So it’s officially 2015 and I have yet to write a single post about December, 2014. I’m going to do my best to sum up an amazing month into a semi-condensed post.
In the States, we tend to think December as “Christmas time” or “Christmas season.” As I’m sure you can imagine, things are a bit different in the holy land. Though you can find a Christmas tree here and there if you go out looking for it, most storefronts are decorated with channukiahs and dreidels. For our December bulletin board, my co-teaching fellow and I were a little conflicted as to whether or not we wanted to include a Christmas tree. On one hand, we both agreed that the tree plays a large role in American culture. On the other hand, it can be viewed as a strictly religious symbol. So we did the PC thing to do and covered the board with paper snowflakes instead. We also explained how outside of Israel, dreidels have letters that represent the phrase “a big miracle happened there” as opposed to Israeli ones, which read “a big miracle happened here.” Additionally, I spent way too long drawing Olaf from Frozen but we needed a snowman and I was not going to settle for a printed one. You better believe I laminated that bad boy.
|Olaf in the making|
|Student admiring our work|
Since it was Hannukah season, our ulpan teacher decided to move one of our Hebrew lessons outside of the classroom and into the kitchen. We spent a class making latkes and attempting to communicate in Hebrew. She also read us an adorable Hebrew children’s Hannukah book. It was still difficult to understand some of the story, but Hila made sure to stop along the way and translate for us. It was a really exciting way for us to kick off the holiday season.
|Tasted even better than they looked|
Not too long after our latke ulpan class, Masa hosted a leadership summit. The summit was held in Jerusalem from Decemeber 7-11. As explained on the Masa website:
“Masa Israel Leadership Summit is an intensive, five day learning and skill-building seminar for exceptional participants of Masa Israel programs from around the world. The Seminar is designed to provide Masa participants the skills that will help them become strong and active Jewish leaders through learning, leadership training, community service and getting involved in their local communities. By offering them dynamic and interactive programming and a support network of peers from around the world; the Leadership Summit helps prepare Masa participants for active involvement in Jewish life on their return home.”
It was an AMAZING week – I got to meet so many new and interesting people (like a half-Persian half-Austrian Israeli…what?!) and hear a lot of great lectures. Here are some of the highlights:
Masa-Israel Leadership Summit Gala Event
To kick off the week, Masa hosted a gala on the first night of the summit. This was basically a bar-mitzvah and to be honest, I didn’t hate it. We all got dolled up and enjoyed a nice sit down dinner followed with some dancing to a live band.
Outdoor Training at Jerusalem Biblical Zoo
The next day, we got to go to the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo and do some team building activities with a group called Ekipo. Ekipo’s tagline is “Playing Seriously.” The group specializes in Outdoor Training, which includes a bunch of really fun physical activities. We got the chance to do a relay race around the zoo (which I have actually never been to) and other silly things. It was loads of fun and really got me excited for the rest of the week.
|My group for the duration of the summit|
Israel Day – Leading Social Change in Israel
On Israel Day, we had the choice of 6 different “tracks” to choose from. I chose the social change track (obviously). This was one of my favorite parts of the week. We had the opportunity to follow Yuval Bdolach of Re:Lod, a “mover and shaker” in the Israeli social change scene. We visited the city of Lod, which is a mixed Israeli-Arab city. When we first arrived to the barren/desolate city, Yuval greeted us and said, “Welcome to the best city in Israel!” I realized right then and there that Yuval is just as delusional and optimistic and I am, which got me really excited for the day.
|The group and Yuval|
See, people are really quick to call Petach Tikva the “shithole” of Israel. I don’t agree with this sentiment at all, as we have everything we could ever want and more here. Visiting Lod, I even questioned how people could call PTK a shithole when places like this exist. Yuval’s idealist energy really reminded me that there is a lot of beauty in even the most seemingly “unbeautiful” places.
