Monday, August 18, 2008

Hugim at the Seattle Stroum JCC

To continue writing about the 5 Israelis adding Israeli content to the JCC summer camp.
The 5 counselors this year for the first time were in charge of an interest group or (hoog) Monday through Thursday at 1 p.m. for an hour. They had a different group each day and taught each group the same topic for a week, adjusting the program somewhat for the age of the group. They id at least 5 topics, starting the second of the 6 weeks including: Jewish and Israeli Holidays, Symbols, Famous Israelis and famous places in Israel, Foods, and Israeli Children's Songs and Games. I as present the Monday of the last week to see them introducing Israeli foods to a group entering first through third grades.

First, the counselors divided the approximately 30 campers into three groups, by having them "count" off by naming 3 Israeli foods, Falafel, humus, and pizza.
"Your're falafel!"

They lined up in rows by their food names. Then each row was given a description of a food and they had to guess it. Below one boy who knows the answer enthusiastically raises his hand and shouts out the answer.

Next still in rows, each group had one person go to the white board. The person had to draw a picture of a food, and his group had to guess the food.

After one round of drawing, they gathered in a circle. A person in the middle was "it" and shouted one of the 3 foods mentioned, such as "falafel." Then all those labeled "falafel" had to stand up and change places while the person who was it had to scramble to a place to. The person left standing was "it" next. The girl below had just become "it."

The next activity was playing food bingo. There were several different cards including the one below.

Mor and Or traded off reading descriptions of words; the campers guessed the answer and put paper markers on the space of words described.
Tal and friend
Livnat helping a camper

Tal helping campers with food bingo

Mor and Or having trouble reading clues--who had the messy handwriting??

Yuval helping campers with bingo

After bingo, they taught a Hebrew kids' song about food that also had a lot of physical movement, and the children loved it!

With just a few minutes left, not enough to do another "food" activity, the 4 led songs they had taught previous, and all joined in. Mor played the drum to add rhythm.

Two campers looking at a map of Israel.

On Wednesday of that week, the Israelis were given an extra hour and made falafel with all the Camp Kef kids!

The counselors also told me a bit about the other topics for the hugim. Here are some of the materials that they used for the hugim:
For the topic of Jewish/Israeli symbols:
The menorah and olive branch were introduced as was the Magen David and a dove.
Some food is so symbolic that it was first introduced under the topic of symbols and then reinforced later!

After Israeli geography and famous Israeli people and places were introduced, the youth played a rather complex game when they had to do a task and then "earn" a piece of the puzzle. The symbols mounted on green paper below were some of the ones used in the game.

Another Israeli, Shelly, was in town for part of the summer, visiting family, so she often assisted at camp.
The JCC campers really loved the counselors. For some, camp will be the only time that they ever meet Israelis, and the interaction was sure to leave a big impact on them. Some campers were Israelis who had recently moved to Seattle, so they appreciated being able to talk to someone in Hebrew. See below a love note that several wrote spontaneously.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Israeli Teens Volunteering in Seattle, Summer 2008

Although this blog is about my traveling in Israel, I'm going to write about five Israelis who traveled from Kiryat Malachi and Hof Ashkelon this summer to volunteer at Jewish day camps in the Seattle area for 6 weeks, through the TIPS partnership, a program that the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle participates in. This is at least the fifth consecutive year that teens from there have come to Seattle to add a bit of Israel to local camps. Usually youth ages 17 and 18 come, but because of the teachers' strike in Israel this year, matriculation exams were pushed back to mid July and the older youth could not come, so four 16-year-olds came. They were young but extremely enthusiastic, and with advance planning in Seattle and Israel, they have been able to add a lot more about Israel than in the past, and the camp directors have been thrilled.

Mor, Or, Livnat, Yuval, and Tal

Mor and Livnat are from Kiryat Malachi. Yuval, Or, and Tal live in Hof Ashkelon. Yuval lives on Kibbutz Zikim. I've already written about our visit to his kibbutz. Or lives on Moshav Kohav Michael, a flourishing community about 5 miles north of Sderot, with many members who immigrated from Argentina in the 1960s. Tal is the chaperone, a university graduate from Moshav Gea. The four sixteen-year-olds were picked from about three-dozen that applied, and we have been delighted to have them in town.

The five have been housed in the area with a total of eleven host families during their six weeks here. Two spent three days at the new camp run by the Jewish Day School of Metropolitan Seattle and Temple B'nai Torah. The last day, they ran a three-hour pre-army "Gadna" session, which was the highlight of the campers' week. They five have mainly been at the Strom JCC, with youth from ages 6 to 12, Monday through Friday from 9 to 4. In addition to helping a counselor with a group of campers, for the first time, they led "hugim" Monday through Thursday on Israeli and Jewish topics from 1 to 2 p.m. Each day for a week, they present the same topic to a different group of youth. Topics they have covered include holidays, Jewish and Israeli symbols, food, and Israeli children songs and games. (See a separate entry about the hugim.)

