My Return to Israel by Shirah Hill-Cohen

Maase Olam

My Return to Israel by Shirah Hill-Cohen


This year I am participating in the Ma’ase Olam teaching fellows program in Rehovot, Israel. For me, this is a return to living in Israel. Five years of my childhood were spent living on a kibbutz in southern Israel called Kibbutz Ketura. The Kibbutz was made up of about 400 individuals who lived communally where every member had a job and in exchange were given housing, food, and an equal stipend for other necessities. 

While living there, I attended the local school on a neighboring kibbutz where I was completely immersed in the Hebrew language. In the beginning it was difficult to attend a school where all the work was in a foreign language, however looking back, I realize that because of that intense integration I become fluent. After school I would go to the children’s home where we would play games, bake, or do homework until our parents were done with work. My entire vision of Israel was composed of kibbutz living and I didn’t really understand what the rest of the country looked like or how other Israelis lived. This year I have the opportunity to delve into living in Israel as an adult and in a city not on a kibbutz.

Coming back to Israel as an adult changed my perspective on living in Israel. While living on the kibbutz it did not remind me in any way of my life in Vermont. I had always seen Israel as a very different country from the United States.  However, living in Rehovot showed me the way of life of many Israelis living in the center of the country. It reminded me greatly of many cities I had been to where people wake up get ready go to work and then after work they run errands, go shopping, cook dinner and spend time with their families. In many ways it reminded me of living at home. Even though it is similar there are certain differences, such as shopping at the local food shuk or market, the incredibly easy public transportation, bartering, the language, and certain cultural differences. However, overall the life I live here is very similar to the life I lived in the USA. My two experiences of living in Israel were so different and juxtaposed. One taught me about communal living and introduced me to living in a foreign country. The second experience has taught me about being able to feel at home in another country.







Shirah is a Fellow of Ma'ase Olam's Masa Israel Teaching Fellow program. For more information about her experience and the program email