Thursday, August 20, 2015

Petah Tikvah and the day we did milkshakes

Since I came to Israel, I understand how much in this country is not planned beforehand. Things get arranged in a couple of seconds and plans might be subject to change every now and then. That is the spirit the Youth Center in Petah Tikvah carries on with. To an Italian who lives in Britain and is used to a pattern where everything is planned, it seems odd, but once I got used to the logic, everything is fine.

Therefore, when two days ago I arrived at 4 pm in Petah Tikvah to do my usual stuff, I found everyone was cleaning up. Asher, the Youth Center director, told me to involve some kids and clean as much as possible. To convince the kids was probably the hardest thing, until I showed them how little it would take to if we worked as a team. That proved effective, and in less than two hours, i.e. by 6pm, everything was spotless.

Kids were not lazy at all. They were really happy to do stuff outside the smartphone or computer bubble. Between 6pm and 7pm, I played cards, table tennis, play station and other stuff with one of them. It was curious that we understood each other, although my Hebrew skills are limited. At 7pm, when I came back to the room where the milkshake stage was set up, I found kids who were literally enthusiastic. They were queuing up to grab their milkshake, but many of them were actually making them and serving those to the others. It was literally inspiring. Not only kids were eager to taste milkshakes, but it was actually difficult for myself to find something to do as everyone was busy with tasks !

The important lesson ? for years I worked in charity in the US and in the UK, where everything works in a customer-provider manner. Israel, and the youth center in Petah Tikvah is teaching me the most important thing to do is to let the kids do, and whichever way, they proved so far amazing. Obviously the figure of a volunteer helps to discipline them and to test them. Since I got there, kids try out their "Anglit". They are curious, they ask questions every time. I was even asked what makes a non Jew like me to come to Israel and care about their community, "perhaps a girlfriend", David (one of the kids) asked me. I was far from embarrassed to tell it was not the issue at stake.

What stands at stake is that we, the volunteers, can help those kids fulfill their potential. After their primary or secondary school, some want to join the army, others would prefer the Yeshiva. A bunch of others tell me they would like to travel.
The milkshake session finishes at 8pm, and everything is over by 9pm. We spend the last couple of hours cleaning. I leave the youth center earlier than usual to Tel Aviv. That night, I feel like I have done something for the kids, and that they have done much for me !

Giacomo Paoloni

Thursday, August 13, 2015

My experience with ENP and the youth center of Beit shemesh

After a month of volunteering with the Ethiopian National Project (also known as ENP), many things could be said regarding the many encounters with the office work in Jerusalem and youth center in Beit Shemesh. Regarding the office work we had a tapestry mission consisting of gaining help from various organisation and plan an exposition of Jewish Ethiopian history and culture, permitting people around Israel and the United to connect and to bond with this community which is rich in its past. The center was separated between two groups, one elementary and one in the high school, Ethiopian kids of age ranging between 5 to 16. I personally had some private English tutoring with the younger group, being able to communicate in Hebrew was a huge asset and allowed me to teach basic knowledge. Most of the time with these groups were spent doing various activities such as singing, foosball, pool and discussions in addition of physical activities such as soccer and ping pong.

One of the most impactful activity was the cooking class where we cooked meals for the entire center comprising of over 20 youth and the staff where we had them participate in preparation process which had a big success with the kids and they were able to learn how to make salads and Israeli dishes. Outdoor activities were also particularly successful where the youth engaged and had a good time competing with each other.

My experience overall was very rewarding and being able to speak both English and Hebrew with them allowed me to fully implement myself withing the center and lead to a great experience which I am sure the youth had much profit and enjoyment from. I'm also grateful for having the opportunity to work with the staff member in the office and the youth center where we were able to help each other and complete our work combining different skills coming from people who traveled from around the world to be part of this project!

