Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Morses from Seattle Volunteer in Kiryat Malachi

Nancy Highiet Morse and her husband Wayne Morse last summer helped host the counselors from Israel who volunteered at the Seattle area JCC Day camp. They also hosted a Jewish student from Hungary. Wayne has his own business and his very handy with both computer and machine repair. Nancy is an independent school librarian who has a spring quarter sabbatical, so the two of them decided to come to Israel just before Yom Haatzmaut, Israel Independence Day, and volunteer in Kiryat Malachi. Before leaving, they went to the "garage" of Norm Chapman, the book man, who has collected over 35,000 books from many sources for the schools and libraries in the Kiryat Malachi/Hof Ashkelon region. Nancy gathered some and took them to the gifted center in Kiryat Malachi as well as others for a teacher who lives nearby and teaches outside the region, saving Norm the postage. When he began, books were sent by ship, but now due to security, all is sent by airmail.

Norm and Nancy packing books

Nancy and Wayne arrived in Israel a few days before Yom Haatzmaut, rented a car, drove to Kiryat Malachi late in the evening, and only got a bit lost on the way.
Here is Nancy's report:

After a short sleep, we turned on the hot water, took showers, squeegeed the shower floor, turned off the hot water and headed out to meet the locals, for whom we would be volunteering. Ira, the representative for the TIPS partnership was with us, and he knows everyone!

We left early but arrived late to each appointment because we kept running into people who chatted with Ira. We began in the Municipal Building, to schedule Wayne who would be “working with computers.” Then we hit the KM Library and the religious and secular middle/ high schools, where we would both volunteer. We set our schedule for the next two weeks and ran into Jordan (Yarden) at AMAL , the secular secondary school.

Jordan and Nancy

Our son Zack stayed with Jordan’s family while in Israel on his 8th grade JDS trip. Jordan’s family would be our “host family” while in KM. Unbeknownst to us, Jordan knew all about Zack’s recent house building trip to Mexico, as they’re in contact thru facebook! Amazing!
We said goodbye to Ira, ate a quick schwarma lunch at the corner of Sun Diego/Rashi, took a trip to the shuk to buy fresh fruits and veggies, and enjoyed a much needed nap before the evening KM Yom Hazikaron ceremony, Day of Remembrance for the soldiers who died while serving Israel.

We just followed the crowd to the service. Even though we couldn’t understand the Hebrew, we got the gist of it. We recognized two prayers and Hatikvah. The Yom Hazikaron Program was very moving, with a very sophisticated slide show, wreaths placed for each fallen soldier from KM, standing room only audience, and songs sung by the choir from the Amit school, one of the schools where we’d be volunteering. I lost it when these Ethiopian girls sang Hatikvah, with their beautiful voices!

The next morning at exactly 11 am, the two minute siren sounded everyone stopped in their tracks, cars pull off the road, drivers got out and stood next to their cars, and it was SILENT for the entire time.

Later that afternoon, we fired up the GPS and headed north of Tel Aviv to our friends Norma and Doobie’s for Yom Haatzmaoot, Israel Independence Day. We took a late night walk to the Raanana Park for the celebration. It was PACKED!

We arrived close to midnight for a 12:30am Idan Reichel concert. (His lead singer is from Kiryat Malachi and a few days later we met her younger sister in KM. He’s also coming to the Triple Door in Seattle in August! Not to be missed.) We found our spots on the grass and watched hoards of middle and high school age kids wandering around, as they would until 6am! The bands lasted until 4am. We, who are usually in bed by 10pm, returned home at 2:30am, after an early morning frozen yogurt snack!

After Yom Haatzmaut, we returned to KM and settled into somewhat of a volunteer routine. Each day we would walk to school together, with Wayne helping to carry the books that we had brought from Seattle!

At AMIT, the religious public High School, I helped seniors practice English for their upcoming Bagrut exam. Bagrut exams are nationwide exams based on the national curriculum in given subjects, math, history, English, etc. The exams are very important for the university bound and/or student interested in work requiring an academic background. There are levels of difficulty for each exam.
I loved those students! They answered my set questions, telling me about themselves, their families, their hobbies, (which unfortunately rarely included READING), and about their recently completed research project. I know I shouldn’t pick favorites but
Tzvia was truly inspiring, with her pink cell phone and attached pacifier. She researched and quoted Ophrah, “If you want something, you need to fight until you achieve your goal!” You go girl!

Other days I helped at Amal, the secular school in many different classes. I assisted in a 7th grade English class, where the students were typical 7th graders, interested in me, where I’m from, and WHY I would come to KM. They even asked me if I was Jewish! Anything to not do the work in front of them! I was quite the distraction! Those 7th graders were fun!

