by Itai Shabtai
It was 130 years ago when a young man came up with a hot, new, creative start-up. The start-up that was so ambitious at the time, it was refused by many people all around the world. The guy’s name was Theodor Herzl and his start-up: a Jewish state.
Here we are, 130 years later, celebrating the 70th anniversary of an idea that came to life as a result of its believers. With hard work, creativity, friendships, and faith, the start-up flourished to what many consider to be a historical miracle: the State of Israel.
Almost anybody in Israel and abroad can find something they like in Israel. Some connect to the culture and the music, some to the great food. Others feel strongly about the spiritual atmosphere, the views, and the land. Some like the warmness and the straightforward attitude, others have family and friends, and some of us, without any particular reason, just feel home.
Different people find their Israel in different places. Although it is not perfect, and we might have some criticism and challenges, it only shows how much we care – just like any other love we have in our lives: to our parents, to our friends, to our community. When you care for someone, you want what’s best for them.
I found my Israel in a summer camp, and it all started in the winter of 2012 when I got a phone call that changed my life. My army commander called me and said: “Itai, you are going to be a part of an Israeli Mishlachat to the U.S.A. this summer.”
A few months later I found myself in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin at OSRUI, a place I now call “my second home abroad.” Camp taught me about myself, about my values, my Judaism, and my identity. It showed me the true meaning of living in a kehillah (community). OSRUI taught me how it feels to have a home away from home. I came to camp with a great essence of Shlichut: to deliver “my Israel” to chanichim (campers) and madrichim (staff), but while I thought I would be the one to change their lives, it was my life that was the one to change. Since the summer of 2012, I keep exploring, learning and asking about my Judaism and about my Israel.
Since Herzl’s start-up, 130 years ago, and until this very day, we have witnessed a lot of our nation’s HIStory. This summer and in the futures ahead, let us be part of this great miracle and write OURstory of Israel.
This will be Itai Shabtai’s fourth summer at OSRUI. In 2012 and 2013, he served as a Chalutzim madrich (counselor). In 2014, he was our Rosh Mishlchat, the head of our Israeli Delegation. We are so excited to have Itai back this summer to once again lead our Israeli delegation as Rosh Mishlachat.