Filed under: community, Community Garden, Food, friendship, Home, Immersion, Israel, Israel & Israelis, Living abroad, Uncategorized | No Comments »
I’m not going to lie and say that I felt comfortable and at home in Gedera as soon as I arrived. My first few days were filled with worries about the new place and I began to wonder how I was going to spend nine and a half months here. As I explored this new and different little town, I began to discover places that made Gedera feel like my home. This post is dedicated to a few of those places.
1. Gedera Community Garden
The Gedera Community Garden is conveniently located about a minute from our house in Gedera. I admit that I do not volunteer in the garden as often as others in the group, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the supply of kale they have been growing in the past few months (they really don’t eat a lot of leafy greens in Israel). I have also loved watching all the projects develop in the past seven months. It is truly a beautiful place.
2. Gedera Fields
Photo Courtesy of Dana Talmi
I was first introduced to these fields when we had our first group run when we were training for the Tel Aviv Marathon fundraiser. I really wish I had found this place earlier because it is beautiful (and it encourages me to get up and go for the occasional run).
3. Sculpture Garden
I was introduced to the sculpture garden one of our first weeks in Gedera. I didn’t really pay attention to the sculptures the first time I was there but when I returned a few weeks later I realized that it is a truly strange (also interesting and incredibly creative) place. The artist has refused to sell his sculptures so they are in the garden for everyone’s viewing pleasure.
4. Bilu Garden
Photos Courtesy of Erica Mitchell
The Bilu Garden is a beautiful place for a picnic. We have turned some otherwise quiet weekends in Gedera into bonding experiences for all.
5. Derech Ha Hummus
If you didn’t know that there was anything to eat in Israel besides falafel and Shwarma, this place is for you. In the past seven months we have significantly contributed to keeping Gilad, the owner, in business (today the restaurant is actually celebrating its 1-year anniversary since its opening). This place is definitely a must try. You won’t regret it!
6. Bereshit Restaurant
Walk down the alleyway, past the red tractor, and you will arrive at a seemingly random chicken coup and some outdoor seating. The outdoor seating belongs to Bereshit, one of the best restaurants in Gedera. This is a great place to go for a calm and delicious sit-down meal. It is a little bit pricey so it might be best to wait for when your parents visit…
7. The Bakery
At the local bakery, you can buy two (or sometimes three) borekas for under a dollar. But these delicious, affordable delights are not all the bakery has to offer. It is also the place to go for bread and sweet pastries and it has one of the best candy selections in town!
8. Toov Taam (The Spice Store)
I was initially drawn to this place because I heard they had real coffee beans and I have yet to get used to instant coffee. When I discovered that there was also an excellent selection of bulk grains, dried fruit, and spices, I fell in love. They also sell bakers’ chocolate (which is apparently hard to find in Israel).
9. The Crafts Store
I am a girl that loves a project (or sometimes several) and I was lacking one until I found this place. This store has supplies for all your crafting needs. There is also a selection of jewelry made by the employees for those of you with fewer crafting abilities.
10. Teva Gedera
If seitan and flax seed oil are regular items on your shopping list and/or you only shop with a reusable bag, Teva Gedera might be the place for you. While this place is no Tel Aviv health food store it does help soothe hippy homesickness.
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It’s happening to me. I can’t seem to help but imagine a future for myself in this country. Whether I’m in a kibbutz in the north, amidst the Jerusalem bustle, or hiking in the Negev, I keep picturing the life I could lead here.
I never thought that I, of all people, would ever consider making aliyah. I’m not a Zionist. I don’t believe that I have any special right to this land. I can rationalize the need for Israel as a safe haven for persecuted and disenfranchised Jews from all over the world—as it once was for my own survivor grandparents. Where else were Holocaust victims, exiled Jews from Arab lands, and Beta Israel caught between famine and civil war supposed to turn? No other country would accept these people in such large numbers, no matter how desperate their circumstances.
Yet, I can hardly include myself in this category. While I hold an Israeli passport, in truth I’m a middleclass, educated American. In the Californian community where I was born, anti-Semitism is but a distant shadow—a half-forgotten memory of what once was or muted whispers from abroad. When the Yahel Social Change Program ends in June, I can easily go back and lead a comfortable, fulfilling life in the States. If I have other options, I wonder if it’s moral for me to act on my Jewish privilege and move here—to act on my right of return while thousands of diaspora Palestinians cannot. My aliyah inclinations are clearly not the results of nationalist sentiments.