Mostly I helped small groups of students who needed extra time to take a test, or a test read out loud, etc. etc. I worked with 8th, 9th and 11th graders at Amal. One day Wayne and I were both working with 9th graders in side by side conference rooms off the Faculty Room. We each had a small group of students, who were to read an English passage, answer questions in writing and then write a short, 35 – 50 word essay on “When I grow up….”
I wish we had a video of this session. As we tried to explain the directions, with our limited Hebrew, we passed the LONELY PLANET PHRASEBOOK, back and forth with its 3500 word two-way dictionary. Eventually the students understood what they were to do, but it was hilarious!

After that morning session, Wayne went off to work on computers, his main job in KM. He worked at the elementary school Eli Cohen, where he deleted games and set administrative passwords to prevent students downloading files. He also spent a lot of time shooing a young man out of the Computer Lab, also known as the bomb shelter.

child from Eli Cohen
Wayne also worked with Avi, the Vice Principal of the Amit School, repairing his computer and compiling a slide show for the end of the year celebration, especially for the 12th grade graduation. When Wayne had nothing else scheduled, he returned to Amit. Avi was delighted with all he had done, and is looking forward to Wayne's return! The Amit students were the ones who sang so beautifully the first night at the Yom Hazikaron ceremony. Avi wants us to come back for a month next time!

Avi and Wayne
We spent our afternoons visiting with the Israeli students whom we met last summer when they worked at the Stroum JCC. At the apartment, we also hosted the students who will be coming to work at JCC’s in the US this summer.

It was great fun meeting this wonderful group of very dynamic students. We’re not sure yet who is going where, but they shared their very interesting life stories. One girl lives on the Moshav closest to Gaza, and her house was hit twice by mortars. Luckily all were fine.

They shared that during the Gaza War, they really enjoyed their three weeks up North without school! After a very long meeting discussing “being a good guest” and different cultural competencies, (see list from –Arizona) at 9pm we went to Jordan’s (Zack’s 8th grade friend) for dinner.

His mom kept bringing out very yummy food. She has a very interesting story. She retired at 45 after 25 years in the police dept. investigating corruption, and putting many people in jail. Now she’s in charge of a program for At-Risk students in KM and she’s PTA President of the Amal School. We saw her the next morning in front of the school looking for students from her program. Jordan commented at dinner that he doesn’t study, that’s what girls do! Right.

We had several other amazing, only in Israel experiences. One afternoon, Wayne and I went to the hardware and plumbing stores in KM to buy supplies for the apartment. Now that was a trip! Before Home Depot, remember the old, tiny hardware stores with stuff everywhere?

Lot’s of sign language, pointing and searching through the phrase book to collect the stuff we needed. Wayne was totally in his element! At the plumbing store I asked for a toilet seat, by pointing at the toilet bowl, squatting and pointing to my tush! The shop keeper understood, and brought out the 35, 50 and 75 shekel versions!

Wayne in the KM hardware store

Wayne spent the afternoon making repairs around the apartment, while I wondered where the nearest hospital was located in case the wiring he was fiddling with should spark!

Ira came by later and we went for coffee. At a nearby table, two young women were peering over an atlas, planning an upcoming trip. (Israelis are BIG travelers.) We borrowed their atlas and discovered that one of them will be working at Camp Kalsman, outside Seattle this summer! Such a small world only is Israel story!

We spent our last day buying souvenirs, touring the Alexander Muss campus and meeting up with Ben, one of the Hungarian students we met last summer when he worked at the JCC in Seattle.

Nancy and Ben

It was a great trip, filled with memories of the students and adults we met in Kiryat Malachi. Every day was a new adventure! We were challenged in so many ways. We had to modify our style of dress, shop and eat different foods, speak Hebrew, and learn to rely solely on each other. We faced poverty everyday. One teacher explained to Wayne that one of his students was failing because he had ten brothers and sisters, no place to sleep, and was hungry.

As we packed our bags to come home, the Pope’s upcoming arrival in Israel was making headlines.

Early May is the perfect time to be in Israel. The weather was sunny and not too warm. If you’re interested in making a very different trip to Israel and want to contribute at the grassroots level, contact Adam Tennen in Phoenix atatennen@jewishphoenix.org or Dina Tanners @ tanners47@yahoo.com

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Israeli Scouts in Seattle and Arizona

Just after midnight, June 3, after driving for 16 hours, the ten members and two advisors of the 2009 Tzofim (Israeli Scouts) Friendship Caravan arrived in Seattle, in the middle of their second week of travel and performances in the US. Five groups of ten members each are traveling through the US. Seattle, and the Phoenix and Tucson areas have the Tamar Caravan visit.

