If there was an award for the worst blogger, I believe I would be in the running. It’s been a long time since I have written, and I have so much to tell you!
Last weekend we had a seminar in Jerusalem…and it was awesome. The theme was centered around the three holidays that happened last week – Holocaust Remembrance Day, Memorial Day, and Independence Day. I want to tell you all about it, but it will have to be another post. Maybe tomorrow.
What I DO want to tell you is my volunteer work update. I finally have a set schedule and some projects started! On Sundays, I work at Boutique Hagalil, a pomegranate winery where I will start helping give tours to Taglit (birthright) groups. I consider working at the winery my comfort zone. It’s not exactly the place for me to interact with Israelis or make a difference in the community, but it’s nice to be in a familiar environment sometimes and work very independently. My boss there is named Esther and she made aliyah something like 26 years ago from Mexico City. She swears I will leave here fluent in either Hebrew or Spanish, I don’t think she has decided which yet.
On Mondays, I go to the high school and help the English teacher, Dave, teach after school lessons. These are for kids who need extra help and choose to be there. I already have a favorite. His name is Tony and he is 18. In 2000 Lebanon had a civil war where Hezbollah won. Everyone who had not been fighting with them was then going to be killed. Israel took them in. They can never go back to Lebanon and many of them, including Tony, have family there they will probably never see again.
Tony has dreams of moving to LA and becoming an actor so usually mid way through our sessions together, we stop our worksheets and talk about living in California. Things are rough for Lebanese people in Israel, and I think he looks to me for hope for a better life somewhere else. I’m pretty honest with how much things cost, I tell him he needs to go to college, and then tell him how he can do anything he wants in life.
Tuesdays are my favorite volunteer day. I work at the Rape Crisis Center where I (try to) help find funds from American Jewish Federations. I am working on a letter and facebook post to start circulating, and I will start making phone calls (emails don’t work) to see which federations are particularly generous to Israel, women’s organizations, or cities in the periphery. I can use all the help I can get, so if you happen to know of any federation like this or if you know people who would like to donate to a very worthy cause, let me know.
The women who work at the Center are fabulous. I had a very long talk with Roni, the fundraiser lady, about everything from women’s self esteem issues, the effects of rape on religious women, differences in rape culture in America vs. Israel, and the effects of pornography on relationships. Heavy stuff, yea, but to be in a house full of awesome women who are interested in the same things I am feels wonderful.
Wednesdays is our day at the college. We have a Hebrew class and we have a Beit Midrash. I am a complete geek with the Hebrew class, I even requested an extra lesson a week- but hey, if I am going to be in Israel, the least I can do to fit in is learn some of the language. I mean how annoying is it when people who live in America don’t speak English? The Beith Midrash is like a Torah study except just about all of us are secular so it really just reminds me of law school. We take a short text and analyze the shit out of it. There is usually some life lesson that comes out of it like forgiveness or equality… I really do like the Beit Midrash. It’s led my Amy, a lady who lives in LA, worked as a public defender, and made aliyah years ago.
Thursdays I go to the middle school and then teach extra lessons at the high school.
Volunteering is, honestly, rarely fun and a lot of work, but I have learned so much about the people, politics, and culture of Israel. When I leave here, I hope that I will have given at least some of what I have gained. Stay tuned.