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Yezreel Valley College

Gilad
03/08/2012

My name is Gilad, and I am a second year student of psychology and political science in the Yezreel Valley College.
When I came to the project I was “completely secular”, with many prejudices, and hardly positive ones at that, about religion and people who are presented “on paper” as Charedi.

This did not stem from any close acquaintance with them, but from the media image that is broadcast, and which many take to be accurate.

Like many others, I was also sure I knew a lot about the Torah, religion, and what it means to be Jewish. Thinking this way, I did not see what the big deal was about being Jewish (“There are Jews, just like there are Christians and Moslems”).

I came to the stipend program following a friend, who “dragged” me along with him. He suggested I go to one meeting to see what it was all about. Since he had already talked a great deal with me about the topic, and I had seen that he really like the project, I decided to go there with him. Another thing that made me go there was the issue of religion, which although I was distant from, had always interested and attracted me, because of its unique character and mysteriousness.

Today, thanks to that friend who had insisted I go with him that one time, I am finishing my second year in the project, which has granted me a great deal, both on a social level, but most importantly, on a personal and family-related level.

In the past, when people would ask me questions about my faith in G-d, or things that connect me to Judaism, apart from my genealogy, I would try to evade the issue and not think about these things. But today, I am posing these questions, not only to myself, but also to those around me, and I no longer find evasive answers satisfactory. I investigate each and every question in depth, as far as I can, and examine myself, to see how I can improve as a person, both towards myself, as well as towards others.
Revadim Project has shown me many beautiful sides to Judaism, with which I was unfamiliar before. A small example is my first weekend in Jerusalem, during my first year, and especially the Shabbat meal we had across from the Wailing Wall. That was an experience I shall never forget for the rest of my life; a sense of harmony and an inner feeling I cannot put into words, along with the great joy, the singing and happiness all around, which created a magical Shabbat Eve.

In addition to the Shabbat, the project has personally shown me that despite having thought that I was knowledgeable about issues relating to religion and my belonging to it, I was completely ignorant on the matter, and Judaism is a much bigger topic than it is perceived to be, and also, that I have much more to learn about it.
Each week anew, and at every lecture, I learn and discover something new that I was unaware of before, and realize how lucky I am to actually be a Jew, and that this is not something many are privileged to.
During the second semester, when I learned that the project would be conducting a trip to Europe, it made me want to join, but never having been abroad in such an ensemble, comprised of both Charedi and non-observant people, I didn’t know what to expect. I can honestly say that the trip exceeded all my previous expectations. Each day brought new experiences. I remember how my friend and I were moved by the sights, the lecture content, the professionalism, and especially the amazing staff who accompanied us throughout the entire journey, and who made the whole trip such a great experience.

I am sure that had I gone to these places alone, or even with friends, I would probably have enjoyed myself, but I would not have combined enjoyment, learning, and Judaism as Nefesh Yehudi did in this trip, which brought together all of these things, and many more.
There were many empowering and amazing moments in the trip, but I would like to elaborate, in a few words, on two things:
The first is walking in the Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria, which along with the chilling curdling explanations, by the guide, about the horrors which took place there, touched and moved me in a way I had rarely experienced in my life.

The second thing is its contrast, and perhaps our vengeance: The retribution of the Jewish people  is in our unity and happiness, and nothing unites us more , or brings more joy than celebrating a Shabbat in Austria; such a distant country in which the Jewish people have endured, and are still enduring, such anti-Semitism. During that Shabbat I felt such a pleasant and soothing feeling that no matter what happens"עם ישראל חי, מאוחד וחזק"  - the Jewish people are alive, strong, and united, despite the many enemies clamoring to destroy us.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the amazing staff who accompanies me personally, as well as my friends, in the Revadim Project in Haifa, as well as beyond it. In addition, I would also like to thank the wonderful staff who accompanied us across Europe, in the trip we made less than a month ago