December Update

By Hannah Southworth, WUJS Participant

The past month has been busy, fantastic, and full of changes. I have been working hard at my new internship. I work at a start up called MobileOCT┬ánow and am loving it. I started in women’s health research and now am working on regulatory. I love the people I work with and although it is a lot of work, I am learning a lot. It was difficult to get into a full work load after a more flexible schedule, but I am so glad that I found something that is both rewarding and educational.

The past weeks have included some great trips. We went to Caesarea, which is a beautiful costal town with Roman ruins. The next trip was to Sderot, a town that felt significant damage from the war this summer. We went to the border and were able to see Gaza with the naked eye. It was eery to see the cameras that are set up to detect any rockets, and the obvious border that strictly separates the region from where we were standing. In the town of Sderot we saw rockets that had hit the town. They were lined up behind the police station and reminded us of how much the small town had been through. We also toured a children’s bomb shelter where children went during the work day. It could resist any rockets that hit the structure and served as a play place and a safe zone. It was empty but obvious that life continued within this colorful space regardless of what was happening outside. After Sderot we went to a place called the Salad trail where you learn about agricultural practices in Israel. We ended it with a cooking challenge using everything from their gardens.

The following week I attended a Masa leadership conference. Every Masa program in Israel is invited to apply and around 300 attended. It was a mix of young people from all over the world and I was so glad I went. We stayed in a beautiful location in Jerusalem and attended seminars, heard speeches, and ate free hotel food. I wanted to explore more about what was happening in the international community of young people living in Israel. My favorite seminar by far was a session called “Jewish Illiteracy” and it definitely spoke to me. I grew up with the holidays, food, and learned as much history as possible but since it was not a spiritual upbringing, I have found other ways to recognize my religion. For me, taking opportunities to learn about the religion in other ways while in Israel is a huge gift. I want learn more about how my family lived in the past and how I want to recognize my religion going forward. The session on Jewish Illiteracy focused on the fact that many young Jews in the United States and abroad don’t have the ability to read hebrew, carry on traditions in the home, and interpret their own religion. The session leader talked about how to make religion more approachable. One of the days we got to experience a different location. I went to an Eco Art Village to learn about the Jewish practice of Shmita. Shmita is known as the sabbatical year where farmers let the land rest. It happens in the seventh year of the seven year agricultural cycle. Since less than 2% of Israelis work in agriculture, it is not as common of a practice. We still talked about how Shmita translates to other parts of your life. The eco art village runs educational programs on green building and sustainable water systems. It also is where a dance company called Vertigo practices. We got to build with some mud, practice meditation, have a tour, and do contact improv. I also went into the Old City and saw the tunnels that are under the Western Wall.

The holiday season here was beautiful but definitely missing some of my families traditions. I would love to hear how everyone’s holiday season was!