My encounter with the Ethiopian Community

Before arriving here, I heard many stories about the Ethiopian-Israeli Community. First and foremost, its struggle to arrive to the promised land is the one that struck me the most. The need for shelter and freedom of this community reminded me of the stories I heard from world war two survivors in Europe. My decision to volunteer with the organisation is therefore combined with an obligation I feel towards all the people that need help in society.
My second visit to Petah Tiqwah Youth Center to that extent was far from exciting. The Youth Center is located in one of the poorest areas of the city. Hardly anyone spoke English, or "Anglit". A young female soldier showed me around and introduced me to a group of youngsters playing soccer. I felt at first no interaction and was beginning to feel annoyed.

However, despite this first moment of hardship, I did not feel let down. The day after I came back again and stood with the kids for longer. That day, I felt I achieved much more and I seriously started to enjoy my time. I took the kids to a climbing gym and played with two little girls. Ofek and Shiri, I still remember their names. Only Ofek spoke some English. However, both of them, through the natural empathy kids have, were more than able to communicate with me. Shiri was scared of climbing, but through some advice coming from myself, and doing everything by herself, step to step, she climbed the wall to the top. Ofek too did well. Now I started to feel really useful. Once back to the Youth Center, I came back to the football field where I felt left out the day before and really made a difference: now I was refereeing the football matches and told the kids the rule. Not only were they eager to follow the rules, but they took the game more seriously. That was an incredible achievement. I played football all evening long until 10pm. One more hour, I played cards with the two girls mentioned above and then went back home to Tel Aviv.

In such a short time, I found the right amount of motivation to stay here and have a positive impact. By the end of it, I hope to have a basic level of Ivrit as well in order to improve my spoken interaction with the kids, but so far, so good !

Giacomo Paoloni

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mission to Hadera

By Hannah Miller
ENP Volunteer

Jersusalem

During the past three weeks that I’ve volunteered at ENP, I have spent my time both in the office and working with kids in camps and outreach centers.  Last Wednesday, I went on a mission to Hadera and met with people on a Tuscon Federation trip and teens in ENP programs.  All of the kids at the mission were on summer vacation, so I was surprised that they showed up and were so welcoming to the tourists.  They appeared my age, and I thought that if an adult at my school asked me to come in during the summer, I’d find an excuse to say no.  I asked a few of the boys why they decided to come in that day and they all replied that they wanted to help out.  I realized that these teens are so much more appreciative of their school than most people their age because of the programs offered to them through ENP.  Two girls I spoke to, Imbar and Bat El, told me about all of their academic achievements they accomplished with the help of ENP.  They were each 16 and in the five point math.  They told me they previously struggled in math and received low B’s, but once they received the help and attention they needed, they earned high A’s.  They both hope to work in High Tech in the future and are studying practical engineering.  The girls are so grateful for ENP and with the necessary extra help they receive, they are now able to excel in school.  Seeing how appreciative these girls are of their education and the opportunities given to them, makes me realize that I need to stop complaining about my long nights of homework and summer reading and focus more on the opportunities that I am given but have taken for granted.

Efraim


By Mary Dubin
ENP Volunteer
Onward Israel Boston
Jerusalem
Ethiopia in Brief- general overview 
-        East Africa, 9th largest in Africa
-        Known as the Horn of Africa
-        Capital- Addis Ababa- altitude of 2,355m
-        Landlocked, no access to sea
-        Eritrea used to be a part of Ethiopia, that was their connection to the Sea
-        Coffee originated in Ethiopia
-        Geographical diversity- Danakil Depression, Great Rift Valley 148m below sea level
-        Earthquakes
-        70% of Africa’s mountains are in Ethiopia- roof of Africa
-        Highest peak is 4620m Ras Dashen- partly covered with ice and snow
-        “water towers of East Africa”
-        Nile River originated in Ethiopia
-      First mentions of Ethiopians in ancient Greek literature- epics of Homer

Ameseginalehu (thank you in Amharic) to Efraim, a former volunteer of the Ethiopian National Project, gave the 2015 group of interns and volunteers a brief, yet informative overview of Ethiopia. 

Ethiopia is famous for a multitude of reasons; it’s known as the “Horn of Africa,” “roof of Africa,” and the “water towers of Africa.” Not only does it hold the diplomatic capital of Africa but also Lalibela, or “New Jerusalem.”  

