Yonatan Fine is studying at Yeshivat Har Ezion (“The Gush”) in Alon Shevut. He grew up in Riverdale and attended SAR Academy for elementary school and TABC for high school. In the summers, he attended Camp Dora Golding and then worked at Yachad at Camp Morasha. His family davens at Riverdale Jewish Center.
His next stop? Yeshiva University.
Why did you choose to study at The Gush?
I’m currently learning in Yeshivat Har Etzion. I chose to go there primarily because it’s an institution of serious and devoted Torah learning, with immense opportunity to improve in many areas of avodat Hashem. I also really like the independence afforded to students here, which I feel will help my personal growth. Another aspect that I was drawn to is the history and the tradition of Yeshivat Har Etzion, which I’m excited to be a part of.
What kind of goals do you have for the year?
My general goals in coming to yeshiva were learning Torah and growing as an oved Hashem and as a person. Since coming to yeshiva, in addition to these more general goals, many more specific ones have [arisen] based on the actual experiences of being in yeshiva.
What have been some of the highlights of your year so far?
The most exciting moment of my experience so far was coming to the yeshiva for the first time. While I had spoken to many people about the yeshiva, I had never actually visited it myself, so seeing the place which I hope will play such an important role in my life for the first time is definitely an exhilarating moment. Probably the most inspiring moments were the first night of selichot in yeshiva, as well as a trip we took to learn about the history of the Gush area, and all of the sacrifice that was made for the land on which we now have a yeshiva.
What kind of challenges have you faced coming to Israel?
I think moving to a completely new environment always comes with difficulties but the biggest one for me has been learning the Hebrew language.
How has your year been different from your expectations?
My expectations were for the most part similar to the actual experience. However, having never been in an environment like this before, it was definitely a huge adjustment to adopt the culture and schedule of yeshiva. The fact that I had an idea of what to expect in yeshiva definitely helped me though, as I wasn’t so surprised by the adjustments I would have to make.
Where is your favorite place to go for weekends/Shabbat so far?
I love Shabbat in yeshiva. Having a day where the entire yeshiva takes a step back and is able to really come together, as opposed to being preoccupied with busy schedules, is really amazing. Also, dancing around the cheder ochel at lunch with literally everyone who’s there, is a really great experience. While I definitely do want to go out and get to see different parts of Israel, I think my favorite place to be for Shabbat is in yeshiva.
Who is a teacher at The Gush whom you connect to especially well?
Fortunately, I feel I’ve been able connect to my morning seder rebbe, Rav Taragin, very well. He’s definitely become a role model for me, and someone I feel comfortable discussing ideas with, whether general or personal.
Which is one of your favorite classes at The Gush?
I haven’t really encountered any shiurim or classes yet that I didn’t like, but I’d say my favorites are shiur during morning seder every day with Rav Taragin, as well as the once-a-week night Seder shiur with Rav Kaye.
What are you most looking forward to for the rest of the year?
I’m really looking forward to celebrating all the Jewish holidays with the yeshiva. Even though I’ve only been here for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot so far, it already seems to me that all of the holidays take on a completely new meaning when you have the chance to celebrate them in Israel. While I’m sure there are many more exciting events that haven’t even crossed my mind yet, I’m really looking forward to continuing to establish my routine and comfort living and learning in yeshiva.