Sunday, August 05, 2007

Another "only in Israel" story 2007

On July 23, Howard and I went to Raanana to see two people. We parked on a side street, just off the main road of Ahuza. We were parked perpendicular to the sidewalk as were others to our right and left. When we went to leave at 6:30 p.m., we found a car parked perpendicular to us, blocking our exit and the exit of an SUV also wanting to leave. This is not uncommon in Israel...often one lane of a road is blocked temporarily as someone goes into a store to quickly get something.

This person, however, was in no hurry.

We waited for a few minutes, and then the guys sitting around the local snack store started to get involved, complaining about how such drivers are not polite. The other guy waiting must have called someone as soon a neighborhood guy is a black shirt with a "security" emblem on it and someone else with a similar "job" came by. Anytime anyone leaves a package or something else around and walks off, security can soon become involved. They too could not figure out what to do, while our friends sitting around said to call the police. Someone did call the police, as a car with flashing lights soon pulled up....and everyone (now there was a crowd of about ten) started to talk to each other.

Meanwhile our friendly guys decided to take action. One guy (white button down shirt folded deeply to show off his chest) was the owner of the big SUV to our left. He decided to pull forward so that Howard could somehow maneuver our Hyundai Getz rental and get out.

He did and we eventually did. Howard and I were laughing in the end. Basically, Howard had to pull forward on the sidewalk area too (no curb involved), turn almost 90 degrees clockwise, and then somehow maneuver around the front of the other car and turn 60 degrees the other way. Three of four guys were "guiding:" Howard, yelling at him in Hebrew when they figured out he could understand directions in Hebrew, and giving huge arm waves. In the end (with less than an inch separating the cars), our friend hopped into our car to finish the job. He had a mind of his own though, and at first did not listen to his advisers. AT one point a bunch of them were going to pick up our car to maneuver it out, Once I screamed when I saw how close the cars were, but they ignored me and managed to get the car out . Everyone cheered in the end, celebrating with hand shakes, big grins, and pats on the back, waving as we drove off. We did not stay around to see if the driver of the other car came back.

Tutoring Youth in the Net@ (Network Academy) Program

Four years ago, NETA began in Israel. It is a program to train underprivileged youth outside the center of Israel for high tech professions. The Net@ Program operates in 24 towns in Israel in partnership with an Israeli non-profit called Tapuach, the Jewish Agency, Keren Hayesod and Cisco. Students attend classes for four hours twice a week for 3 years. At the end of their studies, students who pass international certification exams become qualified in CCNA and ComPIA A +. In addition to computer skills, students learn about leadership and community responsibility. By the end of the second year, they begin to mentor younger students. Eliya, a 2007 graduate of the program from Kiryat Malachi, said that this program changed her life. The NET@ students in KM and throughout the country have become an extended family to her and have taught her community values she will cherish forever.

Kiryat Malachi’s first NET@ class graduated this year. Since all classes and all readings are in English, students must have a strong command of listening and reading skills when they start. In K. M., students go for 4 years since their English level is lower than most of the rest of Israel.

This year in Kiryat Malachi, 24 entering 9th graders were chosen through written applications, interviews, and a technical multiple-choice English test. The local coordinator Liat felt that it would also be helpful to have a native English speaker talk to the youth in pairs and verify their levels of English. Having such a conversation would also be a “gift” to the youth as they rarely get a chance to talk English. Many have English classes that are conducted mostly in Hebrew.
Liat, Ben and Howard

Howard Cockerham from Seattle, a middle school science teacher and a volunteer through TIPS, showed up in Kiryat Malachi at the right moment! During a two week period, he met with almost all of the students at least twice. Their English levels and interest in computers varied greatly. One has a website where he answers questions (in English) on games asked by kids all over the world. Another had very limited knowledge of regular English (did not know numbers) and may have a learning disability, but he knew computer terms and would do anything to succeed in the program. Several had good language skills from watching TV in English but knew little about computers. However, they very much wanted to be in the program to have a chance to get ahead in life. Another was a jokester and didn’t take his talks with Howard seriously until his mom (who worked in lower paying jobs) really got on her son’s case. Howard said, these teens were very much like his middle school students at home. He had a nice manner with the youths, and several came back on their own, even going out with him for a pizza.

Howard updated Liat regularly on the youth’s abilities. Armed with that information, she talked with the weaker students and made arrangements for them to get more help before they began a ten-day intensive NET@ camp in mid-August. She was so pleased with the interviews that she told her boss on the national level about them, and NET@ hopes to find more Partnership 2000 volunteers throughout the country next summer to repeat what Howard has done. Howard, meanwhile, has his volunteer job in KM already in place for next summer!