Just over two years ago, I returned from the most influential, life-changing experience. I, fortunately, had the incredible, unique opportunity of being able to take a gap year in Israel. Throughout that year, I was able to experience the land of Israel in a completely different way than I have ever seen it.
It is very common for kids in my community to take a gap year in Israel after graduating high school. This gap year is usually taken in a Yeshiva or Seminary in an attempt for teens to explore different cultures, learn incredible life lessons, strengthen their Jewish education and values, and meet lifelong friends. I had the great opportunity to attend Midreshet Amit, a women’s seminary located in Gilo, Jerusalem.
Midreshet Amit is a place that offers a unique experience where one can study Torah and focus on their religious growth for the majority of the day. At the same time, I participated in incredible community service opportunities which allowed me to see Israeli culture and develop connections with children with different issues that need help. Whether it was children from broken homes needing a big sister or families with sick children needing help for the Jewish holidays, I had the chance to help in whatever way it may have been which allowed me to gain such a strong appreciation for the nation and people I am a part of.
I was also privileged to tour Israel in a completely new way than I ever had before. Whether it was sleeping in Bedouin tents in the Judean desert, spending Shabbat in the holy city of Tzfat, or waking up at sunrise and hiking up Masada, these experiences are ones that I will never forget.
Every day, a significant portion of my day was spent studying Torah. My seminary had the greatest teachers and rabbis that one can ask for who were passionate about the topics at hand and really instilled Jewish thought in me that I carry to this day. I was able to gain new insights and perspectives of these texts, think critically, and explore my beliefs. This really helped me gain a deeper experience of Judaism and my place among the Jewish people.
The people I got to meet became friends for life. Being brought together with 100 other girls with a like-minded, growth-oriented mindset, helped motivate me to grow in the greatest way possible. Sitting around a Shabbat table with 20 of my best friends, reminiscing about the incredible weeks we had together in seminary, and sharing experiences and words of Torah are moments that I will cherish forever. These moments built me into the person I am proud to be today.
When I look back at this amazing year I experienced, I realize exactly why Israel holds such a special part in my heart. Living in the heart of the world, and being able to experience such incredible moments with so many amazing people really motivated me to never let go of my connection. This is why I feel such an obligation to participate in as many programs and organizations that help Israel and stand up for Israel in tougher times. Having experienced Israel in such a unique way allowed me to develop an extremely strong, emotional connection which has led me to feel every time something happens in Israel, whether good or bad deep in my heart.
I believe that this gap year was a life-changing moment and has helped me form a much deeper connection to the land, the people, and the state of Israel. I strongly encourage anybody who may have an opportunity like this, whether it be a summer vacation or a gap year experience to take full advantage of it. To really try and forge a connection with the land of Israel is of the utmost importance, especially in a time when Jews, and by extension the state of Israel, are continuously targeted. We need everybody possible to know and experience what it is to be a Jew in the land of Israel so that we can stand up to all adversity that comes our way and become the strongest Jewish nation that we can be.