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Saying Goodbye

This week’s participant blog post comes from Ethan Goldman, one of the incredible volunteers on this year’s Yahel Social Change Program. Tomorrow is the last day of the program; here, Ethan reflects on his time living and volunteering in Gedera.

I am going to leave Gedera and Israel in two days. Although I am not looking forward to saying good bye to the many close friends I have made over the past 9.5 months and the beautiful place that was my home for this time, I must admit that I am very excited to return to the US and Boston. The past 9 months have been nothing short of incredible for me. I have made great friends, traveled to amazing places, and learned a lot about Israel, Judaism, social justice issues, and my own personal values. There have also been a few struggles throughout the experience as well, such as coping with the chaotic Israeli school system, communication barriers, and the public transportation. I am, however, very happy to say that I have accomplished the two main goals I had set for myself coming into this year.

Ethan, working in the community garden

The first goal was to successfully live abroad in a very different culture than I was used to. Living in Gedera, specifically in the Shapira neighborhood, was dramatically different than anywhere else I have spent a significant amount of time in before. There are many customs, interactions, and smells that I had never encountered before that now seem normal to me. I have made many friends in this neighborhood that I will not easily forget, such as the little girls who I have had a 9 month long game of tag going with to the elderly women who commend me for eating as much food as I possibly can. I have really grown to appreciate this neighborhood and community and although it took it some time, it really has become a meaningful place for me that will hopefully always remain to be a home away from home.

The second goal I set for myself coming into this year was to figure out what I wanted to do with my self professionally, at least for the next few years. After working in this type of service work for the past year I have come to find it very fulfilling as well as necessary. Through our many learning sessions and trips I have also become aware of the immense amount of privilege I have been lucky enough to have growing up and the opportunities that go hand in hand with that. That is why I feel the best way for me to spend my time and energy, at least in the next few years, is to continue this type of work. Next year I will be working at a non profit organization in Boston that promotes healthy living, academic advancement, and development of the “whole” child to at-risk youth. It also works to my advantage that their programming is based around soccer, one of my passions that I was also able to incorporate into my volunteering in Gedera.

The 2013-2014 Yahel Social Change Program group at their goodbye party

In all, I am proud to say that Yahel has been an amazing experience for me, and I am extremely happy to have made the decision to come here. The past 9 months have undoubtedly changed my life and I will carry with me what I have learned and experienced here for the rest of my life. I can only hope that I get to come back here and people will still remember “Gingey.”

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