Neither can I offer any spiritual explanations. I’ve never felt deep pangs of longing for my ancestral homeland. When I stand in front of the Kotel, I feel nothing. Or more accurately, I feel whatever I had been feeling the moment before. Nothing changes. I look at the weeping Haredim around me and try to be compassionate, but the reality is that I just can’t relate. Living here hasn’t made me renounce my atheism and decide I have a soul.
So why is the prospect of staying here so tempting? This question baffles me, especially since making the move would mean sacrifices in terms of family, career, and general standards of living. While my desire to stay is largely a mystery to myself, I can begin to grasp at an explanation. Counterintuitively, it seems that the very factors that should make me run from here are what attract me the most.
To borrow an expression from a recent Jewschool blog post, my Israel has warts. Hovering over the ancient ruins, Mediterranean beaches, and mesmerizing deserts is a profound ugliness. This is a land of contradictions; the disturbing and the beautiful intertwine within the same places, often within the same individuals. I have been shown such unconditional warmth in this country. Strangers immediately welcome me into their homes, feed me, and express genuine concern for my wellbeing. Yet, on a daily basis I encounter the most blatant bigotry I have ever witnessed.
In my Israel, bright, promising teenagers tried to convince me that the entire population of Gaza should be wiped out in retribution for rocket fire. In my Israel, no one seems to know (or cares to know) that many Bedouin live in their historic villages without access to water, electricity, or health care. In my Israel, young people think it’s funny to say the n-word and watch me flinch. In my Israel, a local politician compared the older generation of Ethiopian-Israelis to the Israelities who were slaves in Egypt and had to die off before their nation could enter the promised land (implying that these immigrants have nothing of value to offer Israeli society). There is so much loss and suffering here as a result of stubborn unwillingness to understand.
All of these injustices can be overwhelming. It’s hard to know how to act, how to avoid apathy or despair. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard Israelis respond to the news of some tragedy or another with a shrug and the words, “this is how life is in Israel.” And yet—maybe because Israeli society is so new, dynamic, and relatively tiny—real change seems possible to me here in a way it never did in the States. Thanks to Yahel’s learning component, I know that the work we are doing here in Gedera fits into a larger context. Rabbi Levi Lauer, founder and director of Atzum, advised that “the answer to the black hole of metaphysical uncertainty is to ground yourself in a way that your actions have daily consequences—for yourself and your society.” All over this country, activists are doing exactly that.
Their numbers may be small, but novel kinds of communities are forming. Israelis committed to creating social change are coming together. Where others find reasons to dismiss reality or leave the country, this generation hears a call to action. In the newly recognized Bedouin village of Qasr A-Sir, Bustan is helping to create a sustainable, local eco-economy. In courtrooms throughout Israel, Tebeka fights for justice by offering free legal services to Ethiopian-Israelis who have been the victims of discrimination. Tira’s Q school addresses Israeli education and employment gaps with its unique afterschool programs for Arab children, which combine English-learning with personal and communal development. And of course here in the Shapira neighborhood, Friends by Nature runs a number of programs to foster community and empowerment among Ethiopian -Israelis of all ages.
It may seem bizarre, but every time I hear a racist comment, see Sudanese and Eritrean refugees at the South Tel Aviv Central Bus Station, or notice the sudden difference in living conditions as I walk from Shapira towards New Gedera I feel compelled to stay. Each injustice is an opportunity to further understanding and to get to work. And as Rabbi Lauer has often repeated to the Yahelnikim, you need to have partners to make social change happen. There are plenty of those here.
I’ll be in Israel for another year. And, after that? Who knows? The future is, as always, uncertain, but the last six months have already opened my mind to new passions and possibilities. We’ll see where they lead.
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After meeting in Jerusalem in the pouring rain, we finally arrived in Rishon Lezion today! We spent the morning traveling first from Jerusalem to one of our staff members, Racheli’s home, in Carmi Yosef. We spent a couple hours here playing different ice breakers to get to know the group better, ate lunch, and learned more about the trip. From here, we traveled to see an overview of her town and saw various cities from the top of the hill. After this, we finally arrived at our destination in Rishon! We have an awesome apartment as our “home base” where we will spend time learning and having most of our meals here. Once we got here, after fighting the rain, we did some more beginning of the trip activities. After having a delicious Israeli dinner, the spiritual leader, the Kess, of the Ethiopian community in Ramat Eliyahu (the neighborhood of Rishon we are in) came and talked to us about his role in the community. It was very insightful to see how important and respectful the Kess was and to hear his story. Towards the end of the night, everyone went around and shared their highs and lows of the days. Finally, each family came to pick us up and take us to our home-stays for the next 10 days! We must catch some sleep now, so we are ready for our busy day tomorrow of painting a bomb shelter and hearing from the director of Friends by Nature, the local NGO Yahel works with here. More posts and pictures to come!