Efraim went into some of the details of the culture, religions and geography of his homeland.  On most Thursday afternoons at ENP the volunteers and interns are fortunate enough to have a speaker with someone from Ethiopia or someone who helped the Ethiopian-Jews make their way to Israel. Efraim was a nice alternative in the sense that it was helpful for someone like me, an outsider of Ethiopia and Israel, to get a better understanding of the dynamics of Ethiopia.  

There were no details about any current tensions or complexities; simply an impression of how lovely Ethiopia truly is. Efraim gave us a plethora of fun facts. For example, Ethiopia has the largest per capital density in Africa and the tenth largest in the world.  The word “Ethiopia,” derives from the Greek word, “Aithiops,” meaning “people with burnt faces.” This derives from the epics of Homer.  Ethiopia is known as the Cradle of Mankind because of the many different colors of race that are present there.  Ethiopia has their own calendar; they follow the sun and moon calendar, having 13 months.  

All in all, the sum odd two hours spent with Efraim were lighthearted, full of interesting information and created a new admiration for Ethiopians.     

Monday, July 27, 2015

My Experience Traveling in a Land I Don’t Understand, But Thought I Did

By Alex Sasaki
Way More Israel
ENP Volunteer
Jerusalem
 
First thing's first, it's never a good idea to travel with others who also have no idea where they’re going. Edgy, and adrenaline filled traveling towards the unknown? Yes. While although it does make it more of an interesting journey, almost similar to Frodo Baggins and his quest in the “One Ring to Rule them All,” time efficiency does apply. Knowing little of the native language, exhaustion, hunger while also uncontainably excited we started our own quest towards making a positive impact in the Ethiopian Jewish community of Beit Shemesh. 
When I was first told that we would be working with the Ethiopian-Israeli youth within a bomb shelter, I pictured a small musty room with flickering lights, thick and claustrophobic white walls with impenetrable solid metal blast doors. When we arrived onto Hagefen Street we first passed by the most intricate playground complete with towering slides and a jungle gym almost fit for an army unit to train in, which puts my childhood playground to shame. When we arrived at 24 Hagefen Street, we stood in front of a massive apartment complex that seemed to extend into almost its own close-knit community. The shelters were split into two different age groups, kids 12 and under and those 13 and over. When looking for the shelters, I had first overlooked the vibrantly colored cement slope extending out of the concrete, because it looked far too happy to be a bomb shelter. My first mistake was coming in with expectations of what the program would be like and how a normal day would be spent. My expectations were far exceeded what I had previously pictured. As we walked down the stairs leading into the youth outreach center for the older group, the walls were covered with murals painted by previous participants that also encompassed a historical timeline of Ethiopian history significant to Israel ranging from the 1600’s to present. Inside their main hangout room of the youth outreach center they had a billiard and ping pong table, with a small kitchen and also a classroom with twenty plus youths that were engaged in a discussion. In the other shelter used for the children ages 12 and younger, it also encompassed murals that beautified the shelter and brightened its presence giving it a glowing aura of abundance. Seeing the smiling faces of youths filled with positivity and innocence automatically is contagious for me, and almost refreshingly youthful and rejuvenating for the soul. Our group of four spent the majority of our first day with the children introducing ourselves while playing Jenga, Israeli Monopoly, Ping Pong, and unmelodically trying to play the piano in duets. 
The independence and confidence of Israelis constantly surprises and amazes me. The main focus on family and family values leads Israel into a path of strong internal growth, that conditions them into being the strong and confident independent beings they reflect, on a daily basis. 
The only setbacks I felt that were minor in its aspect were that of the language barrier, most of the children only spoke Hebrew with maybe a few words of English in their vocabulary. Although it was a little overwhelming, more than anything it inspired me to not only learn more Hebrew to be able to better converse with them, but also to teach them some useful English as well. These are minor challenges in the grand scheme of life and the pursuit of happiness and pleasure (according to beliefs in Judaism), when future aspirations and the thirst for prosperity and future accomplishments know no bounds. I feel that the children have as much to teach me if not more than what I can teach them. The student becomes the teacher, while at the same time the teacher spreads his or her wisdom upon their students. I look forward to future opportunities and interactions with the Ethiopian youth of Beit Shemesh, I know each experience will be new and filled with learning on both sides.

