One student wrote this about volunteering at the Tachlit Center:
On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to help out with food packaging for those who are in need during this holiday time. Me and and my peers packaged vegetables into care packages that were going to be distributed. It helped me feel connected to my new Jerusalem community in a way I haven’t yet throughout my time here.
This week, the Aardvark students had the pleasure of attending an activity called The Jewish Museum, organized by the madrichim. The Museum consisted of four different activities all based around Jewish identity. During the first session, students were prompted to write about the best and worst parts of being Jewish. Most wrote about Jewish geography and Shabbat dinners with their family being some of the best parts about being Jewish. Conversely, students wrote about micro aggressions being one of the worst parts about being Jewish.The second session was more hands-on. Students created pie charts from different colored paper. Each color represented a different aspect of Jewish identity, such as living in Israel, speaking Hebrew, and Tikun Olam. Students picked which aspect of Jewish identity spoke to them the most and created their own “Jewish Identity Pie Chart.” The third session was about Jewish celebrities. Students were instructed to choose a Jewish celebrity whom they admire and write about why.
During the last session, students were shown photos that they rated as being more Jewish or more Israeli. Examples of the photos included: the Israeli flag, the Western Wall, and a Seder Plate. Most labeled the Israeli flag as being Israeli and the Seder Plate as being Jewish. However, students argued that the Western Wall is both Israeli and Jewish. Students really enjoyed this activity. It allowed them to further explore their Jewish identities in the most holy city in the world.
In our first session of (th)INK! this week, we met in person(!) and it was great to reconnect after the break. One of the students had requested that we explore the idea of Tefila (prayer) in Judaism. We had a lively and meaningful discussion, with each of the students sharing some of their background and experiences with prayer, and then digging into some of the deeper meanings of prayer. I’m looking forward to a great semester with the Jerusalem students!
Despite the national lockdown, we have been able to enjoy a meaningful first week in Jerusalem. My roommates and I engaged in multiple volunteer opportunities including packaging food for the hungry and delivering plants to the elderly for Tu B’Shvat. I especially enjoyed walking around the city to deliver the plants. It was so gratifying to see the joyful reactions of the men and women. It also provided a nice opportunity to explore our Jerusalem neighborhood and get acquainted with our home for the next few months. It’s especially meaningful for me to volunteer here in Israel to give back to a country that took me in even during a pandemic and has granted me so many amazing opportunities this year. I can’t wait to see what Jerusalem brings as things slowly begin reopening!
As sad as I was to leave behind the bustling, beachy city that was Tel Aviv, I am excited to start my semester in Jerusalem for a few reasons. Being so close to the shuk, while a bit financially and calorically dangerous, is certainly a blessing. The endless amount of history that I can directly interact with is remarkable. And, of course, I am excited for some of the best camping in the world. Jerusalem lies next to miles and miles of gorgeous mountains, replete with more hiking trails and camping sites than I could hope to take advantage of in my few months here. It will be so nice to escape from such a densely packed, busy city into the wilderness, to set up a few tents and sit around the campfire with my friends making s’mores and jamming out to such classics as “Country Roads” by Jon Denver, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, and “Betty” by Taylor Swift. Alas, none of these campsites are within 1 kilometer of our homes, and so until this seger is finished we must improvise.
On Tuesday night, our wonderful madrichim set up a hyper-realistic camping experience up on the roof of the Ussishkin building. There were tents, sleeping bags, and even a small burner to roast marshmallows over. For entertainment, we were treated to a showing of “Soul,” the new Pixar movie. I could absolutely triple the length of this paragraph with a philosophical analysis of that movie, but 1. I’m not totally sure you all want to read that, and 2. It is a Thursday night and I have chicken in the oven. It was a lovely couple hours of hilarious conversations and huddling together to ward off the cold. I am so thankful for our wonderful madrichim who took the time to put together this activity. Who knows, I might have to lug a TV with me into the Jerusalem hills the next time Pixar releases a masterpiece.