As I sit in my office in Jerusalem (I just like typing that), I can’t help but think about how to make the absolute most of this last month on OTZMA. About how to soak it in and take every opportunity make memories with this incredible group of people. I meant to write about the future – about next year, about the things I want to share with my participants and the things I want to take advantage of before I really start working. But then I realized that in order to accurately look ahead, I needed to reflect on the memories first.
|Merc Roomies - we barely knew each other!|
I’ve learned a lot this year. I learned about myself, my friends and my family. I learned about Israel – its people, its places, its cultures and its quirks. I felt its troubles and I rejoiced in its happiness. I learned some Hebrew (and now I’m learning more), tried new foods and pushed myself to do things I never thought I would. But the biggest lesson I might have learned is that 10 months in Israel can be at the same time the longest and shortest 10 months of your life.Today marks 9 months to the day since I said goodbye to my family and walked through security at Newark Airport into the unknown with a group of strangers. From my vantage point in Jerusalem, I can look back over the past 9 months and say, “Damn, where did the time go?” And I look forward with a slight sense of dread because I know how fast this last month will go. (Also because I don’t even know where I’m going to be sleeping the night of June 23.) But I can also appreciate the incredible wealth of experiences that this year has given me and when I look back on events from the beginning of the year or even my parents’ visit in March I can say, “That feels like so long ago!”
|Turning 25 on the beach!|
I’ve been a part of a lot of groups in my life. Countless sports teams, school clubs, the trips I’ve staffed, etc. But nothing, and I mean NOTHING can come close to touching my OTZMA experience. Not with a 10-foot pole. It’s not even a little bit of a stretch to say that it changed my life. Just a few short months ago I thought I would head back to the States and get a Masters in Physical Education. But now, as my friends begin to pack up and look for jobs back home, here I am, employed (well, hired), about to become an Israeli citizen and playing on Israel’s National Lacrosse team. This year has been a series of amazing gifts, and now I’ve been given one more – the chance to pass this gift on to another group of OTZMAnikim.
|Literally obsessed with each other - and OTZMA|
|Good roomies make everything better|
We joke about how we all drank the OTZMA Kool-aid from day one. That’s not an exaggeration. Whether we expected it, were taken completely by surprise, tried to avoid it or embraced it with open arms, OTZMA has gotten under our skin. They call it the ultimate real life experience. But doesn't that imply that it's not actually real life? Because if this isn't real, then I must be dreaming. And if I'm dreaming, please let me sleep a little longer. But actually don’t. Because I don’t want to miss a minute. I can't wait to see what the next month, and the next year, will bring.