***As a side note I recommend Ethiopian food to everyone, especially if you’re a food connoisseur, even if you’re not do it anyways. First, to eat Ethiopian food all it requires is your hands; simplicity at its finest. The flavors are abundant and unique, something you would never experience and regret if you didn’t. Do yourself a favor and if you see the Ethiopian themed colors of green, yellow, and red on the street, treat yourself, or forever confound your taste buds to the familiar.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

​Keeping Ties: From Ethiopia to Israel

By Jessica Cohen
ENP Volunteer
Israel Experience
Ramla

After weeks in the youth center in Ramla it has stuck out to me that so few of the students mentioned Ethiopia or their roots frequently. Most of the kids I asked where they were from proudly responded Israel or Ramla and very sparingly did they mention their parents were from Ethiopia, that their journey and struggles had made it possible for them to live in Israel today. From my perspective it seems as if the students are still young (12-16) and haven't fully grasped the magnitude of their families' pasts. However, this week one of the older girls was helping a younger girl make a bracelet. I complimented the girls half-done bracelet and she proudly looked up at me and said, "Ethiopian colors." I noticed then that the older girl helping her not only had a matching Ethiopian bracelet but also an Israeli one. 


I was relieved to see the two girls embracing their heritage and this moment let me believe that the girls are beginning to understand their complicated history and their connection to both Ethiopia and Israel. While most of these kids are born and raised in Israel, their families have come a long way to make that a reality and it was inspiring to see the girls recognizing this, even in a small way. I am hopeful that as all of the students grow older they can begin to understand the story of the Ethiopian Jews and do the same.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Experiencing ENP

By Michelle Weisz
ENP Volunteer

Jersusalem

 
For the past month, I have had the opportunity to be a part of this amazing organization. Through my Israel Experience internship program, I have been placed in Jerusalem for the summer to experience this beautiful country and experience the people and culture of Israel. A huge part of this experience has been impacted by The Ethiopian National Project and the Ethiopian-Israeli community. I have seen many aspects of this organization, which has already taught me so much. Before coming to Israel, I knew almost nothing of what the Ethiopian community was like, how they got here, and what obstacles they face. Thanks to ENP, I now know so much more and have met extraordinary people that have made an impact on so many people’s lives. So far, I have heard the moving stories of Micha Feldman, Rachamim Malako, and Rabbi Yafel Alemu. Each of their stories have shown me different points of views of the journey that the Ethiopians went through to make Aliyah and come home to Israel.

Along with meeting these wonderful people, I have also had the privilege to meet young Ethiopian Israelis that are participating in the projects that ENP provides for them. When I set off to a school in Jerusalem to participate in and plan activities with a group of 14 year old boys, I was a bit nervous. When i thought of working with 14 year old boys, i expected them to have little respect for me or for them not to want to participate. I was completely blown away by the respect, chivalry, and knowledge that these boys had. Not only were they patient with me, since I don’t speak much Hebrew, but they participated in all the activities that the other volunteers and I prepared. They went out of their way to make us feel welcomed, comfortable, they even showed me their favorite music and tried teaching me how to play soccer. It was a bittersweet goodbye our last day at the school, ending our experience with a BBQ at a park, all grilled by one of the boys. I know this is just a small taste of the impact that ENP has on the Israeli community and that as I continue, I will be able to make an impact on other people’s lives too, as the boys had on me.

