Insightful in Israel

By Jakob Leichtman, Global Co-op

Warm weather, beautiful beaches, and counter-terrorism are quite the combination. That’s what my family and friends told me when announced that I’d be working in Israel at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) for my third and final co-op at Northeastern. That said, traveling and taking risks are nothing new for me. I started my Northeastern career in London as part of the N.U.in program, and since then have participated in two dialogue of civilization programs as well as two previous international co-ops.

I arrived here in Herzliya, Israel on January 12th, 2018, and within the first two months, I had the opportunity to not attend graduate lectures presented by one of executive directors at the ICT, Dr. Eitan Azani, but also join faculty lunched with other members of the team including the founder of the institute, Dr. Boaz Ganor. In addition to these faculty lunches, I had the opportunity to attend other lectures presented by our supervisors in their respective fields.

While my co-op keeps kept me busy during the day, I didn’t let that keep me from exploring what was around me. Although I lived in Herzliya, Tel-Aviv was only a 20-minute bus ride away, where the nightlife is bustling and the culture more international. That being said, still I loved the little town I was living in, where I lived in an apartment with other students my age, who either worked at the ICT or studied at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya’s private, research college.

While I pride myself at adjusting and integrating with local culture, one aspect of Israeli life that I never got used to is Shabbat, the day of rest in Judaism, when people refrain from work and partake in more familial activities. Between sunset on Friday evenings and Saturday night, shops and restaurants shut down early, and do not re-open until about an hour after Shabbat ends. This also includes most forms of transportation, including public buses. I found myself planning a stay at home weekend accordingly, or making the best out of the location and traveling somewhere new. For example, I once spent an extended weekend with my roommates on a group trip to Cyprus, a beautiful, relaxing getaway that none of us had been before, and fit well within our budget.  

While I enjoyed my job and all the side travels that I took advantage of, my favorite experience from my Israel had to be seeing some long-lost family. As I’m adopted from Guatemala, whoever is part of my father’s family is also part of mine. Just before flying out to Israel, I was told that I have distant relatives living in Jerusalem who had been waiting to meet me since I first came to America. After a short hour bus to ride from Herzilya to meet them, I had the chance to explore Jerusalem, the holy city of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. We got lunch and toured in the old city, walked around the new city, and everything in-between. What I enjoyed most was listening to old, unheard stories about my dad in his high-school and college days from relatives I had only recently met.

In total, my time in Israel was filled with great memories, amazing learning experiences, valuable lessons, adventures to neighboring countries, and learning to be in tune with Israeli culture. While it was tough deciding where I wanted to complete my final co-op, my time in Israel showed me that I made the right decision. I’m already planning my next adventures to knock off my bucket-list.