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You may not know this, but the Yahel house has an unofficial mascot: Hatool. Yes, Hatool is a cat (hatool is cat in Hebrew), but last year’s group gave her the name (although she is technically a hatoolah, a female cat). However, I think the name is very fitting. Hatool is the very essence of being a cat. She has attitude, she knows what she wants and somehow she usually gets it. Probably because she’s so cute.
She can be rude and sassy, but she’s also very caring and loving. Sometimes she’s standoff-ish, and sometimes she’s affectionate. In other words, she’s a cat.
She lives on our back porch, and a few of us started feeding her tuna and milk regularly. Hatool could be very demanding, but in the end I still love her. She was my first friend in Gedera! I remember our first time at the house, sitting in the living room, when someone spotted Hatool staring at us through the glass doors.
I am not a cat person. In fact, this is the first time in my entire life that I’ve ever felt affection towards a cat. I’m not sure why, but something about Hatool is very comforting. Perhaps I’m trying to fill the void left by my dog from home. Either way, I’ve become one of those cat ladies.
During Hanukkah, however, Hatool became very sick. Benson ended up taking her to the vet, and she’s been having problems with her bladder. She’s been on medication and has even had surgery. I don’t know what the future will be like for Hatool, but I’m hopeful that she will make a full recovery.
This is may not seem relevant to the Yahel experience on the whole, and it’s not for everyone on the program. But for me it is. Some may think it’s stupid to care for one street cat, to put this much time and effort into Hatool. I believe, though, if you can help one cat have a bit of a better life, then it’s worth it. A little bit of change for one person (or cat) can go a long way. I can’t save all the cats in Israel or even in Gedera, but I can help this one who is near and dear to my heart. I can’t do it all, but I can at least try my best to make any kind of impact possible.
Being in Israel away from my friends and family can be very lonely sometimes. I guess Hatool is the first thing that made Gedera feel like home to me. For that, I owe her a big thank you. So Hatool, this one’s for you.
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Since we moved into the Yahel house about 3 weeks ago, I’ve gone through a range of emotions. We’ve had experiences that have been enlightening, frustrating, exciting, and challenging (among other things). I think, for me at least, sheer newness and difference from our normal lives has branded everything we do. None of us knew each other before coming here, so we each have 7 very new roommates. We’ve had an array of local food, from the buna coffee ceremony to our first dinner together of an authentic Ethiopian meal. For some of us, Hebrew is a completely new language (For someone who studied it for 2 years in college, it is still more foreign that I’d like to admit.). The new faces, names, programs, streets can be overwhelming and exhilarating.
I can’t speak for each of the participants, but I believe that the greatest part has been the new community. People in Gedera have been nothing but warm and welcoming. There’s an authenticity to their openness that makes it all the better. We have been to several BBQs with members of the garin, the group of people who have decided they want to create positive, organic change from within the local community. We all believe in their ideas of social change, and through several interactions, they have shown that they are truly a community. They know each other, their children play together and they work together towards common goals. We as Yahel participants are not members of the garin because we aren’t moving to Gedera permanently, but I feel empowered just being able to work alongside them for the next 9 months. I’ve never been a part of a community quite like this before.
I came to Israel because I wanted to experience something new. Well, that’s at least part of the reason. There are other reasons, some I already know and others that I’ll probably discover along the way. I felt stuck in my life for awhile, and I wanted to push myself to do something, for lack of a better phrase, outside of my comfort zone. I’ve only been here about 3 weeks, so I’ve definitely been experiencing something new and foreign everyday. I don’t think that’s going to wear off anytime soon. I like pushing myself, but this community has made it easy to feel at home.
