A number of young people from around the world, including Canada, spent time in Israel on Masa Israel programs. This is the first in a series of stories as told by some of the Canadian participants.
Standing near the Lebanon border while listening to a kibbutznik passionately explain why he decided to make aliyah in the 1970s, I suddenly felt a similar desire to live in Israel. The kibbutznik spoke about his love for the country, what it stands for, and its people – all things that I feel very strongly about too, even stronger now that I’ve had the opportunity to live in Israel.
I still remember my first breath of Israeli air. It was 2 a.m. on Sept. 1 and I stood outside of Ben Gurion Airport, fighting with Israeli teenage boys for a place in a shared taxi to Jerusalem.
Alone and exhausted after a 35-hour trip that included a day of touring in Amsterdam, it took me just under two hours to finally get a spot. My rusty Hebrew only making the situation harder, I felt helpless when the driver almost drove away leaving my bags at the airport.
“What am I doing here?” I wondered, finally on my way to Jerusalem. But, it didn’t take long to find the answer to that question, and soon after, I felt right at home.
In the first few weeks of my trip I began to love and appreciate the pushy and aggressive nature of Israelis, and as weeks turned into months I found that I was becoming a pushy, aggressive, sweet, caring and kind Israeli myself. I knew my Tel Aviv neighbourhood like the back of my hand and became an avid shopper at the Carmel market, which was just up the street from my apartment.
I also had the opportunity to work with the Grammy-nominated photographer Eyal Landesman as his studio assistant and helped with the PR and marketing for the international Her Morning Elegance gallery.
Living in Israel like an Israeli was an unbelievable experience for my peers and me, so it’s no wonder that when the program ended, many of them chose to stay.