ConnecTech is a year-long fellowship for MIT and Technion Jewish students. The primary focus is on student interaction—creating personal bonds between small core groups of students at each institute and strengthening a sense of Jewish peoplehood. For more information or to read our Fellows’ bios, visit our website.

We, the American MIT students and Israeli Technion students, spent Shabbat getting to know each other at Kibbutz Hanaton in the Lower Galilee. On Saturday morning we took a walk across the valley to a nearby hill and site of the ancient settlement Hanaton mentioned in the Book of Joshua. The location for Hanaton, first settled during the Bronze Age, was chosen because it provided four primary needs for life during that period: 1. water from a nearby natural spring, 2. food from the fertile surrounding valley, 3. shelter created from buildings of locally available stone, and 4. observation of the valley from an elevated position. It was this combination that allowed people to survive there for thousands of years.

Like the settlers of Hanaton, I am faced with my own modern set of needs in life: 1. a career for financial support and to fulfill my curiosity, 2. a community of family and friends, 3. a culture of shared identities and values (including Judaism), and 4. a connection to the land through history and nature.

The ConnecTech trip has given me a renewed perspective on what drives my decisions of where to live and build my family and community. The contrast between my geographic life – I’ve already lived in four states (and spending this summer in a fifth) and see my family in Texas twice per year – and that of my Israeli peers reminded me of the influence that location has on us. Many of my conversations with the Israelis brought this contrast into sharp focus. They remain near to their families and friends and maintain their shared national and Jewish identities as they transition through the army, university, and beyond. Even those which move between, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Eilat, or Metula are never more than a relatively short drive away. Moreover, they maintain their Jewish identities through these personal connections and national association.

My movement across the United States has been primarily driven by education and career opportunities, and the chaos of graduate school can cause one to lose perspective on life outside. As I continue to progress toward graduation I look forward to moving with more intention and consideration of my community, culture, and geographic connection.

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