This blog post is written by Sarah, a Yahel fellow living in Lod. Note: "seger" is the Hebrew word for closures due to COVID-19.
Shavua Tov! It is the beginning of a new week and the fourth week of the third nation-wide seger (lockdown). This means that I, and most of the fellows, work from home for most of the week. On Sunday mornings, I volunteer with Aluma, an NGO aiming to create social change processes that will contribute to the Israeli society's resilience by strengthening the sense of belonging of individuals and communities through various programs. I volunteer with the resource development department and mainly work on grant research and writing grant proposals. Before the seger, I was able to work at Aluma's office, but now, I work from home.
(pictured right: Sarah's work for Aluma)
After finishing my work for Aluma, I got vaccinated! This was definitely one of the most exciting moments of the week. It felt a bit surreal that Yahel fellows already qualified to get the vaccine, especially since my family and friends back home in the Netherlands have to wait at least a few more months before they can get vaccinated. It is fascinating to see how fast Israel has vaccinated its people, and I am grateful that I could get my first shot today. I'll go back in three weeks for my second shot.
(pictured left: Sarah bravely sitting for her vaccine!)
After getting my vaccine, I walk to Lia's Garden, where I have been volunteering since the start of the lockdown. It is a community garden run by an amazing woman called Lia, where people and children from the surrounding neighborhoods can come and garden or just hang out. It is easy to spend a lot of time inside during the lockdown, so it is nice to volunteer at the garden for a couple of hours.
(pictured right: Ethan and Gabrielle at Lia's Garden)
On Monday morning, I met up with Skylar around 8 to walk to the Arab ORT High School. We volunteer here three mornings a week. Despite the lockdown, this high school is still partially open because most of its students are part of the so-called 'Shahar Program.' This means that students are either at a higher risk of dropping out or have some learning difficulties. Some days, we teach on Zoom, and other days, such as today, we teach in-person. We work with small groups of students from the 11th and 12th grades and mainly help them prepare for their English Bagrut matriculation exams.
(pictured left: the ORT High School)
In the afternoon, I prep for the various English classes I will be teaching this week. I try to come up with fun or interesting topics for discussion and I prepare a game. I also use this time to do my Hebrew homework because I have Ulpan later this week.
Usually, I volunteer at my high school on Tuesday mornings. Today, however, the students have exams, so there are no English classes. Even though I would have preferred to go to school this morning, I am also not complaining about the extra hours of sleep. I spend most of the morning editing a grant proposal for Aluma.
Every Tuesday, we have a contextual city learning afternoon with the Lod cohort. This week we are working on a community mapping project in small groups. For this project, we are looking into different neighborhoods and issues in Lod. I am meeting up with William and Naomi to talk about our project. We are thinking about mapping the infrastructure of the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood and conducting a survey focused on people's quality of life. We hop on a short phone call with Dana Talmi (Yahel’s Executive Director and our guide in this project) to discuss our ideas.
After this meeting, I head back home because we have a Zoom group check-in with the entire Lod cohort and some of the Yahel staff. To end our contextual learning afternoon, we have a Zoom meeting with Lior Benisti, a social activist living in Lod. He tells us about the various social change initiatives he has been involved in, for example, he founded the Young Adult Center in Lod.
This morning, I am teaching at the Arab ORT High School again with Skylar and Ethan. We practice reading with three groups from the 10th and 11th grade. Due to COVID, we are sitting outside. Luckily the winters in Israel are not that cold!
I get home around noon and quickly go over my lesson plan for the afternoon. I am teaching two English classes on Zoom to students from Tech Career, a program giving high tech skills training and certifications for Ethiopian Jews. Today, we are reading an article and watching a video on Israel's vaccine rollout. We end up having an interesting conversation about why people should or should not get vaccinated.
(pictured right: high school students reading outside)
In the evening, I have a Hebrew class together with three other fellows. The fellowship included three months of Hebrew class, and we decided to continue taking classes with our amazing teacher Maayan (Sharet, who you can read more about here!)
(pictured left: online Ulpan with Maayan)
Thursdays are our learning days with the entire cohort. Today, we have our second session of 'Unlocking the Jewish Bookshelf' with Rabbi Andy Katz. We go over some history of Jewish texts, and we discuss some passages from the Torah about Tzedakah (Hebrew word referring to social justice and charity). Later in the afternoon, we have our first Arabic class! I am very excited. We learn some basic sentences such as 'what is your name' and 'where are you from.' Next week, I'll ask my students at the Arab ORT High School to help me with my pronunciation.
(pictured left: the first Arabic class with Gilad from Blend.Ar)
It is the weekend! This morning, I am walking around in the old city of Lod with William and Naomi to take pictures and write down some observations for our community mapping project. We also pick up some great food in the old city.
(Pictured left: Naomi and William working on the group project,
After my community mapping meeting, I come home to a surprise: the amazing Yahel staff sent us some plants!
In the evening, it is time for Shabbat dinner! This is one of my favorite moments of the week. My roommates and I prepare a nice dinner, and we spend some quality time together.
(pictured left: Sarah's roommate Genna getting the meal ready)
And so the week comes to an end. This Saturday, I took advantage of the beautiful weather (one of the benefits of living in Israel) and went for a long walk, which gave me the chance to reflect on the past week. Despite the lockdown, I feel like I have been quite busy and productive. However, I also feel 'Zoomed-out' because we spend many hours behind our laptops. Sometimes I have to remind myself that it is a blessing that we have platforms such as Zoom that allow us to keep volunteering and learning during these challenging times. I am happy to be in Israel and participate in this fellowship, even though the circumstances are far from ideal, and I am grateful to the Yahel staff for thinking of creative solutions that allow us to keep learning and volunteering (and for sending us cute plants).