Ashleigh Edelsohn and Josh Neuman, both living in Be’er Sheva as English teachers with Israel Teaching Fellows, were interviewed last week by Emma Silvers of JWeekly, a Northern California Jewish news site. They talk about their experiences living in Southern Israel during a time of intense conflict; and what they did to spread awareness after being evacuated when the war started.
I came to Israel to serve in the IDF with 19 friends. We all belong to the Garin Tzabar group that consists of 340 participants this year alone. My decision to come to Israel is serving a big stepping stone in my life, one which I considered for many years. Soon I will realize what I got myself into.
I ended my “perek klita” a couple weeks ago, it is a time given to us before the army to get used to Israeli lifestyle, and I’m glad to say it’s over. The war was indeed short with Gaza, but the people of the south know it came in the way of everyday life. During that time I stayed with close family in the merkaz. The war made me realize what I came here for, and how powerful this impact will be on my life as a whole. I draft in two days. I am nervous, maybe scared from the unknown, and the hardships I will encounter, both mentally and physically. But I believe in Israel’s right to exist, this is my country, my home, and what a better contribution than defending it.
I hope I will learn from this experience and slowly blaze my path towards independence.
Adi S , Garin Tzabar 2012. Be’er Sheva
I came to Israel because I wanted to learn Hebrew and work on a kibbutz. I knew it would be a good experience—but it has surpassed all my expectations. One of the best parts of a kibbutz ulpan is meeting people from all over the world—the mix of cultures and languages here is just amazing. Among the Jews—both tourists and new immigrants—there are over 20 countries represented among the over 75 participants in the program (for example, from the Russian-speakers alone, there are Ukrainians, Russians, Uzbeks, and others). We have Latinos from Argentina and Brazil bearing German surnames and red hair, and Britons with Roma (Gypsy) heritage. I work in the avocado fields near the kibbutz, where there are two Americans from the Ulpan, Israeli kibbutzniks, not to mention Arab-Israelis from the nearby Arab village and Burmese. In some ways the kibbutz is a bubble; it has its own funny system that’s very different and very removed from the real world. But on the other hand, the kibbutz can be viewed as a microcosm of the world, a reflection of a constantly-shifting geopolitical situation.
However, this remarkable diversity is not something new. Due to historical and ideological reasons, Israel has always been good at bringing together people from vastly different backgrounds. For my own example, from my father’s side of the family (he’s Israeli), I have a grandmother who was born in Iran and a grandfather who was born in Czechoslovakia—though they married and raised their children in Israel. In those days, a mixed marriage like that was rare, although today it’s more commonly seen. Some people like to whine and complain about the balagan (in English: “chaos”) they see in Israel, but in a way, all Israelis are products of political and personal balagan. Of course, it’s true that we are not a society that puts a high premium on order and politeness. Do you notice how I say “we”? It is because this is where I belong; this is my country, my homeland; the land of my heritage and the land of my future. Israel is not a perfect place and like any other place, it has its problems. But there is no place I would rather be, and I couldn’t be happier to start my future in Israel in the beautiful, interesting kibbutz of Maagan Michael.
Leor F. - Kibbutz Ulpan, Maagan Michael
These are challenging times to be living in Israel, for sure. Rocket fire may be suspended (thankfully), but the conversations about the conflict can be a minefield in themselves. Like my coworkers and friends behind this media campaign, I have also chosen to stay here in Israel during the past couple weeks of mutual rocket-fire, despite my worried parents’ request for me to come home. I have also walked to bomb shelters with sirens wailing, have also felt my heart race when I heard about the attack on a Tel Aviv bus, have also worried about the climbing numbers of rockets aimed at Be’er Sheva.
What is possibly worse, to me, is how during the two weeks, I couldn’t stop imagining the version of these conditions in Gaza. Glued to the news, I read about the intensely amplified violence. The sheer amount of rockets was terrifying, and their accuracy made them tragically destructive – they had noble aims, sure, to stop Hamas’s sick terrorism – but they also destroyed many innocent lives and homes, killing, wounding, displacing.
Whenever I try to bring this up to people around me, I am often met with dismissal: I must be soft in the head, or reading lies. I think this dismissing the plight of innocent civilians, simply because the IDF’s twitter tells us to accept it, is inappropriate and ugly. This campaign is dedicated to humanizing young Jewish Americans in Israel – which is awesome. I also think it is vital to remember that Palestinians are also humans, and not mere statistics or villains. I am not deluding myself with trying to change the world, but I am committed to keeping my small community accountable. I am staying here to make sure we don’t give up on our common humanity, even – especially — when it’s hard. I am staying here to keep the conversation complicated.
Sophia O., Israel Teaching Fellows Be’er Sheva
#WeAreHereIsrael Team hard at work with Natan Sheransky in the Masa offices at the Jewish Agency for Israel in Jerusalem.
This is a recent article in the online version of Haaretz that talks about our social media campaign #WeAreHereIsrael.
Click on the title (above) to be taken to the article!
About 15 Masa participants from many different programs, and from all over the world, came together for 3 days in Jerusalem to work on a social media campaign to spread awareness about the recent situation in southern Israel. The brainstorming lasted only a few days, but the message (and the campaign) will last much longer.
Click on the title (above) to watch the video!
23 injured.Very sad and scary day. I don’t mean to scare family and friends back at home, but this is my reality right now and I value getting my story out and supporting Israel anyway I can. One way is to show the truth of what kind of awful life Hamas is causing to the people of Israel. I was just about to leave work to take a bus to my apartment (in central Tel Aviv) and go to the shuk (a very crowded place). I check my phone as I am walking out only to read that there was an explosion on a bus and I am told by my Madrich to not take a bus or go to a crowded place. Followed by a few frantic friends asking if I am okay. I walked home with a co-worker along the beach. It was impossible to enjoy the beautiful Mediterranean on a day like today. Bottom line is that I am okay. The bomb was set off a few blocks from my apartment. We are not aloud to go to crowded places or on buses, but when you live in the heart of Tel Aviv, it is crowded walking out your door. I pray for the victims of this terrorists attack. But we cannot let fear stop our lives, gotta get ready to go babysit.
Here is the original blog post: http://duckinisrael.blogspot.co.il/2012/11/terrorist-blows-up-bus-in-central-tel.html
Anna Epstein - Career Israel