SENIOR SNAPSHOT: For Yonah Feld, America’s great but Israel is home

By Abby Blumofe, Staff Writer

Although Yonah Feld has lived in America nearly his entire life, he doesn’t consider it his home. His home, he says, is Israel.

“America is exceptional,” Yonah said in an interview. “America has gifted the world with revolutionary ideas, philosophies, and notable figures. I owe this country a big thank you, and it would be greedy not to show my respect.

“I love it here – but I feel out of place.”

Israel, he said, has an innate tie to every Jew. And though he hasn’t spent much time there yet, he feels it.

“When it comes to having an everlasting emotional tie to the land, or seeing a future for a Jewish life in America, the answer is not really,” Yonah said. “What really makes Israel greater than America is an emotional tie to every place, person, pile of dirt, tree, cup of water, etcetera. That is the one small difference that changes everything.”

Yonah, who is the son of Judaic Studies teacher Mr. Jason Feld, was born in Israel and left with his parents at the age of 1.   So despite having visited only twice – most recently on the senior Poland-Israel trip and before that with Ramah Seminar – Yonah says he has “a long relationship” with Israel, and feels a deep bond.

His favorite places are not the tourist draws of the Kotel and Ben Yehuda Street, but rather the Golan, the Negev and Gush Etzion.

“Wherever I can work the land, stub my toe and get a splinter or two I like,” Yonah said.

“I was born in Israel. I would feel almost guilty if I was going to be benefiting without doing my part.”

So that’s what Yonah Feld plans to do.  First he’ll study for a year at Yeshivat HaEmek, an all-Hebrew, pre-army leadership program.  Then he’ll join the IDF, and then he plans to make aliyah.

Originally, he thought he was legally obligated to join the army since he’d been born there.

“I didn’t realize it wasn’t mandatory for me to attend up until I reached about 10th or 11th grade,” Yonah said.

But the idea had been engrained in his head by parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins and by then he had already partly decided.

“It was a mix of my parents influencing me, middle school, and my Shalhevet education,” Yonah said. “These were all small steps that led to this creating this idea.”

Mr. Jason Feld attempted to serve in the army twice, but both times was sent home by the commanding officer – because each time he  was called up, he had a newborn at home, first Yonah’s sister Katie, and then Yonah himself.

He is fully supportive of Yonah’s decision.

“It’s bittersweet, because as a parent I worry, and it’s not easy,” Mr. Feld said in an interview. “On the other hand I couldn’t be prouder.”

Yonah is interested in Marine biology and volunteers at Santa Monica Pier Aquarium every week. Snapir, an IDF Coast Guard unit that looks out for incoming boats, is an option he’s considering for his IDF service.

He then plans to study the subject in an Israeli university – even though he thinks American schools are better.

“I want to stay in Israel,” he explained.

And he’s very excited about his future.

“When I first begin [army service] I will probably think, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this,’” he said. “But in the end I will realize how rewarding the experience was.”

He expects to become a very different person than if he attended college in the U.S.

“By going to Israel,” Yonah said, “I will grow connections with the land and people, I won’t feel like a tourist anymore.”