One week ago, I moved to Haifa. Back in the States, Mishelanu provided me with the foundation and identity to be a strong Israeli American and now has brought me to Israel to live the dream.
For the next two months, I have the chance to exercise my Israeli citizenship and live like a normal Israeli with an apartment, a real “adult” job, groceries, and even city traffic – now I really feel at home.
The Onward orientation started off in Zichron Yaakov on a Thursday, a short drive from Haifa, and Friday and Shabbat we had off. Sunday, a regular work day in Israel, was designated as a day for us to bond as a group.
We took a walking tour to learn about and explore all the vivid street art around Haifa, specifically in the Hadar neighborhood. Stories and personal narratives came to life through what artists chose to illustrate on the streets so beautifully and although I can barely draw a stick figure I found profound meaning and depth in what was before me.
From there we took a short trip to the stunning views of the Bahai Gardens that I can see from my window each morning and night when I head to bed. We made a few more stops through out the day and then closed off our day at the Haifa Municipality, the location of my internship this summer, with an intimate meeting between the Mayor of Haifa Yona Yahav and Onward/Mishelanu staff.
I was chosen to introduce myself and talk about my internship and career plans for the summer and beyond. To top it all off we came out with some pretty cool swag that I’ll probably never have the nerve to wear outside for fear of being labeled as a tourist (as a native New Yorker who never went one day without seeing I <3 NYC shirts I figured it was best.)
My first day of work started the following day, but I did not feel too well, so I will skip to my second day which can now become officially my first. I had decided to continue my career path in government and chose to gain invaluable hands on experience working in the Municipality, specifically the department of Culture and Public Affairs. I was given a tour of the newly renovated offices and met everyone in the department.
I had never been in an Israeli workplace before and did not know what to expect, but immediately felt at home. The determination and perfect dose of chutzpah everyone in the office worked with reminded me exactly how our little country continues to stay strong and resilient in a sea of unrest and turmoil. A little chaos is good — just enough to effectively get things done.
During all the hustle and bustle in the office, I overheard that a very important figure in the government was coming for a visit — my fan girl radar went into high alert. I went back to work, but could not help thinking about who the guest could be and how exciting this first day now became. In light of the new building the department moved into the Minister of Culture and Sport, Miri Regev, was coming for the official inauguration.
Even across the world, where it is the norm to wear jeans to your own wedding, formalities of cutting a ribbon still stuck. The Minister pulled up to the building with the Mayor and a posse of people, took a tour of the property, and then went up to the roof top deck where food and drinks were set up for the event.
As I left work later feeling fulfilled with my day I received a message that a Chabad house on my block was having an event in the evening. I had no idea there was a Chabad house on the block let alone in the area, but I figured I would wait to cook dinner and stop by to see what was going on. Growing up in New York and traveling to campuses during college gave me a huge connection to Chabad and I felt myself missing the spirituality and soul only they provide.
I walk down the street to my corner and see a huge red carpet laid out with purple lights making a shiny new building glow and masses of people enjoying a cocktail hour. White chairs were all set up in front of a stage where musicians and coordinators were setting up and doing last minute sound checks under a טקס חנוכת בית הסטודנט sign. If one inauguration a day was not exciting enough for me now there would be two! A new Chabad for the young college campus community in Haifa had opened around March just a few doors down from me and now was officially being celebrated. Honored guests were the Mayor of course who I had seen earlier, world renowned Chabad leaders, and yet another Minister, one who is near and dear to my family — Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett.
Although my knowledge of Israeli politics may be minimal the one person who has always been a role model for how to be a religious and passionate Zionist has been Naftali and it was incredibly exciting to be able to meet him and hear his words of blessing for our rising community. An official mezuzah was placed in the doorway and guests were honored with food and words of Torah. I had not cooked any meals that day so both lunch and dinner were provided by work – I could definitley get used to this.
I am on my way to Onward’s Security and Diplomacy Seminar in Jerusalem as I reflect on this incredible first week in my new city. I am looking forward to another 7 fantastic weeks filled with growth, connection, and development and being able to share this experience. Until then, Yalla Bye!