Hi there, it’s Will again. Welcome back to Onward blog central. The Cincinnati group had a jam-packed week in Tel Aviv followed by our second excursion trip, this one to Jerusalem.
We left our workplaces early Monday for an event at Expo Tel Aviv called Future-IL, a massive networking opportunity for all Onward Israel participants and other young professionals in Israel. It was surreal to see everyone doing Onward Israel (and more) all in the same building, let alone the same room.
With over a dozen speakers, workshops and TedTalks throughout the evening, there were also booths for Israeli companies lining the room’s perimeter. It was pretty overwhelming at first, but knowing that everyone else was in the same position made me feel better about it. I thought some of the speakers had a lot of good things to say that probably left a mark on a lot of us, regardless of what we’re studying in school or working on in Israel.
Like I said earlier, this event was not just for Onward participants. We were also able to see and reconnect with friends from Cincinnati and summer camp on other programs. Some of us had the chance to talk to potential future employers, but regardless it was good practice and experience for everyone in attendance. I really liked hearing what Yair Agmon, a filmmaker and writer, had to say even though I have no plans to go into film.
Thursday evening after work, we met back at the campus of BINA for another one of our group activities. We arrived to a collection of veggies and hummus, but no pita…. So for our group activity we worked together to build a fire, make personal pitas and enjoy the food together. We had some difficulty at first maintaining the fire and constructing sturdy enough pitas but we ultimately persevered and made a delicious snack.
Pita at BINA.
With Friday and Saturday to ourselves, we spent time at the beach before we’d be consumed with our second Israel Now day on Sunday. Two weeks earlier we went to Haifa, and now we were Jerusalem-bound.
We started the day outside the Old City in small groups answering questions that gave insight to our particular Jewish faiths and identities. This was just a precursor to get us thinking before we toured the Holy City that is Jerusalem.
The group with our tour guide, Asaf, in the Jewish quarter.
We met our tour guide, Asaf, and began our first real activity of the day: a walking tour through Mishkenot Sha’ananim, the first Jewish quarter built outside the original walls of Jerusalem. The walk started at the Montefiore Windmill, where a replica of Israel’s first automobile sits, and the walk ended at the Kotel, where the next part of our day was.
We walked in and approached the Western Wall for about an hour of free time. Though we had all been to Jerusalem before and experienced the wall at some point or another, we all opted for another opportunity to reflect in front of it and/or leave a personal note inside before we broke for lunch.
Our view walking up to the Western Wall.
Next, we were joined by another Onward program for a guest speaker at Hi Agron Hostel. Daniel Jonas, former Executive Director of Havruta, an organization for gay, religious Jews, spoke to us about LBGTQ+ rights in Israel, what it was like growing up a closeted and Orthodox, and coming out to his family. He overcame a plotted suicide and years of being uncomfortable with how he really felt, only to become a prominent figure in Israel’s gay rights activism scene.
Before we split up for free time in the market, we sat down at a park across the street and reflected on our day. When asked if the day changed the way I looked at Jerusalem, I realized that you can look at pictures of the city from decades ago and, for the most part, it all looks the same in person today. Not really what the question was asking, but not many of us saw a change in our opinion (and view of) Jerusalem.
We may live just a few hundred feet from Shuk HaCarmel, but we explored Mahane Yehuda Market to conclude our time in Jerusalem. With a much wider array of shops and goods, Jerusalem’s most famous shuk provided an hour of fun for us. Mahane Yehuda had an insane selection of food in our grasp, but we had to resist from eating too much because a special dinner awaited us back in Tel Aviv.
Our bus got us back home just before 7 and we went straight to Agadir Burger, where Shep Englander was waiting for us. We filled up the two long tables outside and enjoyed an amazing dinner. Thanks, Shep!
Shep and a group of participants at Agadir Burger around the corner from the apartment.
Until next time, Will.
Name: Nathan Schweiger, junior at Ohio University studying Communications Studies
Nathan works at Eloops as a B2B Sales Manager. Nathan describes Eloops as an employee engagement platform that partners with company managers so they can be the Admin of their company’s application. In Nathan’s first week of work, he created an app called TLV Express for Onward participants to find their way around the city. Another task of his is to re-write the company’s help center in grammatically correct English.
“Living in Tel Aviv is a one of a kind experience. I particularly love going to the beach, working out, and cooking dinner.”
Name: Caroline Abel, junior at Ohio State University studying Information Systems
Caroline works at Duco as a market research intern. Duco is an innovation firm that helps other companies develop their businesses and gives them tools to come up with new ideas. Caroline focuses on market research, finding information about Duco’s clients to help build their businesses. Duco’s shares their office with other startups which makes for a busy but exciting work space. By the end of the summer, Caroline hopes to contribute to and gain experience in business development.
“Living in Tel Aviv has been great. We live so close to the beach but still in the middle of the city, so there’s always a bunch of places to go and things to see.”