In the beginning I had it all planned out, I would do the program for 5 months; I would try new things that I hadn’t done in the states, become a part of the community, travel and learn new things. Within the first few weeks of being here I knew 5 months was not going to be enough time. I felt a strong connection with Kiryat Shmona, there was too much to do and learn I was going to need to stay longer. I am one of 3 that were on the last program and with help I was able to stay and do the program again. I wasn’t ready to leave I had formed some really great relationships with my students, staff and people from the community and I felt my work wasn’t done not for myself and not for the places/people I volunteer with.
Helping teach at Danciger high school and Megenim elementary school were difficult at first mainly because of the language barrier but also because schools are a lot different here than in the states. The students and I worked on forming a, you teach me and I’ll teach you agreement and were patient with each other, most of the time ;). My relationships with the students became stronger as time went on and the students weren’t as shy about speaking and reading English they were excited, they asked for help, they were so proud when they read the words correctly and they loved teaching me Hebrew. Part of the reason I felt a pull to stay was to finish out the school year, it wasn’t until December or so that my relationships became very strong, I couldn’t leave when we were just beginning. Another reason to stay was the English debate team at Danciger, on Sunday’s a couple of us volunteered with the team teaching and learning how to debate while improving their English. They worked extremely hard this year and had a competition in March, all the hard work paid off because they won the whole thing. It was so wonderful to be a part of the process and I couldn’t be any more proud of them.
In the last program we discussed finding a project that would further emerge us within the community, creating something together. We teamed up with 2 organizations; Better Together and Malash. Together we found an area outside of a community center located in a nearby lower income neighborhood. When we found the place it was a mess, there was trash everywhere but it didn’t matter we could see envision what it would potentially look like, who would use it, what they could do there. We have worked together with heads of the organizations, teens and kids from the neighborhood in making benches, tables, and a play octopus all made out of recyclable matter, painting and cleaning the area together.
Staying for a second program has meant many things for me. These relationships and projects I’ve talked about have grown and made me feel like this place is my home I am a part of this community. What it also meant is that I got to be a part of Ten Tlalim and the changes they brought to the program, learning sessions about Israel, identity, people hood, as well as 6 amazing Israel students, Jacklin and Michal whom have taught me more than I can share in this story.
I have had a lot of time for personal reflection since I've been here in Kiryat Shmona. I've realized there are many areas of myself that need improvement. However, one characteristic I have come to find I like is my honesty. So, I am going to be honest with you. I believe in the past three months Israel has given more to me than I have to it. I was asked week one why I was here, and I said to make a difference in someone's life. Not to mention for motivation, clarity, inspiration....but I didn't tell them all that right off the bat. Where I've seen the difference though is in MY life. I have been so inspired by the community through conversations with complete strangers, the people I work with, and the Israeli's in our group. I find the people here to be positive, modest, kind, willing, the list goes on. Do I sound like a groupie yet? The way they look at life is how I want to see it. It would be so easy to take the cynical route for some, but I haven't encountered anyone who has. It makes me want to adopt this level of appreciation for life, and take it home with me. The people I've worked with believe in positive change, and work towards it each and everyday. It is not just a fleeting concept for them. I personally think being spiritual has something to do with it. When you believe in something, anything really, it's what keeps you focused on your goals. It is that something that gives you strength. Something I didn't know I wanted in my life until I came here. This new perspective has been a wake up call for me, and is really an inspiration to lead a different lifestyle when I get back home. It's the people in Kiryat Shmona who have helped me envision the person I want to be.
The last three months have been incredible, and have gone by so quickly.
At the beginning of the TEN program, when I first arrived in Ethiopia, I felt like I was watching an exotic nature program. Now I feel like I am part of it.
When you spend three months in a place, you start to understand the culture and the people. If I’d been here for just a two-week travel program, I wouldn’t have made this connection or learned as much as I have about Ethiopian culture.
In Ethiopia, things move slowly. There is no pressure, everyone walks everywhere, they take their time. This is a big contrast to my personality. I like things to move and happen quickly. Here, life has its own pace.
I’m volunteering in agriculture, and the work is progressing, but slowly. To succeed here, you need patience, along with knowledge and professional know-how.
We are working in three fields. In some areas, the tomatoes have already started growing; in others we just now laid down the drip-irrigation system, which we got a few days ago as a donation. The drip system will allow the families here to grow crops year-round, and not just in the rainy season, which is only three months a year. Until now they could grow crops only those three months a year.
We have encountered many challenges, some of which we have overcome – and others for which we have not yet found a solution. For example, we are committed to organic farming, but we are having trouble getting rid of bugs without pesticides.
