Masa Israel Journey Blog

Published : November 20, 2012

By Shlomo Klapper, Yeshivat Har Etzion


Ah!  What a romance! The times we had.  Nothing could go wrong.  Visiting her was Seventh Heaven. All the wonderful places and memories – the Israel Museum, the Kotel, Machaneh Yehudah – imbued with excitement, culture, history and mystery.


For me, the State of Israel was hitherto an ideal tourist locale, probably since the majority of my time here was spent, well, touring.  After spending nearly a year in Israel, I underwent a mental shift as my relationship with Israel matured. 


While some of the romance dissipated, our relationship's intensity did not cool off; on the contrary, it deepened. A marriage, for example, cannot forever be a honeymoon.  Eventually real life settles in, and the relationship's mettle is truly tested. Does a couple love each other only when touring through Europe as newlyweds, or can that love continue in intensity yet adapt to raising kids, paying bills, and spring cleaning?


My relationship with Israel underwent similar emotional topsy-turvy. The romantic honeymoon eventually ended, and with it a romantic perception of Israel's state of affairs.  Israelis are not always dancing the hora as in grainy, black-and-white films – not even on Independence Day – and there are serious social, fiscal, and political problems.


But trading romance for reality by experiencing everyday life with Israelis – eating the same food, living in the same quarters, crying at the same tragedies, laughing at the same jokes – solidified my connection to the Jewish people‘s collective consciousness, land, people, history, and destiny better than anything I saw as a tourist. 


After doffing my rose-colored glasses, I realized that Israel is more than just a nice place to visit; Israel has revitalized the Jewish people spiritually, culturally, and physically, which is why I love seeing the Jewish people's vitality as a nation as manifested in normal Israeli life.


There is much more to the country than Jerusalem or tourist attractions.  Now, some of my favorite locations are residential neighborhoods or popular hikes. Hebrew isn't a second language here; people speak their mother tongue while chatting, eating, and doing a myriad of other routine activities. 


While my high school Hebrew teachers familiarized me with such Israeli literary luminaries as Bialik, Agnon and Amos Oz, I marvel at the revival of the Hebrew language in even life's most mundane aspects, like the usage instructions under the cap of the antibiotics being in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.


Ethical issues are not only theoretical, but very real. For example, in the unfortunately all-too-common case of Pidyon Shevuyim (redeeming captives), disputes from classical Jewish texts play out in the Knesset's plenum chamber, Jerusalem's Balfour Street next to the Prime Minister’s House, or at a family's dinner table.


Perhaps the best indication of my shift from tourist to resident is my reaction to rain. Usually, when I wake up and the weather is frigid, raining, and bleak, I want to hide under my covers, go back to sleep, and wake up in Honolulu. Not in Israel, though. Not only is rain appreciated climatically, but all Israelis hope or pray for rain.


The Kinneret's water level is the talk of the town and often the topic of political agitation.  But on the personal level, rain no longer elicits anger but rather joy and gratitude.


Often people ask me what I learned during my year in Israel.  As much as I learned frontally, through books and lectures and classes, many important lessons were gleaned not through the learning’s content but by its context. The sheer quantity of time spent in a country engendered the shift between tourist and resident. 


Simply put, I learned that Israel feels like home.

Published : November 05, 2012
By Lauren Rosenblum, Israel Teeaching Fellows
I finally started teaching last week, and it's been a great learning experience so far. I am working with Noa and Keren (our Israeli peer who joins us once a week) at the Ramat Alon School, an elementary school in the neighborhood of Sharona in Rehovot. It is a lower-income neighborhood, so the school may not be seen as "the best," but it makes it all the better for me because I came into this program wanting a challenge, and I am definitely getting that challenge.
Ramat Alon begins teaching English orally in 2nd grade, and in 3rd grade they begin learning to write and read. This week was definitely a lot of observing and getting used to being in the school, but I was able to work with small groups of 4th, 5th, and 6th graders last week, and it's been great getting to actually use the training I've received. Some days were better than others, and some classes are more challenging than others, but I think that is part of the whole experience. You have to have difficult situations and challenges in order to grow as a volunteer and as a teacher.
I am very excited to continue my work in the school this year, and hopefully I will gain even more confidence as a teacher as I do so. I also hope we are able to come up with ways to get the students to see English in a new way - whether it be an English word of the day, decorating the classrooms with an English corner, or putting on a play or spelling bee in English. I want to really be able to use the ideas we've learned through training, so hopefully as I get more comfortable in my surroundings, I'll be able to do so!
Tonight, we have our first ITF group Shabbat. People have been cooking all day, and I was over there a little while ago to see if help was needed (I'm on the cleaning crew, so I will be busy later!) and not only did the kosher apartment smell fabulous, but  there were already such high spirits and people were really excited for Shabbat. I do not remember the last time the 27 of us spent time together doing non-Ma'ase Olam planned activities (even though this was planned), and I'm excited for a great dinner. Hopefully some of the Israelis will be joining us as well, which will be great.
Life is getting crazy here, but loving every moment of it! Shabbat Shalom!

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