Thursday, January 10, 2013

Halfway There...

Halfway there…

I’ve been yelling and screaming and waving my arms at anyone who dares suggest to me that we’re nearly halfway done with Otzma, yet here I am making it the title of my blog post. Ok. I get it. I promise to stop being dramatic. But while I’ve been busy living it up in Rehovot, celebrating Hanukkah (with too many sufganiyot), touring all of Israel with one of my closest friends and attending the wedding of another close friend, a lot of time has gone by. The world was supposed to end and didn’t, it’s 2013(!), we had a fantastic seminar about our options for future engagement in the Jewish Community and I’ve started looking for internships for Part 3 of Otzma.

Congrats Kaela and Maor!
But anyway, the reality that my time here in Israel (and particularly here in Rehovot) is slowly dwindling and I don’t want to let it get away without at least jotting down what’s been going on so I don’t forget what how amazing this experience has been. And you know, for all of the 3 people who might read this (Hi, Grandma!).

Like every Otzma participant with a fear of change (yes, we all see the irony in this fact of life), I was nervous at the beginning of my time in Rehovot. It didn’t help that it started off on a rough foot with Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza and being evacuated from our new home. (Huge shout out to my phenomenal host family in Karmiel, who took me in for a wonderful, quiet Shabbat.) But before I knew it a month had passed and it was Hanukkah and now yet another month has passed and we’re halfway through our time in Rehovot. I’ve been teaching English in a high school here and we’re helping the kids prepare for their Bagrout exams (required for them to graduate and eventually get into college). It’s a 180° difference from my experience in the elementary school in Karmiel, but the Israeli school system is always interesting.

Some of the kids I work with, playing a Hanukkah game
In the afternoons, I trek over to Kiryat Moshe, where I help out in a “Moadonit,” an after school program for kids whose families receive social services. Many of them also have some type of learning disability. I (and the rest of the staff and volunteers) sit down to a hot lunch with them, play quiet games, help with homework and watch them play soccer. The kids can be difficult, but I honestly look forward to going there each day. It’s also been the single best thing to happen to my Hebrew since I got to Israel. Helping kids with math homework (I suck at math) in Hebrew is the surest way to stretch your comfort zone in a new language! There’s a lot of pointing, “zeh, ploos zeh, ploos zeh….oto d’var zeh caful zeh.” (This plus this plus this is the same as this times this, or 3+3+3 is the same as 3x3). Most of the kids are patient with my Hebrew and are willing to speak slowly to me when explaining the rules of a new game – another great way to learn a new language! The best was yesterday, when one of the staff members came over while I was playing a game of Israel Monopoly (think Tel Aviv’s Rehov Allenby instead of New York’s Park Place) with 3 of the boys and commented on how amazing I was doing with the boys and that she felt like my Hebrew was all of the sudden just flowing out! That really made me happy. I kept hearing how eventually you just get it, and so I was waiting and waiting and waiting for it to happen – apparently it did while I wasn’t paying attention!

I’ve also discovered old friends residing right here in Rehovot! It’s so fun to have a conversation with an Israeli friend I haven’t seen in ages, go something like this, “Where are you living?” “Rehovot” “OMG me too!!” Not to mention, Rehovot is also home to another MASA program, ITF Rehovot, so our two groups have become fast friends. It makes living a new city, a new country, without the safety net of being surround by 23 of your newest, closest friends a little less scary and a lot more fun.

Fun, that is, until the biggest rainstorm in Israel’s recent history decided to park itself right over our little plot of paradise in the Middle East. Yea. I came to Israel to get away from the cold, not to hang out at home in a sweatshirt, long sleeve shirt, leggings, sweatpants and UGG slippers while trying to stay warm in a house built to keep the cold in and the heat out. Not to mention the rain…it hasn’t stopped for nearly a week, there is snow in Jerusalem, the only ski resort in Israel is – get this – closed due to snowfall(!) and the Kinneret is just a few meters from being full again after years of being beneath the red line. I get it. Israel needs the rain, and apparently snow in Jerusalem is a blessing. But, it has rained so much here in the past week that no one knew what to do with it all. And Israel knows better than anyone about saving water. But when they built the water treatment plants and rainwater collection cisterns, they never even thought about what would happen if said cisterns filled. Well guess what? They filled! And flooded. And who would have ever known that Israel’s biggest highway was named after a river? Not this girl. At least not until said river overflowed, closing the road, the train stations built along it and effectively closing of Tel Aviv from the rest of the world. Also? Apparently Israel has lakes and rivers other than the 4 we learned about in elementary school. We heard about them one-by-one this week as they all flooded. Oy.

Major tree down on our street. 
Anyway, the good news is that Israel is looking incredibly green and beautiful (during the brief breaks of sunshine we've gotten this week), the Kinneret is (almost) full and if the weather app on my phone is to be trusted, it should warm up soon. 

I’d love to promise I’ll be back sooner this time with more updates and deets about my vacation, but I might be out celebrating the end of the rain. But until then, I’ve got Luke Bryan’s “Rain is a Good Thing” stuck in my head. (Thanks Liza!) I’m not sure which is better….that or Bon Jovi's, “Living on a Prayer” which is what I was singing when I started this post hours ago.


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