On Wednesday, June 3, after sleeping a short time, the ten teens divided into 5 groups and visited 24 classes in 6 schools in 4 cities throughout the area, talking to at least 750 high school students about Israel and their lives there. In several schools, they also taught Israeli dances
After dinner, they performed for over an hour to an enthusiastic audience in the sanctuary of Herzl Ner Tamid synagogue.
Their songs included "Lu Yehi" ("Let It Be"), "Yom Sababa," "Yerushalayim Haacheret," a Hora Medley, and "You've Got a Friend in Me."

They also sang a song dedicated to Gilad Shalit, the soldier held by Hamas since 2007, and another for the young soldiers who fought in the Gaza action this past winter. Of course they also sang "Hatikvah."

After Seattle, this Tzofim group traveled to Vancouver, Canada, and also to Tacoma, Washington. This is the first time that the Scouts have come to Seattle, and hopefully it will not be the last. They were sponsored by the northwest chapter of Stand With Us, an Israel Advocacy group. The chair of the group grew up in Israel where Tzofim played a huge part in her childhood.

Volunteer from Tucson in Kiryat Malachi

Excerpted from the Ethiopian National Project Blog

Terrie Sherman hails from Tucson Arizona. She is participating for the third year in the Partnership 2000 TIPS volunteer program. After meeting Grace and Nigist in Tucson, Terrie decided to volunteer with ENP in Kiryat Malachi. A teacher of English and special education for 30 years, Terrie is sharing her vast experience with ENP's students.

Where does time go? It seems to just fly away! I have been very busy and am doing some new things. I am with 7th and 8th graders at Amal 1 High School in an English class. They act the same as American 7th and 8th graders. They become very shy when I bring out my camera and do not want me to take pictures of them. We are working on past, present and future irregular verbs with 8th graders and physical attributes with the 7th graders. The kids understand and can speak much better than they write.

I am spending time each week helping Daniel, the volunteer coordinator of the Ethiopian National Project (ENP) improve his speaking in English. Daniel is working on an advanced degree and will be traveling to present the Project and needs to be more confident. We talked about his family (which is very small he says...8 children!), his education and upcoming wedding! I am very excited to be attending his wedding on June 18th. Tomorrow, I will go with Daniel to Beit Shemesh to an Ethiopian community and help paint. It should be a lot of fun!

I have begun volunteering on Wednesday afternoons as part of the ENP with enrichment. The program is from 2-5; with the boys from 2-3:30 and the girls from 3:30 - 5:00. Last week, they wanted to learn cursive. Sivan, the teacher, was very glad to have me there as I have mastered English cursive and she is challenged by it. The kids loved seeing words they knew in cursive, especially their names! We played hangman and they were very good at it. They chose categories and had to think of words that fit into the category given and spell it correctly. Quite a challenge!!

There was no work on Thursday as that evening was a holiday of the giving of the Torah. Everyone eats dairy and you know I love this holiday because I can eat everything! Aliza is wonderful chef as is her husband Chayim. We had pasta, lasagna, ravioli, tuna, lots of salads, many different kinds of cheese and when I thoughts we were finished, she brought out pizza, burakas stuffed with vegetables and stuffed mushrooms. I put a little of each food on my plate and she piles more on. You have to love her!

I have also spent time with Revaya, the 14 year old daughter of Sarah who runs the Ethiopian women's program I so dearly love. Revaya is a very bright young lady with much potential. She loves to talk in English so we do! Revaya wrote an excellent report on different cities to visit in the US and got pictures from a travel agency. She included the Grand Canyon because I live in Arizona. It is such a pleasure to talk with her. She is beyond her years.

For the complete article and a picture of Terrie, go to http://enpblog.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tucson Hebrew Academy Visits Kibbutz Zikkim in HA

From Ira Kerem:

On Sunday night, May 31, 10 eighth graders of Tucson Hebrew Academy (THA) were hosted by teens from Kibbutz Zikim in Hof Ashkelon, who study at the Shikma School in Yad Mordechai.

The Americans were met by the Israeli teens who took them on a guided tour of the Kibbutz which included visits to the cowshed, to a hill that overlooks Gaza, and to the petting zoo. They played basketball together and baked pita bread on the "tabun" oven on the campfire.

After a dinner prepared by the mothers of the Israeli students, they went to their host families and returned to sing and just hang out together. In the morning, after tear filled goodbyes, the THA kids departed.

Rabbi Billy repeated his thanks to everyone and was as excited and delighted from the visit as any of the students.

If money is an issue for any group of students who want to visit, you should think about staying even more than one night as guests of the Israelis. Our region is close enough to many sites - Beit Guvrin, beautiful Mediterannean beaches, and only an hour from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv that it can be used as a base to explore a good deal of Israel and also allow for the building of relationships between the Israeli and American kids. Not only that but it can save the Americans money since hotels and food are the major land costs for any visit.

Thanks to Hila and Revital for the pictures.