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My unforgettable THRIVE Israel experience

From ATVing in the desert, to meeting with Israeli and Palestinian activists, learning about the different types of Kibbutzim in Israel, meeting with start-up professionals in Tel Aviv, and even visiting Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, this has been an unforgettable experience!




By Zach Gershman


Heading into my semester abroad, I still wasn’t completely sure what to anticipate from THRIVE (after all, each Israel program is unique), but my expectations were completely blown out of the water. From the first moment I arrived in Jerusalem on August 29, my time at Hebrew University has been full of informative, fun, and intellectually stimulating events.

I have had such an incredible time since the beginning of the program. We have done so many activities, including ATVing in the desert, meeting with Israeli and Palestinian activists, learning about the different types of Kibbutzim in Israel, meeting with start-up professionals in Tel Aviv, and even visiting Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.


Getting an insider's view on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict


For me, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a very sensitive issue. One of my concerns about any Israel-oriented program is how the group portrays the conflict. I did not have to worry about that with Thrive. From the beginning, they painted a nuanced and intelligent picture about the current situation.


On our first trip outside of Jerusalem, we had the pleasure of touring the Israeli settlement of Gush Etzion and attending a seminar run by the organization Shorashim. This group seeks to promote Palestinian rights while supporting the State of Israel’s right to exist in safety and security.


We heard from an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian Muslim. Both are active in the peace movement and both believe that peace is possible. Hearing the Palestinian man’s perspective on the conflict was eye-opening. We were all fascinated to find out that he was previously a violent activist. He was in the act of planning an attack when an intervention by Israeli security forces led to his arrest and subsequent conversion from violent to peaceful beliefs.


My unforgettable Kibbutz Experience


By far the best trip that Thrive has taken, in my opinion, was our weekend excursion to the north of Israel to visit several Kibbutzim in the West Bank and Israel's north.

The first stop was at the Oren Farm in Moshav Netiv Ha’Gdud. We learned about the various industries that the farm uses to support itself despite the BDS movement. It was fascinating to find out about all the different health qualities of Argan Oil  (even though I couldn’t try any because of a nut allergy). Supposedly, Argan Oil can help reduce aging and promote a healthier lifestyle. We also had the pleasure of trying some freshly-picked dates. They melted in our mouths and were completely delicious.


Another highlight from the trip was meeting Yournish Yaakov, an Israeli who has lived much of his life on Kibbutz Beit Ha’Shita. He explained what it’s like to live on a completely privatized kibbutz. A special moment happened; one of my close friends in the group, Jenny Kovach, realized that her grandparents had lived on the same Kibbutz as Yaakov. Of course, Yaakov remembered them, and they snapped many happy photographs.


We also got to tour Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu and learned about the sustainable agriculture technology that the Kibbutz is developing. The final activity of the day was swimming in a gorgeous spot in a river near Kibbutz Shluchot.




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