Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Haifa Community Week: Part II

Cohort 5 Israel Winter Seminar
Haifa Community Week: Part II
By Isabel Feinstein

On Tuesday morning, the fellows woke up at their respective accommodations. We met at the Reut Middle School at 8:30 to kick off the day with a maagal boker, designed by Adin and Galia. They led a discussion focusing on how we would take advantage of our last full day in Haifa. After wrapping up the meeting, the Boston fellows traveled to the Gavrieli School for some relaxed volunteering. Gavrieli is an elementary school in Haifa with a student body comprised of many Ethiopian and Russian immigrants as well as children of Arab backgrounds. The group divided in half, as did the fourth graders we had just been introduced to through a very cute rendition of "What A Wonderful World." We were granted the distinct privilege of learning to play "House-Field" with the kids, which is a special version of baseball with impressively unclear rules. Nonetheless it was very amusing. We then played a matching cards game led by Ilana. It was interesting to see how a total language barrier affected my personal ability to engage with the fourth graders. My sister is in fourth grade, and I have a lot of little kids in my life with whom I am usually able to connect quite well. It was a lot harder in this situation due to the lack of a mutual language. However, I still thoroughly enjoyed the visit to the school.
Our next stop was Or Hadash, one of the few Reform synagogues in Israel. We talked to the synagogue's rabbi, who told us a bit about his personal beliefs in regards to Judaism. Or Hadash is actually partnered with several Reform congregations in the greater Boston area, so the rabbi was enthusiastic about finding out to which temples the fellows belonged. We managed to eat lunch somewhere in between Or Hadash and Beit Hagefen, an institute dedicated to bridging the social and cultural gap between Jews and Arabs in Haifa. A friendly tour guide showed us the art Beit Hagefen has installed, both inside its residence and on the neighborhood streets. I love looking at art and I have a special appreciation for street art, so this part of the day was fun for me. Liana bought us falafel from "the best falafel in Israel" in the Wadi Nisnas Arab neighborhood. The owner's son even went to Brandeis!
Later in the afternoon, the Haifa fellows joined us back at the Reut School for an Israel program led by the JCs. This was an activity that every Diller group did, intended to expand the way fellows see Israel in relation to themselves. Although I was tired by that point, it was thought-provoking and the JCs did a great job. We then transitioned into prepping for the closing ceremony of Community Week. Everyone changed into nice clothes, ate a quick dinner, and socialized with each other while waiting for the parents to arrive. After a hectic hour, we began. Josh G. and Yarin were the MCs, and they were very entertaining. Several fellows, both Boston and Haifa, gave brief speeches on the past few days. After the ceremony, the fellows had a dance party on the stage, just like we did the last night of NAS. It felt good that we had a group tradition that we carried on, and after a lot of laughing and hugging, I went home with my host family for our final night together.

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