REALITY Israel Experience 2011: Update 4
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!
We have entered the third leg of our journey, shifting from exploring models of leadership and our own values to inequities that exist in society, beginning with learning about Israeli Arabs living in the mountainous Galilee region.
Our seventh day began with a visit to Moshav Shorashim, a small community founded in the early 1980’s by a group of young American immigrants seeking to build a model of civil society using informal education and programming like a Jewish-Arab youth circus and a Hebrew-Arabic regional internet newspaper.
We met with leaders of Shorashim, and then visited a teacher training school in Sachnine, an Israeli Arabic town where we met with a recent graduate and several students to learn about their views on education, Israeli Arabs role in Israeli society, pop culture, cultural norms and their futures.
“What struck me most and also excited me about the Shorashim encounter was meeting Arab teachers, like the woman who is working hard to educate youth in English. Her name is Salaam, which means peace. Her passion for teaching and the English language was inspiring,” said Eric Poris, a 2010 Teach For America corps member who is based in the South Dakota region on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
We then went to a Druze village called Issifia where we experienced a true taste of Druze culture. We ate an authentic Druze lunch and were briefed on the history and practices of the Druze, an Arabic people who follow a religion that is are neither Muslim nor Christian. We were also treated to a live performance of Arabic drumming and singing, which roused us so much we rocked down the house!
Saying goodbye to the North, we headed to Jerusalem, where we will stay for the duration of our visit. We took in the Old City from a high overlook and took time to commemorate the moment of entering the holiest city in the world. We experienced an avant-garde concert and enjoyed an evening in the city.
The next morning, we were privileged to have a private briefing from longtime journalist and former editor of the Jerusalem Post, David Horovitz, who gave us a political update. We then heard from Yael Assor from the Israeli nonprofit Bema’aglei Tzedek (“Circles of Justice) and the coordinator of Tav Chevrati (“Social Seal”), a certificate granted to Israeli restaurants that treat their workers ethically and are handicap accessible. With that in mind, we headed to Jerusalem’s German Colony neighborhood for a truly unique experience: navigating the crowded sidewalks in wheelchairs, on crutches and in blindfolds. There is nothing like experiential learning!
We then visited the elegant Jerusalem International YMCA, a community center that embraces Muslim, Jewish and Christian values and people. We heard from its CEO, Forsan Hussein, who grew up in Sha’ab, an Arab village in the Galilee, and eventually studied in the United States, earning degrees from Brandeis University, Johns Hopkins and Harvard Business School. He has been promoting co-existence since he was a young boy and shared with us what it is like to be an Arab citizen in Israel and his vision for the YMCA.
Up next was a visit to the Abraham Hostel, a colorful and welcoming hostel in downtown Jerusalem, co-founded and managed by a young man named Gal Mor. Gal was one of a handful of young social entrepreneurs who talked to us about their projects. The others include: Carmi Wisemon, Executive Director of Sviva Israel, an environmental education organization with offices in the United States and Israel that develops and implements programs that promote environmental literacy through a Jewish lens; Daniel Weil, CEO of Machshava Tova, a non-profit organization that works to narrow societal gaps in Israel through technology; Rachel Brody, a former REALITY participant whose new project called 3e Inclusion Movement will work to bring about inclusion for people with disabilities into the general community; and Chava Rosenbaum of the Gift of Life Foundation, one of the America’s public bone marrow, blood stem cell and umbilical cord blood registries.
We capped off the day at Sami’s restaurant near the Mahane Yehuda market for some quintessential Israeli food.
Exhausting but exhilarating! Enjoy the latest photos …