See how good my Hebrew is getting??? I only had to translate one word!
Okay, fine. Two.
But it is improving, slowly but surely! The title of this post means “Last Week of Orientation.” And I have never been more excited.
Don’t get me wrong, the 3 weeks of logistics, Ulpan, volunteer visits, etc have been awesome, but I’m ready to begin what I actually came for! I can’t wait to start teaching English, mentoring kids, and playing with horses 🙂 More info on that to come at the end of this post.
But first, what we did for our last week of orientation.
Sunday I went to 5 hours of morning Ulpan, walked to the Shuk Haktiva for some veggies, and went for a run along the beach (a 6.7 miler!)..I don’t exactly go quickly when I run. In fact, I’m pretty much the slowest person out there. But running on the beach is mentally distracting and it’s easy to get caught up in the beauty of the sun-setting, as opposed to focusing on the mileage. As I was running, I passed 4 different couples having wedding photos taken on the beach. They were all in full-on Orthodox attire (if you don’t have an Israeli wedding officiated by the Orthodox rabbinit then your marriage won’t be recognized by the state of Israel. A bit of an outdated and restrictive rule if you ask me) and each couple was accompanied by an entire wedding party singing and cheering in the background. I also passed an Israeli national league soccer game in progress and an Imam on a bike. I love running in Tel Aviv 🙂
The next day was a long one, but it was still a good time. We had our last 5-hour Ulpan session with Dina. While I’m happy that the 5-hour-a-day sessions are over, I’m also sad that we won’t be seeing Dina more regularly! She is adorable and genuinely cares about all of us.
Once a week worth of Dina time just won’t be enough!
After Ulpan, Kelly and I unlocked Saba and Eliyahu and rode back home to drop off our books.
Then we returned back to the Yeshiva for a seminar on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Because Tikkun Olam is a program that promotes understanding, unity, and community solidarity I was under the impression that this lecture would be fact-based and entirely unbiased. However, it was not.
It’s not that this guy wasn’t knowledgeable. He has a law degree as well as a masters in History and seemed to know his stuff. However, what I find a bit disconcerting is that he lectures at Universities around Israel and is in no way even-handed with his analysis. He is a definite supporter of Israel and was not afraid to show that with his presentation of facts, positions, and historical analysis. You can see why this huge disconnect exists between Israelis and Palestinians, both sides refuse to see another point-of-view.
Though I took everything he said with a grain of salt, the lecture provoked conversation and argument, which is always a good thing.
After the lecture all of us went off with Elin (our Madrichim, community service track guide) and went off to a Masa event called Dialogue in the Dark. The experience was like nothing I’ve ever done before. The exhibition began with a blind guide leading us into a completely darkened room. It was the first time in my life where I literally could not see anything in front of me. I was completely and totally without sight, even with my eyes open.
We then went through a series of everyday life situations such as walking through the market, walking down the street, sitting on a boat, listening to music, etc. We felt our way through purchasing vegetables, navigating our way up/down stairs, and trying to figure out where exactly we were using our 4 other senses.
At first, I was a bit panicked not having my sight. I was hesitant to move through the exhibit and I really had to rely on Mayor, our guide, in order to feel more comfortable. At the end of the exhibit, we all sat down and had a conversation with Mayor about his experiences being blind. Dialogue in the Dark was incredible, it was a reminder of just how lucky I am to have my sight. If there’s a Dialogue in the Dark near you, I highly recommend going!
The following 2 days were a jumble of volunteer preparation. We had seminars on teaching English as a second language as well as working with children, adults, etc…It was all very informative, but extremely draining. Being lectured at for 10 hours straight will do that to you. So after our final seminar on Wednesday my friend Josh and I headed down to the Yam (beach) for some Mediterranean-time.
Of course, we had to make a pit-stop on Levinsky street for some dried fruit/nuts.
We stayed on the beach for a few hours, soaking up the sun and watching a few people kite-board.
We stayed for the sunset.
Yesterday I started one of my volunteer placements for the semester…so excited! I was assigned the 3 volunteer placements that I requested, which is awesome and I’m really pumped to get down to business. Here are the places I’ll be working for the next 4 months:
Shapira Community Center: This is a community center in one of the underprivileged neighborhoods in Tel Aviv. The center offers English/homework tutoring sessions during the weekdays. They also offer adult English classes on Sundays. I’ll be working with middle school, high school, and adult students, which is an awesome range. We’ll be working primarily with prepared worksheets, however we get to develop some of our own curriculum and activities (which will give me the opportunity to get creative!).
Ironi Hey High School: This is a high school located in the North Tel Aviv (the more affluent area), however all of the students are bussed in from low-income areas like Kiryat Shalom, Shapira, and Yadilly-Yahu. I’ll be working in the classroom, assisting a teacher with her lessons. Most of the kids are preparing for the Bagrut, which is an exit exam for all of the high school students in Israel. Placement in the army is dependent upon how well students score on the Bagrut. Better score, better placement. Terrible score, no placement in the army at all. No matter what your opinions are on the mandatory army conscription, the truth is that without army experience students have almost zero chance of getting into college. English proficiency is one of the central testing elements on the Bagrut and therefore these students need tons of help to succeed. I know that I’ll definitely be able to help here, which is great.
Therapeutic Horseback Riding: As soon as I saw that this was an option, I knew that I had to take advantage of it. The therapeutic riding classes help emotionally, physically, and mentally disabled individuals from all over Israel. The classes are held at a riding school in Ramat Gan, which is about 20 minutes outside of Tel Aviv. My grandfather actually lived in Ramat Gan for many years and his family owned a pension in town. My grandfather (Opi) learned how to horseback ride in Ramat Gan, so I wonder if this is the same place! He gave me a name to ask about and I definitely will. Working at the center will be a nice opportunity to get out of the big city once a week and be around horses (awesome). I’ll also be helping both kids and adults at the same time, it’s the perfect volunteer location!
Alright, well it’s now Friday morning, which is the weekend here in Tel Aviv. So you know what that means…beach! Have a happy Friday!