February 4, 2015 –

The End of My First Month Volunteering

So much time has passed so quickly. I am more settled into the school now and have a semi-routine. We learn some, but for me a big part of my day is spent just having fun with the kids and enjoying our time. I have also been busy helping with  intern tasks at A New Dawn in the Negev.
Learning Arabic and Hebrew
Apart from all my work, Hebrew and Arabic class have been coming along – and I am very much glad for them. A surprising number of Israelis have very little English skills at the market and stores, and the kids enjoy hearing me try to talk in Arabic. They like that my Arabic is on the same level as their English, and when we do learn some new words they will also make me to say and write the Arabic.
Starting to Volunteer with High School Students
I also began to participate in an afterschool program at the Al Najak High School in Rahat, located next to the Al Salam Elementary School where I volunteer during the day. We have only met twice so far, but I hope to be able to connect more with them over the next several months.
Traveling Around Israel
Because as a Masa Bedouin Coexistence Fellow, I am in a program that is also sponsored in part by Masa, I get to go on trips around Israel pertaining to Jewish identity. In January, we went to a farming community in the southern desert along the Egyptian border. The vegetables were huge and delicious.
It was very cool to see green fields surrounded by sand, where historically nothing has ever grown, and also to see a Zionist vision within non-disputed Israeli territory.
Visit to SodaStream Factory
I was able to participate in a visit with local Bedouin youth, alongside A New Dawn, to the new Sodastream factory in Rahat, It has moved from its controversial previous location in occupied territory of the West Bank to Rahat, Israel (in the Negev).
After a nice tour with the youth, a lunch, and free Sodastream soda – I can now recommend the machine: the product is very healthy and no longer controversial – the company arranged a nice tree planting activity for us for the national Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shvat, which represents the birthday of the trees.
We began the activity by decorating our pots where seeds could be planted, and were soon joined by local workers. It was very enlightening to see so many happy people, from a variety of backgrounds, talking and laughing. It was a very nice example of Jews, Arabs, and others in peace, which I have been told was also the case at their previous factory. Along us were religious and secular Jews, Bedouin Arabs, Russians and African migrants and others, all together. It was very much a breath of fresh air.
Open House with Israeli Political Candidates
I also went to see Israeli political parties debate in English in Tel Aviv over issues for the upcoming March elections It was surprisingly interesting. I wish American candidates would be so blunt.
Exploring Rahat
This week some the adventures of exploring Rahat have begun. I went to the indoor market (see photo) and it had such great food options, I was still not able to resist the lull of AFC (Arab Fried Chicken!).
I am looking forward to what February brings.
Shared with permission from Cody’s blog: Texas to the Negev.
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