This blog post is written by Michael Cass, a Yahel Social Change fellow living and working in Lod.
I have been completely taken aback by communities across the globe, but few have had me questioning both myself and factors around me as quickly as the one here in Lod. The first few weeks have been a mixture of many things -- excitement, for the potential impact that us fellows can have here, meeting the people that will be our roommates for the next 9 months, exhaustion after busy days, the weather has been hot, I don't have a car here, and not many people speak English in Lod. I also feel appreciative to have Racheli as our Lod City Coordinator. There's also the feelings from settling in, learning all of the little cheat codes and short cuts for getting around and getting by, completing your first grocery shopping trip in a new city, and filling up your spice cupboard. Despite these emotions, having applied for the fellowship at late stages and with the intensity of the first weeks of orientation, I hadn’t really processed my overall emotions. I saw our day trip to Jerusalem, on our last day of orientation month, as a potential opportunity to ground myself.
I was sitting with a couple of the Lod fellows as we waited for our tour guide. One of us mentioned that they always felt super connected and present when in Jerusalem. I mentioned my own intentions to stay mindful and aware throughout the day in an attempt to find that moment that might ground me. We moved on to discuss how appreciative we are of our situation in Lod. We felt that we have a really great team of different people, coming from different angles and filling in each other’s gaps. Our Lod cohort seems like a reflection of the city of Lod itself, with the various amazing organisations here serving the diverse communities in totally different, but complimentary ways. As we were discussing this, the song “Better Together” by Jack Johnson came on the speakers in the cafe, a song I had suggested for our first Shabbat sing along with the theme of togetherness. Synergy was in the air. We were off to a good start.
The first thing that hit me as I entered the Old City of Jerusalem was all of the different aromas coming out of the small, tavern like restaurants around every corner, built into the rocks like something out of Flea Bottom in Kings Landing. Each scent, however, was cut through, then sewed back together again by the consistent smell of charcoal that danced through the air towards me. The next and most obvious thing was the diversity of the individuals making up this bustling city. Seen in isolation, you could be forgiven for thinking you were back in ancient times, as you looked up and saw a Chassidic Jew storming towards you, eyes down, or a jolly Armenian Christian, bobbing along with something up his sleeves.
As orientation month came to an end, with the start of our day-to-day volunteer work in sight, I wondered if positive change here in Lod could set the tone for Jerusalem and the wider conflict.