This project benefits single mothers and large families. I hope that it will continue growing, developing, and succeeding in the hands of TEN groups who come after me. At first I had trouble with the concept – we work with just a few families, and the project is very long-term, so I won’t necessarily see it come to fruition – but I did find a lot of satisfaction in it.
One fun thing – our amazing agriculture team built a mud stove behind our house, and we made pizzas together – and ended up covered in mud!
In addition to working with the agriculture team, I work one day a week at “Bridge of Hope,” a village for orphans with an agricultural plot, a school, an orphanage, and a preschool. I work in the preschool and have managed to do so much already. The children are very disciplined. I wanted to teach them to have fun, and feel that I have succeeded. I taught them about movement and body parts, I played music and taught them to move to the music, I taught them to write their names in English, to use scissors, and to activate their imaginations by drawing pictures. I taught them to roll in the grass – to go a bit crazy, to fall and get up and laugh the whole time.
I also ran a training seminar for the kindergarten teachers, and made an activity book that I hope they will use in the future.
The final activity with the children was a “Bubble festival,” which was incredible. Everyone was so surprised by the size of the bubbles – the teachers and the principal seemed to enjoy the activity as much as the children.
On the weekends I often traveled – to the Simien mountains, the salt desert of Danakil where I saw an active volcano, and villages in Northern Ethiopia. Next week I will say goodbye to TEN start the next part of my trip; I’m heading to Southern Ethiopia to see the unique tribes there, then on to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and – if I have enough time – Malawi.
It will be very strange to say goodbye to Ethiopia, which has been my home for the last three months. I will miss this place so much. The children. Gondar. The experience. The whole wonderful three months of preparing and teaching classes, working the fields, laying the irrigation system, and bonding with people.
I would like to tell you about myself and about what I have accomplished at the TEN-Israel Corps Center. I feel that in terms of personal growth, so many important things helped me develop during my time there. It's hard to summarize three eventful and amazing months, but I'll try to write about the three most meaningful experiences I had.
I will begin with one of the first Tuesdays in the program. As usual, every Tuesday we all sit down to dinner together, and after dinner we have Beit Midrash (study and reflection session). On that particular evening, right as we started eating, Jacklin (our program director) and Michal (our coordinator) said that they have a surprise for us. I thought that the surprise is going to be one of Jacklin's cakes that I love, but they said that after dinner we are not going to have a Beit Midrash, we are going to have some fun getting to know each other by having a bonfire party at the lookout point in Kiryat Shmona. Jacklin and Michal brought snacks and drinks, and we all sat around the fire and played games, sang songs and really started to get to know each other. During this evening, for the first time, I started to get this warm feeling that I was a part of a family.
Another important event for me was after one of Amy's sessions. Amy is a teacher from the Tel Hai College who does some of our Beit Midrash sessions. We were having a discussion about "Tzedek and Tzdaka", which means Justice and Charity, and it turned into a fiery debate about the existence of God. After the session some of us felt that we need to talk some more about it, so Amanda, Annie, Jess and I went to talk by the river. We sat there for two hours and talked about many things - is God a She or a He? How do we feel God in our daily life? What is our way to believe in God? And how can you make a difference in people's lives without them knowing? At some point Jess asked every one of us what is our reason for joining this program. I realize then that from that moment on my approach to the program was very different than it was at the beginning. I had a purpose, and I was aware of what I was doing, as I was doing it.
That day was a turning point for me because I got to talk about things I never discussed with anyone before, and got to learn about myself. It was the first time during the program that I felt that the culture differences do not matter, that we have a strong bond and a will to know Judaism better. The acceptance of each other still amazes me, and I hope to apply that realization in my personal life, too.
Finally, there was the four-day seminar in Jerusalem. We started the seminar at "Yad VaShem", the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. We heard an incredibly moving testament from a Holocaust survivor and then started our tour. The Holocaust is very interesting to me because all of my older family members had been through it. They are all survivors from different places in Europe that were occupied by the Nazis. Every time I visit this museum I learn something new, but this time I was able to share my grandfather's story, and so teach the others something new myself. A big part of the seminar was dedicated to Israeli Soldiers' Memorial Day and Israel's Independence Day. At first I thought that no one can understand what the Israelis are going through, since none of the American participants served in their army. I wasn't exactly right.
