After leaving Nazareth Illit but before beginning the next part of Otzma in my partnership city I spent two weeks at the Pardes Institute for Jewish Learning in Jerusalem. This was a very beneficial experience for me because I was given the opportunity to study and learn Jewish texts in a pluralistic learning environment. We were able to learn in Chevruta or paired style learning. It was very eye opening to be able to hear other people’s opinions on the different topics and issues that were brought up through the text study and class discussions. At the end of this exciting learning experience we discussed ways in which to bring this text study into our year long volunteer program through the use of stories and values learned. It is my plan to use the different values and lessons from my two week learning experience to enhance my volunteering experience in my partnership city.
Due to the current situation in the south of Israel the plan that I had of living and volunteering in Ofakim and only coming to volunteer in my own partnership city of Arad two days a week was changed. I am now going to be living and volunteering in Arad full time. I am very happy with the change because from the very beginning I have wanted to come to Arad full time and now I am given the opportunity. Arad also took in the group of Otzma participants who were supposed to be in Kiryat Malachi and is giving them a temporary home until they are able to go back to their original plan. I am very proud that the partnership of Arad/Tamar was able to take in my fellow participants in this time of war in the south.
The second part of my Otzma experience began over a week ago when I moved into the partnership apartment in Arad with my friend Ilene Bloom from Delaware. I am now living and working in Arad which is the New Jersey/Delaware partnership city. I have been welcomed into Arad with open arms and have been given many choices of places to volunteer thanks to Ofra and the rest of the partnership. After seeing all of the options I have chosen to volunteer at three different locations. Four mornings a week I am volunteering at a local elementary school, Ye'elim-Ofarim, teaching English in the Kindergarten and first grade. Two afternoons a week I am volunteering at an afternoon program for teen girls, whose purpose is to keep them safe and off the street. At this placement I serve as a mentor and help the girls with whatever it is they need. Teaching them English is one thing that I have already started to do there but I look forward to starting to work with them on other things as well. The other two afternoons a week I am working in the Ethiopian absorption center. One of the two days I do activities with the kindergarten age children and the other day I work one on one with a boy who is half blind. All of these places are ones that I feel I can truly make a difference in and gain a lot from in return.
In addition to the wonderful beginning of volunteering in Arad I have also been able to be a part of the partnership program with Ben Gurion University and Rutgers University which is a program that is striving to give eye glasses to all the elderly who need them in the Arad/Tamar region. To start this program a group of young adults were taken into the Ein Tamar region to a special night of activity. It was a great opportunity for me to feel connected to the partnership and at the same time meet other young adults my age from the area. I look forward to being able to continue to be a part of this and other partnership sponsored programs in the region.
While in Arad I have also had the opportunity to start to explore the area of Arad/Tamar on my own. I have been able to go down to the Dead Sea and see hot water springs as well as explore the lovely desert that Arad is a part of. It is a true privilege to be a part of this community and to be giving back to the community as part of Otzma and as part of the New Jersey/Delaware partnership. I am very excited about what is to come as my time in Arad continues.