Ellie Steinlauf from Los Angeles and Avigayil Halpert from Teaneck, NJ.
In looking forward to our year of study in Israel at Midreshet Lindenbaum, some of the days we both were most looking forward too were the “Yoms,” – Yom Ha’atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim specifically. While unpacking on our first day, as roommates we showed each other what random things we brought in order to dress up on those days and make them the most fun.
Coming from different coasts of the US and not knowing each other beforehand we were excited to know that we shared this excitement even though these days were many months away. From our early return home on March 15th due to Covid-19 school closures, along with our other friends we kept calculating and recalculating how we could get back to Israel with enough time to quarantine alone and still be able to participate in the “Yoms”. Those two days are traditionally filled with fun and meaningful activities, like dancing in the streets and feeling the Israeli pride of Eretz Yisrael and Yerushalayim. When it came time for Yom Ha’atzmaut, we found ourselves still quarantined at home with not much to do – and certainly no dressing up and dancing in the streets.
And now it is Yom Yerushalayim, and we may have finally come to terms with being home and bringing the fun festivities of the “Yoms” home to our houses and respective Los Angeles and Teaneck communities.
Throughout our year at Midreshet Lindenbaum we had many experiences that instilled in us a love for the land we were living in and the people around us. When a girl in our program made Aliyah in February, the excitement in the entire Midreshet Lindenbaum building was palpable. Students in the American, Israeli, and South American programs all came together to make signs and await her arrival from Nefesh B’Nefesh after her Aliyah. When she finally arrived the lobby erupted in singing and dancing which lasted for hours as we all could not be more excited for our friend’s long awaited Aliyah. That afternoon was so inspiring, as it gave us a taste of the feeling of pride and joy to come on the future “Yoms”.
Another major part of our year at Midrasha were the Shabbatonim and tiyulim – the trips around the country. Although we did not know it would be our last at the time, in early March the school took us up North to spend shabbos in a small Yishuv called Shadmot Mechola. We spent shabbos surrounded by the beautiful springtime landscape of Northern Israel, and then on our way back to Yerushalayim on Sunday we went to visit and learn about the different borders of Israel. We drove to the borders of Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan and gained a deeper appreciation for the countless sacrifices made time and again to keep Israel safe. Through trips like these we both feel that we became more connected to the land and found a deep rooted love for Israel.
After all the unpacking at home and settling back into a new routine now on zoom, the “Yoms” started approaching. At first all we could talk about was how upset we were thinking of everything that we were going to miss, but then the schedules and programs Midreshet Lindenbaum was planning for us began filling our whatsapps. On each day we had multiple programs; first the Midrasha wide programs which included the Israelis and South American students, and then a more personal one with just our teachers and friends. We had virtual Tiyulim of Har Hertzl and Tzipori, shiurim, and even Hallel Chagigit over zoom. We watched the national tekes and had a “bonfire”. It was the closest anyone could have gotten to the real experience.
Although on Yom Yerushalayim we are still not in Israel, we both agree that these experiences from the past 7 months instilled in us a deeper love for Israel which will allow us to celebrate in our own homes almost as enthusiastically as we could have celebrated together in Israel.
Through the amazing programing which my teachers at Midreshet Lindenbaum have put together over zoom, cooking authentic Israeli dinners for our families, face-timing each other and other friends to feel as though we are together, and blasting great Israeli music throughout our houses we feel as though we have worked to create fun and inspiring days for ourselves and our own families. Something we would not have otherwise been able to do had we been in Israel.