The #etnographquarantinedan, Episode 6: Rafi Moskowitz, 20, Palo Alto, California, USA
The conversation was held in English using the hotel room phone.
Rafi is very eloquent, open, and eager to talk and tell about himself. We immediately connected and the conversation flowed. Rafi's father is Israeli, originally from Raanana, and his mother is American. He grew up in a very Israeli home, and his parents insisted on talking in both Hebrew and English. His Israeli family is scattered between Kfar Saba, Hod Hasharon, and Modi'in.
He came to Israel to join the army. "I always knew I was going to serve in the IDF. It was crystal clear from a young age that this was something I was going to do. My father was a soldier in the Israeli Army, and I feel and consider myself Israeli. Israel is my home, even though I grew up in America. You know, it’s a bit of split personality to grow up in America but to feel Israeli." After graduating from high school, his parents asked him to postpone his plan to enlist and to go to college first, so he studied neurobiology for two years. However, at the end of his second year, he decided to quit and resume his original plan to enlist.
He joined Garin Tzabar (for a more detailed explanation, see Episode 5: Rebecca), and together with a group of 21 young people, he attended one face-to-face seminar in Chicago and three online seminars due to COVID-19. The seminars were intended to make sure the participants understood the reality and challenges ahead of them. Rafi arrived in Israel with these 21 young people, some of whom were sent to the hotel for quarantine, while others were sent to their families around Israel. He sees this group as "my family here. Even though I have a family in Israel, I know the other members will always be my family and community. Even now, while in isolation, we have a WhatsApp group and we chat all day with each other."
After finishing the 14 days of quarantine, Rafi will spend a few days with his Israeli family. He will then move to Kibbutz Urim in the Negev desert in southern Israel to begin his conscription process and complete the last three months of the programme, which includes learning Hebrew in the ulpan.
What was Rafi's experience with COVID-19 in California? It turns out that both Rafi and his sister contracted COVID at the beginning of the pandemic. They isolated themselves in one room of their parents' house for five weeks, so the current self-isolation is not a new experience for him. "Although California was hit less hard than other states, we also had a large outbreak."
At the end of our conversation, Rafi asked me if he could say something for the readers of my project: "I want to say thank you to the State of Israel for the hotel quarantine solution [it is entirely state-funded]. They give me a room with a great view of the sea, three meals a day, I have a balcony, which is bliss, I read many books and talk to my family and my friends from the programme all day long, so it’s not so terrible. I don’t know where I will live in the future. Although I feel Israeli, I grew up in the United States, and this difference makes me feel a bit unsure. It's like having a split personality. To be honest, I have never actually lived in Israel, only as a visitor, a guest, so I want to take the army service period as an opportunity to understand what it’s like to live in Israel. Then I can decide where I want to live."
And most important of all? At the end of our conversation, Rafi told me that he took some anthropology courses in college, and "it was fascinating. Your work and what you are doing with this project is so cool!"