Tuesday, September 1, 2009

19 Days til Departure

Dear family, friends, and anyone else who happens to stumble upon this,

Instead of sending mass emails once in a while, I have decided to keep everyone up-to-date with this handy dandy blog. For those of you who don't know, I graduated from Shaker Heights High School (class of 2009) and have decided to take a "gap year" in Israel before enrolling at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service (class of 2014).

As nontraditional as it is to take a year off before college, my reasons are surprisingly logical and practical. I have always struggled to find a specific subject out of which I can pursue as a major/job/career. In reality, there are too many fields that intrigue me, and I have a hard time choosing which I like best. Throughout high school, I have tried to delve deeper into my interests--to investigate their potentials. For example, my curiosity in math and science led me to a robotics engineering internship at Case Western Reserve University, and my fascination with politics and government led me to an internship at United States Senator Sherrod Brown's office. Despite all of the opportunities for exploration in high school, it is impossible to fully explore one of my remaining passions: the Arab-Israeli conflict.

I have had an intense passion for Arab-Israeli peace for a few years now, specifically since I attended Seeds of Peace International Camp in Maine in the summers of 2006 and 2008. Growing up in a Jewish family and attending a Jewish day school through 6th grade has always made me feel a special connection to Israel; however I was largely ignorant of the major issues looming over the Holy Land until recently. When I went to Seeds of Peace, I met people from Israel, Palestine, Egypt, and Jordan. Everyone had an opinion and would defend it so vehemently that I realized how pervading this conflict is. To affect so many people and inspire such feelings of hostility and hatred--I simply could not comprehend it all. However, by the end of camp, the hostility and hatred disappeared, and I felt hopeful. It is that hope and desire to better understand everyone's perspective that has compelled me to journey to Israel.

As far as details for my trip, I am attending the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (AIES; www.arava.org) for the Fall semester, which begins October 14 and ends February 1. AIES is one of the leading environmental research institutions in the Middle East. The philosophy behind AIES is that the environment knows no borders. While politicians squabble, the Jordan River runs between Jordan and Israel. While extremists on both sides call for bloodshed, air pollution flows between Syria and Lebanon. The environment effects everyone in the Middle East, whether it poses problems, or presents valuable resources. The environment is a point of contention but also an opportunity for regional cooperation. AIES is a bastion for cooperation, bringing Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, and Americans together to research and learn.

Prior to AIES, I am participating in a three-week Hebrew Ulpan, which begins September 24. An Ulpan basically entails the study of Hebrew language and Israeli culture. I studied Hebrew for a long time, but in the past couple years, I was too busy to continue. When I visited Israel earlier this summer (my first time) I found that I could understand Hebrew well, but speaking was difficult. I'll be able to recover and build on my Hebrew skills during the Ulpan.

After the Fall semester at AIES, I currently have no plan, but I'm sure I'll find something interesting to do for the remaining months! More info and details to come!


  1. hi gabe. i thought we couldn't post on this....i am going to call now as you are in transit...

  2. I'm on now. i did facebook before you did. but u beat me with a blog don't see joyce on either one
    LOVE, gram LaShanah Tova with lots of Honey!!1