YJ Staff Member of the Week

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What is your name and where are you originally from?

A: My name is Ariel Rosenstein, and I am from Hofit, which is a small town on the Mediterranean coast, just half an hour north of Tel Aviv.

I understand that your parents are from the United States – how did they end up in Israel?

It’s true, my parents are from the United States. They made Aliyah in 1967. My father grew up in Los Angeles, and my mother grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. They were both raised in Zionistic homes, and they were educated about Israel. When they were 18, they both decided to study at Tel Aviv University, and that is where they met. They started their life here, and their siblings and parents followed their footsteps and made Aliyah just a few years after they did.

Do you feel like you are different from other Israelis? You were born here and grew up here, but did you feel different from your peers growing up with American parents?

A: Yes, I feel like I have somewhat of an American cultural identity. I grew up reading children’s books in English and listening to American music, like Simon and Garfunkel, Aretha Franklin, and all of the classics. I think that being the first generation in Israel, whether your parents are from the US or from other places, you are more sensitive to how amazingly special this country is: complicated, difficult, but also essential and unique. So, I think that I grew up with this appreciation that we have Israel to call our home and that we have our own country.

What do you do in life now? Where and what did you study?

A: Well, the most important thing that I can tell you is that I am getting married in three-and-a-half months. My Bachelors’ Degree is in History and International Relations from Hebrew University, and I am now studying for my Masters’ Degree in Conflict Resolution and Mediation at Tel Aviv University. The whole world of International Relations really intrigues me, and I feel like there is a lot to do, especially when it comes to Israel.

What is your job for Young Judaea?

A: At Young Judaea, I am the coordinator for WUJS, a MASA program with Young Judaea that gives adults between the ages of 21 and 25 the opportunity to come to Israel for five months to intern in all kinds of fields, live in great apartments in the Florentine area, go on trips, and learn Hebrew. It’s a very cool program based on independent living.

What is your favorite part about your job at Young Judaea, and why do you love working for an organization like this?

I love to work with people from all over the world and share my passions and my views on this country, and try to explain how despite the complexity, it is very special. As for this organization, it’s the perfect size: not too big, not too small. I love the atmosphere at YJ; we all work together and help each other out. I also really identify with the ideology of the organization and appreciate how it does not try to sugar coat anything. If you want to travel in Israel and get to know Israel, YJ is a really good platform — it enables you to understand this country in its depth.

When you tour, you learn about the usual things, like Judaism and the conflict, but you also get to learn about the real Israel that you do not hear about in the news: the people and the culture. You really get a genuine feeling about what it is like to live in Israel.

You said that you are getting married. Who’s the lucky lady? What are your wedding plans? Give us the details!

A: I am almost thirty years old, and I met my fiancée, Gan, when I was 17 at a summit for a nature-oriented youth movement. Gan, which means ‘garden’, is a very unique name — there are only about five people with this name in Israel. She studied film, and she writes and directs her own movies. Her parents are both artists, so she is very artistic and communicative through art. She is never boring — she is full of surprises and everyday is an adventure. She shares my love of nature, and may even love it more than I do. We currently live in Tel Aviv, and though it is a really cool city, we hopefully will not be here for much longer. We like to get out of the city to drive around and hike. We often enjoy breathing fresh air, the birds, and the quiet.

As I said, I met Gan at a nature-oriented youth summit when I was 17. The summit at which I met her was for people who wanted to take a year to postpone their army service and do community service. I do still remember the moment when I first saw her, but we went on our own separate paths that both happened to be nature-oriented but in different frameworks. Two years ago, we bumped into each other on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv, and to make a long story short, ever since then we are inseparable. I really tried to impress her and I think it worked. Our first date was a hike in the Judean Desert to the Dead Sea, and I took her to a very special overview of this really old monastery on the cliffs and covered her eyes so that she opened them and saw an amazing oasis beneath her.

Alright alright, get to the wedding plans!

In the States, there is a very formal culture with wedding planning… and it is very stressful! Here in Israel, it is much more casual. We have set a date (October 1st) but have not yet decided where the wedding will take place. It is not very organized, but we are really trying, and have been looking for a place to hold the wedding. It is supposed to be a fun process, not a stressful one! Right now, the priority is finding a cool place to get married, and after that we will worry about the food and other aspects.

Anything else you want to share?

A: Israelis usually travel after their service in the army to recount the last two to three years they spent in army service. I have been fortunate enough to have travel and even have lived abroad, and my United States citizenship made it easy for me to live there in three six-month stints. I really enjoyed it, and although I always identified as both American and Israeli, living there made me realize how much I am an Israeli and how much I love living in Israel. I cannot imagine living anywhere else, and plan to raise my children in this culture and society that I love. I would encourage anyone to come and visit and to taste some of what Israel has to offer.

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