Here is the latest in the form of a list of random things I’ve learned, experienced, and discovered about myself while be in Israel for the past month. If you don’t want to read everything, skim it by reading just the first lines. See the bottom for places I'm headed next - suggestions for my travel, reach out and let me know!
While I enjoy quiet time, I also enjoy talking. I lost my voice to laryngitis for about the past week. Which was incredibly frustrating as it happened just as a number of projects and progress of plans for my year were falling into place. Beyond not being fun, it’s really made me think about how much I need to use my voice, ask important questions and to always make sure I am heard.
I brought tuna for lunch one day and juice leaked to the bottom of my bag. I aired it out, but I swear the smell is never going away. Lesson partially learned, I still like tuna. It might also be why the cats of Nachlaot follow me.
Take time out to rest, energize, and connect. Whatever that might mean to you. The joy of being in Israel, and probably more specifically in Jerusalem is how intentional and easy Shabbat becomes, easy because most everything stops on Friday afternoon and doesn’t start back up until Saturday night. Hard because you have to make plans!! But I’ve really been able to spend Shabbat doing any number of the following things: catching up and connecting with old friends, and then not making it out even after Shabbat ended, sitting with 12 tourists from France with amazing hosts who host tourists through Shabbat of a Lifetime, spending time reading in the sun, spending time with other people’s families as we debate dating, and more. Jewish or not, religious or not, I think a “Sabbath” can represent this special time to separate time from your regular routine and really find ways to connect with community, new friends, or yourself. I think my upcoming experiences will also finding this time can be difficult depending on the country I'll be in!
It’s hard to process and share all I am experiencing. I am pretty terrible at remembering to take pictures. I have a lot to write, say, and reflect.
Israel is an interesting place, sometimes creating the next thing in technology while other areas move very slowly. While a “startup nation", here are two examples. When my sublet roommate’s room flooded due to heavy rains, the workers literally decided that using a shovel to empty the water was a good idea. The doctor’s office I was sent to looked like this. That said he was pretty accurate and super friendly.
Rating the way I packed thus far: 6.5. I really didn’t do as good a job as I thought. I’ll leave it at that, I’m pretty sure my clothes multiplied and I haven’t bought anything! I sent a bunch of stuff back home (thank you Roz!). That said, every blogger out there who packs in one tiny backpack, doesn’t travel in the winter…just sayin’!
Finding your place takes time. Have patience, continue setting goals and find you’re happy. I’ve spent more time in Israel than I originally anticipated. It has taken time for plans to come together, even so they are temporary and I am constantly figuring out what’s next. I continually need to remind myself to do what I tell others, “you do you”. It’s a constant challenge. That said I'm excited about some of the projects that are coming together, they are more projects than specific placements, but exciting nonetheless.
Things I’m Reading:
For some reason I’ve been on a kick of Holocaust related books. I don’t know if it’s good or bad for me yet, but at the same time I do think it’s incredibly important to understand where we’ve been to put into perspective where we are going. So in some ways it is giving me perspective around why Jewish identity and Jewish community are important (more on that later). I have to combine my holocaust reading with lighthearted things, so I suggest the same.
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr – a little bit lighter in terms of Holocaust content, given that it’s fiction but a compelling read, fiction.
Born Survivors, by Wendy Holden I’m not finished, and it’s going to take me a while as its pretty intense. A story of three women who survived pregnant at Auschwitz
When Life gives you LuluLemons, by Lauren Weisberger – Because when you read heavy stuff you need to have something silly, thoroughly enjoyable.
Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant (I’m listening to it) partially because it was available, and partially because I think there is always a theme of resilience when thinking about tragedy and figured in an odd way this book might have a weird but related theme. I’ve teared up from it in public places, so beware.
Some pretty cool places I’ve visited
I’ve gone on some site visits to see JDC Israel, and been able to interact with some great initiatives.
I visited an Arab Israeli village, and got to see two different programs JDC helps fund.
One is an alternative vocational girl’s high school. They teach skills that are practical so that the girls are employable post high school, something that often in this community women are not always encouraged to do (often are teachers or stay home). One class teaches optometry, they learn how to test and fit people for glasses, and have business sells affordable glasses, with replaceable lenses. These girls presented to us as if they were pitching to us as investors, I was amazed by their presentation skills and maturity. Upon leaving the school we were told that not only did they prepare for us in one day that these girls are all at the school because they are unable to attend traditional school. In one instance one of the girls had been married at 15, and because she had subsequently gotten divorced she was shunned from the regular high schools. Learning this skill absolutely has the chance to provide a better future for her.
We also visited a very cool kindergarten. A place where local classes visit about once a month and get to spend the day. The classes see a play, and then split into different classrooms to learn things like science, art, reading/writing, all through the context of the play. The day we visited sand had been part of the play, and we watched them write in sand, use colored sand, learn about how sugar/salt dissolve in water but sand does not, and then they had this amazing room that was all white padding and dark, and they watched color and sand reflected through light. I recognize there are probably similar programs in the states, but it was an impressive place, especially given it's location and resources the community typically has. This is a community where teachers need resources like this, and this center provides important resources for parents to better provide stable home environments for students.
I was able to join a group to hear about JDC’s work within the Haredi (ultra-orthodox) and Arab-Israeli communities, two vulnerable communities in Israel, specifically the work within employment initiatives. The people working in these communities have a really tough job, they are working to create better opportunities and programs while working within the construct of the social norms, religious, and other beliefs of these communities. The briefest example I can give of what this means, is to think about a day in the life of a Haredi woman (who is usually the breadwinner in the family, as her husband studies all day). She is not only taking care of her 5 – 10 children (on average), but going to work to provide for the family, cooking, cleaning, and preparing for all holidays, she does this without using many of the forms of technology we all use on any given day. The Haredi woman who spoke with us made clear that this is her choice, she fully chooses to live her life this way and supports her husband learning. She also works hard to provide training and skill building to women in her community so that they have opportunities in industries like tech, sciences, and management. Lots more to say on this if interested.
Hackaveret – a social innovation hub that hosts an accelerator and incubator for social impact startups, they’ve created both a physical space in Lod, a community of entrepreneurs and social impact leaders, and this selective accelerator program which will all create important change for Israeli society. One example of a social impact start up Hackaveret has helped incubate is a startup that connects seniors who need easy tasks done (a single ride somewhere, a light bulb fixed, etc) with volunteers and young people who live in the area willing to volunteer to do the task, neighbors helping neighbors, and cross generations creating bonds. This is startup that is helping to tackle how to better assist seniors aging in their homes. To me one of the amazing things is that all of the startups Hackaveret works with are working to solve a social problem. Again, questions, let me know.
More to come. I have tons of thoughts about community building, Jewish identities, travel, HR, remote work, and more. Unclear of what I'll write on next, but for now it's travels to:
Budapest, Krakow, Warsaw, Riga, Kiev, Kharkov, and Odessa
Open to connections and suggestions.