By Hope Spector, NFTY PAR Programming Vice President 2007-2008
By coming back to the place that has remained the same; you see the ways in which you yourself have truly altered. In essence, this is exactly what happened after this summer on NFTY’s EIE Summer Semester; where thirty-two strangers lived on a Kibbutz, worked together, lived together, prayed together and learned together.
For me it all began when I sat next to a fellow EIE-er on the plane, named Michael Tackeff. Michael looked at me and said, “After two months I hope to come home with thirty-one new best friends.” And as he said this, I couldn’t help but think – a BEST friend takes a lot longer to form than the two months given to all of us. To this day, I still bring this conversation up with Michael because he likes to tell me how wrong I was to think such a thing.
As one EIE community, we all were given the opportunity to truly live and be a part of the Israeli culture and people, and for that all of us are still forever grateful. With two hours of Hebrew classes a day, I was able to have conversations with Israelis and only further involve myself with the people around me. With five to six hours of Jewish history a day, I began to truly understand and be fully aware of my surroundings. Yes, Israel is a holy land – but through Jewish History, I was able to learn why and how this all came to be. On different outings in Israel (called tyules) I walked in the foot steps of those who came before me, those I was reading about in my history books and even in the Tankah. This hands on experience is one which I will cherish forever.
Two months, and the thirty-two of us became close with the Kibbutznikim (the teens who lived on the Kibbutz). Together as Americans and Israelis we traveled up north, swam, ate, danced, sang, and prayed together. There was never any division, for we were one people, one community who loved each others presence and company. As Americans and Israelis, we both had so much to learn and so much to offer, and with that we educated each other with our differences and our similarities alike.
Prayer is a crucial part of the EIE summer experience. But our kind of prayer is not your typical prayer. Instead of having services, sometimes we would focus on one prayer and learn about its history and its importance. Therefore, when we did in fact participate in services, we knew the true meaning behind the prayer; they were no longer words we simply memorized from our Bar/Bat Mitzvahs but rather truth.
Living on Kibbutz Tzuba allowed all of us, as American teens to have a new perspective and understanding for some Israeli life. Tzuba had so much to offer each and every one of us and that I am personally forever grateful for their warm hospitality. Our staff (madrachim) provided us with so much knowledge and love that only helped us grow and flourish as individuals and as a group throughout our time in Israel. They always had something new and interesting to teach us about Israel, themselves, and even ourselves. Along with our madrichim, our school teachers were always more than our teachers, but our friends, and mentors. They made History and Hebrew come to life, yes we were in school – but for once, school was fun and interesting. I don’t know of one person who couldn’t wait to go to class the next day, to find out what happens next on the history timeline or in Hebrew conversation.
After two months, we came back “home” to America, to only miss our home in Israel. The thirty-two of us, now, states apart are forced to come back into the American culture; without Hebrew, Jewish history, Israeli falafel, our Kibbutznikim, our madrichim, each other, and our Israeli selves. We come back to only find how different we have become in only two months; how much we have all altered from the EIE experience which has forever changed who we are, how we see the world, and how we view ourselves.