Where do I live? I am on a one-year mission in San Francisco, California, and live in the Sunset neighborhood.
What am I doing abroad? As an emissary, I spend half the day as a Judaism and Hebrew teacher in the Lisa Kampner Hebrew Academy for first to 12th graders. After the school hours, the other delegates and myself organize activities and events related to Israel and Judaism. One of our greatest projects this year was the establishment of the local Bnei Akiva branch. We also host students on Shabbat and holidays for meals accompanied with the holiday and Shabbat experience, and bequeath the values of religion and Zionism.
Nice to meet you. Yossi Buchnik and the students on Independence Day (Photos: Yossi Buchnik)
When and how did I get here? I arrived in San Francisco last September, at the beginning of the school year, after a long and exhausting screening process by the Jewish Agency.
What makes me feel Israeli? First of all, my family which lives in Israel and has contributed for several years as emissaries (as a family) encouraging aliyah. In addition, the Israeli friends and the upbringing I received at home and at the Bnei Akiva yeshiva and the hesder yeshiva. The feeling also stems from my military service and the fact that I am a Jew who belongs to a long chain of generations, each of which aspired to arrive in Israel and establish a Jewish state in the Land of Israel which has a special holiness.
An interesting incident I experienced as a Jew abroad: I have a student named Kenny who moved to our school from a public school two months and a half before the end of the year. The first impression was that he was in no way suitable for our system. Nonetheless, I decided to try and get to know him, draw him closer to Judaism and Israel. On the first Shabbat Kenny arrived in our home, we had many deep conversations, and he suddenly exposed a side I didn't think he had. The Shabbat he spent with us must have ignited a spark which is apparently hidden in every Jew. He began attending the meals and prayer every Shabbat (when he still didn’t really know how to pray). Seeing him pray gave me the feeling that his prayer is filled with intention and holiness. He started reading Hebrew in order to get closer to Judaism and Israel, and used every opportunity to spend time with us. Kenny knew how to express his appreciation in an amazing manner, and even composed and recorded a song about the Land of Israel. I feel Kenny is one of my greatest inspirations on my mission in San Francisco.
Haight-Ashbury. It's fun to look at the houses
What do I miss most? The atmosphere in Israel, the happiness and social warmth in our country, the beautiful and holy places of the Land of Israel, family, friends, Jerusalem, and especially mom's food!
What would I take from here and bring to Israel? The student's discipline, the thirst for religion, the continuous desire to give and take from others, the Jewish spark seen in every student, and I wish I could take some students along to Israel.
Typical view in downtown San Francisco
5 recommendations for my city
1. The Jewish corner: The Hebrew Academy is the only Jewish Orthodox school in San Francisco and its surroundings. The only hope for a Jewish future in this area.
2. Local culture: Pier 39, filled with beliefs and life, where one can watch the seals lying on the dock. There is also a promenade in the area, which is closed to vehicles, and different artists perform there in the afternoon and evening hours.
3. Observation post: The Golden Gate Bridge is a magnificent architectural structure, which can be accessed both by car and by foot. The bridge has four different observation posts overlooking the entire city.
Another local attraction: Alcatraz prison
4. The most… in the world: Lombard Street is the world's most crooked street, which starts at the slope, so the entire bay can be seen from its very beginning. It's also a very prestigious street, so the buildings and houses on its are particularly beautiful and interesting to look at.
5. Panorama: Twin Peaks are two hills overlooking the entire city from the city itself. So when going for a drive on these twin peaks, one gets the feeling of circling the entire city. It's an opportunity to see all of the city's charming points, like the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge and many others.