Often, at the beginning of a lengthy experience, something happens early on that later becomes the theme for the entire journey. In the moment, you don’t always realize the significance of the seemingly minor event. But with time, observation and reflection we look back on our experiences through a certain lens and begin to notice themes that might be attributed to a particular collection of early moments.

I was selected as part of the inaugural cohort of The Martin Pear Israel Fellowship, an 18-month program, including 12 months of education — in-person gatherings, web-based learning and a rigorous, immersive Israel experience — and six months of project implementation.

During the Israel trip, there were so many potentially pivotal moments. With 18 Jewish community center professionals from 18 different cities with 18 relatively unique professional profiles, there likely were literally hundreds of moments that shattered stereotypes or other pre-conceived notions and generally opened our eyes to brand new ways of thinking.

For some of us, the trip might have been about hospitality,  and maybe the moment that set the tone was our leader Andi Meiseles meeting the group with dried fruits and nuts freshly purchased at the shuk when we gathered at the airport, still disoriented and jet-lagged, so excited to reunite with old friends who we had met in person for the first time only two months prior.

For others, the theme might have been that unique combination so apparent in Israel, of the intersection between ancient and modern culture, in which case the pivotal moments were likely piling up on our second day. Many of us earned nearly 20,000 steps that day as we traipsed through Tel Aviv and Yafo learning first about the early settlers and their hard work in the orange groves before we had free time to explore the Nachalat Binyamin Artist Market. After the market, we had a special tour focusing on the LGBTQ+ movement in the city and rounding out the day with a program about the successes and failures of the start-up nation culture that Israel is so famous for today. I feel like it took me 20,000 steps just to recount what we did that day!

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