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My First Homestay

Today’s participant blog post comes from Gabi Hasson, a participant in the Onward Israel Diversity & Pluralism Program. Gabi group is living, learning and interning in Haifa, Israel for 8 weeks this summer. Gabi is interning at the Golda Meir MASHAV Carmel International Training Center in Haifa. Her original post can be found here.

Last weekend, we piled onto a bus and headed north to the beautiful village of Rameh, an Arab village home to Muslim, Christian and Druze communities. We arrived in Rameh on Thursday morning and met with Ofakim L’atid (Horizons of the Future), a Druze organization that is committed to youth empowerment and community building. Our itinerary included a homestay in the village with Druze families.

I was excited to explore a new part of Israel — I had never visited the north — but I was nervous about the homestay. I had never lived in a stranger’s home, and I was at a loss as to what I should expect. Would my host family and I have anything to talk about, or would my presence in their home be awkward and burdensome? Could we even communicate without my knowing a word of Arabic?

Even for someone as “type A” as me, there was never a reason for concern. My host sister Yara welcomed Lauren and I into her home with genuine happiness. Her family’s hospitality was so wonderful, and we were treated to delicious Arab pastries alongside a more familiar pizza dinner. Despite our obvious cultural differences, we had more in common than I could have anticipated, including a love of action movies and a looming standardized test.

I was eager to cling to these surprising similarities as topics of conversation, but it was what made us different that made talking to Yara in her beautiful garden unforgettable. As I write, I’m struck by how trite this might sound (my housemate Josh agrees), but this is really what happened. Yara spoke about growing up as a Druze woman in Israel, about life in Rameh and in the nearby villages. She offered me a thoughtful and honest perspective on Druze culture that I would never have received outside of the dialogue natural to friendship and endless cups of tea. For our conversation, I am forever thankful to Yara and her wonderful family.

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