Filed under: community, Empowerment, Ethiopian Jews, friendship, Home, Immersion, Impact, Initiative, Israel & Israelis, Jewish holiday, Living abroad, racism, seeds, Uncategorized, volunteering, Yom Kippur | No Comments »
“Advice for good love: Don’t love
those from far away. Take yourself one
The way a sensible house will take
local stones for its building
stones which have suffered in the same cold
and were scorched by the same sun…”
This poem is entitled “Advice for Good Love,” and it is written by Yehuda Amichai. It is written about a beloved, but like all good love poems, it shines more broadly onto the cultivation of nurturing and intimate space between friends, family and amidst community. His poem begs his readers to consider, with whom will we build our home?
As discussed in my last post, a lot of the work of teshuvah between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is a process of returning to beginnings. Home is the symbol of many of our beginnings and beginnings yet built. So, this question seems fitting this holiday season. It has particular resonance with individuals in transitory phases, like those in our Social Change program who have just traveled across the ocean to start a new home and also with whole groups who are facing important decisions about their future together: young couples, families, and even entire communities.
The Ethiopian-Israeli community, one of the largest recent immigrant communities, came to Israel to fulfill a dream of returning to their ancient homeland. In order to do this, a lot was sacrificed. They entered into a world with a different religious discourse, a culture where Amharic and Tigrinya were not spoken on the streets and where the daily rhythm and work environment were tremendously foreign. To exacerbate all of this, the community has faced the realities of overt and structural racism. The process of building a home has been a struggle.
One of the most simple and I think powerful contributions to this process of settling and building a home, is echoed in Amichai’s voice. The foundations for home come from local stones. A community’s power lies in the people themselves and everything they carry with them– the cultural wisdom, the history, the inventiveness, personalities, and the love they share. Investing in each other and working together seems to be the most concrete formula for this work.
Let us not underestimate the power of protest and policy change, however the focus of our work at Yahel is from the ground-up. We provide a unique method of service learning, where our participants explore the meaning of and build community together, while investing in the broader community in which they live and work. We partner with local nonprofits and run programs for youth and elderly in the local neighborhood to encourage community engagement and to develop local social-resources. Yahel works to support its participants and at the same time strengthen the community they live in by supporting its people, the inheritors of and builders of these new homes.
The work of teshuva is a personal task, something that only an individual or a community can do for themselves. But there is also room to influence one another in the process– we can be the stones and the hands that help build or the reinforcement and support for them. My hope for our Social Change participants, the community they will be joining in Gedera, and for all of us is that we may be blessed this holiday season with the open eyes and hands to do the work of teshuvah. May we may go back to our foundation stones to rebuild our homes, communities and ourselves and we may be graced with support from each other in this work. Shanah tova, vgmar chatimah tova.
Ross Weissman is Yahel’s Recruitment and Digital Media Associate. He has studied at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem, Yeshivat Hadar in New York and will begin studying this Fall for his MA in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan.
Filed under: community, friendship, guest post, Home, Immersion, Impact, Israel, life-changing, Living abroad, volunteering | Tags: Community, Friendship, Home, Initiative, Israel, Jewish diversity, Learning, Living abroad, Volunteer | No Comments »
This morning, I leafed through the Haifa information notebook we received on our first day of the program. As I was jogging my memory on the history of Haifa and filling in some blanks about the situation in Hadar, I realized how much I had learned this summer. I expected this experience to be life-changing; it was that and more.
Hadar is such an amazing and diverse neighborhood. When people at home (in Marblehead, MA) ask me: “What did you even do in Israel? Was it like Birthright or something?” I just start off by telling them about this crazy place called Hadar. Living in Hadar gave me a taste of Israel that I would have otherwise never tried. The rich history associated with it, the Russian immigrants, and complete (and sometimes shocking) immersion, gave my time in Hadar character and meaning. You may say I’m even feeling a little bit “home-sick” for Hadar right now.
The individual placements also made a huge impact on me. Working with the elderly population was like discovering a new side of Hadar. These people shared such tear-jerking and unbelievable stories of their lives with Hannah and me. Everyday, we spoke with these people and I think we actually did make a difference. Really, I’m not big on the “White Man’s Burden” idea, but I am big on the “Jewish Man’s (or Woman’s) Responsibility.” It’s not really as much an obligation as it is something I want to do for the good of the receiving end and my own personal growth.
As one of my elderly friends, Ada, told me (in Russian) : “Helping each other. That’s what it means to be a Jew.” In her context she was talking about how in Russia, the doctors refused to treat her mother’s kidney disease, but in Israel they never refused and never told her her mother was too old and would die soon. She lived much longer than ever expected.
