gap year in israel

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My name is Josh Cohen and I am from Columbia, Maryland. This is my second semester on Aardvark, and I couldn’t be happier. I’m having such a great time that I’m looking to study at Hebrew University in the coming years.

Back home I grew up in a hyper-competitive environment. At many points in my life I’d get antsy and dream of a change of scenery. I found myself eager to explore the world. Little did I know that the dream was waiting right in front of me in Israel. I stepped off the terminal ramp in Ben Gurion Airport last semester with an open mind, a little bit of nervousness (ok, maybe a lot), and an itch for it all to begin. With the great people that I’ve been surrounded with, I haven’t looked back.

In the first semester I had a blast in Tel Aviv. I made some incredible memories, amazing friends, and had copious amounts of laughs. Some highlights include: The China trip, Interning for DigiStage and Homrun, and hanging out in Markolet 5. In China, I climbed the great wall, learned the art of Chinese calligraphy, met one of the most inspiring Rabbis I’ve ever met, and learned what real Chinese food tastes like (hot take: American-Chinese food is better). I also had the honor of being able to help spearhead the worldwide marketing of a popular producer and singer here in Israel, Adi Ulmansky. We were able to accomplish some remarkable things, like making it on to a Spotify curated playlist with over a 1,000,000 followers. While Tel Aviv was non-stop fun and certainly eventful, I was looking forward to the slower pace of Jerusalem. However, what I didn’t know, is that I would find more life in this city than I could have ever expected.

In a short 6 weeks here in Jerusalem, I’ve utterly fallen in love with the city and the people in it. It’s diverse in backgrounds and beliefs, while still possessing an unparalleled community. Nowhere else in the world can you walk outside everyday knowing you’re somehow going to run into someone you know, even if they used to live hours away from you. No other time in the history of the Jewish people have we had the power to control how we live. No other time in history have we been able to walk outside our homes and know that we belong. I’m writing this just coming from Yad Vashem (The Holocaust Museum) and Mt. Herzl. All I can think about is how much people have sacrificed so that I can live peacefully and proudly in a Jewish State. This semester I’ve been inspired to start wearing a kippah every day, keep kashrut, and fight BDS wherever I go in the world. I just hope that one day I’ll be able to inspire my kids to love Israel the way I do. But more importantly, to always remember to never take our religious freedom for granted and to never forget where we came from. I certainly know that now, I never will.

Thank you so much to the Aardvark staff for all they have done for me. I can’t wait for my next 3 months in Jerusalem and hopefully many more!

Josh cohen