Thursday, September 25, 2008

TIPS Volunteer Chelsey Saperstein Says Thank You!

A Cultural Journey Through Kiryat Malachi:
As my summer in Israel came to an end, I sat in the Ben Gurion airport saddened by my impending departure. The country had become a part of me, as had the city of Kiryat Malachi. I had the wonderful experience of spending several weeks in this small and underdeveloped Israeli city, which is part of the TIPS (Tucson, Israel, Phoenix, Seattle) Partnership region supported in part by the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix. I had accepted the challenge, along with three American peers from the other TIPS cities, to teach English to a group of Israeli children. Needless to say, the situation was quite different from what all four of us expected, but it was amazing nonetheless.

When I first arrived in Kiryat Malachi, I was both nervous and excited, feeling somewhat alone in an unfamiliar city. For the first time, I would be living with a host family. It was amazing how quickly I was embraced by not just my host family but by the people of Kiryat Malachi. Their open arms and exuberant smiles helped me feel like I was in my second home.

Chelsey & young friend
Within the first couple of days, we met the three American and two Israeli counselors that I would be working with. Our job was to teach English at one of the few summer camps in the city. We worked with 13 youngsters, few of whom knew any English. It was a surprise to the four of us how our fundamental Hebrew skills came in handy. You see Kiryat Malachi, from my point of view, is a city unlike others I have been exposed to in Israel. English is not widely spoken, the American culture has not infiltrated and in many ways I was really a foreigner. For me, I feel I had the opportunity to live amongst native Israeli’s, different even from my Israeli relatives.

The days that followed are hard to describe since we all experienced a full range of emotions. We pushed each other when one of us was a little down, we learned new things about ourselves and about our inner strengths, but most important, we all learned how much you get from giving.

Our goal was to help the kids develop their English skills. I can’t say that’s what actually happened. I will say that we began every morning teaching them a new song in English; we worked with one little guy who knew how to curse in English, so we had to turn that around. The challenges were endless as were the feelings of frustration, but together we prevailed.

We all have much to thank in our Israeli counselors who became close friends. Luckily the two of them included us fully in their lives during our time in Kiryat Malachi. We visited their homes, experienced Israeli youth culture and had many deep and meaningful discussions late into the night. For me one of the most powerful was learning about Israeli military service. Although I had been to Israel two summers ago and clearly knew about the mandatory service, this was a fairly unique opportunity to talk with new friends about what it was really like.

I have so many different experiences that I could share endlessly about, but one of my favorites was The Festival b’ Shekel. Since personally I am a music lover, for me this was exceptional. I loved the fact that ten thousand people gathered in this somewhat underprivileged town to share and celebrate the joy of music. I also loved how affordable it was, costing 1 shekel (approx. 30 cents), which made this concert available to everyone and anyone who wanted to attend.

When my experience in Kiryat Malachi came to an end but before leaving the country, I had a wonderful week of traveling up North with one of my American co-counselors. In many ways I credit our friendship for helping us to get through this cultural journey so that we could experience the joy and uniqueness that is Kiryat Malachi.

Although I know the Federation has much gratitude for the time I spent in Kiryat Malachi, I want to take this opportunity to thank Federation for this most amazing and one-of-a-kind experience. (Written by Chelsey Saperstein)

Chelsey Saperstein, a Paradise Valley resident and current University of Arizona student, volunteered for three weeks as a counselor in Angliada, a TIPS funded summer camp in Kiryat Malachi designed to enhance English language skills for 5th-7th graders.

Originally launched in 1995, the TIPS Partnership community-to-community program is at the heart of the relationship between Tucson, Israel, Phoenix and Seattle. It is a program that brings volunteer representatives from these Jewish federations together with professionals and entrepreneurs in Israel to work to develop economies, communities and relationships.

Kiryat Malachi is a development town located between the Israeli Metropolitan areas of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Beersheva। Approximately 22,000 residents live in 6,000 households. In the last two decades, over 10,000 immigrants have arrived from Ethiopia, the former Soviet Union and Argentina.

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