gap year in israel

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by Judah Huberman-Shlaes

Quarantine, especially one mandated by the government, seems daunting at worst, and at best, is an incredible nuisance, especially with four strangers. Having quarantined with my family (whom I love very much), I knew how banal and frustrating it could get. Add in the fact that I had never met my four roommates, and one could imagine the anxiety I felt entering my room for the first time.

Much to my pleasant surprise, my unease dissipated immediately, for I quickly realized how lucky I got. Not only were all my roommates very sociable people, they proved to be thoughtful and kind young men, teaching me more than any scholar or professor could hope to.

For instance, while some apartment cleaned or listened to music, our apartment passed time through political discourse. We discussed anything from the American healthcare system to the Israel-Palestine conflict. While we may have landed on different sides of the political compass, we emphasized respecting and listening to one another’s opinion, critiquing both others arguments as well as our own.

As interesting as my roommates political believes proved to be, I found I learned more from them then merely why Bernie would/wouldn’t make a good president. For example, I discovered I had a passion for training others when one roommate asked to join me while I worked out. Whether it was using a door frame and resistance bands to mimic weights or running in place for twenty minutes in our patio space, I loved every second of it.

I learned patience truly is a virtue during my first two weeks with my roommates. After all, we had a small bathroom to share between five people. There was only one pan to cook eggs on, one baking sheet for use. The list, as one could image, goes on. Yet we became patient with one another, learning to give slack when someone forgot to do their dishes or didn’t sweep after they had eaten.

More importantly, I leaned what growing up in a different marginalized community meant. One of my roommates is queer. I had learned about the LGBTQ community through academia, but had never been close with someone who belonged to that community. I am so grateful that my roommate felt comfortable enough to share his life experiences as a queer man, for it illustrated what life is like for a member of the LGBTQ community better than any humanities class.
Lastly, I learned how crucial it is to surround yourself with motivated and positive energy. While I had had a plethora of motivations through high school, nothing motivates more than seeing a roommate working tirelessly at a machine learning project, or educating himself on the intricacies of the Israel-Palestine conflict. The best part, however, was their willingness to share their passions and push me to work on mine. They pushed me to write a program that can read hand written digits. They pushed me to read about Camp David. They pushed me to share my passion for lifting and write workout programs for others.

As our quarantine ends, I cannot wait to continue to learn from my incredibly mature and intelligent roommates as well as the other participants on Aardvark.