More than just a taste

Senior takes gap year to connect with her culture

If you ever decide to book a plane to Israel for a few days, chances are that you will only schedule trips for a few places: Jerusalem, for its religious history, Tel-Aviv, for its culture and museums, and maybe the Dead Sea, the lowest place on Earth. You are probably looking for just a taste of the nation, not the entire course.

But for Elana Redfern, senior, the “taste of Israel” she got back in eighth grade during her eight-day trip to the nation simply was not enough. And so next year, rather than beginning her freshman year of college in the U.S, Redfern will be spending nine months in Israel to take classes.

“After that eight-day trip [to Israel]. I was kind of like, “okay I did my few little things, I got my taste, now how can I go live in the culture and actually experience life and what it’s like there,’” Redfern said. “It’s like if someone were to take a trip to the United States and only got to go to four sites, you would definitely want more and want to keep going and learn more about how people live and how it’s different than at home. So now I get this opportunity that I’ve been dreaming about since eighth grade when I first came home from my trip and I could not be more excited.”

However, for Redfern, this trip to Israel is not just about seeing more of the country; it’s also about connecting back to her culture. Although she was born in the U.S., Redfern said that both her parents and grandparents are Jewish and that her religion “has always just been a big part of who I am.”

“[Judaism] is the way I’ve focused my lifestyle all throughout high school,” Redfern said. “I was active in my Jewish youth group, and while I was looking for a college, that I wanted to go to a school that had a big Jewish population and after looking and looking and looking, I was like, I can’t go straight to college next year. I have to go on a gap year to Israel first and I have to connect my culture more to the land of Israel itself, because I did it once and I need to have this opportunity again before it’s too late to envelop myself in my culture one more time immensely before I head off to college and earn a degree and build a life.”

Although Redfern will not be going to college immediately next year, she says that she still has plans to enroll in a four-year college when she returns. In fact, she believes that the experiences she has in Israel will also help her in her chosen field of study.

“I’m going to pursue psychology or child psychology, to really just focus on helping people, and I think that working with Israeli children to teach them English, or just  having that background experience of living in a different culture and seeing how different people react differently is something that I’ll be really fortunate to have,” Redfern said.

While Redfern says that she is extremely excited to further her learning in Israel, she also realizes that there are many who have negative impressions of the country, since “it’s in the Middle East and in the middle of a warzone, and it’s portrayed in certain ways in the media.”

However, Redfern, who has had first-hand experiences of the country, can attest to Israel’s safety and vibrant culture.

“Just because the media deems [Israel as unsafe] doesn’t mean that it’s not safe,” Redfern said. “I’m not hesitant at all about going overseas and living there, because I’ve been there before and I’ve seen the religious diversity, and the Middle-eastern culture aspect of the people always dancing and having tons of food and always wanting to make sure you’re okay and having a good time.”