My name is Ari Abramson, from White Plains, NY. In the late afternoon of August 28, 2013, I stared out of the window of the El Al plane I had been sitting on for 12 hours. The beautiful Tel Aviv coast approaching was a sign of all the good things ahead of me the year had to offer.
I started my year in Jerusalem, which focused on academics, where we had the opportunity to earn college credits through mandatory and elective courses. I studied Advanced Hebrew, Comparative Religions, Israel Advocacy, Zionism History, and Jewish Sociology.
Every Tuesday and Thursday we took a day trip with one of our classes. When is there a better time to visit Degania Alef, the first kibbutz ever founded, than during a class about early Zionism?
I took advantage of my free weekends, which I spent traveling to places in Israel we didn’t travel to during our weekly siyurim, and visiting family all over the country.
At the halfway mark of the program we had options of where to go and what to do next, I moved to Bat Yam – a city on the coast south of Tel Aviv and spent my mornings volunteering at a soup kitchen called “Fat Meir’s” founded by a man named Meir who decided to help the poor after being forced to retire from his real estate work following a stroke. Every day we prepared 700 sandwiches and then delivered them to kids cross the city. In the afternoons, I volunteered helping take care of dogs up for adoption in Tel Aviv’s SPCA.
Living close to Tel Aviv I was able to experience the unique Carmel Market, the hipster Florentin neighborhood, and the ancient city of Yafo. Because Bat Yam is a part of the Tel Aviv district, there are busses that go straight from Bat Yam into Tel Aviv, best of all, I lived a 20-minute walk away from the beach!
The last month of the program was called Special Interest Month, where I interned in a startup company funded by Google which gave me the opportunity to experience the “startup nation” first hand and also left me motivated to start studying business & technology in college.
Now that I am back in America, I miss Israel immensely. I had created a life for myself in Israel, made many new friends, and learned the ins and outs of the country. During my time living there, I was able to form a connection with Israel that I didn’t even feel was possible. Am Yisrael Chai.