Aaron Abel, 2012
Tikkun Olam. Healing the world. Making connections to the state of Israel. Although I went to amazing places like Masada and the Dead Sea in Israel this summer, living with an Israeli family and experiencing their way of life was the most meaningful experience for me. Making new friendships and renewing old ones was such an important part of my trip to Israel. I had the opportunity to make both new American and Israeli friends in addition to reconnecting with Israeli friends from my hosting experience last summer.
For me, the best part of my trip was reuniting with Nimrod Torati, one of the Israeli Tikkun Olam teens who had stayed at my home last year. He is an amazing person and, after two weeks hosting him last year, he was more like a brother to me than just a teen who stayed at my house. After talking to him over the computer all year, it was unbelievable to see him again. It was a great experience to be with his family and to learn about their way of life. For Americans, the most common misconception is that the whole country is a war zone or looks like one. In Hadera, the Toratis live a life not much different from ours in many ways. The children go to school every day, they like to go out with their friends, and they like to listen to a lot of the same music. The main difference that stuck out to me was that they are required to go into the military after high school. When my friends and I will be heading to college, the Israelis who are my age will be required to begin their service to their country’s military. Besides this and a few other differences, we lead fairly similar lives to the families in Hadera.
After this trip, I now have a stronger connection with Israel. I felt like I had a stronger Jewish identity when I was in Israel. Wearing tefillin for the first time and going to the Western Wall made me feel closer to my religion. Also, I spent the two Friday nights that I had in Israel having Shabbat dinner with my host family. I learned the meaning of Shabbat for many reform families in Israel. It was about spending time with your family and enjoying their company. In the United States it is hard with all the activities that take place on the weekend, but in Israel, since almost everything stops on Shabbat, it is easier to be with your family.
The most memorable moment for me was watching the sunrise at the top of Masada. We waited anxiously at the top of Masada for the sun to come up. My group was watching from the highest viewpoint. As it rose, you could gradually see it rise up over the mountains in the distance. The chaperone was playing “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles. It was definitely a peaceful moment and one that I think I will always remember. The sunrise happened quickly, though, like the trip itself to Israel.
My experience in Israel this year has sparked a new love of the place and the people who live there. It has inspired me to participate in future Israel experiences and to continue my connection with the partnership program. When Nirkoles Peri came to my home this year from Israel, I did my best to make the experience as great as possible. I want the people who come here from Israel to have as great an experience as I had while I was there and for them to have as meaningful of a connection as I have had with Nimrod. Through the Tikkun Olam program and the partnership, I have become part of a family in Israel, and Nimrod Torati has become a part of mine.