It’s Not Just Israel

For the first time in my life – it’s not just Israel.

3 months ago, I decided to leave Israel for a temporary period on the journey of a lifetime: Shlichut. Some of those closest to me did not hold back their feelings and one of the most popular responses I received was “You are crazy!”

Crazy means opportunity for me, and my journey was full of excitement since the moment it began.

Much of my process to depart on Shlichut did not necessarily go all in order. I always knew I wanted to be a Shaliach but did not realize that the application deadline was fast approaching once my application and interview process was complete. I thought my chances were minimal and then, before I knew it, I was standing outside of the airport in Montreal, two suitcases in hand and a shipment of 7 boxes making its way from Israel to my new, temporary home.

3 months ago, I became a Jewish Agency Israel Fellow. Months that have been fascinating and challenging both on a personal and professional level. It has been a truly incredible start to my Shlichut.

I had heard much about the Jewish community here in Montreal. Despite everything I had heard, I didn’t realize the extent to which I would be welcomed into the community with such open arms. The amount of invitations I received for all the holidays and Shabbat dinners could feed an entire army! The patience that I have had to learn to have in order to create a social and personal life continues to excite me every day.

And even though I was offered invitations to so many meals, I was still hungry.

No Mom, the food here is excellent (although I’m a bad cook). But this hunger is more about the work I would engage in. The number of opportunities Shlichut offers us; the number of people and places you can reach, and the amount of dreams that can be fulfilled for yourself and others, are simply enormous. I participated in two fascinating seminars given by the Jewish Agency, and although I learned an incredible amount of information, one sentence stood out to me, and continues to strike a chord with me as I engage in this journey; “During Shlichut, you bring your Israeli story”. What this means, more specifically, is that it does not matter what each person has done in their life up until now, each one of us is unique and diverse and we all tell a part of Israel’s incredible story.

And then, last Shabbat, a shocking moment came which really affected me: the terrible attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. This tragic event shocked us all.

I am always used to feeling part of the State of Israel. When I am home in Israel, and there is news about missiles landing in the South of Israel or a terror attack in Jerusalem, I know how to deal with it. I am part of a society that sadly has become veteran in coping with these tragedies.

However, when something tragic happens in a place that is not our home, we must adapt and learn new mechanisms to cope. I have seen this with my new adopted community and the greater North American Jewish community, during this difficult week. For me, my Jewish and Israeli identity has always been a part of who I am. It is what people know about me first and foremost. But in communities around the world, Jews are often recognizable because of their places of worship and religious symbols. It was something that truly resonated with me after this tragedy. And as difficult as it has been, it has made me so proud of my own identity and of the Jewish community. It has given me a new appreciation for the Diaspora.

There has been amazing solidarity in our Jewish community, and I have been able to observe our community coming together to honor the victims, pray for the wounded and condemn the terrible anti-Semitism that led to this tragic event. I have found myself over the past week, listening and learning. It is an integral part of our Shlichut; we come to teach and bring Israel to our communities, but we are also here to listen and learn. My heart is filled with warmth and love from the Montreal Jewish community, with the support from Israel, and the remarkable job of the students.

For the first time in my life – it’s not just Israel.

This event made me realize that.

This is just the start of my Shlichut and from what I already understand today, I know tomorrow will be different, and the next day as well- all of which I will come to understand as I carry on with this journey. We continue to work, move forward, teach and learn from one another, fail, succeed, connect and more.

If you have come to this sentence, thank you for reading. We will meet again in the next blog.

About the Author
Ben is the Jewish Agency Israel Fellow to Hillel Montreal, powered by GenMTL Federation CJA. He served as a commander for three years in the Israeli Artillery corps and received the Medal of excellence to exemplary soldiers, on behalf of the president of the State of Israel. Ben completed his L.L.B at the Netanya Academic College. As part of his studies, Ben is a graduate of the Israeli Parliament internship, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs internship, and led a project together with the StandWithUs fellowship. Ben is a former Israeli children actor, a social activist in his hometown.
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