Shnat Netzer By: Kathryn Henning (2012)

January of 2012 was the longest month of my entire life. For the most part, I spent my days with friends or reading books on the couch, enjoying the last relaxing moments before departing on a whirlwind adventure into the great unknown. It felt as though the day would never come, but when it did, I cried like a baby getting on to the aeroplane, but we can all just pretend that was allergies…

A few months earlier, we were expected to chose between the two, four month options offered to us on Shnat Netzer. Etgar or Machon. Going on very little information as to how we would feel after completing School we made the decision mostly on what we could only imagine.

I chose Etgar, the Netzer centric option where I would live, study, volunteer and build a life in an apartment with 12 other Netzernicks from around the world. In hind sight, it was the easy choice, the one that was most suited to me as a person. If I had chosen to do the Machon Program, I would have been swooped out of my comfort zone into a never ending roller coaster ride of Australian Jewry from all different youth movements, living, studying, volunteering and experiencing life in a pluralistic environment, where all different spectrum of Jewish Youth are represented.

But that’s what we do as people. We chose the thing thst will make us feel the most comfortable, and not the thing that will challenge us in way we could never have expected.

That’s where I was wrong.

Etgar was a challenge, and a big one at that. I, being the only South African in the house, was competing with the strong personalities of the ten Northerners (from America, England, Spain and Germany) whom had already been together for six months and the Australian clan who had known each other since they were babies. It was hard, it was challenging and it definitely wasn’t my comfort zone. I learnt a lot about myself in those few short months. I grew as a leader and as a person in general, but I also learnt to stand up for myself.

We spent the next two and a half months as a small, intimate group of six – Two of our group were in England on Summer Camp – moving from the bustling city lifestyle to the small town in the North of Israel that we called home – Karmi’el – Only a 45 minute bus ride from the nearest cinema.

In Karmi’el, we were faced with new challenges unlike the ones we had before, which had mainly been educational and ideological. Now it was things like, personal space, being part of a community, understanding Israelie culture and The Language Barrier. (Not to mention the fact that we had no air conditioning in our flat and it was 45 degrees outside at 9am) Having been separated for most of the first four months, this was the first real time we got to know each other and got to know each other well.
We were on the move again, this time all the way down to the Negev to volunteer on one of the first Reform Kibbutzim in Israel – Kibbutz Lotan. We all fell in love with the beautiful red mountains, the desert air and the endless night sky immediately. We loved it so much that our Madrichim couldn’t get us to leave and we all decided to spend our last weekend of Chofesh (Holidays) on the Kibbutz.

Every morning and 5am there was a cacophony of cellphone alarms and light switches as we all got ready for work. We milked Cows and Shovelled Goat Feed. We cleaned hostel rooms and washed dishes. We built the sukkah and took it down. We built with mud bricks and tended to the (very large) garden. We picked dates and we ate dates. But, on Shabbat we danced and rested and visited with our host families.

Its been 16 months, 7 days and 14 hours since I fist got on that aeroplane with my…allergies… but I know that the person that left for Israel is not the same person that returned from Israel. I cant even begin to describe how I learnt and grew as a person, as a friend, as a Netzernick, as a Reform Jew and as a South African. Shant Netzer was an incredible experience, one that I would not change or miss for anything in the world.

Shnat Netzer Teva 2012 always in my heart.


Shnat Netzer is a 10 month Gap Year Program with Netzer in Israel, where you study for 4 months in Jerusalem on either the Etgar Program or Machon l’Madrichim, Hike ‘Yam l’Yam’, Volunteer on summer camps in Israel and in England, Volunteer with the Reform Community in Karmi’el and Volunteer on Kibbutz Lotan in their various work branches. As well as traveling with friends, learning from seminars and enjoying the rich, vibrant Israelie culture.

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