My Year in Israel

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By  Year Course 14-15 participant, Sarah Silverstein 

Do the things you believe in. Because what we believe in makes up who we are. We often underestimate the extent to which the choices we make today affect us tomorrow. We don’t immediately realize how the people we meet and friends we make inspire and teach us. Conversations I have had this year, both inside the classroom and even more so outside it, have impacted my worldview.  They have strengthened some of my beliefs and challenged others.  That is one thing that Year Course, that choosing Year Course, did for me.

We know we’re growing but we usually can’t notice a difference until we have to look back in order to move forward. Picture yourself nine months ago and remember the fears you may have had about this year. Now, think about where you are at this moment. Do the fears you once had feel small? Do they feel far away? I can remember counting down the number of sleeps I had left in my room every night. I remember feeling like once I packed up and hit the road things would never be the same. Fast forward to now: I have learned that the feelings I had those nights weren’t so far off from the truth. One of the most difficult things that I have been fortunate to learn can be summed up by this quote ‘you will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.’ Over the past few weeks I’ve found myself counting the nights left here in Israel just as I had done nine months ago in New York. Fear is something inevitable within ourselves but sometimes the ideas and actions that scare us the most can lead us to our greatest accomplishments.

When I signed up for Year Course I didn’t know anyone else that was coming on the program.  I was a little worried about that but decided to make it a fun adventure.  It didn’t take much time to notice that many people already knew each other from Young Judaea. Introducing myself to a group of people who already know each other wasn’t so easy.  It felt awkward but everyone tried their best to say hi and meet everyone else.  About a month later, the dynamic of the group was changing. We were moving from strangers, to friends, to family. I think most of us would agree that the first impressions we had of each other began to fade away. The friend who had described themselves as shy was transforming into a social butterfly and the person who originally didn’t know where they stood on so many issues started screaming their ideas and opinions. So many of us have jumped out of our comfort levels, whether it be to help a friend or help ourselves, we have done it.  9 months ago I didn’t know who would bike the Kineret, who would hike the country, who would travel the world, who would challenge my opinions and who would agree with them, who would be lazy and who would be crazy, who would stop me from making mistakes and who would be my partners in crime when, inevitably, we all made mistakes. I didn’t know who I would be to each of you, or who you would be to me.  And now I gladly pay the price for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.

I started by saying do the things you believe in, because when you believe in what you do you believe in yourself. You believe that even alone you can create, give, help and succeed. We are all, thank god, alive and capable of imaginable and unimaginable things. We are the only people who control our capabilities. If each of us can reflect on this year and say that we sucked the juice out of the fruit entirely, kol hakavod, don’t stop. Take Year Course with you as a reminder wherever you go that you not only tried, you succeeded.  For those of us who may feel like we didn’t get as much as we could have, start taking and giving and doing more. It is not too late to take the lessons of Year Course forward, to take matters into our own hands, to create meaning, to try something different and new, to repair the world, on whatever scale we can manage.  Take the recipes, the crazy stories, the almost accidents and new friendships with you wherever you go.

Year Course, for me, has been a year to figure out what I believe in and I’m sure this pursuit will follow me into my next chapter in life. Part of me hopes that this pursuit follows you too because life isn’t black and white and only we can decide how to color the pages.