The traveling aspect of the program was especially wonderful as well. I’m very thankful that this program incorporated seeing the beauty and diversity of Israel outside of service in Haifa. The night hikes in the Negev, the tour of Jerusalem, even the student’s village
for the JAFI seminar was new and exciting. The tour of Sudanese immigrants sitting in Gan Levinsky in Tel Aviv was mind-boggling and astonishing. Some of these places allowed me moments of silence and reflection either by desert moonlight or at the Kotel. Our program leaders Jacki and Michal were helpful and informative (and awesome people!)
Overall, I came home understanding the skeleton of the issues in Israel. Except now I have a million more questions. I developed a strong connection with the State in 2009 when I went on Y2I (a birthright-esque 10 day trip) and became infatuated by it. But now, it’s safe to say that the lust has evaporated and love has taken its place. My relationship with Israel has deepened. I’m trying to figure out how to keep this experience alive and kicking for a long time and how to integrate it into my community at home and in college. I could not have asked for a better program than Yahel gave me this summer. It was sometimes bumpy, but that is expected from a pilot program.
Try to keep this program running. I think we’ll all be amazed at the difference we can make in Hadar. Maybe we can’t really change the whole socioeconomic situation and make all the Russian immigrants speak English and save every at-risk child. But we can change the paths of individuals we meet. We can change the vibe of Hadar. We do what we can. And they change us for the better too. What I’ve learned I’ll keep with me forever. And (hopefully) my impact there will resonate for a while as well.
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We are posting this piece with the permission of Rabbi Levi Lauer who teaches on the Yahel Social Change Program and is the Founding Executive Director of ATZUM. Thank you, Rabbi Lauer, for sharing this with us.
Forty-seven years ago I had my first Seder Lail Pesah in Israel. Chaya and I were guests of my Hebrew University roommate’s large, immediate family at Moshav Barak. Their hospitality was inspirational, and generous to a fault. I barely survived a Moroccan meal of spiced intensity and quantity that was a serious challenge to my pale-faced, suburban, Midwest palate and kishkehs. They also sang and laughed endlessly, a joyous celebration of freedom in Zion far removed from the hostility mounted against small Jewish communities in the Atlas Mountains and in far larger North African, urban environments.
The Daninos worked tirelessly to make new lives, pharmacists become egg-farmers and small storekeepers. They struggled and succeeded in adjusting to Israel’s demands while dealing with the negative stereotypes Israel’s society maintained against their culture, their Maghreb dialect, their complexion. My roommate sought dates with more than a few coeds. “We don’t date Moroccans,” he was reminded.
That’s largely behind us today, though a few ugly remnants of such bigotry remain. My roommate, Y., is now head of a department at the Foreign Ministry. His siblings are well educated and well achieved in nearly every way we’d measure “success”.
They paid the customary Israeli dues for getting there. “Danino” was Hebraized, foolishness insisted upon for most Diaspora-ridden names that came to represent the country abroad. Y. was captured, tortured by the Egyptians and held for long months in captivity after the Yom Kippur War. But they had come home to Zion, and home was a powerful antidote for that discomfort and suffering.
I thought of all this again this week, and I can still taste the spices from that Seder. Another Danino (not related, I think), Israel’s Chief of Police, first displayed appalling ignorance of the law (“No one filed a complaint so we didn’t detain anyone.”) and then a contemptible equanimity in response to a race riot perpetrated by soccer fans. Celebrating a victory at the stadium adjacent to Jerusalem’s largest mall, hundreds rushed the food court overwhelming the few security guards. Dancing on tables chanting “Death to the Arabs,” they brutally beat many of the mall’s Arab employees, surrounded Arab women and children and spat on them. The police arrived 46 minutes later, closed the mall, sent everyone home — and arrested no one.
Until “Haaretz” put it on the front page three days later, almost one knew about it. A free press has power. The Police Chief secured better legal advice. The police detained 16 thugs using more than ample evidence from the mall’s security cameras. Twelve were given minor fines and banned for three years from the stadium; four await trial. The police say there will be more arrests.
No victim of the violence has yet filed a formal complaint. What Israeli Arab/Palestinian thinks reporting at the police station will be a decent experience, and who wants to risk the wrath of the mob? After all, but for the resistance of the mall’s ownership and store owners, the rioters would have been armed with knives.
You’re asking, “What of the decent folks?” There are more than a few. The mayor invited the Arab workers to his office and decried the violence. The mall’s general manager, genuinely shaken by the nearly murderous hate, expressed his outrage. An interfaith organization brought the victims candies and protested the riot. Haaretz is still giving the aftermath coverage. The Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Security were silent — maybe they were busy preparing for Pesah, Festival of Our Freedom.
