The three words Yerushalayim shel zahav (Jerusalem of gold) are constantly circling in my head as I walk to Hebrew University’s campus every morning, as I look from my apartment onto a gorgeous view of the city, as I sit inside Machane Yehuda market and share laughs and smiles with the new friends I’ve made this semester, as I walk down the streets of the Old City and embrace its one-of-a-kind atmosphere, and as I constantly remind myself how fortunate I am to be living and learning in this incredible place.
When the idea of studying abroad first popped into my mind, Israel was the first and only option I considered. I had only been to Israel once before, through a youth group summer program, and had always dreamed of returning for an extended period of time. Upon learning registration was open at HebrewU’s Rothberg International School (RIS), I immediately submitted my application and started making my plans for spring 2018.
Now, four months in and with a little more than one month to go, I look back on my time in Israel so far and realize how much I’ve grown, both as a young adult and as a Jew. I am on the road to fluency in the Hebrew language, I am gaining exposure to the professional Jewish world through my Nachshon Project fellowship, I am learning about a range of Jewish topics and values through my classes, and I am experiencing Israeli life and culture on a daily basis. The sense of community in the Student Village is one of constant comfort and support for one another, and the staff at RIS has made our campus feel like such a welcoming home base for me, which is not typical of a study abroad experience.
There is no place in the world that compares to Israel, and Jerusalem specifically. I feel beyond safe here, and free to explore this adventurous and opportunity-filled place. I feel grateful to learn about my people’s past, live in their present, and, I hope, contribute to their future. I also feel thankful for the opportunity to travel all this way and gain more insight into the State of Israel, the Jewish people, and myself – and into a future that looks more challenging, but more promising, than ever.