The point of Re:Lod is to embrace the co-existence, regentrify the city, and make it the bustling city it once was. Re:Lod employs Israeli students to live in the Lod community and develop activities and programing . I loved the idea of it all, but I had to ask – Once the city is regentrified, what is stopping it from becoming the next Tel Aviv. Yuval smiled when I asked this, and explained that the ultimate goal was not to make Lod into the next Tel Aviv. The ultimate goal is to play on the strengths and assets of the city and make it the best Lod it has the potential to be.
|"All of Us Together" in Arabic and Hebrew - as seen in Lod|
In our host groups, we were asked to reflect on the day. Here are my notes from it:
LOVED the day, felt so at peace and in my element. Incredible idealist energy. Loved the team element, working together for a common cause. Being one with the community members of Lod. I’ve always believed everyone has something to offer, I loved that they’re using energy to rebuild and refocus Lod’s strengths as opposed to making it something its not.
I abuse the word “love,” I know.
How to Dunk with Your Feet on the Ground with Tamir Goodman
Oh. My. God. Where do I even start with this? Tamir Goodman, also known as the “Jewish Jordan” is an American-born basketball player who eventually made aliyah.
|The Jewish Jordan on a Sports Illustrated Cover|
As explained on Wikipedia:
“After averaging 35.4 points per game for the Talmudical Academy of Baltimore, in 11th grade he was ranked the 25th-best high school player in the country. Goodman received a scholarship to the University of Maryland. The team's schedule of practices and games meant having to play on Friday nights and Saturdays, against the rules of Orthodox Judaism, so he declined Maryland's offer and accepted a scholarship from nearby Towson University. Goodman then moved to Israel and signing a 3-year contract with Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2002.”
Tamir Goodman is probably one of the best people I’ve ever had the honor of meeting. He is genuinely one of the most positive people and is extremely inspiring. During the summit, Goodman used his experience on the court to give us tips on great practical life lessons. In short:
- Lay-Up – Give everything your 100%. With a lay-up, if you don’t go through with the shot 100%, the other team can easily block your lay-up. Effort always pays off.
- Free Throw – Free throws represent a sense of comfort for basketball players. During a free throw, it’s just you and the basket. Goodman explained that it’s important to have a strong identity and sense of self. When life gets hard, don’t run away and try to be someone you’re not, but rather return to your baseline and your roots.
- Listening – Listen to the opportunities you are given as opposed to the ones you don’t have. Work with what you’ve got.
- Paying attention – During the last couple of minutes of a game, things stop being about you and you begin to pay attention to your surroundings – the clock, the score, the people. Remember that not everything’s about yourself, it’s important to be concerned about everyone else.
|Israel Experience girls w/ Tamir Goodman|
All in all, the summit was a really great experience. Something I struggled with, though, was that I felt as if most of the participants in the summit believed that being a leader means you have the most important thing to say and always need to be vocal. I think there’s a lot of beauty and strength in teamwork and silent leadership. The ability to listen to others is such a big part of being a good “leader” and I felt as though I was pretty much alone on that belief. Other than that, I had a good time during the summit and I was really happy to be in Jerusalem for the week.
Yom HaMoreh – or Teacher Day- is a national holiday that happened to be the day before we broke for the Hannukah vacation. If you’ve read ANY of my posts, you know I’m pretty obsessed with my host teacher Rosi. My co-fellow Josh and I knew we had to do something special for Rosi on this day, so we gathered some of Rosi’s students in secret and had them write notes of appreciation to her. Josh and I also made her a little “relaxation” pack since the woman never sleeps. The pack included fuzzy socks, incense, and a mug.
Our final gift to Rosi was a pinterest inspired poster, where we had multiple students hold up different letters and spell out “We <3 you Rosi!” It ended up turning out really well and Rosi was very surprised by the gifts. Pretty sure she even teared up a little. We were so happy to do something for someone we admire so much and were glad it was received so well.
|A rose given to us by the students|
Sorry this wasn’t as condensed as I wanted it to be but that’s all for now. Next post will be about Hannukah break and I promise I won’t make you wait as long for it!