Sunday, April 12, 2009

From an Otzmanik in Kiryat Malachi from Feb. to Pesach

Tamara Maltiel, one of the 5 Otzmaniks who were in Kiryat Malachi from early February until Pesach, has given me permission to post her blog on our website. I'm putting pertinent parts on here. They really give you an inight into the town and people Here is the first entry from February 14.

Kiryat Malachi translates to the City of Angels in English. People make a lot of jokes of how it is just like Los Angeles and often ask us (as Americans we are the official experts on Los Angeles) if it is true. It's not.

Kiryat Malachi is a very small city in Israel. We walk across it in about fifteen minutes. Our apartment has a great location in the city. We are right across the street from MegaBol- the grocery store, the open-air market, the gym, and a few blocks from Kastina-a major bus stop in Israel.

The gym is great. You step into it and it feels like you're stepping into America. It's huge, clean and everything works. In the gym, there's a smoothie bar, a spa with lounge chairs right by it, and a steam room. There's really nice shower rooms which we have definitely made use of during the week our shower stopped getting hot water. The gym also offers classes for us. We have already experimented classes from pilates to spinning to belly dancing. Zara and I are in love with our new belly dancing classes- we both now have belly dancing skirts with bells to wear to the classes.

Slowly and surely, we have picked up volunteering in this city. I work in both an elementary school and a high school, tutoring English during the mornings. I've learned that I love working with all ages except 7-9th grade. Last Wednesday, after Zara, Sarah and I finished with our 7th grade classes, we were all so worn out from dealing with them. Luckily right after seventh grade is 12th which is the funnest group. Right now, the 12th graders are preparing for a big oral English exam that all high school seniors have to take. We prepare them for their interviews so we spend a few hours talking to them all, finding out about them and what they do in their free time (a little bit of research so that we can know what to do in our free time). I met one boy that is going to be a hacker in the army next year and is a photographer in his free time.

One girl is named Ruth Danna. Her mother always wanted to name her daughter Danna, but before she had her daughter, her mother-in-law came to her in a dream, told her she was pregnant with a girl, and that she should name it after her, Ruth. That's how she got the two names Ruth Danna.

It appears that every teenage girl in Kiryat Malachi has fallen in love with Adam, the only boy in our group there. All of us have experienced trying to teach a girl English who is not paying attention until Adam comes in. Then they suddenly develop a keen interest in the language. Once I was trying to get a group to create a poster for Tu B'Shvat. One girl was far more interested in chatting with her friends until Adam came in. She immediately asked me how to say "You have beautiful eyes" in English.

All of us girls have experienced the opposite. I had the unique experience of trying to help a group of 11th grade boys write an essay about eating healthily (in English). They were far more interested in using the English they knew to find out if I had a boyfriend, where I lived, what my plans were for that night, and if I wanted to come over for dinner.

The city itself is an interesting place. There are more shwarma stands than are really necessary for a city of that size. It is a much busier place than either Arad or Natzrat Ilit, where we had been before, so it is nice to feel something different.

There are also a lot more young people in Kiryat Malachi. For some reason the high school seniors all look like they're 23 so it's hard to tell if the people we see are our age or younger. We made friends with a group of soldiers who are volunteering in the city. They are in a unit called nachal which is more community-oriented. They volunteer at all the same places we do. We sometimes hear firecrackers go off (it’s before Purim). Even in the hallways at school, the kids are lighting firecrackers. At first it scared us every time they went off, but we're getting used to it. But it really scares some kids. I was working in an afterschool program with 4th graders and firecrackers were going off when they were on a break. It really scared all of the kids, especially since they heard kassam rockets fall in Janary.

Seeing Americans is definitely a rare experience in Kiryat Malachi. We get stared at a lot when we walk around because we obviously stand out. Everyone asks us what we're doing here, especially once they hear us speak. One little girl first thought I was from Africa. When I told her I was from the United States, her first question was if there are kassams in the United States. The kids in the schools love having us here. We get to play with them and teach them English in fun ways through games and music.

Next week I begin working in a teen center, which has been my favorite thing so far in the other cities. It's always more fun hanging out and getting to know them in a less formal setting. Once I start that, I'll have my schedule all set up and full and officially feel settled in Kiryat Malachi.


Anonymous said...

Nice report! Can you tell me where exactly in Kiryat Malachi the gym is?

Dina said...

The health club is in the north end of town, close to the shuk.

Melanie said...

What is the name and address of the gym and how far away is it from Yad Binyamin? Is it coed? What is the cost for membership? Please email me at
Thank you