Tuesday, September 20, 2011

From Down Under to the Middle East

Check out this story from the Zionist Federation of Australia on Tikkun Olam alumna Kelly Heideman, who recently finished the Social Justice track for the Spring 5-month program.

“You experience and learn from Israel first hand, explore your identity and really give back to those that need it. As well as having unthinkable amounts of fun with similar aged Jews from around the world and other Israelis!” she said.

Applications are now open for Spring 2012, so click here to apply and have unthinkable amounts of fun for yourself!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Keeping the Intellectual and Spiritual Stimulation Going

Tikkun Olam 2010-11 alumna Vanessa Mieger was recently featured in Birthright NEXT's Alef blog, and also in the Union for Reform Judaism's "Israel Programs" blog writing about her experience on the Tikkun Olam program.

Here's a tidbit of Vanessa's reflections on her experience in the Coexistence Track:
Most of the women and children that I worked with did not speak English, but this did not prevent us from connecting. With some time I formed friendships and an understanding with them that I will keep for the rest of my life. This is true coexistence, and this is what made my experience so rich and rewarding.

Read the whole blog here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Not Quite In The Homeland

Dylan, a 5-month participant in the Social Action track, wrote this before departing for Israel to start her Tikkun Olam experience:

I leave for Israel in one week! I've just begun packing and am struggling to pack/throw away/donate enough stuff to forge a clear path through my room. My two suitcases are already full and I've got a box of peanut butter and cliff bars that I'm shipping to my apartment. It's not that I don't like falafel- I hate it. I've got a lot of changes to get used to. Some I am a little more comfortable with, like observing the Sabbath and paying to use public restrooms. Some I am a little more resistant to, like hummus and living without Netflix.

I can't exactly figure out what emotions I'm feeling or where they're coming from. I'm so excited to have the opportunity to spend 5 months in Israel- explore the city of Tel Aviv, experience the High Holy Days in Jerusalem, relax on the beach of the Mediterranean, meet new people and reconnect with old friends.

I feel very blessed to have had such an incredible time on my Birthright trip that inspired me to go back and spend more time in Israel. The people I interacted with during my trip made my experience so special and I know that I can never express how much they impacted my life- although the fact that I'm choosing to go back should be some indication. I know that this trip will be unique. It will challenge and inspire me in different ways, but I know that I will carry the memories of my last trip with me. My first Shabbat at the Kotel will feel a little lonely without my Shmeks singing Kum Kum...

I am also nervous, although this emotion is one I'm trying very hard to suppress. The recent attacks have made me feel uneasy, despite being far away from them. My friends in Israel assure me that I will be safe and I have no doubt, but I am curious to see how the cultural climate of the country changes while I am there. Living in a country with a constant threat of terror is a foreign concept for me, although I can only hope that George W's color coded threat level system has adequately prepared me. What's orange in Hebrew?

I know very little about my program, even after spending hours on the phone with my program leaders. I will be volunteering in the neighborhood Kiryat Shalom. I will have the opportunity to pick where I volunteer, but the focus of my program is to work with refugees and children in this high needs neighborhood. In addition to volunteering, I will take Ulpan (intensive Hebrew classes) and different kinds of Jewish Identity workshops. I should have plenty of time to travel and explore, which is one of the reasons I chose Tikkun Olam over the other programs.

I am very excited to finally be in Israel and I think this week is going to crawl/fly by. It's incredible how time can be wonky like that. Unless anything really monumental occurs over the next week, I'll assume my next post will be from Israel. Oh my wow!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Tikkun Olam 2011-12 Has Begun!

Year 7 of Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv-Jaffa got underway last Thursday as the 27 participants from around the world gathered in Tel Aviv-Jaffa to begin their 5 and 10 month journeys.

This year's Tikkun Olam group is unique as it is the first and only MASA program group that includes Israeli participants, who join a group of peers from the U.S., Holland, Mexico, France, Hungary and Canada.

The program kicked off with an opening informational session at the Daniel Centers' Beit Daniel in north Tel Aviv, followed by a feast at Afloka restaurant overlooking the Mediterannean in Jaffa.

The next morning, the group set off for Kibbutz Ketura, near Eilat, for a 4-day orientation seminar, which included an introduction to the volunteering options, a short hike through the Kasui sand dunes, and a trip to Eilat to check out a small segment of the largest social protests in Israeli history, with, of course, a bit of time to cool off in the kibbutz swimming pool as well.

Tomorrow morning the gang returns to Tel Aviv-Jaffa to settle into their apartments, start their Hebrew classes and begin checking out potential volunteering locations.