Today was the first day of ConnecTech, and I could not be more excited about what is coming next. Today we got to meet the Israeli delegation in person and have the first view of Israeli culture. It was an amazing day, full of lessons and emotions. In the next few paragraphs, I will go through the different activities we had, my reflections on each one of them, and about the whole day.

We began the day in the shuk (market). We had a gastronomic tour that took us through the different places, people, and experiences. We first went to a restaurant opened by a woman a few decades ago. The guide mentioned that a business owned and operated by women at that moment in the shuk was not common. She was able to overcome the difficulties this presented knowing she had to provide a life for her family. After stopping operating the restaurant for personal problems for a while, her LGBTQ+ son took over and helped her reactivate the business. Today the restaurant is a successful example of a women and minority-owned business in the shuk.

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After the first stop, we tried Russian traditional food that had become a part of Israeli food, and other immigrant groups’ cuisines, and we had some free time to explore. Getting to know the stories behind the stores in the shuk gave us a sense of the complex and rich history in Haifa.

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After this, we went to Yael’s house. Yael is the director of Hillel Haifa. Opening the doors to her house was a reflection of how much Hillel’s staff cared about the program. Speaking about what we saw in such an intimate environment brought the group together.

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Finally, we went to have a conversation with a Reform female rabbi. This was not a common experience for the Israelis and the people from the program who grew up in more Orthodox environments. We discussed what the role of Reform Judaism is in our peoplehood and Israel. It was very interesting to see a first-hand opinion about its importance. I believe this activity helped us get to know each other and realize we are a group of young Jewish people interested in questioning and exploring our identity. I believe we will be seeing more of this in the next few days.

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The activities we had on the first day shaped the perfect opening for a trip of learning and personal growth. I am so grateful to be in this program and so excited for what is coming next. Haifa is a complex city and the Jewish people are a complex community. I’m looking forward to exploring both in the next few days.

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.

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