This blog is part of the Yahel Alumni Spotlight Series, where we catch up with past Yahel participants to hear about their experiences on Yahel and what they’re up to now.
6-years ago David Aptaker came to Israel on the Yahel Social Change Fellowship to live, learn and volunteer. Recently we caught up with him and discussed his reflections on Israel and how his time on Yahel has continued to impact him.
Yahel: Which program were you on and where?
David: I was on the Yahel Social Change Program 2012-13, in Gedera.
Yahel: What're you doing now?:
David: I'm working as an information security specialist for a company in San Francisco
Yahel: What did you do while on the program?
David: While on Yahel, I taught English; worked in the youth center to train counselors and worked with some of the different youth groups; helped organize community events; taught English to adults looking to get their GED-equivalent in Israel; made a lot of connections with awesome people and dedicated activists; ate more hummus than I should have; ate a lot of injera; found inspiration to return to graduate school.
Yahel: Biggest Take Away from the program?
David: Israel doesn't fit in any one box - it's one of the most complex countries in the world, and it certainly isn't the fairytale many Jews are taught as children. It is full of people with such a unique spectrum of stories and histories and narratives. I think my big takeaways from the program have changed as the years continue to pass, but one thing has always consistently stood out: there is so much more to Israel than any one news source, book or movie can show. While rockets fly and bombs keep being dropped, there are also some of the most beautiful things happening on the ground in the small communities you never hear about.
Yahel: How did you bring what you learned on Yahel back home with you?
David: Career wise?
The skills and experiences you gain on the Yahel program surface in the jobs I've had since. Project management, time management, cross-cultural communication, etc. were all skills that Yahel reinforced, and have been valuable career-wise.
Cooking Ethiopian food!
David: Favorite Yahel moment?
Yahel: The best moment was near the end after successfully organizing a street festival in the neighborhood. I had a moment of clarity where I took a second to just look around at people enjoying themselves. It felt extremely satisfying.
I also enjoyed our tour of the north and the examination of the ideologies that fueled the Kibbutz movement. "What makes you jump off your haystack in the morning?!"