Summer Programs Alyssa’s Final Thoughts
There is no other place where you can get the most exquisite brunches complete with omelets, dips, spreads, and breads at a seemingly low cost. There is no other place where you can find unreal bakeries and cherry tomatoes that taste like candy at every street corner. There is no other place where you will find a multitude of hot clubs that sit right on the amazing beaches. There is no other place where you can walk from the heart of a city to a breathtaking coastline in less than ten minutes. There is no place that is quite like Tel Aviv.
I have always been fascinated by how wherever you go in Israel, the views out the window are breathtaking. From the Golan Heights to the Old City in Jerusalem to camel riding in the Negev Desert, it is amazing how much vastness and beauty is packed into a country the size of New Jersey (shoutout to my homeland!).
Before living here this summer, all I had seen of Tel Aviv was a beach, Independence Hall, the inside of a hotel, and the Port. I knew I loved and had taken a huge bite out of tasting Israel, but still had so much to explore in this city. Every Wednesday, I found myself self-discovering a new area of Tel Aviv; and whether it was Sheinkin Street, Neve Tzedek, Sarona and the Azrieli Center, or the Marina, every hump-day took me on a new adventure and allowed my love for the city to grow. I always grabbed a snack – a piece of rugelach from a bakery that I stumbled upon, an ice cream sandwich from Cookeez (2 freshly baked cookies with ice cream in the middle, amazing), or frozen yogurt from Tamara, Anita, or Leggenda (Israeli froyo is the best). Remind me of my Wednesday snacks when I get onto the scale in America and am five pounds heavier… Obviously Wednesdays were not the only time I explored the city, but they were when I did what I wanted to do.
Speaking of me, that is why I chose to do Onward in the first place. My spring semester was off to a rocky start, and despite my mother’s pleas for me to search for a paid internship in NYC, I needed to do something that combined work experience with life experience. I begged her to let me come to Israel, and reluctantly, she made the deposit for the program and bought my plane ticket. Onward Israel, though you live with a group and travel with them a few times a week, is a program for you. If you want to spend the weekend in Haifa, go and do it. If you want to try that restaurant, nobody is stopping you. At the end of the day, it is your personalized internship and the experience you make of it; and that is why you are here. You don’t come to make friends; you get lucky if you make a few along the way. And luckily, I made about three friends, and out of twenty people, that is nothing to turn a blind eye to. This summer was about self-discovery; discovering what I want to do for a job, discovering Israel and if maybe I want to live here, and discovering what makes me happy.
I just want to take a moment to thank Young Judaea, especially Lena Elkins, for everything this summer. When asking for my placement in, “oh… I don’t know… Like Jewish nonprofit or marketing something maybe,” I never imagined that I would be placed right where the program that brought me here was based. I also never imagined how much I would love what I was doing, and that I would finally realize what I want to do as a job someday: social media marketing. I never realized that work could consist of writing witty, hilarious lists about the people, places, and things you will see on Birthright, or that work could consist of writing about my experiences (hey!). I also want to thank Ricky Eytan and Yael Sahar for both the inspiration and for making sure that I was never bored with the amount of projects I had to do. This internship is going to be hard for any other one or for a job in the future to live up to, and I could not be more thankful.
All good things must come to an end. It’s time to say l’hitraot to the beautiful beaches, the brunches that make me unbutton my jeans, the place where every store has enough hummus to fill a swimming pool, and the stores on King George with adorable 40 shekel t-shirt dresses. It’s time to stop making Birthright-themed Buzzfeed-like lists my day job and eating communal lunches with the amazing YJ staff. Though I am sad to leave, I know that bagels the size of my head and venti iced coffees await on the other side of the Atlantic.
A question that I keep getting is, “so when are you making Aliyah?” and I can whole-heartedly tell you that answer is never… Unless some hunk of an Israeli man walks into my life and changes my mind. However, I can tell you this: I will be back in Israel, whether that means a week, a month, a year, two years… I just know that at the end of the day, ani Americait (I am American), but I will always have a bayit b’Yisrael (home in Israel).