Friday, July 9, 2010

Volunteering in Kiryat Malachi, July 2010--week one

My husband Howard Cockerham and I are in Israel for the month of July and much of the time we will be based in Kiryat Malachi, volunteering and making Partnership connections.  (I speak street Hebrew fluently.  Howard can read some, but his oral Hebrew skills are very low.)  Today, Thursday, July 8th, marks a full week that we have been in Israel and both of us have fully adjusted.We’ve kept busy since we arrived in Kiryat Malachi on Sunday, after a lovely restful Shabbat with friends in Kibbutz Shuval.

We are the last to use the volunteer apartment as TIPS will no longer continue to have it after July 31st.  The apartment is located a short block from the shuk (open market) and across the street from one of 4 major supermarkets in the area.  We’ve been to two supermarkets and to the shuk. The shuk  is open on Mondays and Thursdays, and on Thursday (today), it is mainly a food market—fruits, vegetables, and nuts. I came home today with my arms loaded with a watermelon, an Israeli melon (not as orange as a cantaloupe), a ½ kilo of fresh figs, tiny pears and small peaches, etc. and I went back later  for fresh almonds in their original (green) casing , some fresh lychee, and cactus fruit (sabras).  You can see a picture of the almonds below.  They taste different than dried ones do, more like almond flavoring drops, though not as intense.

Howard has been busy this week and has gotten involved in 3 different places.  His low Hebrew skills have not kept him from interacting.

First of all on Sunday we together when to a program called Tzeva. It is an enrichment and homework after-school program during the school year to help some lower income children. It is part of a special program in town called "Better Together."  Several national service young women volunteer there during the year. (They are Orthodox teens, recent high school graduates, who do this service instead of the army.) 2 days a week third and fourth graders attend, and another 2 days 5th and 6th graders attend. This summer, they have a three-week program for about 20 children, but just 2 days a week, Sunday and Monday. The coordinator, Merav, is great. She works very well with the children. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have enough volunteers to run it more days.

On Sunday, when we first went, there were 3 young women from national service came, plus another woman named Hadar who I later found out was Dvora’s daughter-in-law. (Dvora is the KM staff rep for our partnership.)  She first got involved with Tzeva through a college community service class she took at Achva college, a program that our TIPS partnership once sponsored. She liked Tzeva so much that she continues to volunteer some. The next day, however, Howard was the only volunteer.

One ten-year-old boy named Ben latched on to Howard right away. Ben’s mother is French, and Ben speaks French and some English with her too, so he was excited to talk English with Howard, and his English was good extremely good for someone his age.

The next day, a petite Ethiopian girl, also the same age, came just because she knew Howard was there. Her English was good too—mainly from watching TV programs in English.

Howard painted with Q-tips with the kids while I did word searches in Hebrew on the topic of summer with others. Later, during large group activities, we learned the game “Yahm-Yavesha.” It is like a very simple Simon Says. There is a line in the room. One side is “yahm” (ocean) and the other is “yavesha” –dry land. When the leader shouts one of the words, each participant has to jump to the correct side.

We then played a bit of non-competitive volleyball as well as other games. One boy, David, was acting out destructively so he was sent to another alcove. Howard went over to him and calmed him down with a bit of attention—they compared watches.

Howard also played hopscotch with a group outside during recess.

Tzeva has 3 basic golden rules. They are not to be abusive, be respectful, and arrive on time.

Howard also helped an 11th grade girl named Sara prepare for the top level (5 pt) repeat Bagrut exam in English (like the SAT subject exams). She is in the alternative school program (Beit Novea)—less formal than in the US.  Shalom Eldar, a member of our steering committee from Kiryat Malachi, is the director of the south of Israel for programs such as these.  Sara's Ethiopian and has learned a lot of English from TV too. Last year, when she started at Beit Novea, they didn’t know what Bagrut test for her to try. She took the 3 point exam and scored 100%.  She’s quite sharp so I’m glad that she found her way back to a school program.

