As I sit down to write this blog post for the Spring 2016 EIE class, I can’t help but shudder at the fact that I am on this side of the correspondence. Today, almost a year after I embarked on my own EIE journey, I am able to look back and realize that I am a completely changed person. I spent my four months in Israel learning what it meant to become the best version of myself and now I hope to shed some light for our soon-to-be world travelers. So when you’re done deciding what to wear that first day at JFK airport and assuring your friends that no, you are not moving away forever, I hope that you’ll take the time to read what I hope is some helpful advice.
Remember, a year ago I was in your shoes. I counted down the days, the hours, and the minutes. I weighed and re-weighed my two rolling duffel bags. I even looked up unfamiliar Jewish faces on Facebook. A year later, I am here to tell you that for me there are three keys to a wonderful Israel experience: learning, living, and loving.
On EIE, I discovered that learning doesn’t have to happen in a classroom, it doesn’t have to occur as knowledge is transferred from teacher to student, and it doesn’t have to set in as knowledge right away. In Israel, learning will be like nothing you’ve ever encountered- so let it be that! The key to learning the way that you will is to have an open mind. Going in to a learning experience with little to no expectations is the best way to get the most out of it. That’s a promise. To learn the most, make sure to be adventurous: the more risks that I took, the more I got out of the experience. Ride a camel, try a new food, speak in Hebrew, and ask questions. Most importantly, be present. If you spend four months waiting for the most amazing thing to happen, you’ll wake up at the end of it having missed everything that made your trip amazing all along. Open your eyes, let go a little, and you’ll learn a lot.
A key to living life in Israel is to remember that some things won’t change. You will still need alone time, you will still need sleep, you will still have to do your homework, and you will still need to eat before tests (you will also become an expert at microwave cooking). Living on a Kibbutz with a chocolate factory and in a room full of your closest friends will be the best kind of distraction, so to live life to the fullest, make sure that your first priority is taking care of yourself (yes, this includes not spending all of your money within the first two months on iced coffee from the Belmont and absolutely everything in the shuk). But of course, don’t forget about the fun. At Tzuba and in all of Israel, there is fun around every corner. Talk to everyone. If you’re not normally outgoing, now is your chance to give it a try. At the end of your time on EIE, you will all be best friends anyway so the sooner you start, the more time you will have together. Now that I’m not in Israel anymore, “live” has turned into “re-live” and I am extremely thankful that I kept a blog during my travels so that I can revisit all of the life changing memories. If you like to write or even if you don’t, write! You will not regret recording your life in a blog or a journal to share with others or to look back on later.
If you want to read more about my amazing experiences in the Holy Land, the link to my blog is https://rudynoabrandt.wordpress.com/
Part of living is Israel is also recognizing that just like at home you will have incredible and amazing days and also bad days. Some days it will rain and some days it will shine (some days it could also be a crazy movie-like dust storm). Be yourself and go through everyday like it’s a new opportunity to live life and this trip to the fullest and you will come out a pro (if not a full-blown Israeli).
EIE and Israel taught me more about love than any other experience in my life. As I met my best friends, I learned that love can happen fast and in a big way. By February, my roommates and I were throwing a surprise birthday party for our fourth roommate. Cherish the time that you have with these people. Every second counts. As I learned more about and experienced more of Israel, I learned that I would come to love that country as my true homeland. Today, the place that Israel holds in my heart is unexplainably special and I have learned to advocate for Israel in countless situations to people who questioned my safety, my opinions, and even my love for that country. You will go through this in your own way. Everyone’s experience is what he or she makes of it. Loving that country has become a true piece of who I am and in a unique way, this will happen for you too. Finally, living away from home, even surrounded by a group of teens that is doing the same thing as you, is still a major feat when it comes to independence. The more I learned about what I was capable of doing and about who I am as a person, the more I came to love myself. You will go into this experience as you and you will come out of it touched in a new way- a new version of yourself. Let yourself love yourself.
Okay. Maybe this post was irrelevant to that lucky bunch of you who will set out for Israel very soon. Maybe you won’t even take one word of my advice. The truth is, each of you will have your own EIE experience. No two of you will have identical experiences to each other or to me. So, if you choose to ignore everything else I have written, good- just take this: I guarantee that you are about to go on the journey of a lifetime. Never again will you have an opportunity quite like this. Take advantage of your time and recognize how lucky you are to be walking in the shoes of all of us who would give anything to do the whole thing over again. Above all else, be courageous, be silly, be caring, be smart, be adventurous, and have the most spectacular, extraordinary, and life changing trip.
P.S. below is a list compiled by my EIE class for yours of things that you must bring or must leave at home– no questions asked:
-More than one BIG water bottle (often you will need more than 2 liters)
-Headlamp (flashlights don’t work when you need 2 hands to cave crawl)
-More than one outlet adapter (trust us)
-Rain jacket (the weather will change a lot while you’re there)
-You will not wear shirts without sleeves (…ever)
-Some Ziploc bags
-If you don’t wear it at home…it stays at home (especially shoes)
-Casual but nice clothing (for Shabbat, banquet, etc.)