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Cha-va-ya (חוויה)

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

As we approach the end of the school year, I have spent some time reflecting on all I have learned. The irony of this statement paired with the name of this publication is not lost on me and I can’t think of a more appropriate medium to convey my experiences here in Israel. They have a word in Hebrew for experience, but another more specific word for a major life experience. ניסיון (Nee-sa-yone) is the regular one and חוויה (Cha-va-ya) is the special one. This is especially noticeable in a language that has far fewer synonyms than English. Where English has 5 words that all mean the same thing, Hebrew has 1 word that means 5 things. I believe it is because our language: Hebrew, is meant to convey how interconnected everything is. I do not know if there is merit in this past my own observations, but I choose to learn something from it all the same. There are many examples of these connections, but let’s return to focus on the aforementioned when they do differentiate.

Chavaya is something that is life changing. Something without which you would not have become the person you are today. Now that ranges from planning something that turns into a big balei gan (mess) to touring a foreign country. They use the term for many things, but it is, at its heart, an experience where you grow as a person, not just in skill set. Neesayon is far more of the latter. The word is used when describing your work experience or a course you took. Chavaya they use for army service and things of that nature. To be your ambassador abroad, to get the incredible opportunity to live the experiences I get to write about, and then the fact that so many of you want to hear about it, now that is a Chavaya.

In this past year I have gone from proficiently literate in Hebrew to a fluent speaker. Learned that I can be a teacher for 20-30 kids at a time from grades 3rd-9th in a myriad of subjects from Diplomacy to English to History, and even a sub (and much of this in Hebrew). I went to 3 (by the end it will have been 4) weddings and a Cheena (Moroccan pre wedding party) of friends I’ve made. Celebrated 2 Jewish holidays I had never heard of; Mimuna: Moroccan end of Pesach party and Sigd: an Ethiopian holiday in the fall. I hiked parts of the Israel trail, several mountains in the Golan and repelled into canyons by the dead sea. My band performed on stage at multiple community celebrations throughout the year. I had the privilege of attending the annual ceremony for Yom Hashoa (Holocaust Remembrance Day) and hearing Prime Minister Naftali Bennet speak in person. All of this, and so much more. And in the end, I did what I came to do, ingratiated myself into a new community. Never have I felt more at home somewhere outside of Richmond.

It has been such a pleasure being your שליח – shliach to Israel and I cannot thank you all enough for your faith in allowing me to represent you (whether you chose or not). I have spoken at length in these articles how much I love being in Israel at any time, but never before had I approached my time here with such fervent purpose. Now, at the end of a year, the results are self-evident.

After 40 years of wandering in the dessert the Jews made it to their final destination, but they always knew that was what they were looking for. Have you ever had that feeling like you found something by accident, but it ended up being what you had been looking for all along? Well, some messages you can’t convey in English, so I’ll just say סוף סוף היגעתי (sofe sofe heegati): finally, I have arrived. I end this program soon and thinking on the world I have built for myself here; there is no more suitable word, in any language, but Chavaya.

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