Year Course My Year Course Experience: Lara Lew Strauss

By Young Judaea

By Lara Lew Strauss, Year Course 2023-2024 Participant

Wow, what a year.

Year Course has gone by in a flash. It was such a wonderful experience, beyond what words can describe. I have come away with a heavy and beautiful appreciation for Israel, its culture, the people who live there, and my role in the Jewish community. More so than ever before, I am filled with gratitude. The opportunity to explore and adjust to a new country, specifically Israel, is a privilege anyone would be lucky to have.

I had never heard of Young Judaea before embarking on Year Course. I delved into the program blindly with no friends or acquaintances, and came away with so many connections and so much love. People I didn’t know existed nine months prior became central to my life as we took on incredible experiences together through programming, such as snorkeling, volunteering in melon fields, picking strawberries, wine tasting, and filling our spare time with laughs and delicious meals out in the city. I never felt alone in a country halfway across the world, which speaks to how highly Young Judaea fostered a community amongst participants.

Since arriving at Ben Gurion airport on the first day of Year Course, I have felt so safe with the Young Judaea staff. The staff are always accessible, and have done excellently in communicating information and addressing our individual needs. This past year of 23-24, Year Course has performed exceptionally in adapting programming and making participants comfortable following the attack on October 7th. Our relocation to Kibbutz Ketura was done seamlessly, and maintained our quality of life the best it could.

Just one week after arriving home, I already find myself reminiscing about the places I enjoyed in Tel Aviv. I practically lived at Bograshov Beach, or at Shuk HaCarmel, or at the cafes along Habima Square. I would spend mornings walking as far as I could along the coast before my roommates would even wake up. I loved taking public transport to go to my internship without using navigation applications, to feel like I fit in with the locals. In Israel, I was confidently independent. The best moments of independence were those where I would walk the streets of Tel Aviv alone and randomly run into another Year Courser, which just made the city feel so personal and familiar. I felt so comfortable with my surroundings and so consumed by them, and I have never felt that way about any other place.

My biggest takeaway from the spontaneity with which I made decisions while on Year Course is that it is a blessing to be able to wake up and choose to do what fulfills you everyday, with no restraints. For those nine months, I lived life exactly as I chose. My goal for the future is to keep that attitude in my daily life, where life is what you make of it. Although all of us alumni will now undoubtedly have more responsibility as we embark on our next steps, we will maintain our freer spirits and stronger passions for adventure.

I could not be more grateful for my experience in Israel, the friends I made along the way, and the ways in which I underwent personal growth.

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