Turns out, this weather isn’t normal, and definitely provides a false perception of Israeli winters. For at least an hour every day the skies open up and flood the streets, the claps of thunder make my students jump, and rays of lightning brighten up my room in the darkest hours. I braved a 40 minute walk in the rain to get to school on Monday (and by rain I mean rain), only to get to school and learn that the power was out in my building!! And yet, as my student so eloquently told me, “The show must go on.” This means that in rooms only lit by the grey skies and with no access to computers, students continued to have class and learn. I can only imagine that if something like this were to happen in my home town or pretty much any American school, that everyone would be sent home immediately. But not at Yeshurun. Here, we persevere!
Coming home that day as drenched as when I got to school, I quickly changed and boarded a bus with my fellow ITF-ers to Jerusalem for the MASA Mega Event. Designed as a “pep-rally” for participants of the 200+ MASA programs, over 3,000 students and volunteers from around the world came to hear the impressive line-up, featuring Israel’s own Bibi Netenyahuj, the CEO of MASA, and guest musical performances. We were deeply thanked for our commitment to staying in Israel; MASA boasts that not a single one of their 12,000 current participants has returned home in face of the current “situation.” While it was moving to see everyone together under one roof and feel the energy of people just like myself who decided to come to Israel, the message was very clear: become an ambassador for Israel and stay here (or make “aliyah”).
Not that the thought of staying or moving back here hasn’t crossed my mind, because it has (sorry mom!). But it’s way to soon to think about that. And it wasn’t that the message was unexpected. I think I was just hoping there would be more depth or discussion about the precarious political climate and security issues headlining the news. I can’t log-on to Facebook these days without seeing articles pop up on my News Feed about stabbings and aggressions in Israel and violent conflicts with Palestinians. Between the lack of media coverage on one end of the spectrum and the false framing of terror attacks on the other end, Israel is facing yet another challenge. There is never perfect peace in the Middle East, but civilian stabbings of Israelis are happening daily at the hands of select Palestinians and it is the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) that is criticized for their “violent response.” Thus, I feel as though being here is more than physical presence. Part of my purpose is to share my experiences with my world at home and to stand up against false accusations and distorted perceptions about this country. Living here has forced me to become better educated about these issues and take initiative on staying updated as well as encourage others to do their own research. I’m not trying to project my opinions to anyone- if anything, I’d rather people make up their own minds after investigating. Back to my main point though, my biggest issue with the MASA event being that this highly contentious topic remained untouched. I felt as though Bibi’s speech was a replay of Madagascar’s “just smile and wave boys, smile and wave.”
This week in particular, the hardest thing for me in school was PATIENCE. Now, I can imagine that if you were to poll my friends and family, about 9 out of 10 would regard me as a highly impatient person. I expect people to understand things as easily as I understand them, and get easily frustrated having to explain things again. I like instant gratification for the things that I do, and teaching, if anything, is quite the opposite. Here I am dealing with groups of 5-6 children at a time, all on different English levels. I can give directions once and one girl can understand perfectly while I spend five minutes explaining myself to the others, or sometimes everyone but one will understand. While I know that raising my voice or screaming words will not help them to understand any better, it is my first nature. I am practicing restraint and patience, which further come across as more compassionate, while juggling different English levels. I am learning so much about communication, and finding effective ways to get my point across. Speaking slower, with greater inflection and annunciation, and hand gestures are proving to be the most effective! The last thing I want is for my students to feel my frustration and I am afraid that this week that side got the better of me. I just have to remember to breathe before I speak and smile more- seemingly simple or silly but extremely important when working with students who are probably just as frustrated as me. And even though it doesn’t happen every class or every day, it all becomes worth it when you see the girls’ eyes light up, they shake their heads “הבנתי” and you know that they understand.
In other news, sufganyot (Hanukkah doughnuts) are officially in bakeries and shops across the country and I couldn’t be more excited to start indulging in an entire month’s worth of fried foods. Still working on finding a good running route in Petach Tikva that doesn’t have a traffic light every 100-feet, and my Hebrew learning is slowing down since we didn’t have Ulpan this week. And last but not least, Halloween is this week!!