My great aunt and uncle walked much of the way to Petah Tiqva from Russia in the 1920’s. They found that strength in part because they wanted to breathe freely where no pogrom would threaten, or at least be able to defend themselves when the mob came in the uniforms of surrounding Arab states, or of terrorist “irregulars”. Their son became a general, commanded Zahal’s Artillery Corps, was a candidate for Commander-In-Chief.
Imagine that in the country they loved, sweated for and defended to the best of their abilities of heart, hand and mind we’ve produced homegrown, racist hooligans. Our homes and schools and yeshivot (a significant number of the rioters wore white shirts and black kipot, tzitzit flying) have raised kids and their fathers eager to hate — in deed.
At Seder this year I’ll try to be mindful enough to remember all this: the debts of gratitude I owe Y. and his family for making Israel so inviting, so wondrously, generously giving, so proudly determined to root a nation in the fertile grounds of hard work and of cultural, religious and political diversity; the honor I owe my family’s earlier generations who risked all to allow me the privilege of becoming a citizen of a State that wrestles with God, that teaches it sons and daughters to defend that privilege; and finally, that it’s now on my watch that Israel’s dignity and name will be re-shaped. On that watch there will be prison for progromniks, and soul-searching, soul- searing commitment to build the religion and humanism that make race riots unthinkable, or at least dauntingly difficult — for the sake of my kids and their kids and everyone who has not tired of standing guard and making Israel worthy of our devotion.
Written by Rabbi Levi Lauer and his wife, Chaya.
Filed under: community, Home, Immersion, Impact, Israel, life-changing, Living abroad, Social Change | Tags: Big questions, Community, Home, Initiative, Israel, Jewish diversity, Learning, Living abroad, Volunteer, Yahel Social Change Program | No Comments »
I have two weeks left in Israel. This would seem like the time one would naturally begin to partake in the process known as ‘reflection.’ But there is something about this that does not sit right with me. When we ‘reflect,’ we are essentially ‘looking back.’ We look back at the things we did, the people we met, the lessons we learned. But here is where my problem resonates, if we are always looking back, how can we effectively move forward?
I know that my philosophy may seem ridiculous, because it is essential that we look back on and recount our experiences in order to give those experiences meaning. But my issue resonates in the idea that too often, the lessons we learned simply stop there, and those experiences and relationships become nothing more than nostalgia. What I’m saying is, we need to fight this urge to let the past simply become the past, and not part of our future. We need to carry the lessons of our experience forward, utilizing them in every practical way possible. Our experiences in Gedera were nothing short of eye opening and insightful, but they will mean nothing if they only remain fanciful stories we tell our kids one day.
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When I was walking to the grocery store this morning, I heard Or (a three year old girl) call my name as she got a running start to jump in my arms. She said with a smile “Hello, Lisa, Good morning!!”
Or is the same little girl who didn’t speak a word of English four months ago.
As I think about how my time here is winding down, I am acutely aware of each of these moments. I want to hold them inside and remember the sound of Or’s voice and the feel of her kiss on my cheek, remember each “What’s up” from Ebay (a 16 year old boy who I work with in a weekly youth group), or the time I sing Beyonce songs with Orit and Alemnat (two 14 year old girls in the neighborhood).
I want to soak it all in.
The thought of leaving brings up emotions I never thought I would feel after such a short amount of time, but it makes sense. It makes sense because from day one, the people in the Shapira neighborhood have welcomed me with open arms and warm smiles.
The Yahel Social Change Program is a five-month immersive service learning experience that is very unique in nature, because we actually live among the community in which we work. That means that we spend time and build relationships with Ethiopian Israelis who are our age because they are our neighbors, and our friends. We go to the same grocery store, have the same community activities and celebrate holidays together with the kids we teach in the local schools. We can’t walk to a restaurant without running into our host families, or friends from the Gar’in. As we walk through the neighborhood, our names are called by kids running from 300 feet away, asking us to come play with them outside.
The Yahel volunteers become a part of the community, and in return, the community becomes a part of us, a part of Yahel.
Learning about and creating social change has to start somewhere. Yahel is where it started for me. In one month I will leave this community with not only deeper relationships, but with a deeper appreciation for and a deeper commitment to social change, for the rest of my life.