Reflections on Shnat-Netzer 1 Year Later

By Joel Stokes

Living in close quarters with people from every corner of the globe will inevitably boost personal confidence, whether that be physical, environmental or having the courage to express yourself through unusual means. The confidence and self-belief that can be found from a year away from home is, I believe, quintessential to maintain throughout life at university and adulthood.

Nevertheless, the post gap year feeling, and especially that of a post Shnat-Netzer feeling is real and it hurts. 

To use an example – the day after I got back from Shnat-Netzer, my sister had an open day at Bristol University. As I was obviously not needed in the campus tour, I spent 5 hours exploring the town by walking into every bookshop and CD store asking for any Israeli music, films, or literature. I sat on a bench next to a homeless man, we talked for about an hour and I could not understand why he didn’t want to ask me about my experiences, surely he knows about all the cool stuff I’ve been doing?  Furthermore, when I eventually got home and reconnected with my best friends, why didn’t they understand the complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict and how couldn’t they appreciate how good HaDag Nahash’s ‘Sticker Song’ is? At least enjoy the political irony.

Spending time in the Shnat-Netzer environment, or those similar to it, teaches an individual to look at the world and its people from many different angles. The best way to describe this would be to imagine owning 5 pairs of sunglasses, each of which paints the world in a unique shade. On arriving home, I felt that Shnat had provided me with the ability to freely switch between shades in order to understand and interpret scenarios that previously may have made me uncomfortable, angry or simply clueless.

For me, a great comfort of coming home was knowing that around the world, on at least 4 different continents, there were people who felt the same. Those same people are the people with whom I know I will always be able to relate, they will always be my friends and luckily in the world we live in today, they will always be only a phone call away.

It is imperative to find the balance between trying new things post gap year and continuing to do the things you love, whether it be drinking great Arab coffee, listening to (it has to be said) largely underrated Israeli and Palestinian music or engaging in ‘informed’ discussion on campus.

These are the things, at least I believe, that will keep you sane and will feel like the largest of falafels has been lifted from your shoulders.