Israeli Internships

By Hannah Miller
ENP Volunteer

Jersusalem

When I learned that I would be interning at ENP this summer, I didn’t know what to expect. I figured that I would be bringing people coffee and doing unimportant tasks since most people do not want a sixteen year old in their office, and that is how I pictured interning from watching movies and TV shows. When I arrived at the office for my first day, I was happily surprised by all of the opportunities I learned I would be given here to put my skills to use to help the organization. I immediately started to work on filtering through videos and brainstorming ideas. The next day I visited a center in Jerusalem and hung out with five Ethiopian-Israeli boys who were learning English and celebrating their last day of camp. The boys loved to dance, talk, and take selfies and I was so happy to spend time with them. I learned personal stories about when their families immigrated here and about their siblings and friends. For the rest of the week I worked on fundraisers and helped develop ideas for graphics with the rest of the interns. I am so thankful for ENP giving me an incredible opportunity to use my skills and for the work they do for the Ethiopian community. I can’t wait for the next 2 and a half weeks of my internship!  

Monday, July 13, 2015

Meeting Chan

By Ada Malamud
ENP Volunteer
Tel Aviv



My experiences volunteering for Ethiopian National Project have been fulfilling and I have learned so much about Ethiopian culture and immigration to Israel. It has been difficult sometimes working with the children at the youth outreach centers. They are older, between 13-17, and many of them know very little English. I am with them during their summer time so the drive to learn English is even less. It has been a challenge motivating them to learn and practice. When I do meet a child that is eager to practice and learn their English I enjoy talking to them informally, learning about their background and interests in hopes of motivating them a a little to continue their goals. I met one girl in particular who was very driven and inspirational.

            Her name was Chan and told me she was the best English speaker in her class and I didn't doubt her for a minute. I had walked over to her and her friends in hopes of having a conversation and soon we were all sitting together in front of the computer googling pictures of Chris Brown and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Chan pointed to the boy behind me. I looked over my shoulder at the thin little boy. His dark textured hair was dyed blond and styled in some way only soccer players can appreciate. He laughed with his friends in Hebrew at something the poor trying math teacher had said. I like him. Hes cute, dont you think?, smiled the girl. She pinched my cheeks with her thumb. Cute like a baby. I grinned and nodded.

            Chan was 13 years old and already she knew what she wanted to be when she grew up. I want to be a psychologist, writer, or interior designer, she said with such conviction that made me feel silly for dreaming of being an actress/singer when I was her age. She told me that if any of that was going to happen knowing English was necessary. She told me about her parents who had immigrated over to Ethiopia years ago. Her father was a builder and her mother was house cleaner. We talked for a few more minutes before it was time to go and I hugged her goodbye. We switched outreach centers the next week so I never got to talk to Chan again. Im positive with her drive to learn and openness to the opportunities ENP offers her she will reach her goals one day. 

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ENP’s Youth Outreach Center in Ramla is supported through the generosity of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County.
 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Breaking the Language Barrier

By Hila Ghersin
ENP Volunteer

Haifa 
On Sunday I had the amazing opportunity to join the ENP Youth Outreach Center in the city of Nesher in welcoming a Taglit-Birthright group from Broward County, Florida (coincidentally, where I'm from!). 

As soon as I got to the center, I caught a glimpse of five young girls rehearsing a Beyoncé routine they choreographed. Their talent and energy amazed me and I really wanted to learn the routine so I immediately started talking to them. They were so nice, polite, funny, and curious that we were basically best friends within a half hour. 

It was then time to meet the birthright group. Initially, the kids from the center were shy and embarrassed because they did not exactly know how they would communicate with the birthright group. Most of the American trip-goers did not know Hebrew and the kids were hesitant about speaking English. However, as we began making juggling balls out of balloons and rice and solved a puzzle of the map of Israel together with the birthright group, they opened up. The kids from the center and the people on birthright became friends and shared with one another what Israel means to them and their favorite part of Israeli culture, as well as their favorite songs and TV shows.

It was so beautiful watching the kids open up and become more confident with their English as our time with the birthright group progressed. I was happy to bridge over the language barrier when needed and to get to know the kids better! At the end, the girls performed the routine they had rehearsed in front of everyone, and, needless to say, they got a standing ovation. 

