Since age three, dance has been my greatest passion.
As a dance major at Indiana University, I’ve happily devoted most of my energy to dance. But when I had the experience of a lifetime during my first trip to Israel in 2009, I was intent on finding a way to merge my love for dance with my new interest in Israel.
Then I learned about Masa Israel’s DanceJerusalem—a study abroad program, which would allow me to earn credit and develop my skills at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance—and I knew it was a match made in heaven.
As a student in the Academy’s dance department, I took all of my dance classes in Hebrew, alongside Israeli students who soon became my friends. Coupled by weekly Hebrew classes, my immersion was complete and I completed three Hebrew levels by the end of the year.
My commute to school also opened the door to having a very real Israel experience. Because the Academy was 50 minutes from where I lived, I took public buses everywhere.
In the crowded buses, surrounded by pushy Israelis, I learned an incredible amount about the people and the culture.
This was especially true in moments of uncertainty, like during the bus bombing in the spring of 2011. Though I was definitely shaken up when I learned of the bombing, I, along with most Israeli commuters, did not stop taking the bus. Life seemed to go on almost immediately—which was something I did not expect. The bus route stayed open.
When I asked my Israeli friend Asaf how everyone was able to simply go on with their day, he said, “If we stopped our lives after every bad thing that happens in this country, then we would have a never-ending pause in life. We wouldn’t really be living.”
This was only one of the many lessons I learned from the Israelis I met.
I also had the opportunity to travel throughout Israel to see and work with real professional dance companies. During one trip to Mitzpe Ramon in southern Israel, I spent the weekend with the dance company, Adama.
Located in the “Spice Route Quarter,” Adama’s home is a once-abandoned hangar that the company rebuilt with eco-friendly mud houses. The company keeps a vegetarian kitchen and works together to keep the studios presentable in economically efficient ways.
My peers from DanceJerusalem and I spent the day taking dance and aerobic classes with the Adama company, and at night, we lay beneath the stars in the garden and then slept in the mud houses in the midst of the tranquil desert.
Never before had I experienced a community of artists who found such unique ways to connect with their environment and with the people around them.
There was none of the competition that is typical among dancers.
Instead, everyone supported each other without judgment.
These new experiences were always inspiring, but what continued to amaze me throughout my time in Israel was how real the people were.
In Israel, manners are not held in high regard—for better or for worse—and so, what you see is what you get.
It was always easy to get to know people and no one ever holds back.
One of my strongest memories is of Jerusalem on Israel’s Independence Day.
Everyone came together to celebrate with a vigor that I had never before seen.
I saw real happiness and unity.
The emotional honesty I experienced that day was one of the most fulfilling parts of my journey in Israel.