From a Formative Gap Year Comes “I, Israel”

From a Formative Gap Year Comes “I, Israel”


Ariel Dosetareh
Ariel Dosetareh

After growing up in Atlanta’s day schools (Greenfield Hebrew Academy followed by the Weber School) Ariel Dosetareh was looking for something more. His one previous trip to Israel, as part of the GHA’s 2006 eighth-grade class, had offered a tantalizing two-week glimpse of what might be.

So, before this past school year – his first at the University of Maryland – Dosetareh took a year abroad in the Jewish state. Something funny happened on the way to a simple bridging of the “gap,” though, and the unexpectedly tremendous impact of his studies at Eretz Hatzvi Yeshiva in Jerusalem and Shabbat travels is now reflected in his very own book, “I, Israel.”

An Atlanta Jewish Times representative got a chance to sit down with the young author.

John McCurdy: Tell me about deciding to take a gap year and deciding on where to spend it. Obviously a big decision!

Ariel Dosetareh: I guess the idea was implanted [at] the end of my sophomore year. I thought at that time that perhaps I would, but it did not really progress to something I really wanted to do until beginning of senior year.

There were a handful of us in Weber’s 2010 graduating class that went to Israel for a year, but I was the only student who went to a yeshiva. The other students did programs like Young Judea and a year course, and I think that those are all great programs, but what I was looking for was more typical of a yeshiva setting.

Now, the process of choosing a yeshiva in particular, I applied to three different yeshivas. It was winter break of my senior year; that was the time that I finally sent out all the applications, finished all my essays. I kind of knew by the time I conducted the phone interviews that Eretz Hatzvi was the place, that I wanted to go there.

At Eretz Hatzvi, there are kids from a variety of backgrounds and are headed in a variety of directions in the future; I’d say 80 to 90 percent of my peers planned to attend secular colleges after their gap year.

Additionally, the classes offered opened me up to a wide array of topics, and the fashion in which instructors at Eretz Hatzvi teach allows students to make decisions and implications on their own. Plus, it’s in the heart of Jerusalem, so the location was great.

JM: When did you realize you needed to write about the experience?

AD: One thing I should mention: This was never meant to be a book. As for how I got started – in the last week before I left the States, a friend suggested that I keep a journal during my time in Israel.

Still, that journal was never meant to be a like narrative journal; it was just going to be bullet points. It wasn’t supposed to be entries or thoughts or reflections, but after I wrote the first entry, I realized that it is a lot more fun to write what I feel. That progressed into writing about experiences, d’var Torahs, different types of teachings from class on the bible and in particular on the weekly Torah portion.

I would like take time to write at least once a week; much of that I sent back home in emails for my family to read. It was all saved on a file in my computer, called “Israel writings,” and when I returned, I had like 50 or 60 entries from the whole year.

Then, in the later summer or early fall after I got back, the same friends who suggested that I keep a journal asked, “Why don’t you put it into a book form?”

I thought about it and said to myself, “Maybe I will, and see what happens” [smiles].

Ariel Dosetareh's book I, Israel
Ariel Dosetareh’s book I, Israel

JM: Talk about the practical process of putting a book together and then self-publishing. Seems daunting.
AD: This was a long process. It took from November until May; I worked on it that whole, and I had a full load at school also. So his semester was probably one of the busiest four months of my life.

In terms of practicals, put it all together. I formatted it into an 8.5-inch by 11-inch page, making sure the crease doesn’t bend over your words…a lot of these things you take for granted, but if you actually go through the process by yourself, it’s really hard.

So that was all put on my shoulders, and all that took three or four months; I worked on it heavily from January until April. I wanted to get it out faster because these are journal writings; after a certain amount of time, they begin to lose their value, their importance. I wanted to get it out less than a year after I got back.

This whole thing was really a self-directed project; I didn’t do it for the money or for a mass audience. I feel like it could be utilized as a tool for students, and now that it’s published, I’m beginning to go down that path, speaking to groups. After all, I’m not so much trying to sell a book as sell a message.

Editor’s note: Email for purchasing info and more information.

Interview by John McCurdy, Managing Editor
Transcribed by Sloane Arogeti,
Editorial Intern

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