Hey Camp George!
I’m thrilled to be sharing words from members of our 2013 staff who participated in NFTY’s Eisendrath International Exchange program (E.I.E.) this past semester. Beginning in January, Ariel, Justin and Ryan spent their semester learning and living in various parts of Israel. Read on to hear about their favourite memories of their experience, the lessons they’ve learned and more! To read our first blog checking in with our E.I.E. participants, click here.
– Can’t wait to hear more about their experience at camp this summer!
What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while on E.I.E.?
Ariel: “Oh man, that’s a tough one. I haven’t really learned one particular “lesson”, but going on E.I.E. has really widened my perspective on the world and has bettered my understanding in regards to what I want to do, and who I want to become in the future.”
Ryan: “One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned on EIE is to take advantage of every opportunity. Especially in this situation you never want to miss out on an opportunity to do something amazing.”
How have your experiences at camp helped shape your experience on E.I.E.?
Justin: “At camp I improved my ability to make friends and meet new people, so it was easy to meet people when I came on EIE.”
Ariel: “Going on E.I.E is without a doubt an adjustment. I left my home, friends, school and really life to come and live in somewhere completely new. I think my ability to transition so easily was largely because of camp. Growing up at camp each summer really helped me gain a sense of resilience, which very much so, contributed to my E.I.E. experience.”
Ryan: “First of all, my camp experience somewhat inspired me to go on EIE by talking to alumni of the program. Although camp is completely different from EIE, my experiences living in a camp community helped me to prepare for living in Israel.”
Favourite Shabbat memory?
Justin: “When we went to the Kotel for Shabbat.”
Ariel: “My favourite Shabbat memories involved going to see my extended family on weekends. I’d been to Israel twice when I was much younger to see them, but I really didn’t have much of a connection. Being able to see them now, has given me the opportunity to put faces and personalities to names as I spent many great nights eating laughing and really being a part of the family.”
Ryan: “The first Shabbat when we were here, we went to the old city of Jerusalem and a man walking by wished me a Shabbat shalom. That is something you can’t find almost anywhere else.”
What lessons/ skills will you take home with you/ to camp this summer?
Justin: “I will be much more knowledgeable on the subject of Israel. I am also a more independent person because of this trip.”
Ariel: “Responsibility. Living on my own, with my own money, I quickly learned that spending all my sheckles on chocolate was not ALWAYS the right decision.”
Ryan: “One of the most important things that I will take home will be my knowledge of Jewish History and Israel. Seeing our history first hand has helped me continue to discover my Jewish identity.”
Any advice for people thinking about participating in E.I.E.?
Justin: “Definitely come on the trip, it is an amazing experience that should not be passed up if you can come. Enjoy your entire time in Israel as much as possible because the four months will pass quickly.”
Ariel: “100% going to be the best decision you’ll ever make.”
Ryan: “If you are really interested and are willing to try something new, make it happen for yourself. There are tons of scholarship opportunities because it’s such an amazing program and people want to help you come here. If you have the support of your family and are willing to fill out the ridiculous application forms, it’s completely worth it. It sounds cliché, but it’s really a life changer.”
Favourite Jewish holiday celebrated while in Israel? Why? What was the same/ different?
Justin: “Purim because the whole country gets into the spirit of the holiday. Everyone dresses up in costume even just to walk the streets and it is just a lot of fun.”
Ariel: “We spent Yom Haatzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) here which was really amazing, because we were surrounded by the lively Israeli culture. What I found special was the fact that it takes place right after Yom Hazikaron (Day of Rememberance); this gave the ability to really see and feel the country’s sense of sorrow transform into an immense feeling of pride, which was truly unique.”
Ryan: “This one isn’t a Jewish holiday but an Israeli one. יום הזיכרון (Soldier Memorial Day) was incredible to experience in Israel. Because everyone goes to the army at the end of high school, the army is a huge part of Israeli culture. Remembering the soldiers of the IDF who died fighting for Israel’s existence is really powerful. We went to the ceremony at the Kibbutz cemetery and looked out on the hills as the sirens rang out.”
Favourite place you visited in Israel? Why?
Justin: “I loved going to the old city of Jerusalem because it is just amazing how everywhere you look there is just so much history.”
Ariel: “I would say Tzvat was one of my favourite places we visited. We spent an afternoon strolling upon the cobble stone paths within the artist colony. The beauty was that surrounded me was simply indescribable and I’d definitely go back in a heartbeat.”
Ryan: “It isn’t easy to choose a favourite, but Tel Aviv is probably my favourite city. The beach speaks for itself.”