Onward Israel Cincinnati 2019: A Reflection

Some of us start up classes again this week, while some of us are amid our first days post-graduation in the real world. What we all have in common is a mutual feeling of disbelief that the near-two month adventure that was our summer in Israel is behind us. 


For me at least, I felt the ending of the trip was weirdly abrupt. Being thrown into an apartment in the middle of Tel Aviv with a job and other responsibilities is something that takes some getting used to, and it felt like at the end of it all we were fully adjusted to our new schedules and surroundings. Saying goodbye to a group of people and a distinct way of living can be a struggle, especially when you know it’s likely the last time you’ll ever have either of those things in their entireties. You have it every day for almost two months and then it’s probably gone forever. 


Instead of looking back on this summer as a thing of the past and a distant memory, I challenge my fellow Onward participants to always remember this summer in Israel as one in which we learned, discovered and grew. 


“Internship” is the first thing other than “Israel” that people think of when they hear Onward, and rightfully so. This summer I figured out that a part of your internship experience is committing worthwhile effort and time into it. You get out of your internship whatever you put into it, so if you want to get attention as an intern you’re doing yourself a favor by being active in conversations with bosses and co-workers around the office. Regardless of how many assignments we had or how many hours we put in to our job, it’s safe to say we all learned how to function in a workplace and manage tasks accordingly. The best part of the internship is being able to share your work or experiences with friends and loved ones. From art and design to drone-flying, some of us were able to do some very unique things at work this summer that we’ll have forever.


We had all been to Israel before this trip, but most of us had just come once or twice on a guided program or tour throughout the whole country for no more than a few weeks. For a lot of us, this was our first time living in Israel as opposed to visiting it, and we had so much more time to explore not only Tel Aviv but the whole country. With work during the week and most of our free days on the weekend during Shabbat, it was hard for us to travel the country on our own because public transportation shuts down from Friday night to Saturday night. Our program travel days, however, gave us the chance to see all that Netanya, Haifa, Jerusalem, and Be’er Sheva have to offer. While living in Tel Aviv is a blast and a half, I found it necessary for us to move around the country together and see what else living in Israel can look like. In my opinion, the four areas we went to as a group were all distinct and unique in relation to Tel Aviv’s environment. Returning home after a few weeks in Israel definitely provided a bit of a culture shock and a major change of pace for all of our daily schedules. 


32 of us, 5 apartments, endless connections. One of my favorite things about this summer was our living situation. I was incredibly appreciative of the location and condition of our apartment as well as the community we built just by living together. Each apartment had its own unique personality and I liked that by the end of the trip a lot of us were willing to open our doors to others from the program. It was always nice to see us going out and to the beach or to meals together in big groups, that’s really a testament to how close everyone was. Sure, just over half of us went to the same high school ~ Go Aves ~ but it’s safe to say the group grew closer as the trip proceeded. 


I had mixed feelings heading into this summer, thinking it would be any ounce similar to my experiences on Camp Livingston’s Israel trip or Birthright. Not to say I didn’t have the time of my life on those programs, but I wanted something different out of Onward that I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else, and think I got exactly that. Onward Israel shows you the country in a different light than other programs and is able to set you up with legitimate internships and living quarters that make you feel that much more a part of Israel’s society. Everything that Onward provides for its participants seems so make-believe it’s wonderful. Delegation heads, madrichim, and internship coordinators really put themselves out as a resource so their participants are set up for success. Onward Israel is an opportunity too good for young Jews to pass up. 


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