Zach Mainer is the valedictorian of the 2020 graduating class of AJA. He was awarded a Spark Grant to participate in a Gap Year program at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh in Israel. Read more about Zack’s experience in a letter we received.
Thank you so much for your contribution to my year in Israel. My experience in Israel so far has been invigorating and inspiring. I am studying in Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh, a yeshiva with programs for both Israeli and overseas students. From the moment I have arrived, I have been engrossed in advanced Judaic Studies (even though I spent the first two weeks in quarantine with only five other students).
This year’s experience differs slightly than normal due to the coronavirus: The students can only spend time with their own “capsule” of students, and we are not allowed to leave the campus of the yeshiva. Despite this, the students have been able to bond, and we have participated in several activities. We package food for needy families once a week, and we also play thrilling nighttime sports.
Officially, the yeshiva goes on Sukkot break after Yom Kippur for three weeks, and the students can explore the country on their own. However, this year, we had to celebrate Sukkot in the yeshiva. Having this experience with the other students was unbelievable. Aside from a packed schedule of activities throughout the break, we also needed to build our own sukkah for the Sukkot holiday out of whatever materials we could find, as the yeshiva had never needed to provide its students a sukkah before. We searched around the campus and ended up building our sukkah out of old doors from a to-be-renovated dormitory, lots of tape and nails, random planks of wood, and palm branches for the roof. We had all been used to fancy sukkahs with solid walls specifically designed to be used for a sukkah. But we were proud of the ragtag sukkah that we built, and somehow, it stayed up for the entire holiday.
I am so glad that I received the privilege to come to Israel, and I am so grateful to JumpSpark for making it possible.