“One of the reasons that I came here was because of my grandparents from my mom’s side. They were Holocaust survivors from Libya and so my grandpa was really Zionist and he always mentioned how much it is important for us to take care of each other, not only the family, but Jewish people in general.
“The Italians were colonizing Libya and they had Nazi representatives there and they wanted to send the Jews to concentration camps and my grandparents were like ‘Hell no.’ They escaped to a nearby Arab village and then eventually escaped to Israel.
“This was a big reason why I came here. ‘We need to stick together, we have no one else,’ he would say. And I was like, ‘Wow.’ I was pretty young but it was always there. He came to Israel when he was 16 or 17 and he built Hatzav, the moshav that I grew up on.
“Four years ago, I went to a summer camp in Maryland. I never thought that I would get to the States. And then I was exposed to different kinds of people, different sects of the Jewish world. I was so surprised there was Orthodox and Reform…And I felt like I am missing a part of me because I don’t know other Jewish people overseas. So I thought this shlichut, this fellowship, would be a great opportunity.
“I felt like ‘Oh my God, there’s so many Jewish people who are in the states and they live such a different life and they have so much to say and I don’t know anything about it and I love my people,’ you know? I feel like we are one. It was important to me to get to know other people and to make the connection and to expose them to my experience and get exposed to their experience.
“So I got back to Israel. I started my degree in psychology and after the first year I got a call from the Jewish Agency and they told me we have an offer for you. They called me and they said ‘Do you want to do a shlichut? Yes? So come to Haifa University, do your Bachelor’s in Jewish history and education, and then go to a shlichut in the States — so I just left everything. I moved to Haifa in a week and I did my degree. It was crazy.
“The part that I love the most is just getting to know new people. I find that really, really cool. Each student has their own story, their own background, and for me it’s special to create those kinds of bonds because I’m coming from Israel to their college experience and this is really meaningful.
“I feel like I’m bringing the Israeli in me, the Mizrachi Israeli in me. I feel like I’m really different from the view here. If it’s the language or the way I look or whatever. I want to bring more awareness and to help students learn more about their Jewish identity. And what else do I bring? Tzchokim, do you know what tzchokim (Hebrew for ‘laughs’) is? I feel like tzchokim a little bit because American culture is so different from Israeli culture so sometimes people don’t get my jokes, but sometimes I don’t get American jokes, so it’s so funny to see how those different cultures meet each other.” — Amit David, Jewish Agency Israel Fellow, Tulane University
As told to Cori Shalit, writer in the Hillel International Writers Program.