By Finn Crowe
Editor’s Note: As introduced last month, Finn (previously identified as Bella) is the recipient of a grant from The Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee’s Mary and Harry Zimmerman Youth Exchange Endowment Fund. The grant is helping to fund her semester in Israel.
Hi! My name is Finn Crowe, and I am spending the spring semester of my sophomore year in high school in Israel. Here’s my journey so far:
On January 23rd, I started my journey. I met up with the Heller High School in Israel group at JFK International Airport, and we all hopped on a plane to Tel Aviv. This was my first time on an international fight; it was so fancy! The ride was a long, boring, and cramped 10 hours. I luckily had music pre downloaded to pass the time. After what felt like forever, we finally arrived in Israel. I was super excited to say the least. The airport workers were a bit scary, but I made my way out and met up with our Israeli Madrachim (counselors). Fast forward about an hour later, we boarded a bus to go to our new home at the hotel on Kibbutz Tzuba. We met the principal, found our roommates, got our room keys, and finally got to unpack. It was probably one of the longest days I’ve ever had in my life.
For the first day or two, we were placed in quarantine. Israel has a very strict Covid protocol, and the school has to obey it. After quarantine, we started classes on the kibbutz. A normal school day at Heller High is from 8:10am to 7:15 pm with Hebrew and Jewish History in the morning, and General Studies (our regular high school classes) in the afternoon. It’s actually not as bad as it sounds! Depending on the day, I have either two or three free periods. The kibbutz also has a lot of cats and dogs that I’ve befriended. I have a little cat buddy named Garfield that shows up at my doorstep every day. He’s loud and whiny, but he’s actually quite cute.
Heller High is big on Tiyuls (field trips), and we go on one at least once a week, if not more. These Tiyuls can either be half or whole-day field trips where we explore Israel. Our first Tiyul was to this place called Tel Gezer, built on the ruins of an old Canaanite city. We learned about how these old cities survived and thrived in Israel and even saw the first recorded Hebrew calendar!
A few days after going to Tel Gezer, I started feeling like I had a cold. A lot of people on the program were testing positive for Covid-19, so I got a bit paranoid that I might have caught it. I told myself that it was just a cold, and I didn’t catch it because I’m fully vaccinated and boosted. After enough people were starting to catch Covid, the Madrachim started testing everyone. To my surprise and utter despair, I had tested positive. I was immediately sent into quarantine, which was a bit rough. After about three days, my symptoms were all gone, and I had to sit in my room bored out of my mind for another three days. Luckily, I’m out of quarantine and life has resumed.
Today, at the time I’m writing this, I did Tzedakah (helping others) in a garden in Jerusalem. Along with Tiyuls, Heller High is also big on Tzedakah. Every Friday, we go and do community service around Israel. Since it’s been rainy for a few days here in Israel, the water eroded the old path in the garden. Our job was to build a new path out of rocks, twigs, and mud. By the time we were finished, I was basically covered head to toe in mud.
We changed clothes in a nearby bathroom and met outside to eat some pizza. This was probably the first time I have eaten pizza since I arrived in Israel. After Tzedakah, we spent some time on Ben Yehuda St. in Jerusalem. It is a huge outdoor market place with a bunch of shops and restaurants. I bought a dreidel for my mom (the dreidels actually have different letters on them here!), along with an IDF (Israel Defense Forces) hoodie and some Hamsa earrings for myself. We came back to the kibbutz around 3:30pm and got ready for Shabbat services. Services were nice and we had dinner, then an evening program.
At this time, it's 10:20pm and I’m getting ready for bed. Being in Israel has been such an amazing experience, and I can't wait to share more in next month’s newspaper! I hope everyone has had a great Shabbat, and I want to say a big thank you to the Jewish Observer for letting me share my story, and a big thank you to everyone reading this! I’ve been given a great opportunity, and I want to thank everyone who’s along for this wild and exciting ride that was made possible in part with help from The Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee!
Kibbutz Tzuba: Image by: Finn Crowe
Garfield: Image by Finn Crowe