Shalom from a coffee shop in Tel Aviv! I am sipping on a delicious Israeli iced coffee
and reflecting on my first three weeks of my summer adventure in Israel. My name is Rachel Kamenir, I graduated this
past December with an Accountancy degree from the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign, and I successfully completed my final section of the Uniform
Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam the day before flying to Israel. I am honored and grateful to be one of the 40
North Americans selected for the Birthright Israel Excel Fellowship Class of
2014. When I think about this summer,
one word comes to mind above all others: Bashert. This Yiddish word describes a serendipitous
occurrence that seems so perfect that it is “meant to be”. Have you ever felt
like you were exactly where you were destined to be, surrounded by people you
just met but feel as if you have known your whole life, experiencing a way of
life that is brand new yet seems so familiar?
That sentiment precisely articulates how I feel each day of Excel. The multifaceted, dynamic nature of this
program truly makes it one of a kind, and I could not think of a better way to
spend the summer. Some of the main
components of our fellowship include professional internships, scheduled Excel
events, summer-long group projects that address Israeli societal issues, and plenty
of good times spent with our Israeli Peers.
Our internships provide us
with invaluable opportunities to become fully immersed in professional settings
in Israel, affording us the ability to see the nation through more than the
eyes of tourists. My internship placement is at Ernst & Young, and I am
working in the Assurance branch with a focus on technology sector firms. It
is fascinating to apply my accounting background to a high-growth industry in a
global environment. My team is so
friendly and welcoming- they even planned a surprise party in my partner’s
office the day of my arrival! One of my
core beliefs is that we learn something new from every person we meet. My team and I are consistently sharing business
practices and cultural tidbits with each other throughout the day. In particular, being frequently asked to
share my fresh, academic perspective on accounting maters demonstrates to me
that every team member adds value in their own unique way.
After work, the Excel cohort reconvenes and our learning continues
as we engage in captivating discussions and interactive presentations with
Israeli business leaders, technological gurus, renowned academics, and many
other prominent figures in Israeli society.
Many of our lectures are future-oriented, challenging us to think
critically about how technology and societal trends will interact with one
another in the coming years. We also
partake in many eye-opening and informative sessions on various topics unique
to Israel, helping us gain a more meaningful understanding of this
one-of-a-kind nation. The diverse perspectives
and opinions of the group make for stimulating, thought-provoking conversations
that we frequently continue long after the lectures.
getting to know all of the program participants has been one of my favorite
parts of this trip. The Excel Fellows
and the 40 Israeli Peers matched with us are without a doubt some of the most
charismatic, inspiring, and all-around awesome people I have ever met. I am consistently amazed by how much we have
in common, even though many of us grew up on opposite sides of the world. A few highlights from our frequent and
spontaneous hangouts include relaxing at the beach, joining our Peers' families
for Shabbat dinners, strolling through HaYarkon park, going ice skating,
shopping at outdoor markets, enjoying local museums, bonding at an
"Exceladies" slumber party, exploring Tel Aviv's night life, and so
much more. I am looking forward to seven
more weeks of unforgettable memories together in Israel and continuing to grow
our friendships for years to come.
In parting, I encourage you to challenge the norms, embrace your
quirks, and relentlessly pursue your dreams. You just might find yourself blogging
in a café halfway across the globe, sipping some Israeli iced coffee, and thinking
that this moment is so incredibly Bashert.
is some of us cooling down from the summer sun at the Ice Peaks rink!