Sunday, August 25, 2013

Love at the first sight

Written by Leoni Groot

Actually I have so much to write, because so much happened since the last time that I wrote. And yes, I could have made time, but I didn’t. I enjoyed my life in Israel and the volunteer work with ENP so much and all the time I kept saying to myself: I will write a blog post soon.

But I didn’t.

Now here I am, back home in the Netherlands. I remember that I came into the ENP office for the first time about six months ago, thinking how much time I would be with the Ethiopian-Israeli teenagers and about the many meaningful things I could do for ENP. Time has gone so fast. It’s funny that I only really realize what I learnt and how wonderful everything was now I am back home. I remember my last day with ENP: Instead of feeling like these were my last hours with ENP, I felt like I would be there the next week again.

Why? Because ENP gave me such a welcome and happy feeling!

During my ‘fieldwork’ I went twice a week to Fidel, the youth center in Petah Tikva. I met the most wonderful, smart, creative and funny kids! I have countless good memories of this center.

One of those memories is a remarkable one of a discussion during one of the last English classes, which was about food and insects. I talked with some girls about the cultural meaning of food. Insects, for example, are in some cultures considered as tasty, while in other cultures, like in Israel, they are perceived as ‘weird’ and ‘disgusting’.

During this class we also spoke about how they, as Ethiopian-Israeli, experience Israeli food. One girl that came to Israel on the age of 9 told me that in her first years she really had to get used to the food here. I asked her what she thought about shoarma and she answered me that it was really weird for her to see all the meat on a huge stick. “And what about humus?” I asked her. She started to shine: “this was love at the first sight”.

During the summer period the youth center arranged many activities for the kids. One of the activities that I joined was a day at the swimming pool. It was a fantastic day! Both Ethiopian as well as non-Ethiopian kids joined this activity, which made it a great mix of happy smiley young teenagers. The youth center organized different games that mainly had to do with water and exercise.

I will never forget Shlomi*. He earned a special place in my heart. Shlomi is a young teenager that, according to the professionals, probably has ADHD. He does not have a lot of friends in the youth center, but still comes there couple of times a week. He doesn’t speak English, nor understand it. The only things he said to me were “Whats’up?” and “What’s your name?” Even though we never had a real conversation, I felt that during my time in that center that he was searching for contact with me and somehow we we built up a relationship.

During this swimming pool day I realized that he had a lot of fun, but that he was mainly playing alone. During the activities he was not really in contact with this fellow group mates. After the games were finished I asked him to play Matkot (Beach tennis) and he did. I saw that he really liked it, which made it fun for me as well. This moment touched me so much that I will never forget it. I think it is really important to give some kids extra attention. Besides, it was wonderful to experience how two different people, who do not speak each other’s language, together can create such a magnificent atmosphere. I will never forget this amazing boy!

These are only few of my amazing memories of the wonderful time with ENP, and especially with Fidel. These memories will always stay with me in my heart.  

I have pictures that I Fidel gave me at my last evening there to keep the memories alive. It was such a wonderful surprise, because at the last ‘class day’ (that was on a Monday), the girls from my class already surprised me with lovely big papers on the wall written with the texts “Miss you already” and “We love you, Leoni” and a table full of delicious cookies and drinks. That evening we played a game and held conversations about all different subjects that interested us. After that, when the youth center was closing, they walked with me to the bus station and together we waited for the bus.

That Wednesday evening (my last day with ENP) Fidel organizedan activity for the parents to look back at Fidel’s year. I thought this could be a nice and symbolic way to look back at and finish my time with Fidel and so I joined this evening as well. Although I didn’t understand most part of the presentation (it was mainly spoken in Amharic), I could enjoy from the people around me and the wonderful singing and dancing acts of the teenagers. At the end of the evening they asked me to come to the front. They thanked me with the warmest words and overloaded me with lovely presents, including a homemade book and collage with photos.

When the activity was finished and the center was closing, I said goodbye to everyone. It was a difficult moment. The girls of my class and some of their friends wanted to walk with me to the bus station again. On our way we stopped at a pizza place. We shared our last moments together by eating pizza, laughing and talking. Then we continued our walking to the bus. When the bus finally arrived (I was almost scared that I missed my last bus) we gave quick hugs and I went into the bus. The girls screamed “Byeeee!!” and “We love you!” and while waving they ran after the bus. People in the bus turned their head and looked outside what was happening and then looked at me. I went to my seat with a big smile, hiding my tears, and waved them back until they disappeared in the darkness…

I can’t repeat it enough times: it was a wonderful half-year thanks to ENP. This amazing experience contributed to the creation of who I am now. I learnt to give, and to see thankfulness as a wonderful gift. I became aware how important the work of ENP is for every individual teenager of the Ethiopian-Israeli community. Every small part of the work of ENP is a puzzle piece of the bigger picture of ENP’s goal: to help the Ethiopian community in completing and fulfilling their dream of a life in the Promised Land. With my dedication to my work I think I successfully contributed my part to this goal and with this, touched the lives of those Ethiopian-Israeli teenagers that crossed my life in Israel.

* I changed his name to protect his identity.

Gardening Project with Camp Ramah!

-Written by Diane

On Monday, July 29, a group of teens ages 16-17 from the Camp Ramah Israel Seminar participated in a gardening project with Ethiopian youth from Beit Shemesh.  First, everyone met at the Havat HaNoar HaTsioni Youth Village near the German Colony.  After playing a few “ice-breaker” games, both kids from ENP and Camp Ramah walked over to the gardening site in Maaglei Yavnei.  We met with representatives from the Society for Protection of Nature in Israel who explained different gardening techniques and the work they had done so far in the garden. 

The kids were broken up into two groups and were given various gardening tools and began to work!  Everyone was very enthusiastic and came with a positive spirit.  Both the teens from Camp Ramah and ENP helped to pull out weeds, rake, pick up trash around the area, and much more.  Everyone worked together to make the garden a more beautiful place.  It was very hot so we all drank a lot of water!  I am really grateful that I had the opportunity to help participate in this activity, to spend time working with both kids from ENP and Camp Ramah in the nature and make a small area of Israel into a more beautiful place.  After the gardening project, ENP and Camp Ramah teens ate lunch and took a tour of the Knesset!