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!

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