Daniel Honickman is studying at the Bar Ilan Israel Experience in Ramat Gan. He grew up on the Upper East Side and moved to Teaneck after graduating middle school. He attended Manhattan Day School for elementary school and TABC for high school. His family davens at Beth Aaron. This past summer he had an incredibly meaningful experience as a madrich at Camp Moshava.
His next stop? Drafting into the IDF.
Why did you choose to study at Bar Ilan XP?
This year I’m on The Israel Experience at Bar Ilan University. The program is unique in that it combines an incredible balance of both Judaic and secular courses, along with amazing trips, chesed and activities. A typical weekday will include a few hours of Torah, access to the wide variety of courses offered at The University, and a fun activity at night to wind down.
What kind of goals do you have for the year?
Going into this year, I set a few goals for myself: to focus on finding my identity as a Jewish man, and discovering which paths I want to take in life. I’ve always believed that spending time in Israel brings great clarity, and I’m happy to say that it held true for me so far.
What have been some of the highlights of your year so far?
We recently went on an incredible trip to the Negev, and there were so many great moments and memories. From breathtaking hikes, to late-night singing and dancing around a bonfire in middle of the desert, it was truly an experience I’ll never forget. Being surrounded by nothing for miles on end, and without phone service, everybody just felt so connected to themselves and each other.
What kind of challenges have you faced coming to Israel?
The biggest difficulty of going away was being far from my family. I have four incredible siblings and two amazing and supportive parents, and not seeing them for long has been tough.
How has your year been different from your expectations?
Not having grown up in Israel, I knew there would be a culture shock. It was just astonishing to see how much the country is intertwined with Jewish culture and tradition. Nowhere else on Earth are citizens more proud to be where they are, and it shows in the way Israelis carry themselves. The whole country was lit up for Chanukah, and the buses stop an hour before Shabbat; these are constant reminders that I’m in a beautiful society, so different from the one I was raised in.
Where is your favorite place to go for weekends/Shabbat so far?
My favorite place to go for Shabbat is to my cousins on Kibbutz Alumim. Less than 2 miles away from Gaza, the residents are under constant threat from rockets fired by terrorists, yet they’re not afraid in the slightest. They’ve built a beautiful community that strives and thrives in the face of terrorism, and I haven’t yet found a more beautiful davening in the country.
Who is a teacher at Bar Ilan XP you connect to especially well?
Rabbi Ari Kahn is a brilliant Torah mind, and it’s a privilege to learn from someone who has dealt with so many different halachic issues and questions.
Which is one of your favorite classes at Bar Ilan XP?
My favorite class this year has been ulpan. Learning Hebrew has helped me make the most of my time in Israel, and ulpan has been key to learning proper grammar and speaking skills.
What are you most looking forward to for the rest of the year?
For the rest of the year, I’m looking forward to doing as well as I can at University, strengthening my love of Israel and the Jewish people to grow even more so, and to continue to build friendships that’ll last forever.