Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Taste of Canada

So, the day has come. It's our last day at the Beit Ha'Noar here. There is no question we've learned a lot in our six weeks in Israel. And today is a sad day. But it has been incredible so far and today is a testament to just how far we've come in connecting with these kids.

We prepared an Around the World Program for our last day. Different stations were set up and the kids went to each 'country' and collected stamps on their 'passports'. They learned Salsa dancing in Spain, played a game with chopsticks in China, learned some French and had bread and 'wine' (grape juice) in France, they played drums in South Africa, and ate delicious French toast with authentic maple syrup in…Canada, of course. The activity went well, and afterward we gave out a few prizes and candies. This has been one of numerous activities we've done here. They' ve really enjoyed the "Peilot shel Canadim" and we've enjoyed making these activities for them.

Our time here may be over, but we are carrying back to Canada all that we've learned and experienced in Israel. Our six week program is over, but our mission has just begun. It is the start of a great opportunity to continue to help some great people.

We have ideas in mind and events to plan. Back in Toronto we're going to continue to help this community to show them we still care, even though we are not with them anymore.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Few Things I Learned in Israel....

1. Post Meduza season makes for very nice beaches in Bat Yam
2. When writing a cheer for Olympiad, there is no need to make things fancy. A simple "Kvutza Aleph! Kvutz Aleph!" (Group A! Group A!) will do.
3. Tupac is still alive, and serves as a questionable role model for 8 year old Israelis
4. It is possible to bargain the price of a bottle of water
5. Living with seven girls in one house makes me requestion the merits of marriage
6. Six Shekel Falafel is worth its weight and gold
7. Ethiopian Beer takes like a sweet champagne
8. "TAFSIK!" is the most commonly used word in the Hebrew vocabulary
9. When using this word, it is not recommended to address a girl with "Tafsik" lest you face the humiliation of calling a girl a boy by accident. Remember: it's Tafsiki
10. Top 10 lists do not justify the great time we are having

The Long Walk to Connections...

It’s a sweaty, heat induced 15 minute walk from 11 Imbar street in Bat Yam to Qiryati street. In the 10 a.m. Israeli heat we trudge along with sun drenching our backs in drippyness. Water in hand, bags on our backs, we walk each and every morning to the Youth Centre (Bayt Ha’Noar) where we are with the kids from 10 a.m. until about 4 p.m. And every morning upon arrival, we wave and shout the “Bokker Tov”s to familiar faces. Sometimes the kids smile and say “Shalom, Ma Koreh?” in return. But sometimes they are too busy talking or arguing or just hanging out with friends. But that’s okay. They are kids and they can be trouble. But the bonds we have formed here aren’t easy to shape into words. Sometimes just a game of Taki is the connection we have with one of the youths here. We sit on the couch, cards in hand and take turns placing them in the centre. Not many words are exchanged, but the connection is there. Sometimes it’s sharing a cup of tea or water and asking “Ma Matzav?” The boys have tended to bond more with the boys, and the girls have connected a lot with other girls, (but with the boys, too). Teaching them new things has been exciting as well. Good ol’ Canadian Hockey, English vocabulary, pass the parcel...the list goes on.

But let’s not forget Kiryat Moshe. Different kids, different environment, different Madrichim (guides), but a lot of the same spirit. We’re trying to help them learn the tools for everyday life. Sounds major, does it? Well, we’re not here to change the world, or Israel, or even the lives of new Israelis. We’re here to show them we care. Even though we live thousands of miles away and don’t live on schnitzel, pita, and hummus like they do- we don’t want to see them on the streets. We want to see them pushing their limits and gaining the skills they need to succeed as Israelis.

As we walk back at the end of a long and tiring day. The sun is still at our backs. Our ¾ empty water bottles dangle at our sides. We meander along the streets laughing and chatting about the day. Some go home, some to the beach for some r&r, some make a stop for groceries. Yes, we’re tired, and HOT, but it’s Israel, and this is what we do each day. And we love it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

And so it goes...

Sun. July, 20/08

Its three weeks into the Hillel Bat Yam volunteer trip (or whatever it’s called) and things have basically set into a pattern. Every morning I drag my bed into the house, and survey the landing that passes for my room, my own room. I then walk down from the top floor and join the group again. After doing sundry morning activities I go to the kitchen and scrounge up some breakfast from the remains of my last meagre shopping trip. As I begin to eat the other volunteers trickle down in twos and threes discussing ... well, anything really – mutual friends in T.O., a conversation they had last night, or a club they went to. Except for Jonas. Unless he’s unreasonably exhausted he runs in from the beach 45 min. before we have to leave and has a very short and sandy shower.

We all know by now which days we are meant to be in Bat Yam and Kiryat Moshe. In both places everyone has learnt the children’s names and has chosen favourites among them. In Bat Yam I think the general consensus has rested upon Me’or (in fact we had an incident where there was a slight yelling match over who would have him in their group). Kiryat Moshe is less decided – maybe because each of us is only there once a week. Thanx to Karen and Romi our work days are more organized – we now have lists on the kitchen wall of what activity we’ve planned for each day and who is responsible for organizing each one. This has had the most excellent results of making us favourites at the schools.

So, surprisingly ten strangers have managed to get along pretty well in one house, and ten North Americans have managed to hold their own in an entirely foreign cultural setting.

Of course there are some problems, like the food problems. These generally result in Jen yelling about a lost cucumber or Lexi posting “Missing” signs for her turkey on the fridge. There are also problems with the children sometimes – you know, they get a bit wild ... and then start tearing hours of our work to shreds!!! (Well the game was pass the parcel but the kids took it a bit far.)

But honestly the kids like us, the games we come up with work most of the time and no one has gotten frustrated enough to tear the house down. So all in all I think we’ve done pretty well for ourselves. The only thing I regret is not being taught enough about the Beta Israel, the Ethiopian immigrant experience or Ethiopian culture. – I guess I can’t have it all, though.


Vardit Lightstone

(except when I’m not...)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hanging on the beach in Bat Yam

Pride in Tel Aviv

Monday, May 26, 2008


Thank you, Ben, for the introduction to Bat Yam. It has been amazing so far. The kids at the Kadimahs, both in Keriat Moshe and Bat Yam, have been amazing and the staff welcoming and warm. I am having a great time.

Our responsibilities when volunteering is to have fun with the children. We are in the perfect position of being both a leader and a friend. We don’t have to punish the kids but we still receive the same amount of respect (from most kids). The kids come to the Kadimahs at different times as they are different ages and their schools end at different times. The kids’ day at the kadimah starts off with an hour of learning. This means either homework from school or worksheets given by the centre. Our role is to help them with their work. We usually specialize in English help however I helped with math once and was offered the opportunity to help with tanach but I politely declined. This is followed by activities. I have not yet understood the organization behind the activities but the Madrichim in place seem to know what’s going on.

In Keriat Moshe, the kids were working on their wooden planes that they are preparing the fly. They were supposed to go to a field the day that I was there to fly them but from what I gathered with my limited Hebrew, not all the kids’ planes were ready so they postponed the trip. I did witness one flight and the planes seemed powerful.

At the Kadimah in Bat Yam, I have become close with the middle age group. I go in for their meetings where they sit in a circle and talk about life. I don’t understand all of it but I try. My Hebrew is improving a lot just from talking to the kids.

One time when we were walking home one of the kids, Eli, walked with us as he lived in the same direction. We talked about how we both like basketball. The next time I came he brought his basketball and we played. It is nice to be liked by the kids.

I am going to Tel Aviv tonight. It is amazing that it is so close to Bat Yam. Peace.