I had the honor of speaking at my closing ceremony for Career Israel 13. Nearly two hours before I was speaking I was told I needed to cut some parts due to time restrictions. Many people from my program have asked for a copy of the speech, and I decided this was something special enough that I thought I should share it with my readers-whoever you are. While you may not understand all of the inside jokes, I think you will be able take away that the past five months of my life have been some of the best. Laugh, cry, and take a walk in my shoes through my journey on Career Israel.
Closing Ceremony Speech
Can you believe we are at this day? Did you think that after 5 months of ulpan, work, hikes, holidays, parties, a little war, and so much more that this would really…come to an end? Well friends, or chaverim as we say here, we are just about there.
It was only a short few months ago that we started our journey where the Jewish people’s journey began. In the hot, sweaty, full of tourists and intensity city of Jerusalem, we began our orientation and essentially our journey on our program. We formed bonds, drank too much wine, and made sure it continued when our week came to an end and we moved into the beautiful, highly sought after luxurious accommodations that is beit Leni in Tel-Aviv.
In true Career Israel balagan style, we began ulpan right away, but many of us will think of that six week period filled with 2 pm walks to the beach to tan for the next five hours. It was only five months ago where we all knew Joelle as the girl from Tomorrowland, Jordan as the boy who wore his I Pooped shirt, and Nate as the one who could grow a beard extraordinarily fast-some things never change. Ulpan came to a close and we realized the majority of us were going out into the world knowing maybe 10% more Hebrew than before as we entered the world of interning in Israel.
When I decided to come on Career Israel it was not a huge life changing decision or quarter life career switch I was planning on making. In fact, this had been my plan for the past two years. I’m a Zionist and knew that after college I would do a MASA program that helped me learn understand what life in Israel was really like. After spending most of my college life involved in the Jewish community and learning about the Jewish organizations that do so much for us abroad, I figured I would continue to do the same in Israel. When it finally came to June and I was deciding between a few Jewish organizations to intern at and essentially do what I had been doing for the past three years, I spoke with my friend who had finished Career Israel in February. He had worked at a startup and gained so much from that experience, even though he had graduated from law school. When I thought about it…I had been telling random students on campus about the “Startup Nation” and threw out random statistics about ICQ and how Tel Aviv has the most startups per capita, trying to get them to understand the innovations in technology and the web that Israelis created. So as I said before I came on this program “When in Rome” but to make it more fitting “When in Tel Aviv, do as the Tel Avivians do” and I took the plunge to work at a startup.
Working at All My Faves, is actually one of the best learning experiences I have ever had. I didn’t think that working could be so much fun. All My Faves brings you the best of the web-every week we present our users with ten new websites, games, and phone apps that they really should check out. Besides the numerous websites, I also had great bosses. Brothers extraordinaire Shachar and Roy helped guide me through many aspects of the web I didn’t even know about. They both have a passion for innovation and getting people to understand how incredible the web really is. Whether it was in my office or out I found that the people around me really have a passion for what they are doing. Whether it’s a cause they are fighting for, the latest phone app, or the next Facebook working in Tel-Aviv is unlike anything else.
While sometimes it seems like we live in this tiny bubble, we partied, worked, learned, and more, all in Israel. Whether it took you six days or six weeks like myself to realize we were in fact living here and not a visitor, soon it made sense that only certain things could happen here. Going to Jerusalem for Slichot and being around thousands of people before Yom Kippur is something many people will never have the chance to do, even if it meant that we were the bus that came home at 3 am. For Yom Kippur many of us were able to experience the true meaning of the holiday-or go and sit in the middle of the highway. As we said so many times “Only in Israel”. Simchat Torah closed our time with a huge party in Rabin Square. Dancing, singing, and waving the Israeli flag will remain as some of our fondest memories of living and experiencing life in Israel.
While life and interning in Israel became our routine, the unexpected, yet as many analysts say, the expected did happen. What I referred to my family and friends as a tiny, little, baby war that you really shouldn’t worry about-happened in our city. We will always remember where we were when we heard the sounds of the first siren or the text you received that a rocket came to Tel-Aviv. Then the second. And as it continued, we became an even closer family than before. Many of us spent that Shabbat together, enjoying great company, food, and periods of silence. We said goodbye to friends not knowing if they would ever come back and hoped that our parents wouldn’t tell us we were next. As if perfectly planned, a ceasefire was declared in time for Thanksgiving, where we enjoyed a delicious dinner prepared in a kitchen the chef claimed was the size of a port-a-potty with our family of about sixty that night. We had so much to be thankful for.
Here are a few things I’ll remember that were not written about in our itinerary, and can’t be found on the Career Israel website. Itzik’s hysterical laughter that looks like he is having a heart attack, our oh-so good looking tour guides when we hiked up north (even the guys can admit they were good looking), Louis stripping down on the boat in the middle of the kinneret to dance and actually…Louis in general; the Idan Raichel concert and seeing Natalie singing on stage, the boys befriending a mannequin, naming her good carly, taking her to the beach and even throwing her a birthday party; going on an incredible tour of Jerusalem during Hanukkah and half of us later wandering around the maze of the old city drunk, running around a Willy Wonka-esque tomato farm and eating tomatoes like they were going out of style, people’s faces when both the fire alarm went off at the Bedouin school and the sonic boom of an airplane at Ben-Gurion’s graves and our hearts racing to then all laugh together that as usual “Ha kol beseder”, learning about the pol-ij-amist lives of the African Hebrews, experiencing a desert sand storm, frigid winds, snow in Jerusalem and flooding in Tel Aviv, better known as Geshempocalypse and Shelegeddon, and meditating on the beach followed by a sounding rendition of Am Yisrael Chai, making us look like a Taglit group.
Friends, as Masa would say, the past five months have most certainly been a “journey”. We’ve felt both love and war in this country, and so much in between. Whether you’re jetting back home to start the job search, are preparing to travel Thailand or Europe, or are even choosing to stay in this wildly beautiful, country, I hope that you’ll remember this experience for all that it was. More than an internship, resume building opportunity, or even a wild nightlife party for five months. I hope you remember the way the guy you buy your rimon, tutim, nana smoothies from every Tuesday gives you a deal because he remembers you’re from California, the way the Yuval at the bakery next door smiles at you and asks what’s new in beit leni, the craziness of a Friday afternoon before Shabbat rolls in and life comes to a pause. I hope you remember the way you felt when rockets were coming in and while your biological family was millions of miles away you received countless offers from people that they’ll help you with whatever you need, even if you only met them once at your second cousin’s Rosh Hashana dinner. I hope that when you land at the airport and the smells of home are actually real and not just dreams, you remember this tiny little country of Israel. The smells. The sounds. The people. And the love that keeps us staying, visiting, and telling our friends how truly incredible this place really is. Career Israel-Mazel Tov, we made it!