It is so surreal for me to be writing this at the end of my Otzma experience but I feel that a proper reflection is necessary in order to sum up all of my experiences. My time on Otzma has been incredible. I have enjoyed everything from my time in the Mercaz Klita (absorption center) in Nazareth Illit to my exceptional second home of Arad to the exciting internships in Jerusalem. Each experience has been unique and life changing. . I have been privileged to have many unique opportunities. Not only have I lived in Israel for ten months but I have lived in the periphery of the country for seven of those ten months. I was able to be integrated into Israeli culture and society.
Arad was the first place that Israel came alive for me. My arrival in Arad with my fellow Otzma participant, Ilene, was a surprise. Our plan to go to Arad twice a week and live in Ofakim changed when the war in Gaza or "Oferet Yitzuka", gave Ilene and I our wish of living and volunteering in Arad full time. We were so grateful for that opportunity. It was even more of a surprise to us that the Arad/Tamar/New Jersey Delaware Partnership was kind enough to invite the six Otzma participants who were supposed to be in Kiryat Malachi to come to Arad until the war was over and it was safe for them to return to their partnership city. It was a great feeling that I was part of a city and partnership that went out of its way to help others, during a scary and stressful time in Israel. I know my friends were very grateful that they had a place to be and I really attribute all this great work to Ofra and the rest of the office staff of the Arad/Tamar/New Jersey Delaware Partnership, who are just outstanding people.
As we began to settle in with the help of Ofra Nathan Bezalel, the P2K Living Bridge Coordinator in Arad, we began to learn about the amazing opportunities that awaited us. I was now living in a place that felt like home. I had my adoptive family living in the same city and accepting me as part of their family; I had friends my own age to hang out with, and I had a fulfilling and meaningful volunteer experience. I could not have asked for a better place to be. I volunteered at a day care, an elementary school teaching English to the kindergarten and 1st grade, Youth Futures (Potchim Atid), and helping out with things in the partnership offices. I think my greatest accomplishment in Arad I only noticed as I was leaving. After three months of hard work the kindergarteners I was working with were able to write their names in English. I was so proud of them and it was eye opening for me to see what an impact I had made on these students.
I think one of the nicest things about being in Arad was that I felt like I was included as part of the community and not just a stranger looking in. Ofra introduced Ilene and I to Ben and Haim, two guys from Arad, who in a short time became our great friends. Because of them we were able to travel and explore the area with people who have a car and know the interesting places to see in the area. . I made connections with people in Arad that will last a life time. I now know that if I ever want to come back to this wonderful country or make “Aliya” I have a city that I can call home. Even now as I am living in Jerusalem for the final part of Otzma I keep in touch with people from Arad and look forward to the weekends when I have the opportunity to go back and hang out with my friends. There are really is no words strong enough to express my thanks and appreciation to the P2K partnership,and the Arad staff, in particular, Ofra and all the other amazing people in Arad for all that they have done for me.
This last part of Otzma is an internship and I chose to intern in Jerusalem at the Chalav u’Dvash, Ivrit l’Ivrit program for young children at the Jewish Agency and at the Gan (kindergarten) of Beit Shmuel and Hebrew Union College. It has been a fun experience for me to live and work in Jerusalem especially since I have always wanted this experience. I am so grateful for this experience and especially for the people I have met through my volunteering and internships and the great connections that I have made.
Overall, Otzma has been an unbelievable experience that I am so incredibly grateful for having. I know how much has gone in to making sure that Otzma 23 is a success and I really appreciate everyone’s hard work and effort. I look forward to seeing this great program continuing in the future so that other young adults can have the same amazing life changing experience as I had.