From Think Tank to Environmental Consultant

When Alana Tenzer was a junior at the University of Maryland, she couldn’t wait to study abroad. She was headed to Mount Kilimanjaro,

From Think Tank 758 (photo credit: NEFESH B'NEFESH)
From Think Tank 758
(photo credit: NEFESH B'NEFESH)
Where she would live on the mountain, take part in an environmental research project, and present her findings to the Tanzanian government. But then war broke out and the program was cancelled.
“I went to my study abroad advisor totally heartbroken,” said Alana. “And she said to me, ‘Actually there’s a program in Israel that has your name written all over it.” She told Alana about the Arava Institute, an environmental studies center that combined courses and research with coexistence work, and Alana quickly signed up.
While living on Kibbutz Keturah and studying environmentalism in Israel, Alana fell in love with Israel’s south and found her professional passion in hydrology.
After the semester in Israel, Alana returned to the US, graduated from college and nabbed a great position at an environmental think tank in Washington, DC. But she wasn’t happy. “In DC, I didn’t like that whenever I met someone new, the first thing they asked me was, what do you do, as though my job defined me,” said Alana. “It really bothered me that that was the focus.”
When her boss threatened to fire Alana for taking off for the Jewish holidays, Alana decided to quit and start over somewhere new. Two years out of college, she was ready to attend graduate school, and she knew that she was looking for a location with sunshine and down-to-earth people. “Then I thought to myself, I’m an observant Jew. Why not try Israel?” Alana said.
She applied to Ben Gurion University’s graduate program in hydrology, and moved to Jerusalem for a few months before heading to BGU’s campus in Sde Boker. “It was like no other place I had ever lived before,” said Alana. “It was beautiful, with the starry nights and desert landscapes.”
Each Friday, Alana would head to Be’er Sheva to stay with friends for Shabbat. There, she found Kehillat Be’erot, a partnership minyan that ran Shabbat services as well as cultural events and chesed projects within the larger Be’er Sheva community. Alana was immediately accepted into Kehillat Be’erot, and began to feel at home in Be’er Sheva.
“I loved the slower pace of life in Be’er Sheva, that people met for coffee in the middle of the day, and had their priorities in order,” said Alana. “I don’t have any family in Israel—not even a cousin of a cousin—and yet people here are always inviting me to their homes.”
During her second year of graduate school, Alana relocated to Be’er Sheva, and after earning her degree, she decided to look for a job there too. “I’m really into trees and running rivers, but they weren’t going to give me what this community had,” said Alana.
After officially making Aliyah in 2013 with the help of Nefesh B’Nefesh as part of its Go South program , Alana dove headfirst into the job search with a friend helping her prepare for interviews. When he reminded Alana that they had a mutual friend who worked at an environmental consulting firm in Be’er Sheva, Alana got in touch. The firm had an opening for a consultant, and Alana applied and was hired. It was the first and only job she applied for.
 “It totally falls in line with what I was looking for professionally,” said Alana. “And its work culture is everything I would’ve asked for too—which is just as important to me as the work I do.”
Though all of the staff members have their own projects, everyone pitches in to help each other. The whole staff also always eats lunch together. One person first heads to the kitchen to make a salad and then everyone gathers together to eat the salad along with the food they brought. When Alana once had to jump on a call during lunch, her boss apologized for interrupting her.
“When I applied for a job in DC, I was my CV, and once I got my job, I was a machine that performed my CV,” said Alana. “In my current office, people are real and I can actually be myself.”
Outside of work, Alana attends classes at Beit Prat, a Beit Midrash for young people, as well as the theater’s improv shows and concerts. But most of all, she likes spending time with her friends and community.
“My favorite thing about Israel is that people say what they mean. The more honest we can be with each other, the more comfortable we can be with ourselves,” said Alana. “In Israel, I love that I can both be myself and contribute to society.”