Year Course How Was Your Year in Israel?

By Year Course in Israel

by Ben Hirsch
Year Course 2018-19

In just a few days, I, along with most Year Coursers, will return home to answer the same question a million times in a row. “How was your year in Israel?” You will be asked by friends and family, and your grandmother’s friend that you lied to when she asked if you remembered her, and you will reply something along the lines of, “It was amazing!” or “best year of my life.”

Yes, you will give the same answer to tell all these people that you don’t really want to talk to – but the real answer to this question of what my year in Israel was requires much more contemplation and intention, much more laughter and smiles, and someone who cares to listen.

My year in Israel consisted of the longest and shortest nine months of my life, each day feeling endlessly long but each week passing by in the blink of an eye.

My year in Israel was about hearing Hebrew, a language that is foreign to many of us but feels so much more intimate and personal than the language that we fluently speak at home.

My year in Israel was about helping people. Through my volunteering with MDA, I was able to directly and personally make an impact on so many individuals.

My year was about engaging with the complexities of this wild country. It was about forming opinions on the many conflicts that exist within this country and experiencing powerful days such as Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day.)

My year was about saying “yes.” Yes to visiting an artists’ village. Yes to camping out at a desert music festival. Yes to dropping everything and spending a last-minute weekend in Akko.

My year in Israel consisted of the longest and shortest nine months of my life, each day feeling endlessly long but each week passing by in the blink of an eye.

My year was about making Israel my home, not just the place where I live. It was about knowing the vendors at the Shuk, the man at your local shawarma shop, and your neighborhood street cat. It was about having a favorite corner store, a favorite hummus place, and even a favorite bench.

This year really was about a lot of things. But what enriched this year the most was who it was spent with. My year in Israel was a collision of worlds. A goofy mix of Americans, Brits, Israelis, Canadians, and one whole German. Judaeans, non-Judaeans, and FZYers. Poker boys, LA boys, Kosher boys, CJ boys and so much more. Year Course is a group of so many different kinds of people that together create a tight-knit, caring, outgoing and fun-loving community.

A quick anecdote from this year revealed to me these qualities. During our very first Shabbat in Israel, around half of Yama and I attended a musical Kabbalat Shabbat service. We arrived to this service quietly, trying not to disrupt. However, when Lecha Dodi starting playing, I watched as Year Course began to take over the room. As the song got to its second chorus, I saw a group of Year Coursers begin to do the hora. I joined in, followed by more and more Year Coursers and many members of the congregation until we had nearly the entire room dancing. Watching this group bring so much joy and energy into the room was stunning. We had quickly gone from quiet guests to charismatic leaders that instantly changed the mood in the room from relaxed and rehearsed to fun, wild, and spontaneous. Little did I know just how much more happiness Year Course would bring me in the coming year.

Through my best friends that are my fellow Year Coursers, my year was full of pure and carefree joy. My year was about wild and crazy nights at Shalvata and full days spent at the beach surrounded by my friends. It was about taking an electric scooter through the streets like a local and walking through the shuk with the people that make me happy.

So yes, be prepared to have the same conversations over and over again and give the same pre-rehearsed answers. But try and remember the year for all that you won’t have the time to say.

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