This blog post was written by Amanda Rosen, a Yahel Social Change Fellow living and working in Rishon LeZion.
My first impression of Ramat Eliyahu: it is bright outside. Perhaps it was the jet lag and not sleeping the previous night that made everything seem brighter. Maybe it was a normal day, and my eyes were not accustomed to the desert sun yet. Or, maybe unconsciously I viewed this place as bright because it’s a fresh start. The nerves were flowing through me, and the months of preparation has led me to this moment. But all I could think about was, “How am I going to get my stuff up this hill?”
My luggage was heavy, and I mean really heavy. I remember walking for 20 minutes with an oversized suitcase and my other bags. The sun was blazing, and I was exhausted. We got to the apartment that we now fondly call ‘Zalman’ and yes, I needed help carrying my stuff up the stairs. Except I exaggerate, it’s almost 5 months later, and the ‘hill’ is now a street I walk on everyday without giving a second thought. The ‘20-minute walk’ is now a path I take multiple times a day to get to my placements and it’s only 2 minutes.
It took me three days to fully unpack everything. My luggage was emptied, but not my baggage. The unpacking began within my inner circle. The five of us were thrust into this apartment not knowing each other. I will always cherish the late nights my roommates and I spent together sharing stories, adventures, hardships, and achievements. I am grateful for the movie nights, the last-minute cleaning sessions, the ice cream runs, the arguments, the silly conversations, and even the serious ones. Whether I had a good day or a bad day, there was always someone at home willing to listen and offer advice. I’ll never forget watching the guys having to hold down the washing machine during the spin cycle because it shook so much (we have since figured out how to use it). I’ll never forget the cork board we’ve made full of funny things we hear in a day. Also, I’ll never forget watching a movie that made us laugh so hard our neighbors had to tell us to be quiet.
I had never lived alone, never lived out of my home city, and never felt responsible for myself. With that came hesitations and anxieties. I was constantly worried about if I was going to make friends, what food I was going to eat, how would we split expenses, who would do the dirty dishes, and overall, how would we co-exist. I got so caught up in my anxiety that I forgot to appreciate my surroundings and dive into the reason we are all here, the placements. Within these five months, my time with Yahel has taught me how to develop deep connections with my peers. How to take responsibility for my actions and that words matter. I’ve learned how to be comfortable in my own skin and who I am on the inside. Yahel has taught me to ask the important questions when working and living in a community different to your own. I’ve learned that it is okay to not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you may be someone’s first sip of lemonade on a hot day.
For me, my ‘first sip of lemonade’ is going to the beach to watch the sunset, taking photos of plants and flowers I’ve never seen before, and stepping outside to feel the sun on my face. I love walking into the corner store and getting a nod of recognition from the owner. I love walking into the preschool and hearing my name being mispronounced by a child and I love that wherever I go someone is offering me something to eat. I love taking the 163 bus and riding over the bridge that connects Rishon LeZion to Holon, and walking to the far grocery store so I can smell the wild mint nearby. These experiences will be added to my ‘baggage.’ I’ve learned that what we carry with us doesn’t have to be only negative, it is a collection of trinkets from our past experiences. It means that we’ve been hurt but also that we overcame it. We use our baggage to deepen our awareness and understanding of ourselves and how we approach others.
How do you pack your bags?