Hey, my name is Liad Zafrani and I am from Swampscott Massachusetts, a small seaside town next to Salem (the place where they killed the “witches”). In May I’m going back home to college, I plan on attending the University of Massachusetts Amherst honors college, where I intend to major in Political Science and Economics. As one of three young traditional Jews growing up in my town (the others being my now 26 year old brother and 17 year old sister), it’s incredible to be living in Israel now surrounded by Jewish people just like myself. I learned most of what I know about Judaism from my father, who immigrated to the United States, aged 18 from Casablanca, Morocco. Growing up it was always incredible to hear stories from his childhood and he is absolutely one of the reasons why I wanted to come and live in Israel for a year. When deciding which gap year program to do (with the help of my wonderful mom), I had no idea where to start, but I knew that I wanted to do something less rigid that allowed me to do my own thing while still providing me with plenty of opportunities. Scrolling through all the programs, I found that Aardvark Israel was really the only one that gave me this, and it’s worked out perfectly!!
I flew out to Israel in August, leaving all of my friends behind, and I think it was the best choice I’ve ever made. Arriving last semester, I had all the normal fears, “I’m the only kid in my year doing a gap year, was this a mistake? Am I going to make friends? What if it’s boring? What if my internship is horrible?” They all went away within the first week. My roommate Noam turned out to be ridiculously funny and the best of friends, I often miss our conversations that took place in the middle of the night. My flat mate Solly almost immediately turned into my best friend, so much so that people thought we knew each other from before! For my internship, I became the research intern at NGO monitor, a UN watchdog group based in Jerusalem. I couldn’t have hoped for a better internship, it was awesome that some of my research got published in a report that was sent to the UN!
After the first semester I didn’t think there was any way that Aardvark could get better, I mean, what more could I ask for?! I had all the friends I could ask for, the perfect internship, and a ton of fun!! Of course, Aardvark had to go and defy my expectations! I was roomed with Solly (thank G-d!), Micah, Tristan, and a new South African kid named Benji. All of us have bonded insanely well and we’ve really made Markolet 4 our home. This semester I’m volunteering with Magen David Adom, Israel’s largest and only government-run ambulance service. I’ve learned how to treat all kinds of trauma patients and I really feel like I’m giving back to this wonderful country. Living in Tel Aviv this semester is so different from last; sometimes it shocks me that Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are only 70 kilometers apart, because you could not find two cities that are more different! The beach and startup nation that is Tel Aviv stands in stark contrast to the holiness and calm life of Jerusalem; and I think that’s a good thing, you really get to explore as much of the country as possible and find your particular niche. Although cliché, my favorite thing that Aardvark has provided me with is undoubtedly the opportunity to meet all these incredible Jewish people. I’ve bonded with Americans, British people, Belgians, French, Germans, and, of course, my favorite, Australians! Not only have I fallen in love with them (I have a new family: Dovi, my son, Jordan my father, James, my baby, and Lachie, my love), but I know that I’ve made friends for life with people that I otherwise would have never met, and I have Aardvark to thank for that!
Shalhevet, revenge is best served cold.
Avia, maybe one day you’ll out-GIF me.
Noam, come back home to me.
Solly, my brother, I love you.
Big up the kosher boys.
To everyone on Aardvark, know I’ll always be in your corner, even when I’m halfway around the world. And sorry for the GIFs.