At the end of the first three-week session, they created and directed IsraeLand at the JCC on Friday afternoon from 1 to 3:15 pm. It was a huge success. 250 youth at the JCC day camp from ages 6 to 13 learned about Israel in a very festive atmosphere as they rotated through eleven stations depicting different geographic parts of Israel and different activities. To begin with, they all saw a short multi-media presentation on Israel. Then they all went outside on the lawn to start their Israel experience.

In Jerusalem, they learned about the importance of the kotel, wrote their own notes and put them in the "wall." All the notes will be taken to Jerusalem when the Israeli counselors return to Israel the end of August.

At the kibbutz, the campers learned how to milk cows by hand. That booth was run by Yuval who lives on Kibbutz Zikim, which has a successful dairy herd. He told the youth that he has milked cows, but only using machines.

At Geva, the kids learned Israeli dancing and improv in the middle of the dance circle.

Gadna (Pre-army training) was rigorous and a favorite of many of the campers.

Campers answered trivia questions at the Haifa booth and were rewarded with candy for correct answers.

In Teveria, youth learned the importance of saving water. Then they ran with wet sponges from one bucket to another, trying not to drop any water on the way.

In the Negev, they stopped at the Dead Sea and heard the Biblical story of Sodom and Gemorrah, where Lot's wife turned into salt. Then they made salt pictures to take home.

In Eilat, they went fishing for prizes (stars of David) in the Red Sea (actually the pool). This station turned out to be trickier than the planners had thought.

In Netanya, youth took park in Maccabi Games. Quick reflexes and quick thinking were the keep to this station.

Under a Beduin tent, campers listened to stories that Beduin children also hear.

Finally, in Tel Aviv, they went to a typical Israeli restaurant, where they ate pita with hummus and Israeli salad.

When one 4th grader was asked what his favorite part of the day was, he said that it was a tie between the Gadna training and the Beduin stories.

Although there was competition from the Blue Angels as they flew overhead, the campers stayed focused.

As the day wound down, all 250 campers went back to the auditorium to hear a story about Shabbat by Rabbi James Mirel of Temple B'nai Torah.

A brief staff meeting following the clean up. Zach Duitch, the camp director told all how great the afternoon had been and appreciated the participation of all, especially the 5 planners.

In addition to all their hard work, they have had fun and seen a bit of the area. Four Jewish teens from Hungary are also at the JCC this summer, and the 8 youths have become friends. Places they have visited include Mt Rainier, Snoqualmie Falls, and the historic Pike Place Market. They four also went on a personal tour of Microsoft, visited the Museum of Flight, and two went on a tour of the Boeing Airplane plant in Everett. They rode on a ferry in Puget Sound, attended an annual Japanese festival, swam in pools and Lake Washington, and, of course, shopped! And best of all, they have shared a lot of themselves and made friends that will last a lifetime.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Balaynesh Moll Ayeh

Beth Mitchel, from the Seattle area, was one of the four counselors who came to Kiryat Malachi this summer to work at an English-focused camp. The counseling program was a People-to-People project of the TIPS Partnership. The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle helps support this program as well as a TIPS program that brings Israeli teens to Seattle to work as counselors at local camps.

As part of the program, all four counselors stayed with families in Kiryat Malachi. Beth was hosted by Balaynesh Moll Ayeh and her youngest daughter, 19-year-old Einav, Beth’s roommate.

I had met Balaynesh previously, so she was happy to have me visit her home and talk with her about the hosting experience. After talking a bit, I asked if she wouldn’t mind telling me how she came to be in Kiryat Malachi, and she readily agreed.

Balaynesh was raised in Addis Ababa. She married after high school, and her husband thought it was very important for her to get her driver’s license and a university decree, so she got a BA in Business. After graduation, she worked in a bank in Addis, and used English a lot.

Balaynesh and her husband have 5 children, 2 sons and 3 daughters, from the ages of 19 to 31. In 1986, they sent their two oldest children, ages 7 and 8, to Israel, where they lived in a boarding school, in Kiryat Gat. Three years later her parents made aliyah and eventually moved to Kiryat Gat. In 1991, after not having seen her son and daughter for five years, she took her youngest child Einav (age 2) to Israel to visit them.

The children had missed the family terribly. They said that if their mother didn’t stay with them in Israel, they would insist on going back to Ethiopia with her. So Balaynesh called her husband and told him she had no choice. She went back to Ethiopia to get the other two children.

For the time being, her husband stayed in Addis to continue working there. They were giving up a lot of creature comforts to move to Israel, for they lived in a large 13-room home with large garden, but it was very important for them to live in Israel.

The family of 6 moved into an absorption center in Kiryat Gat. They had a very tiny apartment, but the children were all together again. Children #3 and #4 had trouble adjusting to school, so Balaynesh cleaned a woman’s huge 3-story home, and in exchange that woman tutored the two children. After a few months the two were so much better that they began to help others in their class.