Atidim is a special program program to help disadvantaged youth prepare to become army officers. It starts with  7th graders and teaches them many good life skills. The director for the local program in town wanted to run an English class for outgoing 7th graders, and because Howard was here, she could start it. Yesterday (Wednesday) was the first day. Howard had about 7 or 8 girls and one boy. The girls in skirts were from the religious public secondary school AMIT, and the others were from AMAL, the non-religious public school. Howard really is a born teacher, and it showed here from what he told me. (Howard just finished his 10th year of teaching middle school science.  He is an introvert but not when he teaches!)  He got the kids to talk a bit about their interests. He found out that they liked romantic movies. So he told them about the most romantic movie he has ever seen, “Casablanca.” He told them the story, briefly, but did not tell him which of the 2 men that the main star chose. (The teacher may get the movie so that he can show it to them and use it as a teaching tool.)

Howard also found out that they wanted to do vocabulary work, so they reviewed everything they could see in the room. New words that he taught included “elbow.” Then in the afternoon, we went to the town library and took out 4 picture dictionaries that he could use with vocabulary by topic. I am so well known at the town library as I have helped them with the English books a Seattlite has sent them over the years that they let us take the books, though the usual limit is just 2 books at a time.

Howard said that some liked to talk and others liked to listen, and he was happy to let them do either. They don’t want to do “activity book” work, and neither does he!  Below is a picture I took of Howard and his girls today.

Last night Howard downloaded a bunch of pictures to his new IPad to take to class today, and the girls enjoyed seeing them. Three new people showed up today but the one boy was missing. It says a lot if so many show up the second day….during summer vacation to a non-required class. He will continue next week from 10 a.m. to noon, but with 2 smaller groups, the AMIT group first and then the AMAL group. The AMIT girls want to practice writing, and came prepared today with notebooks and pencils. I’ll be happy to help him with writing starting on Sunday. 

Last Monday, we went over to the new open mall just across the highway from town (about 4 blocks from us). In the side area of the parking lot, adjacent to MacDonalds and Cafe Joe, there was Israeli dancing in the parking lot.

If you look closely, you can see Ira's bck on the left side of the picture above.  Ira stayed for several hours, and I also ran into Esti, the science center administrative assistant.

 Esti invited us to go with her on Wednesday to participate in the walk with Gilad Shalit’s family to Jerusalem. It started at their home in the Galil (Galilee) and by Wed. would be at Latrun. I knew I had to work with Ira on the TIPS calendar, and also was concerned about being outside in the heat of the day. Today, she told me it was a fantastic experience. They waited for 2 hours in the open sun, but then walked with the family for an hour. If you haven’t heard of the walk, it is major news here, taking over a week total. The idea is to get enough attention to at least improve the conditions for Shalit and for some communication to exist and health visits.  The walkers arrived in Jerusalem tonight and 25,000 were there to greet them.  Over the course of the 12-day walk, over 110,000 joined the Shalit family as they walked to Jerusalem.

Life for Israelis goes on at a super-busy pace.  We have seen some friends from the past and are working to see others.   Tonight we are going to a house warming of an English teacher from Etzion School in Kiryat Malachi.  She and her family have just moved to a rental in Moshav Shafir.
I ran into Klara at the shuk.  She is the Bukharan from the Ethnic flavors group that came to the 3 US communities last fall.  Her mother has a booth in the shuk.  Klara looks great and is now working in her profession, doing pedicures.

BTW, It is a slow news week in Israel as it is vacation time.  What there has been this week has focused on:
1)  World Cup Soccer
2)  The march in support of Gilad Shalit
3)  The visit of Netanyahu to the US
4)  A bill in the Knesset to raise the minimum wage
5)  Hit and run traffic accidents, of which there have been more than 250 this year that caused deaths or serious injury.  Two caused deaths this week.  In one, the driver was caught.  He was 19 years old and high on drugs (something that has not been so common in the past).  He and a girl friend were returning from a night of fun at 6 a.m. when they hit a 60+-year-old man who was heading to work.  the driver was caught on photographed on TV. in chains

All the best,
Dina Tanners, Co-chair, TIPS partnership

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