gap year in israel

Check out our social media to see what our students have been up to this past week!

by Sara Goldstein

Since March 12th, when the legislators of the Greater Los Angeles area declared my hometown was to undergo a mandatory shut-down due to the COVID-19 outbreak, I have felt overwhelmingly stagnant. Given that I am a sociable extravert who thrives on deep interpersonal connection, a pandemic which forces the global community into isolation is, decidedly, my worst nightmare. For the past six months, I have rolled my eyes every time I heard the phrase “social distanced, but socially connected,” because being barred from my treasured collaborative spaces (the classroom, my dance studio, my summer camp, and USY events) had left me feeling anything but socially connected.

As each day of living in the world of COVID-19 ticked by, the anticipation of coming to Israel only grew. The opportunity to once again taste the sweetness of being surrounded by a deep-rooted community became alluring. However, as it became clear to me that COVID-19 was not going to magically disappear once I stepped onto the airplane, one anxiety was ever-present in the back of my mind. I began to worry if I was going to feel socially stifled, and if my opportunities for interpersonal connection were going to be limited due to necessary safety precautions.

But, as I approach my second shabbat in Jerusalem, and the end of the two week quarantine in my apartment, I can say with absolute certainty that Sara of the past had absolutely nothing to worry about. What I didn’t fully grasp until I arrived in my new apartment is that all people find comfort in community and social support. I have discovered that when I introduce myself to those around me, my enthusiasm and energy is usually matched, and that creating new connections is more than possible.

During the past 2 weeks, while all the students have been quarantined in their apartments, the balconies at
59 Ussishkin have been my saving grace.

Each day, I spend hours upon hours sitting on my balcony, watching the bustling street below and talking with the Aardvark students in the apartments surrounding mine. As much as I would love to be able to explore the wonderful city of Jerusalem, this time in quarantine has revealed itself to be a blessing in disguise, for it has afforded me plenty of time to hear about my new friends’ passions, to laugh with them, (and, of course, to make plans for when we finally are out of quarantine). Every person I’ve met so far has brought something special to the community, and I consider myself unbelievably lucky to have already formed friendships with so many unique individuals. I can’t wait to see my connections grow stronger as time goes on!

I’m so grateful to be surrounded by smiling faces, which by now have become familiar. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to see smiles not blocked by face masks 😉

Wishing you all a meaningful Shabbat,

Sara Goldstein 💘