Year Course My Year Course Experience: Gabe Hirsch

By Young Judaea

By Gabe Hirsch, Year Course 23-24 Participant

Year Course provided me with the unique opportunity to not only live in Israel, but connect with people from all around the world. It allowed me to create tight knit bonds with people no matter the circumstances that we experienced.

Year Course began for me in Jerusalem. In this time I was given a safe space to truly show who I am. Kiryat Moriah is the perfect place for making new connections as there is no place to hide, people came to me and introduced themselves, and I did the same to others. In this first month the standard was set for my Year Course experience. It was to be a year where I not only met and connected with new people, but experienced life with them. Additionally, during my time in Jerusalem I was allowed to both learn about the history of the place I was living, as well as begin to appreciate it myself. However, that appreciation was quickly shifted to something else.

As everyone knows what happened on October 7th I won’t speak on it. However, what I will speak on was Young Judaea’s quick and intelligent response.

Within 3 days of the tragedy the entirety of Year Course was in one of the Safest locations in all of Israel. Kibbutz Ketura, The next month and a half here became one of the most meaningful parts of my year. We volunteered, helping around the kibbutz where reserves were missing, and helping those who were displaced living in Eilat. We integrated within the kibbutz, joining Shabbats, movie nights, and pool nights, becoming a stronger community even through a time of uncertainty.

During this time the most significant piece was how quickly my relationships strengthened. People on the other section that I had barely talked to became some of my best friends that I still talk to everyday. Kibbutz Ketura cultured the family feel of Year Course that was continued throughout the rest of the year, each and every member of Year Course is another brother or sister.

As life within Israel began to stabilize we returned back to our starting cities. Strengthened by our time in Ketura as well as ready and excited to welcome home those who left. We then finished our semester bringing the culture we had created to the rest of the program.

The final section of time that we had was when we switched cities. I moved from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. This move curated the true flourishing of relationships, friends became closer, and we began to value our limited time together. In addition many found meaning in helping the Israeli community through their internship, or in my case by working with Magen David Adom, the ambulance service in Israel. Being able to be on the ground helping individuals who needed emergency assistance gave me the chance to feel proud of myself for being able to contribute positively to the country.

As my time on Year Course came to end I began reflecting on what I believed the most significant and meaningful parts were, and to me, the single most important part of my year was the culture. The Young Judaea organization creates a fundamentally strong community for not only individuals to flourish and learn more about themselves, but weave strong relationships with one another that transcend time zones, cities, and countries.

As I return home from Israel and begin my time at college, I am thankful for the impact this year has made on me. Living in Israel taught me the importance of deep, meaningful, and strong connections between people I love, and I look forward to carrying that mentality with me onwards into my future endeavors.

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