DC resident Elissa Gross, a former intern with Masa Israel Journey, recently reflected on her past experience living and studying abroad in Israel. Masa Israel Journey connects Jewish young adults to internship, service, and academic programs in Israel. It is a joint project of the Government of Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel and is made possible by the generous contributions of the Jewish Federations of North America and Keren Hayesod-UIA. Visit MasaIsrael.org for more information. This is a guest post and thus represents only the opinions of the author; it does not represent a GTJ institutional stance.
Why did I leave to go to Israel during the Gaza War? The answer to this question is simultaneously simple and complicated, personal and universal. As were the nine subsequent months that followed, which I spent in this complex country of chaos and contradictions, resilience and passion.
The simple answer is that I had been placed on a Birthright Trip on January 11th, 2009, and received scholarships and grants to stay in Israel after that and participate in Masa Israel’s WUJS Jerusalem Program. The complicated answer is that for years I had been grappling with my Jewish identity–with what being Jewish means to me both personally and as part of a collective history–and I desperately wanted to continue this journey in the land that my people call “home.”