Blog  The NFTY-EIE experience: In their own words…

The NFTY-EIE experience: In their own words…

Recent alumni of the Spring 2011 semester of the NFTY-EIE High School in Israel reflect here on their experiences learning and living in Israel.


“Can you imagine what it’s like, waking up every morning and pulling back the blinds to reveal a view of Jerusalem, the holiest city in the world?  I can tell you that it makes for a breathtaking view. But what makes it even more beautiful is know the history behind the city and the hills surrounding it.”

Talia Salenger
Niskayuna, New York


“However cliché it may sound, Israel has changed me as a person. I came into the program with the conviction that my sense of self would not change. I was excited to learn, I was eager to experience the culture, but I didn’t believe I would really stop to look at myself as a person. Boy was I wrong. After touching, smelling, standing in places that you have been inherently connected to for 5,000 years, after being exposed to a history of your people for which you barely had an inkling of understanding; you face some pretty challenging existential questions. Had I not come here and experienced not only the antiquity of Israel, but also the present day challenges it faces; had I not sung and danced with kibbutzniks and ordered falafel and hummus completely in Hebrew; had I not filled a bottle of water in the Kinneret and then hiked for four days before pouring it into the Mediterranean, I would still be the ignorant, uncompromising girl I was before. Coming to Israel has created a tie that I will inevitably be tethered to for the rest of my life. Good or bad, I am now irrevocably a Zionist… I go forward now with the desire to become a learned Jew, with  the determination to do what I can for the State of Israel, and with the knowledge that the world is much bigger and more dynamic than I ever expected.”

Rachel Dix
Falls Church, Virginia



“[One] day we studied the time period of the first aliyah from 1881-1903. In this time period the Jews from all over Europe were fulfilling their lifelong dream of returning to Zion and expressing their want for their own state through labor. One of my favorite quotes in Hebrew translates to “We came to this land to build it and to be built through it.” This quote stands out to me because I came to Israel and learned about its history, was surrounded by its language, and helped repair the land. Because of this I grew as a person and built an everlasting connection to this land.”

Danya Schulman
Encinitas, California


“My role as a Jew and as a human being has truly been tested and exemplified. I think it was truly a blessing and a miracle that I was able to come to the Jewish homeland with my brother, Jacob. When he and I, together, hiked up Masada at four in the morning, I truly felt a connection with him I never had before…. It says a lot about how much he and I grew together in a land far from home.”

Alexander W. Ellis
Albuquerque, New Mexico



“Before coming on EIE, I saw Judaism and the youth movement as more of a social experience, rather than a spiritual, religious, nationalistic way of life… Now… I can continue to live a Jewish life from a different point of view.”

Andrew Young
San Diego, California


“Before coming on [EIE], I was a pretty average teenager living a seemingly normal life. In retrospect, however, I see that I am no longer that average teenager. I can’t pinpoint the exact thing that changed me the most, but I think that a combination of the people, program, places, and Israel itself have made me a new person”

Harris Miller
Redding, Connecticut



“Getting off the plane at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv in January was the first time I was in Israel. As soon as we landed, I felt something special about this country, which only grew throughout the program… Throughout all the good times have been intense learning and amazing conversations… I think that describes a lot of what EIE has meant to me: the in-betweens of the tiyulim and classes; all the small things. The little conversations and fun times with the eighty other Jewish teens on this trip have made it what it was… Being in Israel for four months and soaking in the language and culture and food and Judaism has made me realize that I need to find a way to share the connection I have to Israel with other teens in my area.”

Leah Gussoff
Montclair, New Jersey


“I am forever grateful for… EIE. It is something I will never forget as it has been four months of my life that did not contain one wasted moment.”

Chase Bricker
San Diego, California


“I feel now that I am a part of the land as much as it is part of me. When I speak of Israel, I say “We,” not “They.” I have experienced what it is like to be an immigrant.”

Jacob Jew
Round Rock, Texas



“The memory that will always be with me is the feeling I had when we landed at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv after our journey to Poland. Everyone was so unbelievably happy to be back in Israel, and we felt so lucky to be able to come back to our country. It is little feelings like this that make every day in Israel so special and make me want to return in the near future.”

Molly Kulwin
Montclair, New Jersey


“Because of my experiences [on EIE], I now have an appreciation for the role Israel plays in Jewish life. I understand that Israel is a vital part of every Jew’s life and every Jew has an obligation towards Israel.”

Nathaniel Klein
Cleveland, Ohio


“I have never been so far away from home. EIE has given me the chance to mature on my own and be more independent. I feel like this experience has made me a stronger and more independent person.”

Alli Agulnick
Newton, Massachusetts


“When I return to my home in Ohio, I will be playing an even greater role in the Jewish community than I did before I spent four months living in Israel. I plan to become more involved with tzedakah and participate in many community service projects. I will be advocating to all of my Jewish friends about coming to Israel. I will also be more involved at my synagogue, working as a teacher’s aide, attending Hebrew classes, and going to services on a regular basis.”

Josia Klein
Westerville, Ohio