Eitan Hain is studying in Yeshivat Har Ezion (“Gush”) in the Alon Shevut community in the Ezion Bloc of Judea. He was born and raised in New York and lived in Riverdale for almost his entire life. His family davens at YIOZ in North Riverdale, where his father is the rabbi. Eitan attended SAR Academy, switched to Manhattan Day School, and then back to SAR, which he graduated from last June.
His plans for next year? Yeshiva University, where he looks forward to the opportunity to grow as a Jew and acquire the tools he’ll need for the secular workplace.
Why did you choose to learn at Gush?
I chose to learn in the Gush because I felt that it would provide me with the most room to grow religiously, while being in an intellectual environment for Torah study. I also wanted to be part of the tremendous legacy of the yeshiva dating back to its founders, Rav Amital and Rav Lichtenstein.
What kind of goals do you have for your year?
Entering the year I set a number goals which I hoped to achieve during my time in yeshiva. My first goal was to become much better at learning. I wanted to develop the skills to open a Gemara and understand it without needing a translation. I also wanted to become a more independent thinker, and I believe that I am on my way to creating my own ideas and beliefs thanks to the support of the faculty here.
What has been one of the biggest highlights of your year so far?
A big highlight of the year so far was when my family joined me in Israel for a cousin’s bar mitzvah. It was amazing to see how much my siblings had grown since August.
My most spiritual moment occurred when the yeshiva took us to the Old City for Shabbat. I woke up with some friends and davened vatikin at the Kotel. Seeing the sun rise through the crevices of the Kotel was really moving.
What kind of challenges have you faced coming to Israel?
The biggest difficulty for me is just getting the necessary fruits and vegetables I need over the course of a day. At home I eat very healthy and in yeshiva they don’t provide fresh fruits and vegetables in the variety I want.
What has been one of your biggest “Only in Israel” moments so far?
I was in Jerusalem one night and I told my friend who came with me that I needed to buy gloves that night. It had been and still is very cold in Gush so gloves are vital. After we got off the bus, my friend and I walked through the tunnel and wouldn’t you know, a man was selling gloves for 10 shek. Since then I have yet to see him again. Who knows, maybe it was Eliyahu?
How has being here been different from your expectations? Did you feel prepared for your experience or did you have culture shock, and how so?
The yeshiva is more or less what I expected. I did a lot of research prior to making a decision on where I wanted to learn this year and that preparation made the transition a lot easier. Having said this, no one can come into Gush prepared for the length of the day. I wake up at 6:20 and don’t get to bed until 12 a.m. and that’s on a good night. So it takes work just getting into the mindset every day. Every shiur is a mountain and you must take it one step at a time. It took a long time to adjust to this, and, even now, there are days when I just need a break because I’m only human.
Where is your favorite place to go for weekends/Shabbat so far?
I am very fortunate. My father’s two older sisters live in Raanana and my mother’s younger brother lives in Beit Shemesh so I never really have to worry about a place to stay on an “out” Shabbat. I don’t want to make any of them upset so I will say just spending time with cousins has been very relaxing. I used to see my cousins about once a year, so spending more time with them has been something I have been looking forward to for a long time, and it’s been so special.
What are you most looking forward to for the rest of the year?
For the rest of the year, I hope to continue to grow as a Jew and a person. There are a lot of things I still need to work on, but I know that with the help of the rebbeim here in yeshiva, I’ll be able to look back in over 20 years from now and say that I’m proud to be the person I am.
By Tzvi Silver/JLBWC Israel