Today’s blog post was written by Gabi Benvenuto Ladin, a Yahel Social Change Fellow living, learning and volunteering for 9 months in Lod, Israel.
I live in a mixed city called Lod. I like it, a lot, but just like any other place in the world, it has significant issues. That’s not really what this post is about, though. I just want to write about the cool people I’ve met.
Let’s start with a basic thing-I’m learning a lot about new people and what those people believe just by being around them. For example, I spend a chunk of my work week working with the staff of a non profit called Tech Career. They are an organization that takes Ethiopian Israelis after their army service and gives them the skills to work in the tech (web-development, coding, etc.) industry. Working there gives me a really unique chance to learn about them, where they come from, how they think about things. Just talking to them, both faculty and students, has given me an entirely new idea of what it can mean to be a Jew, to live in Israel, and even what people have sacrificed to get here.
Gabi and other fellows meeting with the city council member in charge of environmental issues in Lod
There are two other big populations in Lod, the Arabs and the Russian immigrants. Most of this second group are Jewish, but not all, seemingly. I’m working in a school of primarily Russian kids, most of who’s parents or grandparents immigrated to Israel. There is a bunch of institutionalized racism, unsurprisingly, but more than anything there’s a lack of knowledge. The Russians and Arabs literally don’t interact at all. Most of the kids I work with haven’t actually spoken to an Arab in their lives, and I’d bet that some of them haven’t seen one either.
Gabi and fellows meeting with Azmi Arafat, principal of the Tomashin Arab High School in the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood of Lod
Speaking of the Arabs, they are the people I’ve made the most concerted effort to get to know. I come from a hate-driven society (especially now), and so getting to know the people that are having to take a massive amount of that hate was one of the things that excited me most of all. To no surprise at all, they’re a people-like us in some ways, and not in other ways. Walking into Ramat Eshkol, the Arab quarter of Lod, you can tell immediately that you’re in almost a completely different world. The smells change, the people change, and the environment around you changes. For all of the chaos they have to face, though, I have yet to see any hatred or even trepidation from the people I’ve spoken with.
What I’ve learned is this: people are awesome. Even with all of the chaos going on around the world, there are still good people living their lives. I think that’s worth celebrating.