By Drew Fidler
Hello Everyone! I’ve never done this before, “blogged,” so you will have to give me a little room for improvement. I guess since this is the first time you are ever hearing about me, I should tell you a bit about how I got here and what I have been doing for the last seven months.
After I graduated college in the spring of 2008, I came to Israel on Birthright (no this is not a plug for them or anyone else for that matter so just keep reading). It was the first time that I had seen Israel through my own lens, without parents or teachers telling me what I should be seeing or feeling. It was also the first time that I saw Israel through the eyes of my Israeli peers. After the 10-day whirlwind trip was over, I found myself wanting more – more time in Israel, more chances to understand this small but vast country, and, of course, more falafel and humus. But, having already committed to grad school back in New York I returned home and promised myself that when it was over I would come back. There was a part of me that thought it was a silly dream and that it would never happen. But, going into my second year of grad school, I knew that there was nowhere else I wanted to end-up.
So, I began looking into programs and jobs. I was lucky to find a brand new program being offered in consortium with the MASA scholarship called the Yahel Social Change Program. Yahel was described as a five-month service learning experience in which participants would work in the fields of social change and community empowerment with the Ethiopian-Israeli community. Participants work in collaboration with a local non-profit called Friends by Nature and live in Gedera, the small town 45 minutes south of Tel Aviv where they work. Yahel sounded like the perfect opportunity for me to learn about a new, different Jewish population, to grow professionally, and, most importantly, to live and work in Israel.
When I first arrived in Gedera, I knew little about the Ethiopian Israeli community. I was not exactly positive what I would be doing, and I wasn’t entirely sure what community empowerment meant and how to make it happen. Yahel was without a doubt an intense, unique and exhilarating experience. I became a part of a community full of history, vivacity, complexity, and compassion. I learned about the patience required for true community empowerment and I made friends and built relationships that will affect me professionally and personally for the rest of my life. I saw an Israel that not many people got to see, and learned about the different complexities and realities that shape Israeli life and existence.
As the program was nearing a close, I knew that I did not want to leave Israel. Over the last six months, I have become accustomed to Friday night dinners with friends, people going out of their way to help me learn the language, strangers inviting us over for Shabbat dinner, arguing with bus and taxi drivers, people ignoring lines and pushing past each other … and the weather is just getting nice again. So, I decided to move to the big, bustling city of Tel Aviv and try my hand at looking for a job in Israel. That’s all for now. I promise next time we will move from the past to the present and I will tell you all about life in this bustling Mediterranean metropolis. But right now, I am late to meet friends at the beach!
L’hitrayot v’yom nayim!