By Tamar Friedman, Huntingdon Valley, PA, Nativ
The past few weeks have been jam-packed. First, we had Israel today seminar, which was three days where we could choose what aspects of Israeli society to learn about. The first day I was in the group that went to see Gush Etzion, learned about its history, and talked to “Settler Bob” about what it is like and what is the significance of living in a settlement. The second day I chose the Israeli society option. We went to Meah Shearim to talk about the Chareidi community in Israel, then went up to Lod to learn about an organization that helps the local community know and obtain their rights, and then we listened to a speaker who helped to start a political and social organization in Jerusalem.
My favorite part of the day was going to Lod because we met with someone who had been on Nativ a few years ago with our Madrichim, and it was inspiring to see how someone who had the same experience we are having, felt strongly enough about Israeli society to want to come back and help in such an incredible way.
My favorite day though was the third day: Israel and the environment. We went to a really awesome farm where we mixed mud and straw with our feet and then used it to build a wall. Then we went to a sewage renewal plant (the biggest of its kind in the world). This company is pioneering the purification of sewage water to that it is clean enough to use it again for agriculture. Israel, because of its desperate need of water, has been so innovative in this field, and it made me so proud to be living here and to be connected to Israeli society.
Then we went to the environmental day at Better Place where we learned about the potential for future electric cars and GOT TO TEST DRIVE THEM! We ended the day by going to the Blind Museum, where we went through the exhibit in total darkness and had to use our other senses to figure out where we were. Our guide was blind and we were able to ask him questions about what it is like to be blind. The day was incredible.
Southern Tiul was also so much fun. I really enjoyed all of the hiking and beautiful views. My favorite hike was Har Shlomo because it was challenging, had an incredible view from the top, and there were ladders on the way down which were a lot of fun. I also loved the camel ride and getting tea at the Bedouin tent and going on the Banana Boat in Eilat.
Shabbat at Kibbutz Ktura was very relaxing and it was a good opportunity to spend time with everyone on the different tracks before we all separated for second semester. I especially liked playing soccer against the Kibbutznikim on Saturday night (even though they totally destroyed us).
And now, we have finally arrived in Yerucham! When I was looking into Nativ last year, everyone who I spoke to told me that second semester was the highlight of their year. After having such an incredible first semester, I have been trying to imagine what second semester in Yerucham will actually be like. I was so excited to get here and start the community service component of this year. The first few days we got settled into our apartments and houses. Living in a house with nine other girls is going to be difficult, but it has also been a lot of fun so far.
On Thursday night we cooked our first “Family Dinner” together. It’s strange that, after living in a youth hostel for four months and having a lot of things taken care of for us, we now have to clean, cook, shop, and run a house on our own. Personally, I am really excited to take advantage of the opportunity to learn how to cook better. We had a really nice first Shabbat here and we all went to our host families for Shabbat dinner. The family I am paired with is really nice and they have four children (ranging from around 2-12 in age).
We spoke a mix of English and Hebrew with the parents, but mostly Hebrew with the kids when we were playing board games with them after the meal. The children warmed up to us pretty quickly. I’m really excited to go back more and to build a strong connection with this family. On Sunday, I began my volunteering job here. I am going to be helping in English classes in the Kamah school (which is a religious, all-girls middle/high school) and also tutoring girls after school to give them extra help.
I was really nervous about my job because I have no idea what qualifies me to be teaching English and I didn’t know how the girls would respond to us but, so far, it has been great! The school is very small and it feels like a big family—everyone knows each other The classes are pretty informal and kind of a balagan and the girls are always walking around talking and eating. I really like the environment there where the students all know their teachers and each other very well.
We sat next to girls during the lesson to help them with instructions and we also saw with groups while they were doing exercises in their workbooks to provide extra help. The girls were all really excited to meet us and asked us very important questions, such as “who do you like better: Justin Beiber or Miley Cirus?” (the 7th graders especially).
When we walked into school on Monday, several girls came up to us to say hi and to give us hugs, even though they had only met us the day before. We are just starting to figure out tutoring schedules. I am so excited to work with the girls one-on-one and to really get to build personal relationships with them. It’s also very cool that, because Yerucham is so small, I see my students outside of school all the time. It really makes me check how I am acting at all times because, to be a role model for them, I have to be conscious of my behavior outside of school as well.
I have also been using my time in Yerucham so far to do some things I enjoy and to get closer with the other Nativers in Yerucham. I have been running and playing soccer and tennis. I have also had a time (which I didn’t have much of in Jerusalem) to read. It is very true that the pace of life in Yerucham is very different from what we experienced first semester, but I really like it. This section of the year has just begun, and I am already enjoying it.
I have many goals while I am here. I hope I can integrate myself into the Yerucham community, help these girls feel confident and comfortable speaking and writing English, and further develop my relationship with the land and people of Israel. It’s going to be an exciting second semester!