By Shira Lebowitz

As far back as I can remember, Israel has been an important part of my life. In high school, however, my love for Israel turned into a very definite goal to make Aliyah as soon as I would graduate. This goal was inspired by the Tzioni education that I received at Hillel Torah and at Ida Crown, and solidified by my Netivot trip in 10th grade. Over the seven weeks of the trip, I was struck with an inexplicable sense of belonging and rightness. In those moments, Israel became my home. I only needed to make it official.

Once my decision was made to make Aliyah, it was clear to me that I would be serving the country in some capacity or another, be it army or sheirut leumi. Part of the beautiful culture of Israel is the spirit of contribution to society and to each other. It comes from the concept that “kol yisrael areivim ze la’ze” – when you live in such a small country, it is obvious how much everyone depends on each other. It was only right that I, who would be joining this society and culture, would do my part as well. After consulting with Mrs. Tzippi Rimel, my Hebrew teacher at the time, and a lot of thinking, I decided that sheirut leumi would be the better fit for me.

I spent my “year in Israel” at an Israeli seminary called Migdal Oz. Beyond the benefits of the rigorous learning schedule that I desired, and already being able to adjust to Israeli culture, I now had friends who were able to help me navigate the (somewhat complicated) process of finding a place for sheirut leumi. This included choosing which field I wanted to work in, what area of Israel I wanted to be in, and searching the sheirut leumi organizations’ websites to find the places themselves. I then had to go to interviews, called “sayerot,” to determine if these would actually be the places that I would want to be.

For last year, I decided that I wanted to work in chinuch miyuchad, or special needs. It was a field that I had always wanted to explore but had never found the time. I decided also that I wanted to be in a gan. I found a gan called Gan HaShikumi in Yerushaliyim, where I worked as a member of the staff of a class of five, six, and seven year olds. Although the work could be both physically and emotionally difficult, it made me happy to come in every day and see the kids’ smiling faces. Additionally, the class had a strong focus on language and precision, so my Hebrew improved exponentially. As I developed relationships with the other bnot sheirut and the staff of the gan, I became a part of the Israeli community. This became especially relevant during the ordeal of the kidnapping of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali and Operation Protective Edge which immediately followed it. Beyond the constant worry of a siren during gan hours (which, thank God, never actually happened), was the communal experience of worry, perseverance, and strength.

For this year, I decided that I wanted something completely different, and stumbled my way across Machon HaMikdash, which is an organization dedicated to education and research concerning the Beit HaMikdash, with the eventual goal of building the Third Beit HaMikdash (bimheira beyameinu, Amen!). As a bat sheirut, I play an integral role in the educational side of the Machon, both giving tours in our exhibition and giving presentations in schools all over the country. I even have been using my theatrical skills – skills that are partially cultivated from my time in Ida Crown Girls Play- since one of the educational tools that we use is theater. I get to meet people from all over the world, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, and I open their eyes. We are used to thinking of the Beit HaMikdash as a thing of the past – but when people can really start to see it as our future, then the Beit HaMikdash can really be built.

In Sheirut Leumi so far, I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve been able to develop new skills that I never would have dreamed of even trying. This is true of every bat sheirut, whether they are native Israeli or not. But as an olah chadashah, Sheirut Leumi makes the transition of living in Israel much easier and smoother. It is one or two years that I know that my apartment is provided for, I am guaranteed a small monthly stipend, and I definitely have work. It is a chance to make real and lasting friendships with Israelis and other olim, who then help support me here in Israel. It is a chance to properly learn Hebrew. By taking part in the Israeli culture of serving my country, I am able to become part of the Israeli culture as a whole.

For any questions about Aliyah right after high school in general or Sheirut Leumi specifically, please feel free to email me!.