Many Ethiopians have had to stay in absorption centers for more than 3 years before they move to their own apartment, but Balaynesh knew it was critical to move her children into a place they could call home. Balaynesh approached a wonderful man named Elias from the Jewish Agency. He understood her need, and took her on a tour of the surrounding areas. When they approached Kiryat Malachi, she felt like this was the place they should live. After a few weeks, Elias called and told her he had found the perfect apartment for her, and if she didn’t grab it, she would never find one so good. The apartment was great—with 3 big bedrooms, a huge kitchen, 2 bathrooms, and a living room. When she discussed details, her oldest son took notes. The apartment also had almost new furniture throughout. She was delighted with the find, and the family still lives there. It is about a block north of Bar Yehuda, with a nice grassy strip with benches dividing the lanes in the street in front of her building. Balaynesh says that their home has been open like “Avraham Avinu’s” with people always welcome. (As a result, Beth was able to meet a lot of local people.)

Four years later, her husband came to Israel. He also speaks English well. He started an import business but it was not really profitable. Currently he is working in a hotel in Eliot for 6 months.

Baylaynesh held a number of jobs and is proud that her family was never dependent on the social welfare office. In 1994, she worked in Ashdod, and in 1998, she began to work at Kupat Holim, helping new immigrants adjust to the medical system in Israel. Her job is in Kiryat Malachi, so it is closer to home, but there is a lot more pressure. She works in 3 clinics and sees up to 50 clients a day.

Five years ago, she was encouraged to run for the 13-member city council. She agreed to run because she felt that if she worked inside the system, she would help immigrants more. She was elected to the council with the second highest number of votes, even without campaigning. 2003 was the first year that Ethiopian Israelis won seats on city councils throughout the country. Currently there are six or seven such members throughout the country including two in Kiryat Malachi, one in Yavneh, Kvar Saba and Rehovot. She is the only woman in such a position. She is on the city tax committee and has helped to amend mortgage rules there. The other member in Kiryat Malachi is Solomon Yihi. Baylaynesh plans to run again in the city elections this November as she feels she can accomplish more now that she has adapted to the system.

Balaynesh’s five children have done very well. The oldest is a CPA with an MBA and a degree in computers. Another is a photographer; another has a degree in Logistics, and the 4th is studying to be a teacher.

Einav is the youngest. She is doing her national service in town and has worked in Etzion School. Next year she will be in Even Shmuel in Binyamina, helping new immigrants. She is also in charge of the B’nai Akiva groups in town. Three years ago, she started to work with 17 youth at risk through B’nai Akiva, and now eight are either studying or in the army. Three of the children are married, and two are quite religious. Balaynesh is delighted to be a grandmother. . Whenever possible, the family gathers at her home for Shabbat dinner. They continue a family tradition, to discuss what happened during the week and help solve each other’s problems.

Balaynesh invited me to come back whenever I am in town, and I hope to take advantage of her kind invitation.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Yizkor (Memorial) Room in Kiryat Malachi, 2008

A special new room has been created in the library building of Kiryat Malachi, a very moving “Yizkor Room. It is dedicated to the memoryt of Israelis from the town who have died before their time, mostly during military service or during a terrorist attack. (For those of you who know the town, it is in the area that formerly was an exercise club. The club has been moved elsewhere.)

Varda, the head of the library, took me on a tour, a few days after we arrived.

After entering on the right one sees awards given to soldiers from town.

The floor has a beautiful map of Israel under glass. The beauty is not diminished even though the map marks where military and terrorist attacks have taken place during the existence of the State of Israel. Unfortunately, I was not able to take a picture of it.

The rest of the walls, have two-deep photos of the local citizens who have died, from right to left in chronological order. You can also see flags of Israel and the military.
As you can see, the lighting is subdued.

The first two men fell during the War of Independence, before Kiryat Malachi (first as Castina) came into existence.
Itamar, above, died in 1948, and Yehezkiel fell in 1950.

1967 awakened me to Israel, so I've included pictures of those who fell in the 6-day war.

I was a member of a kibbutz on the Golan Heights in 1973. Along with the other women and children, my 4-month-old daughter Timna and I were evacuated under fire after dark the first day of the Yom Kippur War, so that war had a huge significance in my life. Here are photos of men who fell in that war from Kiryat Malachi.

Armon S. and Yehezkiel Nissim

Ofir M. and David A. both fell in 2001. Ofir died in a terrorist attack (a pigua). He had graduated from AMIT high school in Kiryat Malachi. His English vocabulary level was so great that his teacher said that he was like an English dictionary. In his memory, donations from the Seattle and Portland Federations 3 years ago helped purchase special, expensive English dictionaries for top students taking the 5 - point English Bagrut exam. (More dictionaries are now needed, BTW.)

Gad Rachamim feel in 2002. He was the brother of Nir Rachamim, the former president of the Kiryat Malachi Youth Council, and a counselor to Palm Springs and Seattle the summer of 2007.

I found the room quite moving. If you get to Kiryat Malachi, this room is a "must" to visit.