Stories of Aliyah

By Jessica Cohen
ENP Volunteer
Israel Experience
Tel Aviv

Aliyah is defined as the immigration of Jews from the diaspora to the land of Israel, or progressing towards Jerusalem. Prior to my time in Israel and my interactions with many Ethiopian Jews, the aliyah stories I had heard generally involved North American Jews moving to Israel and finding jobs, creating families, and starting their life anew in the Holy Land.

Although I spend the majority of my time working with students who are first generation Ethiopian-Israelis, their parents have made aliyah and their stories differ drastically from the ones I am accustomed to. Additionally, every Thursday, myself and the other ENP interns from cities all across Israel meet in Jerusalem for brainstorming meetings, fundraising planning, and my favorite aspect – to hear someone who has made aliyah from Ethiopia to Israel share their story.

Every story we’ve been told has had a few things in common: the individual couldn’t tell anyone (even their family) that they were leaving Ethiopia, they had to walk for somewhere around 27 days on a long and dangerous journey to Sudan, and they waited in refugee camps in Sudan until the Israeli Air force could quietly assist them finish the last step of their aliyah. 4000 Ethiopian Jews lost their lives while trying to return to Jerusalem, but thousands more completed the journey. Despite a country’s best attempt to close its’ borders, the global world we live in made it possible for the Ethiopian Jewish community, to get back to Israel against all odds, even when some were convinced they were the last Jews in the world.

It amazes me how different these aliyah stories are from the ones I had heard before and how much the Ethiopians I have met had to endure to make it to the Jewish State. I strongly believe that their incredible journey and the unimaginable obstacles they overcame makes them very deserving of the work ENP does to help them and their families integrate and thrive in Israeli society. Everyone who has ever returned to Israel has come in hopes of something better and whether it’s a better life, better treatment, better opportunities, or a safer place to live as a Jew – this is something all aliyah stories have in common and something ENP helps to make possible for the thousands of brave Ethiopians that have made it home.​

My Adventure Begins

By Mary Dubin
ENP Volunteer
Onward Israel- Boston
Jerusalem

Prior to my arrival at the Ethiopian National Project, I knew very little about the Ethiopian-Israeli community. I knew bits and pieces of their history through personal research and that a lot of the reggae music I like stems from Ethiopia. What I also knew for sure was that I wanted to help somehow, some way through my growing accounting background.  I’ve been searching to see what I exactly want to do when I get my accounting degree; so I figured, why not try the non-profit sector? I strongly feel that money should be used to help people help themselves.  ENP does just that; evolving, emerging and empowering Ethiopian- Israelis into the Israeli community.  During my short time at ENP so far, from day one, I have witnessed the mission of this organization is to help people become educated and strong so they can help themselves and then help others in their future, and so on.

Day one, a Thursday, was the beginning of something great! I met in a conference room with ENP volunteers from all over the States. We all got to know one another then began to brainstorm! We shared ideas from books about the history of the Ethiopian-Israelis to our blogs to taking everything we gain this summer from ENP back to our home universities.  Each volunteer had something to add and needless to say it was a wonderful first day; full of warm welcomes and bright ideas.


Although it is about a week and a half later, my first day at ENP was the beginning of an amazing adventure full of opportunities to learn, laugh and help others.       

Forging Connections

By Hila Ghersin
ENP Volunteer
Haifa 

At ENP, I mainly volunteer with teenagers in Tirat Carmel who are at the stage in life marked by their "I'm way too cool for everything" attitude, so I was a bit intimidated meeting them for the first time. All the hesitations that come with entering an established social circle swirled in my mind: 

Will we have anything to talk about? Will they think I'm cool? Will I get their sense of humor? Etc. Although they didn't seem super interested in knowing who I was at first, as soon as they heard I'm from America their ears perked up and their interest showed. A million questions followed:  Wait so what are you doing here? Do you have a pool? And most popularly: Have you met Rhianna? So we talked, laughed, common interests surfaced, and I felt like I was sort of "in."

