Welcome to my first blog post! I hope you enjoy my story.
My name is Madison Laks, and I am currently a rising junior at the University of Connecticut where I am majoring in Human Development and Family Studies. My major is all about how people interact and connect, different kinds of family dynamics, and the reasons behind them all. I plan on pursuing a career in helping people (it’s vague, but I’m only 20)—possibly as a family therapist, but I still have time to figure that out. I’ve always been passionate about social justice and equality because I was raised by two Jewish parents who always stressed the importance of how everyone was created equal and deserves to be treated as such. Jewish values run in my blood (well, my metaphoric blood because I was adopted from China…), and I try to live them to the best of my ability everyday.
This is my first time living in Israel. I’ve been to Israel twice before—first on a camp trip for 3 weeks and then on Birthright with UConn Hillel. The first time, I was 16, and I don’t think I really took to heart or appreciated the fact that I was in the Holy Land. Maybe I was too young or I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t take it all in. I don’t remember. The second time, I was older (by three years), and I fell in love with Israel. Birthright is only 10 days, but when I went back home, I knew I had to come back to Israel as soon as possible. This time, I can happily say that I’m living in an apartment in Jerusalem for two months—the longest I’ve ever stayed in Israel, and I’m loving every minute. In Jerusalem, every street and every building has a story. I love living in a city full of this much life, history and spirituality.
I’ve already been here for about three weeks, and part of me feels like I’ve been here for three months because I have learned so much in so little time, while the other part feels like I just landed because I still manage to get lost on a daily basis. Although it seems intimidating, living pretty much on my own with very little guidance in Israel has been really enlightening and fun. I have come to understand Israeli culture a little bit better and how to fit in. I’ve also become more comfortable with living independently in an unfamiliar environment. Where I am living in Jerusalem may be unfamiliar, but Israel isn’t an unfamiliar country; it’s a home away from home.
I came to Israel with a program called Onward Israel, which is a Jewish agency program that matches college students to an internship in Israel based on their individual interests. Being the kind of person who wants to save the world and work for social justice, I was perfectly matched with an organization called Hut HaMeshulash, which is a non-profit that provides peace, love and a warm home for at-risk youth who are living on the streets of Jerusalem.
People at home and in Israel have asked me, “Why did you have to go across the world to work for a non-profit?”
- Because I knew I had to come back to the Holy Land.
- Because I wanted a chance to live in Israel and become immersed in the culture.
- Because I could gain new perspectives from an Israel standpoint.
- Because I want to help people.
- Because why not?
While living in Israel, I have already learned and experienced more than I thought I would have in three weeks. Here are a few things I have done/accomplished so far:
- Walking in the Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv (where the clothing is optional apparently)
- Using a “Rav Kav” to ride the public transportation
- Traveling by myself
- Going to a friend’s house for Shabbat
- Learning how to use a hot plate (the kind with a gas burner)
- Cooking my own Shabbat dinner
- Getting very very lost
- Asking for directions
- Learning—or trying to learn—Hebrew
- Hiking in the Negev
- Watching the sunset on the beaches of Tel Aviv
- Visiting the shuk
- Eating my fair share of falafel
- Seeing friends from home
- Making new friends
By the end of this summer, I plan expanding this list as much as possible. With every experience comes some kind of lesson, whether it’s “how to get lost and find your way without understanding the language” or “how to not look like a tourist,” and I anticipate gaining as much insight and wisdom as I can before I leave this country in August.
Today, I start my written journey. Here, I’ll write my adventures down and maybe understand and appreciate them a little better. If I ever stop writing for a while, it may be because I’m too tired or maybe I just got so lost that I couldn’t find a computer to write about how lost I was. Anyway, I look forward to the rest of my adventures in Israel and sharing my journey with you along the way.