On the day of the ceremony with a Masa group in Latrun we heard some amazing stories about courageous people, people to whom we owe thanks to this day for their big part in keeping my country safe. Then some people asked questions about the army and our jobs in the army. I could see the interest and the desire to understand more about the way it works, and maybe understand us Israelis a little better. Just before the ceremony, I told one of my friends in the group my army story. When Masa conducted such a beautiful ceremony for the fallen IDF soldiers, I could not help but crying. Immediately a few people from my group hugged me. In that moment I felt that they are my family and friends. When we got to the kibbutz we stayed in, and we sat and talked about the ceremony for hours. The group was so excited to hear my stories and to be able to understand for the first time what Memorial Day means to us Israelis.
The seminar gave me a lot to think about and a chance to tell others my story, and gave the group a chance to take part in an event that is very important to the Israeli society.
These were my impressions of the TEN-Israel Corps program.
Thank you for giving me a chance to be a part of it.
ביום שני ונדם נפרד מגונדר, אחרי כמה שעות גם אני. כמה שונה הפרידה; מהותית בהבדליה, באפשרות פניותיה, ברגש הנובע.
אני נפרדת מעיר מלאת קסם המתמסרת לשקיקה, המולה בכל פינה, במוניות ללא מעצורים, בשוטרים ללא חוקים, ברחובות מלאים באנשים ללא מעש, בתרנגולות, פרות וכבשים המתפזרים ברחובות הקטנים, בבתים. אני נפרדת מעיר שיפה בצעקתה כמו בשתיקתה; את השקט בה אפשר למצוא בפינות הקפה הקטנות, בין קפלי קמטי הזקנים, במקלותיהם הסוחבים בעיקר את כובד סיפוריהם, בהשלמת העובדים בעבודה הקשה, בתקווה שבשגרה.
אני נפרדת משלושה חודשים של שיעורים בבית הספר עם ילדים קטנטנים שמחקים כל מילה שלי, כל תנועה, מנפנופי ידיים בדרך לקהילה, מפתקים בעברית מתחילה שבהם כתוב את שמי: למיהר. אני נפרדת מחיבוקים גדולים מילדים זעירים מנשיקות רטובות על לחיים, על גב היד, מעיניים צמאות לדעת רק עוד ועוד. אני נפרדת מימים ללא מים להתקלח ובלי חשמל בהכנות לשבת כשהפשטידה בתנור. אני נפרדת מנהגי מוניות ומהצעותיהם הלא מפתות, מהאפשרות להרשים כל עובר אורח בשפה המקומית. מחצי כיסא במונית, מילדים שיושבים בצפיפות גם כשהכיתה ריקה, מהמגע הלא מאיים, השקט. מהתפעלות שבכל הרמת ראש, משמיים זרועי כוכבים.
ונדם, ממה הוא נפרד?
משיעורי עברית של מתקדמים שבהם כל מילה והברה היא הכרחית לדעת, לרשום ולזכור. משעורי הסטוריה של כל מלחמה, כל הסכם שלום עונה על השאלות שרצות בראש: "מה זה ישראל? ולמה?". ונדם נפרד מבית בוץ עם שתי ספות גבוהות, מפרה ותרנגולת בחצר משכנים שהם בעצם משפחה מנופים שאפשר לשטוף בהם את העיניים גם בזמן שסתם מהרהרים בסידורי היום.
ונדם נפרד מלחיצת יד מסורתית, מחוסר הבושה שבקרבה, מהנוחות שבקניה מההגיון שבשגרה, מההבנה הברורה של הסביבה. ונדם נפרד מהציפיה לעלות, מלחכות, מלהיות תושב בארץ מולדתו ובעיקר, ונדם נפרד מהזמניות.
ונדם עולה לישראל, אני רק חוזרת אליה.
שלושה חודשים מיוחדים עברו עלי; שווי השקעה, מלאים בנכונות והשתדלות ומאמצים הגיוניים. עכשיו, שהבית מתרוקן הראש הולך לאחור, מתקן טעויות ובוחן את סיבות המציאות בדיעבד, עובר בין המקרים והמילים, בין המבטים. ככל שאני מהרהרת בכך יותר אני מגיעה למסקנה הברורה: אין ספק שבחרתי נכון- סוכנות היהודית, אתיופיה, גונדר ויותר מכל- הפרויקט שלי, הקהילה היהודית.
ביום שני, בונדם ובי יתנו הגעגועים את אותותיהם כל כך חזקים, במעלות שמש הארץ הזו. עד שיום אחד נעכל, אולי, אם נצליח, נהפוך את הזיכרונות שכאן לעוד חלק בלתי נפרד, איתן בתוכנו, להמשכנו.
תוכנית תן 3