Name: Ittai Eres
Hometown: Lexington, KY
High School: Lafayette Senior High School
College: Dartmouth College
Program: Young Judaea Year Course
Why did you decided to take a gap year in Israel?
I decided to take a gap year in Israel because Zionism was always one of my passions–all of my extended family lives in Israel and both my parents are Israeli–and I wanted to express this passion in a unique way. I wanted not only to give back to the country I love but also to experience what true Israeli culture is by living there, not just touring.
Why did you choose Young Judaea Year Course?
I actually chose Young Judaea Year Course not because I had been a participant in YJ summer camps for many years prior to Year Course, but because it provides a strong balance of volunteering, learning, and exposure to Israeli culture. I did not want a year off: I wanted a year on.
What was the best part of the year?
The best part of the year was hands-down the volunteering work I did with Sudanese and Darfurian refugees in Bat Yam and Arad.
What was your most memorable moment in Israel?
My most memorable moment was standing in the Mitzpe Ramon crater one night on an independently planned weekend excursion, observing the stars and appreciating the beauty of the landscape.
What was the greatest challenge you overcame while in Israel?
The greatest challenge I overcame while I was in Israel was figuring out what my true identity was: not simply an American with Israeli parents nor an Israeli child of American culture, but, rather, a mixture of both.
What were the best skills you gained during your year in Israel?
Easily the best skills I gained were self-management skills: the ability to cope with my own situations and live independently in every way, fiscally, physically, and emotionally.
How do you stay connected to Israel today?
Today, I stay connected to Israel by being active in Jewish and otherwise pro-Israel groups on campus, as well as taking a look at the news daily and speaking in Hebrew whenever possible.
What do you miss most about Israel?
The central bus station in Tel-Aviv.
What are your favorite Israeli song lyrics?
“Lo mitzta’er she’lo he’ert oti.
Chalamti shehakol kmo az.”
“I’m not sorry that you didn’t wake me.
I dreamt that all is like it was then.”
-Shlomo Artzi, “Kmo Az”