Wednesday, February 23, 2005
to go to Israel or not go to Israel..... that is the question
Sometime in the last few weeks I had been on a website called The Livnot Experience (or Livnot U'Lehibanot), which is a foundation that is responsible for helping Jews connect with Israel as well as their Jewish roots. This is done through such programs as the Birthright trips that will take people aged 21- 26 to Israel for a free 10 -14 day trip. I had been on the website trying to find information on how an oldster like me (ie: over the age of 26) could get in on this 'free trip to Israel' action. I want to see more of Israel. I want to be a part of all this exciting stuff, and we all know I have deep affection for the country. I went on this site to basically beg for someone to pay for me to go to Israel and be part of something I can only presently dream about from afar. I had filled out a form on the site for information on the 5 month program and about possible funding/financial assistance since I presently have less than zero in my bank account (savings clearly never being my strong point, what can I say?). After I filled that out... I forgot all about it (likely because all similar requests I have made for such help from other places have thus far been rejected).

Fast forward a week or two to this past Sunday; I was in my car driving home after an early morning of meditation. My cellphone rang and when I looked at the call display I could tell that it was likely a call from someone in Israel. Figuring I knew who it was I answered quite enthusiastically only to find it was not the person I thought it was, but in fact was someone from the Livnot offices in Israel. At first I had completely forgotten that I had filled out the form on the website ( you know how many doors I've knocked on for information and financial assistance??) but she quickly jogged my memory. We talked for a little bit about the program I was interested in and about possible financial aid. At this point my heart was racing... what am I thinking?? FIVE months in Israel?? Finally the woman said that if I liked she could do the interview for the program now on the phone instead of waiting for me to fill in an application. I figured, why not? she's on the phone anyways... *gulp*

She began asking me all kinds of questions... what's my interest in Israel and the program? am I involved in the Jewish community now? what's my interest in learning more about Judaism? what was my religious upbringing? (there's where things got interesting... LOL) what do I hope to gain from such a trip? have I been to Israel before? etc etc... After fumbling my way through the interview process the woman informed me that she thought I would be great for the program and that she would pre-approve my acceptance into it. All I had to do was go online and fill out an application and then I can apply for financial assistance. *double gulp*

So there you have it. I have been accepted into Livnot's 5 month program .... now I just gotta figure out if this is even possible, and weighing the pros and cons has been taking up some serious space in my head. I have been racking my brain for the last 3 days trying to decide if this is something I can (and should) do. The decision making process is eating me alive at the moment.

The first problem is that I am a realistic thinker, and this likely holds me back. But the reality is this: if I choose to go to Israel for 5 months I will have to give up my apartment, so I will have nowhere to live when I return (living with my parents has about as much appeal as gargling shards of glass). I will likely lose my job, coz most employers aren't so keen to just give you 5 months off to go run around Israel. Someone will need to replace me, and therefore my job will get filled in my absence. I will likely lose my car since it is, afterall, a company vehicle. Makes that job thing look like a bigger loss, now doesn't it? Yes, I would come back from my trip to no job, no home and no way of even getting around. Oh, and I'll be in even greater debt, let's not forget that. Coz even if I get some financial aid, it's likely not going to cover it all. I have no real ties to Jewish groups or synagogues here, so I can't really ask for aid from them. Must find another way....

Speaking of financial aid... when I was looking into all this online I found out I have to put a security deposit down ($100!) to secure my spot in the program before I can apply for financial aid. So... I have to give a hundred bucks just to find out if I will get enough money to go. If I am not granted enough financing then I can't go and I am out the $100. That's a bit annoying, I must say.

So what am I to do? I know it's easy enough for you all to sit back and read this and think... just go for it! Take the risk! But in my world, that's an *awfully* big risk. I will lose all that I have established, and starting over again at 31 (which I will be upon my return) is not only unappealing but taking several steps backwards in my life. The tough part of this equation is that for that 5 months not only will I not be earning any money... I'll be spending what little I already have.

However, I have not lost sight of the pros in this situation. Let's face it... this is an opportunity of a lifetime. Five months in Israel would be a dream for me, especially in a program like this. I have looked at this tour of Livnot and drooled at the idea of living in a group environment, hiking all over beautiful Israel, learning more about Judaism, volunteering, and just drinking up the entire experience. The last two months of the program is free for you to pursue an avenue of your choosing (volunteering, interning, studying Hebrew) and of course I would love to spend it in an ulpan studying Hebrew. However, the cost of the Hebrew course would not be covered, so that would be more money added to the bill for my already expensive trip. Figures I would want to do something that costs more! In the end we all know this is something I am dying to do... but at what cost?

*sigh* So what to do...... what to do. Do I talk to the employer first about getting the time off or do I apply for financing to see if I can even go? No point in rocking the boat before I find out if I can even afford to go, right? But if I can't get the time off...can I even consider going? Chicken vs Egg situation here. The cost looks like this: $3500 (USD), unless I find some housing of my own in Israel for the last two months, in which case it would "only" be $2800 (USD). But of course, that doesn't include the plane ticket or spending money, so let's tack on another $2500 (CAN) onto that tab. Oh! And Hebrew studies... so... maybe another $1500? I don't know, I'll have to look into it. Should I even bother factoring in the bills that have to be paid back home (I owe the government some money... they'd like it back)? Nah.. let's not make this seem *entirely* impossible.

Ok. So. We're looking at... about $5,500 USD.... which, now that I am typing it out, is a friggin' joke. Unless I win the lottery... this is farther away than I thought. Maybe I could do some fundraising? A blogathon? carwashing? lol Damn.... I'm gonna have to think about this a little more.
Any suggestions? Anyone wanna give me a job when I get back to Toronto, if I go?
Can someone tell me why I am even considering this??