Dear Livnot,

I came to Israel to partake in a five-month MASA-funded program in the Galilee as well as to decide whether making Aliyah was the right choice for me. Over my Channukah break I decided to venture with my roommate to the ancient city of Tsfat to participate in the Northern Exposure program. Up until that point I had been living in Shlomi for three and half months and was very near to a Jewish identity crisis. Like many North American Jews I came to Israel, in part, to feel more connected to my Judaism and was quickly surprised by what I found waiting for me. I learned almost immediately that Jews in Israel are either “religious” or “non-religious” and for the first time in my life I felt as though I didn’t fit in with my own people. I came to Israel to feel more Jewish and yet it was the first time in my twenty-three years that I did not go to a synagogue on Rosh Hashana. The one day I did attempt services, Yom Kippur, I felt alone, isolated, and extremely upset not knowing anyone, sitting in the back of the room, and being the only person within a mile radius of the synagogue not dressed in all white; I felt an outcast from the Jewish community on a holiday I have always held with such high regard. Despite my program’s enrichments on Zionism and “What it means to be a Jew” I was beginning to feel increasingly disconnected from my Judaism, the one thing that had led me to Israel in the first place.

Hanukah Candle Lighting 2012

When I arrived at Livnot, though, I was greeted with warm smiles, open arms, and loving hearts. I realized I had simply been missing the right environment in which to explore my Judaism in Israel. While at Livnot I met Jews my age from around the world, each with their own views of what it means to live Jewishly and their own unique paths that led them to that place. Through truly dynamic programming and wonderfully engaging conversations, I felt my Jewish spark burn a little brighter. In one cold week in December I felt the connection and gained some understanding as to where and how Judaism fits into my life. I am so grateful to have found Livnot and truly consider it one of my many homes and families here in Israel. Thank you to everyone there for creating such a warm, safe, and inviting space for young Jews like myself to explore their Judaism in this amazingly confusing and beautiful country.

All my love and light,

Heather Markowitz

 
The next holiday session for MASA Israel participants is Passover in the Galilee, a Northern Exposure program. Sign up by March 10th  for an early-bird discount.