From Career Israel To Israel Forever
by Laura Sigal
I first found out about the Career Israel Internship program at the 2010 Jewish Federations General Assembly in New Orleans. I thought about applying but decided to instead go on Birthright that summer. I quickly fell in love with Israel and a few weeks after returning home I emailed Career Israel asking them to open up their summer 2012 registration.
When the day finally came I was terrified, a near panic attack at the ticket counter in Chicago’s O’Hare airport lead to the kind American Airlines ticket agent to give my parents passes through security allowing them to sit with me until my flight left.
However, being the 21-year-old panicking at the ticket counter wasn’t my low point. Within 24 hours of my arrival I called my mom crying, “What am I doing here?” I exclaimed, panicking at how I knew no one in a foreign country. My mom calmed me and two days later I headed to Jerusalem for orientation.
I was quickly reminded of why I loved Israel and called my mom again. A mere 72 hours from my panicked "I want to come home" phone call, I stated that I was not sure I would be returning to America in the fall. I informed my mom I wanted to look into transferring to a school in Israel in the fall. More research lead me to believe it would be best to finish out my senior year in the states. Still everyday of my summer stay, I fell more in love with Israel.
The many longs nights, laughing with life long friends until sunrise, only to wake up hours later, don a swimsuit and pass out on the beach.
The Sunday through Thursday workweek, that took some getting used to.
And the coworkers who kept me laughing through out the day.
The opportunity to learn from international professionals, who not only helped me improve my writing but welcomed me in true Israeli fashion as if they had known me forever.
The sense of community that comes with strangers taking me in for Shabbat.
The community in Neve Daniel, who took in two friends and I in for the weekend and even though had met none of us fought among one another about who got to feed us for the weekend.
The way the entire country slows down to rest for Shabbat.
The people who for some odd reason mistook for me for a Sabra, barking questions about directions to me in Hebrew.
The falafel, sabich, hummus, chocolate poprocks, scholate b’sakit, shakshuka, and various other tasty foods that just aren’t the same in America.
The way the falafel guy at my favorite stand knew my name and always greeted me with free chips.
The feeling that I was much safer walking the streets of Tel Aviv, than any street near my small town school.
The fact that the only time I ever saw an Israeli running was when they were about to miss the bus.
Taking the bus the wrong way, resulting a three hour commute to work only to be greeted by a laughing boss.
The fact that I could confidently tell people which bus to take where by the end of the summer.
The soldiers, because not only do they defend Israel, they are very nice to look at.
The way no one thinks twice about said soldiers touting around enormous guns in the middle of Tel Aviv.
The fact that a childhood friend that you haven’t talked to in years may pop into your Ulpan class to visit the teacher, and that this is a completely regular occurrence.
Camels rides offered at gas stations in the dessert, and dipping your feet in Ein Gedi after a hike through the desert.
Haggling in the shuk, and getting crazy spice mixtures that only exist the Middle East.
The annoying pitter-patter of matcot balls, a far better beach companion than July’s swarm of jellyfish.
Wandering the streets of Jerusalem filled with the diverseness that includes not only ultra orthodox but Arabs as well.
Wearing shorts and a blouse to work, and still being the most dressed up person on the 189 bus to Tel Aviv’s high tech district.
Life long friendships that resulted in a trip I will never forget and a very teary eyed trip to Ben Gurion Airport.
While I realized I should head back to the states for my senior year of college, I wanted others to understand my love of Israel. That is why I decided to begin interning with the Israel Forever Foundation. I am so excited to begin this journey!