Sunday, April 12, 2009

Purim, volunteering exeriences in Kiryat Malachi, etc--dated March 21

More from Tamara

The holiday of Purim was recently celebrated in Israel. All schools got three days off from classes for it. The day before Purim, the schools had parties and everyone wore their costumes to school, like in the US for Halloween.

For weeks before, everyone kept asking us what we were dressing up as. In all the shopping centers, photography booths popped up so that people could get pictures of their kids dressed as lions, princesses, or Darth Vader.

Also much like the US, teenagers love to play tricks for Purim. Firecrackers, though illegal, were plentiful in Kiryat Malachi. Teenagers loved throwing them in the school halls during class, or during the breaks or at the nearest American volunteer (aka us). We were all very happy to see the firecrackers go as the holiday ended.

It took us awhile to figure out what to do for Purim. There is a big street party in Tel Aviv. In a neighborhood called Florentine, all the roads are blocked off and everyone comes out in costume. We ended up going to the party thrown by Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva. Two engineering students who were with us were set on winning the costume contest. They decided to go as Asterix and Obelix, characters in a French cartoon. We were able to witness the last minute frenzy of sewing the costumes together, stuffing the fake belly with foam padding, and making sure all the lights on the costumes turned on (they were electrical engineering students). At the end of the night though, they won a flat screen TV. At a later party, they won a trip to Turkey for their costumes.

After Purim, we only had two weeks left in Kiryat Malachi before the Passover break. We are all starting to wrap up our volunteering. My favorite thing I've done here was working at the senior center. I work in the art room there doing little projects and talking to the seniors. One who I've gotten to know well, came from Spain in 1950 when he was fifteen. He came on his own and lived in Jerusalem for 6 years before the rest of his family came to Kiryat Malachi and he moved to the city too. Another man that I've met was born in Kiryat Malachi when it was still a tent city. Almost everyone who frequents the senior center was born in a different country and immigrated. It's really interesting to talk to them and hear their stories about how they came, their lives here, and where their families are now. They are all also very patient in helping me with my Hebrew, since they all had to learn it as a second language too, they understand when I make mistakes or don't know certain words and love to teach me.

I also really love working with the high school seniors. I work with the highest level, so they all speak really good English. I spent my first few weeks with them preparing them for their oral exams in English, so I interviewed them all about their lives. Once I went over to my students' houses when I was in Kiryat Malachi for a weekend.

After we finish here, we have a two week break for Passover. I'm going to be going to Turkey for part of it with a few friends. After our break, we begin the internship portion of OTZMA- the last track. I'm going to be living in Jerusalem working for the Ethiopian National Project. ENP works to bring programming to Ethiopian teenagers to help them succeed. Many of the teen centers that OTZMAnikim have been working at are funded by the Ethiopian National Project. I'm looking forward to working for them, but I can't believe it's the almost the third track already. This year has gone so fast for all of us. A little more than 2.5 months until OTZMA is over.

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