hebrew. Like a local, when I can adeptly navigate Israel’s public transportation, from bus to train to bus to final destination. I’ve been to Israel multiple times in my life, but always felt like a tourist. Now that I’m living here, I’ve committed to improving my Hebrew and understanding more about Israeli culture.

The first part of my year, which I’ll call chapter one, saw me living on a kibbutz, a communal living society, called Ein HaNatziv. I woke up early in the morning to perform manual labor in the fields owned by the kibbutz, instructed by its members on the work to be carried out. After working with one of the kibbutz members for multiple days straight, I formed a relationship with him, my first real immersion into Israeli culture of the year.

A highlight of living on the kibbutz came when the kibbutz raised money to put on a wedding for a couple that otherwise couldn’t afford it. I showed up to dance and sing to celebrate a couple I didn’t know. It was a heartwarming and joyful night.

Sunset over the Old City of Jerusalem on a late September evening

After living on the kibbutz, I returned to where I’ll be living for most of the year–Jerusalem. Judaism’s high holidays, chapter two, began soon thereafter, so Israel, and definitely Jerusalem, got in the festive spirit. I’ve never experienced the holidays here until now; I’ve only ever been to Israel during the summer months.

The holidays have not disappointed; I’ve participated in meaningful prayer services,dancing and singing with random people, and eating delicious holiday meals. The culture of comradery and celebration during this time of year is inspirational– people connect to one another almost too easily.

In under a week, the holiday festivities will be over, as Israelis will go back to work and school. To this next chapter of the year, chapter three, I aim to bring with me the happy feelings that I’ve felt during the holidays and the ease of meeting new people in Israel.