Meet Kylie Heering – a participant on BINA Gap Year in Tel Aviv. Check out Kylie’s own exciting summary of her first five months on the program: On what it’s like to do BINA Gap Year in Israel alongside Israeli peers from the Mechina or Year of Service, experiencing together so many different and interesting aspects of the program:
Life in BINA is dynamic to the extreme, which is truly a beautiful thing. One day I will be entertaining tireless children in my volunteer placement, and the next I will be listening to a talk by Yochi Rappeport, Executive Director of Women of the Wall. Each day is an exciting adventure (except those where I am stuck on kitchen duty…at least I can expand my Hebrew-kitchen-utensil-
I have learned that fried cauliflower tastes really good and that I prefer the dog-friendly beaches of Yafo over tourist-heavy Gordon Beach. On Sidrat Darom – a trip to the south of Israel planned by Gap and the Mechina participants – I saw stars more clearly than I ever could at home. I have shared in authentic Israeli cultural lessons, like making pita on a fire pit with Shmulik, although I have yet to learn how to set up a pekal. I make spontaneous day trips to Tzfat and the Baha’i Gardens. I have been brought to tears by Muki’s pioneer story and the Zionist dream. I have been welcomed into the homes of my friends. There, I interact with the variety of Israeli families; I have sung new Shabbat songs at a full dinner table and have had movie nights in bed (complete with popcorn and tea, of course). And I can never forget the musical Tashlich overlooking the beach sunset. The spiritual, bonding, and unorthodox qualities of that night capture the essence of BINA.
These past months in Israel have been eye-opening, filled with personal growth, and have forced me to question my preconceived notions of this land and gifted me with a comprehensive education on the different peoples here. I witnessed the Bedouin lifestyle in the Negev and discovered the adversity they face. I went up north to a Druze village to gain a deeper understanding of their religion and customs. Through my volunteer work in an after school program for asylum seeking children, their youthful enthusiasm and unconditional love blurs the darkness of immigration politics. My Monday mornings in the soup kitchen have exposed me to the poverty of South Tel Aviv and helped me grow in my compassion and patience.
In Israel, pages of Raja Shehadeh’s memoirs and Amos Oz’s prose come to life. The Gap group took a trip to East Jerusalem, where we stood on the ruins of King David’s reign and listened to the hopes and reality of a Palestinian boopkeeper. The Mechina spent a night at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai in the Gaza Envelope in order to absorb the harsh reality of life there. Women shared the hardship of raising children under the constant threat of fire and a colorful bomb shelter stood alone between the school and the kid’s clubhouse.
BINA has provided me with an intense immersion underneath the surface level of Israeli society and I am so grateful that I have spent these past five months diving deep into the complexities of religion, culture, and politics of Israel. Although I have gained a deeper understanding of this biblical land, I have also been on a journey of self-discovery and improvement.
Before I arrived in Israel, I aspired to engage more with my Jewish identity in a religious context. Unexpectedly, I have connected strongly with my Judaism through a secular lens. This year, I am on a path to learn more about MY Judaism through conversations with Israelis of diverse backgrounds, pluralistic biblical commentary with Elliot, and modern applications of the Talmud in Leon’s class. It is impossible to be a passive learner at BINA.
My friends from the Gap make fun of me for always saying, “only in Israel,” but this experience is truly one-of-a-kind.”