By Billie Hirsch, OTZMA
Shabbat Shalom! And Shalom from Karmi’el, Israel, my new home for the next three months. My name is Billie Hirsch, and I am a 22-year old recent graduate of Emmanuel College in Boston, as well as a participant of OTZMA in its 26th and best (says yours truly) year for 2011-2012. For those not as well-versed in organizations sponsored by the Jewish Federations of North America, OTZMA is a 10-month leadership development, volunteer-oriented program that offers Jewish adults the tremendous opportunity to live, work and explore Israel in a plethora of settings. The program commences in late August and ends in late June, and since the twenty-third of August, twenty-eight of us have been getting acclimated to Israel in various ways.
Certainly, when a gregarious group of people who voluntarily give up their friends, homes, and jobs to volunteer for a year in their homeland, interesting stories of why we’re here and how we got here are bound to be bounced back and forth, and playing a bit of the ole’ Jewish geography proves that we are really are uncannily interconnected, across state lines and regardless of differences in coasts.
For the next just-under-a-year, I will be learning Hebrew in Ulpan and lending a hand at various organizations in Karmi’el, volunteering in my beautiful partnership city of Haifa, and interning at a women’s non-profit in Tel Aviv. For the next ten months, I will also be blogging once a week on my experiences. While I could talk for miles about the program, and I shall within these year-long posts; Yalla, let’s move on...to cover OTZMA’s highlights of our first week in the Holy Land!