By: Dana Driscoll
My first Channukah in Israel would not be the same without thanking those who helped me get to Israel in the first place. What better way to thank them than with fresh sufganiyot?
This afternoon I had the pleasure of visiting the Jerusalem office of MASA-Israel Journey in Kiryat Moriah along with a fellow Mayanot student, Liz Halpern, and shared my journey to Israel with them. Liz & I shared our Jewish backgrounds and why we specifically chose Mayanot as a post-college program.
I personally explained to them that coming from a large Jewish population at Binghamton University and being extensively involved with its Chabad center, I knew my Jewish journey needed to continue. It was important for them to hear that although my shluchim, who I love dearly, provided me with guidance, it was ultimately the MASA grant that funded the continuation of my Jewish journey.
They were very grateful to hear how Mayanot has provided us with adequate resources to not only grow in our knowledge of Judaism, but in our knowledge of the land we are living in. The ability to learn intensively and go on tiyulim throughout Israel is something unique to the environment at Mayanot, since it respects the balance needed to grow in an environment so rich with learning.
When asked to identify one aspect of Israeli life we value, I answered, without hesitation, the resilience and kindness of the Israeli people. I explained that while those 8 days were days of uncertainty, they were also days of clarity. For many of us, like myself, it solidified our love of this State and our dream to one day be its citizens and motivated us to take on new mitzvahs and learn in honor of soldiers protecting us. We realized that it’s very possible to be proud of getting on a public bus or sitting in a shelter waiting for a boom because it reminds us that as much as we are spending our days surrounded by spirituality, the physical realm of our promised land makes that possible.
The MASA staff was happy to hear this because they explained to us that the nearly 2 weeks of the Operation were the hardest time for them. They knew their participants were struggling with the decision to remain on their programs or appease their worried parents and leave Israel. According to one staff member, hearing that the Mayanot women remained in Israel despite the missile sirens and were even further strengthened to learn Torah gave them a renewed sense of purpose in their jobs.
We finished off our session with the lighting of a chanukiyah with the academic director and by digging into an assortment of donut flavors. After taking some group pictures we were given goodie bags by the generous MASA staff and left with a newfound sense of appreciation for the people that funded our ability to continue on the journey we are so passionate about.
Thank you MASA and Mayanot Women's Program for this amazing opportunity to come learn in Jerusalem!