Fast forward two weeks to this past. We were all very excited to go on the first summer trip which include a hike in Nachal Snir and kayaking in Nahar HaYarden. Strangely enough, my favorite part of the trip was the hour and a half bus ride to the hiking spot. I met 4 new girls and started talking to them at first about music and celebrities and then about more serious topics like school and the future. Although for them, the future beyond the army is still a bit far, I was happy to get them to start thinking about it- at least a little bit. The hike that followed was beautiful (and a bit wet) and full of more laid back conversations with kids I didn't meet before. The 11 hour trip was fun for everyone and also, in a way, fulfilling for me. Can't wait for my adventures! 


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Forging Connections across the Globe


By Pauleen Faynberg
ENP Volunteer
Onward Israel- Boston
Jerusalem

Learning how to be independent in a foreign country is not as easy a feat as one might think. Despite the freedom and adventure that comes with being alone, one must take upon several responsibilities that are both challenging and new. For me, these responsibilities include going grocery shopping, cooking meals for myself, navigating my way around the city and going to my internship at the Ethiopian National Project. You might ask why I have chosen to spend my free time this summer getting up early, going to work and volunteering. To answer this, I’ll explain what my volunteering at ENP actually consists of. I split my time between the office, working on the website and other social media forums, and spending time in the field working with kids from an all-boys school about 40 minutes from the main office in Jerusalem. As interesting as it is to learn the intricacies of marketing and social media in the office, nothing compares to interacting with the kids that make this organization possible. When I first arrived at the all-boys school, I was nervous because I had no idea what to expect. Would the language barrier be a significant issue? Would they participate in the activities we had prepared for them? Would they like me? With these thoughts running through my head, I entered the classroom and met four charming, energetic 14 year old boys. Not only was I surprised at how well they understood English, but how willing they were to join in the games we had planned after just meeting us a few minutes earlier. Although, I was impressed with their ability to understand the rules of the games, miscommunication was a natural occurrence. Luckily, Instagram and soccer are both universal languages.  Once the boys found out I had an Instagram, they took at least 50 selfies on my phone and insisted I post at least 25 of them. Coming in as a close second favorite hobby is anything related to soccer. The boys were immediately impressed with my mediocre ability to juggle the ball and smiled when I headed the ball into the trash can. The fact is, the moment I connected with these boys on a personal level – the moment their faces lit up with smiles – was the moment I realized my importance in this organization. It’s not my job to force these kids to do activities they don’t want to do, but to understand their perspectives and lifestyles as well as share mine with them.  Simply seeing them smile makes this trip whole trip worth it.

See It To Believe It


By Jessica Cohen
ENP Volunteer
Israel Experience
Ramla

The reality of my first week in the Scholastic Assistance Program was unlike any of my preconceptions. While I was prepared to interact with many Ethiopian-Israeli students, I was amazed by the program's impact and the teenagers' enthusiasm. On my first day there, after struggling to understand Hebrew and mostly resorting to conversations about American music and movies, the students were asked to fill out a survey on the program. I sat next to a girl who translated the questions for me and explained her answers, in order to help me understand and allow her to practice her English. In her explanations she told me that the program makes her feel prepared to begin high school, that she feels supported by her teachers and mentors, and that she loves being a part of it. I was thrilled to hear about the impact the program had on this one girl, but I had yet to see it in action.

The next day, it became very clear to me that these teenagers are blessed with an incredible experience. We took a field trip to an outdoor science center and about 30 students listened attentively to the tour guide for two hours, occasionally asking me if I understood the scientific concepts with my severely lacking Hebrew abilities. They discussed what they found intriguing amongst one another and when the tour ended they were given the chance to explore on their own. The kids excitedly ran back to the things we had past that they were interested in. This experience had clearly ignited a sense of wonder or curiosity in the students and motivated them to learn on their own.

From my first week and these experiences, it is evident that this program is much more than simply scholastic assistance. It is a social, cultural, and educational experience that will ideally increase their opportunities in the larger Israeli society. I look forward to the next six weeks with these students and hope to be able to further motivate them to achieve their goals!