Year Course Year Course Closing Speech: Isadora Wachter

By Young Judaea

Closing Ceremony speech of Year Course ’23-’24 Participant, Isadora Wachter

July 8th, 2022. Location, Mount Hertzl: I think I need to live in Israel for a bit longer. There’s something I really love about this place. I need more time here. Maybe I should take a gap year.

August 31st, 2023. Location, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport: What the hell have I gotten myself into? Packing up my life in two duffle bags and a backpack at 18 and moving across the world sounds adventurous, but in practice is quite terrifying. Everyone knows each other already, and I feel like I don’t know anyone. Either these people are going to be my best friends or the weirdest people I have ever met. (Spoiler alert: they were both).

Good evening, Year Course. I am honored and humbled to be the Kedma representative at closing ceremonies. When Rabbi Adam and Ariel approached me about giving this speech, I have to admit I was a little surprised. I would have expected them to choose someone who did YJ their whole life because it seems to be Kedma’s most predominant personality trait.

September 1st, I was the first of my roommates to arrive at Kiryat Moriah and begin unpacking. Most kids have their parents or a helping hand, but as I stood in my room alone, I said to myself, “Alright. I’m on my own now.” 

As the days went on, I (very gradually) started to learn people’s names, explore Jerusalem, and borderline wretch at what the Kiryat Moriah chadar called “aruchat erev.” By the first week of October, I started to feel like I everything was falling into place here. We embarked on our first Road Trip with the Rabbi to the mystical city of Tzfat, where our seemingly normal Year Course experience was completely turned upside down. From that moment on, I knew this Year Course was not going to be like any previous year. 

In the following days, I was torn between leaving and staying in Israel but ultimately remembered why I came in the first place. Also, Sophie, Annie, and Tavor basically guilt-tripped me into staying. 

I signed up for a year living in Israel, and these were the cards I was dealt. This was where I was meant to be.

During my time in Kibbutz Ketura, I learned the true definition of the word duality. By day, most of us who woke up before 12 would volunteer in various locations and roles. What I signed up for every week was working as a teacher’s aid in a first-grade classroom. It was so heartwarming and restoring to be with my first graders, and also helpful for my Hebrew speaking skills (mostly because we were on the same reading level). 

However, by night, we all enthusiastically invested all of our money in helping Israel’s economy by establishing its next great startup – Bargania

What some of us take for granted is that those of us who stayed hit the ground running in Israel’s most dire time of need by helping at donation centers, giving blood, and bringing smiles back to the faces of families who were tragically affected. 

Returning to Jerusalem in November brought us back to a familiar routine: classes with Neil Lazarus, financially supporting Muffin Boutique and Kedma and spending more weekends in Tel Aviv than in Jerusalem. Winter break came and went, and soon enough, second semester rolled around.

Living in Tel Aviv might be one of the best things to ever happen to me. Even though I spent a large portion of my time contacting aliens (I mean sending medicine to space) and spending 15 shek on a morning coffee as Lus, I was simultaneously undergoing a tremendous amount of personal growth in a very short amount of time. One of the main reasons that I decided to take a gap year was to learn how to live on my own, put myself into uncomfortable situations, and challenge myself to just “figure it out.” I can happily say that I accomplished my goal. Almost. How to navigate the pandemonium of an Israeli grocery store alone was something I never quite mastered.

My year came full circle last week when I returned to where it all started on Yom Hazikaron: Mount Hertzl, beside Michael Levin’s resting place. His love and passion for Israel were fostered the same way mine were, and it is him who is the reason I stand before you today. While visiting him, I had the honor to speak with his mother, Harriet, and I had the opportunity to tell her that I had the most life-changing year and have the closest connection to Israel I have ever had because of her son. 

That brings us to May 20th, 2024. Year Course ‘23-’24, while our time here in Israel all together has come to a close, we must remember that this is just the beginning. As young Jewish adults living in Israel during this past year, we gained the skills and experience that no other people our age possess. It is us who must take our pride, education, and passion all over the world, and slowly but surely make it a better, more peaceful place. You know more than you think you do, remember that. If nothing else, everyone sitting here today is your family and always will be. It’s not possible to put into words what this year, this beautiful country, and all of you mean to me. You will hold a very special place in my heart for eternity. So cry on your friends and hug them tight, but this isn’t goodbye, just a very painful but heartfelt “see you soon.” 

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