January 3, 2022

My Gap Year in Israel

Tags: 2022, Israel, Teen Voice

Doni Chasen is a recipient of the Atlanta Israel Gap Year Scholarship and currently on the Orayta Gap Year program. Doni is 2021 graduate of Atlanta Jewish Academy.

My gap year has been absolutely incredible so far. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to live in Israel for the year, and I am truly seeing and doing everything I can.

My school is located in the Old City of Jerusalem just a three-minute walk from the Kotel. I can actually see the Kotel from the balcony of my school. It’s difficult to put into words just how special and spiritual it is to be that close. On Chanukah, our entire school lit menorahs at the school window overlooking the Kotel, and it was such an incredible and spectacular sight. We also have amazing restaurants close by with the best falafel and shawarma in Israel. I enjoy learning in my classes every day and connecting to my Rabbis and teachers.

While growing up in Atlanta, I learned so many amazing stories in the Torah. This year I have been able to see exactly where all these events happened. We went on a school trip to Chevron, the place where the matriarchs and patriarchs in the Bible are buried, and visited the graves of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as well as those of Sarah, Rebecca and Leah.

Another incredible experience was a three-day trip to the Negev in the desert. We spent our days exploring and learning about the land of Israel. Each day we had the opportunity to focus on making a closer connection with our own selves, our peers and with G-d.

Next week we are going to Poland where we will visit the concentration camps and see the atrocities of the Holocaust up close and personal. I cannot even imagine what that will be like.

There are not enough words to describe this incredible experience I’m having living for a year in the holiest city in the world. In the short four months I’ve been here, I’ve already made lifelong friends, grown, matured and learned so much. I am certainly looking forward to the rest of the year and more amazing adventures.

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