Taking the Plunge
I was five years old the first time I traveled to Israel. I remember snapshots and snippets of the trip; visiting the Western Wall, swimming in the Ein Gedi springs, and other memorable moments. But what stayed with me even until this day was a feeling of warmth and belonging. It wasn’t until my teenage years I discovered that “feeling” was actually the entire essence of the beautiful, innovative and welcoming country I now call home.
These are the thoughts I reflect back on when things get rocky, when the bureaucracy makes me want to rip my hair out, or when relying on public transportation always has me running thirty minutes early or late. I remember the reasons I’m here; to contribute to the budding and bustling society of the Jewish land.
I made Aliyah on July 20th 2018, five days before the start of the Mechina program at Hebrew University. I jumped right in and loved every second of it. Although classes were challenging and completely taught in Hebrew, dedication and hard work allowed me to succeed, reaping the rewards of my own personal growth. Although still confined to my English speaking bubble, I met many new Olim in the same situation as me, and made life lasting friends. I learned life lessons through living on my own, adapting to a new environment, and working twice as hard at school to combat the language barrier. However, I was still very much in my comfort zone.
The best opportunity I have had so far during my Aliyah experience presented itself a year later when I decided to volunteer with Sherut Leumi. In Hebrew, “Bat Sherut” quite literally means “daughter of service” which couldn’t be any more accurate. Becoming a Bat Sherut means putting your heart and soul into the projects you work on and giving 100% of yourself to your country. While soldiers are guarding and protecting our country, Bnot Sherut work domestically, from within Israeli society, aiding in everything from healthcare, to welfare, to education.
I live on a Yishuv called Nitzan just outside of Ashkelon and volunteer at the elementary school and after school care on the Yishuv. In the mornings, I help students learn English verbal skills through games and activities. I bond with my students and make time to really connect with each of them personally. In the afternoons I volunteer at an after school care for kids on welfare. Living and working in a strictly Hebrew speaking environment, outside of the comfort of Jerusalem, has proven to be a rewarding and educational experience. Not only have I become fluent in Hebrew, I have met so many amazing families and made connections with Israelis I never thought possible. Although volunteering outside of Jerusalem means missing out on a few lone Bat Sherut benefits including Olah apartments, English programming and an English speaking Rakezet, the familial feelings that emerge from living in a tight knit community and becoming completely immersed in the culture clearly make up for it. My experience in Sherut Leumi has taught me a lot about myself and how I see myself in the future. I have learned that I can do anything I put my mind to, no matter how difficult the beginning may seem.
My advice for future Bnot Sherut is to take the plunge! Don’t be afraid and dive in deep. There are so many options out there in Sherut Leumi, do not limit yourself because of a lack of Hebrew or fears of being different. You may be the only one with an accent, just as I was, and still am, but your accented Hebrew can be used to inspire and make a difference. Jump out of your comfort zone and become the Israeli you’ve always wanted to be.
Rashi is originally from Baltimore, and made Aliyah in 2018. After compeleting Mechina at Hebrew U, Rashi is currently serving in Sherut in Nitzan, a Yeshuv near Ashkelon in the elementary school and working in the community.