Israeli 9 – 5: In the Life of WUJS Alumna Rachel Ethridge">Israeli 9 – 5: In the Life of WUJS Alumna Rachel Ethridge
By Rachel Ethridge, WUJS Alumna ’15
My life in Israel has always had an end date.
If you’ve met me since I’ve moved here you know that on February 7th my butt will be seated on a double decker plane headed out of the Middle East towards the city where I left all of my friends, lovers, long sleeve shirts, good sushi, and deep dish pizza.
For a lot of people interning and living alongside me, this program is a trial run for their future lives as Israelis. When I touch down in the states, they’ll be making aliyah (moving to Israel with a lot of perks from the government), an act of immigration I have never considered, one they all know the answer to when they hear new friends ask if I would ever make the move.
But this past week made me think.
The life I lived. Work I completed. Waterfalls I rappelled down. Food I made (cut up cucumbers and tomatoes). Mouth-dropping meals I bought. The not so tasty ones I tossed down with chilled glasses of riesling. All the boulders I climbed. Trips I planned. And the people I jumped, ate, walked, talked, cooked and sat with, made me rethink everything.
Mom don’t worry, I’m still going be booking a flight back to the United States, but last week was the first time I gave this country a chance at showing me all its got. You all know I love the food, the culture I’m being immersed in, the new things I’m learning and the people I’m meeting, but I’ve always proudly defined myself as an American, and nothing else.
I’m all in now.
I’m pulling the Israeli card. I feel a camaraderie with these people as they live under constant threat from their neighbors. The sand and setting sun over the Mediterranean sea are all mine. I’m realizing that every part of this program I thought was a long vacation , is actually my real life.
On Sunday I went to work and left with every intention to mad plan, with my mad planning friend, a weekend up north that would probably never happen (it did). I walked home from her house after googling the life out of my computer for hostels and how to rent a car, stopped at my favorite bread shop on the way and continued my carb-binging diet with a brick-oven cooked calzone and a coffee on the house. That’s right, I drink coffee now, sometimes, once in a while, when it’s free. Full disclosure, I had my first drag of a cigarette in a club a couple weeks ago, I also wear a bra as little as possible these days.
Sunday finished with scrubbing the bathroom, skyping with my people back home, and passing out with Netflix on at a normal hour for the first time in forever.
Monday had the same comforting, smiling on my bus ride home from work, and completely satisfying vibe as the day before. I volunteered at the Israeli Tennis Center in Jaffa that night and played tennis with teenagers for two hours. It was incredible. I’ll be playing with them two nights a week for the rest of my time here and can already tell some of my biggest tears in February will happen on those courts.
I get a little nervous when I know my day is over and I don’t have a DVR to turn on, but Monday night changed that. I walked in the door, caught up with my roommates, kept all our doors open, blasted Amy Winehouse, colored on our living room floor and forgot I was in a foreign country.
On Tuesday I went to a museum with my program that lets you experience life as a visually-impaired person for one hour. It was terrifying, beautiful, really hard, so much fun and a life changer. We walked through a market, went on a boat ride, danced, and had a conversation all as blind people and walked back into the light with a new perspective on everything we see every day. Coming off the bus from that field trip a couple of us went to our market while most Israelis were still at work, which is weird, it seems like they’re always eating and enjoying life instead of working, but the shuk (market) was quiet that afternoon and I walked though it sipping on freshly-squeezed lemonade and my mouth full of samples of cheese without being bumped into or stepped on.
Tuesday and Wednesday night looked the same, but were full of different tastes and people.
I ate at the Argentinian restaurant down my street with a new friend, finished planning our trip up north, went to work and left once I had finished everything I needed to get done (sometimes this is at noon, sometimes at four, sometimes I work from home).
Thursday began the coolest weekend of my life. We rented a car and headed up to the Golan Heights. Driving so close to Syria in the pitch black at 10:00PM was not what we had planned, but it lead us to our hostel which housed us the night before we climbed, jumped, rappelled, fell, ate, smelled, and swam for seven hours through Nahal Yehudia. The next day we rode horses through Mount Carmel and I fell in love with an enormous white stallion named Puzzle.
So far Israel has left me with feelings for food and animals.
Waiting for the gorgeous, almost done with med school, still has a full head of hair, loves his mom, will move to Chicago, Jewish prince my Nannie had always dreamed for me to marry, to be dropped right in front of my face before I leave.
If you made it through this whole post you’re probably my dad, or you had a little free time before going to Didier farms and taking a hay ride through the pumpkin patches with an apple cider donut in your hand, flannel shirt wrapped around your goose-bump filled body, and crispy, colorful, crunchy leaves falling all around you (please do this for me), then you now know why I would want to move here.
Israel is making me think about things I said absolutely no to two months ago.
Wondering what my thoughts will read like in 100 days.
To read more about Rachel’s life in Israel, check out her blog, Finding Florentine.
Introducing: The 2015-2016 Masa Israel Alumni Fellows">Introducing: The 2015-2016 Masa Israel Alumni Fellows
The Masa Israel Alumni Fellowship is an opportunity for a select few outstanding alumni to represent Masa Israel Journey in their home communities and on a national level.
This exclusive program provides Fellows with unmatched leadership training as well as opportunities for personal and professional development and networking with Jewish communal leaders.
Each fellow will attend the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly (GA), as well as his or her choice of a major national Jewish conference. Through these events and exclusive shabbatonim, the Masa Israel Alumni Fellowship creates a community of practice and the future leadership of the Masa Israel Alumni Community.
Over the course of the next year, each Fellow will create and implement a unique impact project in order to increase alumni involvement or help recruit new participants to Masa Israel programs in his or her community.
Stay tuned over the next few months, as we highlight an Alumni Fellow every week.
Here are this year’s Masa Israel Alumni Fellows:
From Israel Government Fellows to Hillary for America">From Israel Government Fellows to Hillary for America
Masa Israel alum Joel Wanger (left) with colleagues from the Hillary for America, Nevada team
There’s nothing quite like the High Holidays – or, as the locals call them, the chagim – in Israel.
Generally considered the most important holiday of the year, Yom Kippur is a particularly unique day to spend in Israel. Here are just four ways in which Yom Kippur is different in Israel:
1. The Country Practically Shuts Down
Love it or hate it, nothing says Rosh Hashanah like gefilte fish.
HuffPost Gay Voices: How This Jewish Couple Balances Their Queer Identity With Faith">HuffPost Gay Voices: How This Jewish Couple Balances Their Queer Identity With Faith
By Curits M. Wong
"Appropriately enough, the couple, who tied the knot last year, first met while pursuing volunteer opportunities as part of Masa Israel Journey, which is focused on providing young adults with work and study programs in Israel."
After arriving in Asheklon in September 2009, Allison Wolkin Samis and Max Samis met during the Hebrew immersion placement exam for their Masa Israel Journey volunteer experience. Neither of the two strangers knew much Hebrew. They didn’t even have to wait for their test results to find out that they were placed in kita aleph, the beginners’ class.
Benjamin Winik and Samantha Sisisky in Tel Aviv
Just weeks into her Masa Israel Journey, Samantha Sisisky, 25, found herself lost in a new city in a new country. Little did she know she was about to find her future husband, Ben Winik, 24.