REALITY Israel Experience 2011: Update 2
For 10 days, 57 Teach For America corps members will explore Israel’s education and social justice systems, gain exposure to top Israeli leaders and thinkers, and uncover and recommit to the values that drive their passion for public service. Follow along on their REALITY Israel Experience!
Day 2 started with innovation in the classroom. We visited Time to Know, an Israeli company that has created a Digital Teaching Platform to helps schools improve the quality of teaching through the incorporation of computing. It was an eye-opening experience and gave us much to consider about the use of computers in the classroom, the way the classroom will look in the future and ways to integrate new technology while maintaining the personal connection between teachers and students.
After such a thought-provoking morning, we ventured out on our own to explore shuk HaCarmel, Tel Aviv’s colorful market full of vendors and little falafel joints and restaurants.
Next we headed to Independence Hall where, on May 14, 1948, Prime Minister David Ben Gurion formally declared Israel an independent state. We then spent the rest of the afternoon getting to know Tel Aviv and Jaffa with our guides. It was a bit startling to realize that this bustling and modern city was not so very long ago one big stretch of sand. The same can be said for the Hebrew language, which had only recently become a spoken language. As the journalist Yair Lapid told us on our first night, Israel is one of the only country’s built upon an idea—or a dream.
There was a lot to take in and enjoy—despite the broiling heat.
After a chance to sit together in smaller circles to reflect on everything we had experienced during the day, we headed out for the evening’s activities at the Nalaga’at Center (Hebrew for “Please Touch”), a nonprofit organization on the Jaffa port that works to give seeing and hearing people a chance to experience how it feels to be deaf and blind.
We started with dinner in the dark—literally—at the Blackout Restaurant. Our wait staff, who are all blind, led each of us by hand into a pitch black room. The room was so dark that even after our eyes adjusted, we couldn’t even see our own hands. Once we were helped to our seats, we were served a delicious dinner and we ate together in the dark. Do you think it’s easy to pour water from a pitcher into a glass? Or how about even finding our forks or the food itself? Needless to say, it was an experience unlike anything we’ve ever encountered.
We then watched a play in which all of the actors are either deaf or blind. The show was at times funny and alwayspoignant. The cast began the play by kneading dough, which was put into the oven for baking. Throughout the show the smell of baking bread wafted into auditorium. Afterwards, we were invited up onto the stage to interact with the actors and to share bread with them. The message of the experience was that even those living in worlds of darkness and silence cannot live by bread alone, that they are people, too, with hopes and dreams and inspirations just like everyone else.
It was an inspiring way to end yet another moving and eye-opening day.
On Friday morning we head up to Masada, the site of one of the most dramatic in Jewish history, and then spend a relaxing night and Shabbat in the lush greenery of Ein Gedi.
Enjoy the photos!