His parents and brothers still live in Costa Rica (“all the members of my family are engineers there”). Avi visited Israel the first time in 2001. He joined his local Zionist Youth movement at the age of nine. It was possible that the seed of his wish to visit to Israel, and to realize a Zionist dream, was first planted during his youth movement years.
He says that the Jewish community in Costa Rica is a warm community that supports Israel. The community comprises around 3,000 Jews and even has its own museum based on the history of Jews in the tiny country. “Costa Rica is the country in which I was born. The Vice President is Jewish, but I know it’s not my country, and that is maybe the reason why I was drawn to here, to study Jewish culture, from close up, from the source.”
Avi visited Israel in 2007 to participate in the World Bible Quiz for Jewish Youth, which is organized by the Gadna youth corps of the IDF and the Jewish Agency
. “I was at a camp for Bible students and I got to know lots of places in Israel.
In February, 2010, Avi returned to Israel as part of Masa Israel, for a period of 10 months.
During the first four and a half months of the program he learned about Israel and Zionism at the Machon L’Madrichei Chutz L’Aretz (Institute for Foreign Counselors), as well as learning about being a counselor and working in the movement’s leadership. He also took part in a trip to Poland and volunteered to do ecological work.
He subsequently spent two months on the Marva program (basic military training for people from abroad) and in the coming weeks, he and his colleagues will relocate to Haifa. There they will undertake intensive volunteer work for a three month period (including attending an ulpan in conjunction with the local municipality), work at schools and community centers, and with people with emotional disorders and at homes for senior citizens.
After the program he is planning on returning to Costa Rica for three months to work with the movement’s leadership there, after which he will go to the United States to study engineering. “I don’t know yet what will happen after I complete my five years of studies in the States, but it is clear to me that the experience I have had here in Israel will stay with me no matter what I do.”
He says that the Masa program has given him a lot of tools and, when he returns home, he intends to use them to explain Israel’s position in Costa Rica and also on the campus where he will study in the United States (Northwestern University).