Coming out of our Israeli Summer Seminar (ISS) I managed to start piecing together my Jewish Identity - something I didn’t understand going into our first Diller workshop, back in September. I think I speak for my entire cohort when I say that Diller has changed all of us as people, and more importantly, as Jewish teens. My connection to Israel and my love for this beautiful country has only gotten stronger, and I find myself having a completely different perspective on Judaism and Israel. It all came together at the beginning of the summer.
Monday July 2nd was a whirlwind of a day to say the least. I, along with eighteen other of my friends and fellow Diller Teens, and our staff were preparing to embark on our Israeli Summer Seminar (ISS) - a journey of a lifetime. There was no better way for us to start the summer than spending three weeks on an insightful, action-packed, yet idyllic trip to Israel!
“It was very interesting to hear about Israeli laws on gay marriage, to learn some new slang, and to hear some personal first-hand struggles from our tour guide”
We spent the first week touring the beautiful cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, along with a few stops in Holon and Bat Yam, exploring the many faces of Israel. One of first stops was at the beach with Hagal Sheli – a program designed for at-risk youth to help them cope with challenges through surfing. Later that day, we got to see a different, but very important face of Israel when we took an LGBTQ+ tour of Tel Aviv. It was very interesting to hear about Israeli laws on gay marriage, to learn some new slang, and to hear some personal first-hand struggles from our tour guide – Slav. Throughout the rest of the week, we visited many different sites and museums, including the The Children’s Museum. We discovered a lot about ourselves and Israelis that are visually impaired in the exhibit of “Dialogue in the Dark”, Beit Hatfutsot – where we talked about Israeli humour, synagogues of the past and present, and Israeli/Jewish heroes and Mahane Yehuda Market just to name a few.
“It was so beautiful to see so many different people, all united by Diller.”
Later on we meet all of the international Diller teens from Canada, the US, Australia, Argentina and South Africa during the International Shabbaton. One of my favourite parts was right before Kiddush, we had a small gathering on the main lawn where we sang songs and told Shabbat stories. It was so beautiful to see so many different people, all united by Diller.
With little time to digest the cosmopolitan experience the Shabbaton, we were on our way to Eilat-Eilot, for the long-awaited Community Week with our Israeli counterparts! The air on the bus was thick with anticipation and excitement; after all, we had not seen our Israeli Diller counterparts since their visit in March! During community week, we got a small taste of what living in Eilat-Eilot is like. We learned about the history, experienced the culture, rock climbed, snorkelled, hiked, and even got to do some volunteering!
“During community week, we got a small taste of what living in Eilat-Eilot is like. We learned about the history, experienced the culture, rock climbed, snorkelled, hiked, and even got to do some volunteering! “
Community Week flew by with the blink of an eye, and it was finally time to make the seven hour drive up to the north for Congress – the collective gathering of more than 600 Israeli and International Diller Teen Fellows. Congress gave us many opportunities to have thorough and thought-provoking discussion with other teens, coordinators, and even guest speaker. By far, my favourite part of Congress was seeing the internationality of Diller, and understanding that despite the fact that we are all come from different places, lead different lives, and are all different people, we are all brought together by Judaism, and the beautiful state of Israel.
“Who would have thought that one program could have such a great impact on my life and my Jewish identity? “
I personally and strongly recommend that anybody that has the opportunity to join Diller does, if you are a parent, nominate your teens, if you are a teen yourself and reading these lines, I can promise you that you won’t be sorry! Who would have thought that one program could have such a great impact on my life and my Jewish identity?
Thank you Diller, for the new perspectives, countless inside jokes, unforgettable memories, and the experience of a lifetime.
Michelle Kasimov, Diller Teen Fellow Cohort 6