A lot has been going on recently so I’m going to try to pack it all into this post so I apologize in advance for a super long post.
My mom’s coworker, Shay, invited me to his wife’s family’s home to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. For all you goyim out there, Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and it is quite a festive and food-filled occasion (then again, what holiday isn’t?).
They live in Kfar Saba, a beautiful family friendly area about 20 minutes from Netanya. The family consisted of Shay, his wife and two kids, his wife’s sisters , brothers and parents. Of the 15 people there, maybe 5 of them spoke any English. I have to say it was really refreshing to get out of my Teaching Fellow American bubble. Of course I enjoy being able to understand the conversations around me but at the same time, it was definitely nice to be completely immersed in Hebrew for once. Of course there was a massive amount of food with everything from chicken to Israeli salad, cabbage, pickled carrots to beef tongue. You would all be impressed that I did not eat myself into a coma this time around, although I’m not sure whether that means I am learning self control or my stomach is just expanding. Either way, I was proud of myself.
The family make up was an experience in itself, including a younger sister with dreadlocks who just got back from a two month trip to India where she did nothing (no exaggeration, that’s how she put it to me), her boyfriend who was bald with the exception of a patch of dreadlocks coming out the back of his head, and an older brother (in his late 30s/early 40s) with a shirt that read “Budapest Triathalon: Eat, Drink, Fuck”. I couldn’t make up this stuff if I tried.
The biggest news of the week, though, is that we received our placements within our schools and spent the last few days observing school and basically just trying to become acclimated with the situation. There are 24 Americans in our program, so they split us into pairs in twelve schools around Netanya. I have to say, my partner, Rachel, and I really lucked out. Even though we have only spent three days at the schools, there are already a few pairs that either can’t stand their schools/teachers or are having major problems (including one pair whose teacher flat out told them she doesn’t need their help).
Our school, Be’eri School, is beautiful and our host teacher is really sweet. Even the kids are obedient, which is rare based on what I’ve heard from pretty much every other pair. I was kind of expecting to go into the school with the principal and teachers resenting us (I mean who are we to come from America and tell someone who has been teaching for 20 years how to do her job?), but you can tell she really wants us to feel comfortable at the school, giving us tons of freedom. In fact, she came in on her day off to welcome us and introduce us to the school (including bringing us a falafel feast). She already wants to set me up with her daughter and mentioned wanting to invite us for Shabbat or a holiday some time.
It seems that, at least at my school, we will be more of tutors than actual teachers. In other words, our teacher will give us a few students that need help each day and then Rachel and I will work with them.
After a few days in the classroom, I can tell you this is definitely not going to be an easy job. All of teachers during training stressed that we would not need to know Hebrew in order to teach English to these kids, but let’s be serious, that is definitely not the case. Especially with the multiple kids that did not know even a hint of English that I had to help this week. To say there was a language barrier is an understatement. My Hebrew is starting to come together but nowhere near coherent. Fortunately I do know a few words that helped me get through those lessons. Luckily we will be starting Ulpan (Hebrew lessons) after Sukkot so that should definitely help me out.
Tuesday night after a day at schools, all 24 of us Teaching Fellows along with another Israel Pathways program, went down to the Old City in Jerusalem (about a two hour drive from Netanya). The point of the excursion was to make our way to the Western Wall (only the holiest place on the planet for the Jewish people). We got there at around 9 PM and the Old City (in which the Western Wall lies) was completely packed. This is not normal and is merely because the time of the year. The time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is one of the most important times of the year, when Jews start asking forgiveness in preparation for Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. Thus, people flock from all over, not only to pray, but also to people watch. It was total mayhem. I would say there were at least a thousand people within the plaza outside of the Wall. I didn’t even bother trying to go up to the wall but others who did definitely had to put up a fight.
I am officially on holiday for the next sixteen days for Sukkot (the harvest festival) so it’ll be a while until my next post. When I come back, expect to hear all about my cruise to Cyprus as well as my travels around Israel!