Friday, July 24, 2015

Gettting To Know Haifa & IDF Day!

Wednesday July 22nd and Thursday July 23rd
Written by Erica Morrisey

After the jam-packed days of Kennes at the Sde'Boker kibbutz with all of the North American and South African fellows, everyone was ready to relax during Community week. For a week, each fellow stays with a host family somewhere in Haifa at night, and tours with the group during the day. Community Week is completely planned and executed by all of the Boston and Haifa Fellows! We have 4 Fellows overseeing the week, and they sort of act as what the staff would normally do. We have meetings to plan and to learn from the experience.
The theme of the first day of Community Week was Getting to Know Haifa Day. Fellows began the day at Bat Galim beach for a maagal boker in small groups discussing the changes in the opinions of fellows on various Israeli/American stereotypes between JCM in March, and the Israel Summer Seminar. For some groups, this transitioned into the affects of racism in America and Israel, all of which was very interesting as racism is present in Israel, but in different ways. Israel doesn't have the same histories of racism as America, so comments are occasionally made that seem racist to the Americans, but hilarious to Israelis. The different backgrounds mean that the comments have different meanings for both groups. This program was to gauge the differences between the cultures of Haifa and Boston.
Groups were next given different brightly colored facepaints, ribbons, and whistles for a scavenger hunt that would take place later in the day. In the meantime, fellows were herded onto a cable car that went to Stela Maris. The view overlooking the ports of Haifa made home feel a little closer, seeing as Boston and Haifa are both shipping hubs. The group braved the heat and hiked over to the Baha'i Gardens. Due to it being a Wednesday, visitors were only allowed to get to the first terrace. Despite the restrictions, the fellows were able to enjoy the beauty of the views and fountains as Sam Epstein delivered an overview of Baha'i culture. The saying that everything that can go wrong, will go wrong was proven during Get to Know Haifa Day, as the heat became too much and a tour of the German colonies had to be cancelled. Instead, the fellows took a trip to the air conditioned mall (yes!!). After lunch and shopping at the mall, fellows took a bus to the Sammy Ofer Stadium for a tour. On the tour, fellows were taught how Israeli sports and politics are so closely entwined, mostly because each soccer team is associated with a different political group, making cheering on a team a political statement. The night ended with highly competitive bowling, and delicious hummus, pita, schnitzel, and plums.
Day two of Community Week was Israeli Defense Forces Day. The day began with a history of wars involving the IDF, and an explaination of how they continue to affect Israel today. Shortly after, fellows heard from Yisrael Ne'eman, a Middle East studies professor of Liana's from her time studying at the University of Haifa. He had an engaging tactic of writing down a list of the topics that the audience wanted, and then going over every single one at some point during his lecture. He was fascinating and taught the fellows new information about political parties, gaza, and more.
After lunch, fellows were bussed to Beit Halochem, a gym in Haifa that was specifically for former soldiers that were injured. Fellows toured the facilities and then had a chance to play basketball in wheelchairs. Playing with two wheels and a waist strap instead of two legs really changed the structure of the game. Now instead of running, one had to dribble the ball, and pump the wheels at the same time. It allowed the Boston-Haifa fellows to not only count their blessings, but to understand first hand the struggles of an amputee or paralyzed veteran.
Fellows were welcomed to Haifa by Ilana Trock, the Haifa Diller supervisor and Education Director for the Haifa Municipality; she gave us all a nice welcome gift! We sadly said goodbye to the volunteers at the gym, and headed to Techni, a training school for air force engineers. Here, fellows gained an overview of the air force engineers, as well as the expectations of a student that knows in middle school, what they want to do in life and the army. Soon after, fellows asked a panel of solders all of their questions about working in the army, completing one's service, and continuing with life. Two of the soldiers had visited Boston on the CJP Hatikvah Officers Mission, and the third was Ofir, a Haifa JC's brother. Last, all of the fellows had the chance to experience Gadna, army training in Kiryat Ata involving running laps, pushups, crawling, and carrying an "injured" comrade across a field on a cot. The day was ended with a later curfew graciously granted by staff, and a birthday dinner for Noam at Caffe Rothschild.

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