Among the Jewish community, as well as the rest of the world, “Israel” is such a buzz word. From a young age, I knew “Israel” to be something that offered hope and a sense of connectivity through prayers and holidays. I can remember saying, “Next year in Jerusalem” at the Passover seder, yet never imagined that I would actually find myself there. My relationship with Israel really began when I went on a Birthright trip in the summer of 2017, which I then extended to do an internship through Onward Israel. This experience was a huge period of personal and professional growth for me. I knew I wanted to return to Israel and explore the country, culture and conflict in my own way.

For the past couple of weeks, I have volunteered at Robin Food, a food rescue restaurant located in Haifa. The mission of this organization is to save food that would have otherwise gone to waste and turn it into a delicious meal to be served at a “pay as you feel” restaurant. Through this experience I have met Israeli volunteers and volunteers from all over the world, both Jewish and non-Jewish. This has been a great opportunity to see Israel through a different lens. This restaurant offers a great community for both locals and volunteers. In addition to serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, this restaurant also hosts events such as open mic nights and cooking classes. This experience enabled me to get a glimpse into the everyday life in Haifa.

Another important aspect of Judaism for me is the Hebrew language. I think it is so special to be able to read and write such an ancient text and I have always wanted to speak the language as well. I am now going to continue my time in Israel and participate in an ulpan class. I will be participating in an intensive four-week course through an ulpan called “This Is Not an Ulpan” (TINAU) in Tel Aviv. This language school functions around several unique principles, the first being that, “We don’t learn Hebrew, we learn in Hebrew.” This is one of the few language schools in Israel that teaches both Hebrew and Arabic and classes are taught by both Israelis and Palestinians. I am excited for this opportunity to learn a new language and meet people from all over the world.

Alana Sher, Worcester Polytechnic Institute ’18, participated on the Birthright Israel and Onward Israel professional internship program while in college. She is now spending time traveling and exploring both Turkey and Israel.