Every week, we’ll be posting a blog entry from a current participant from the Yahel Social Change Program. This week’s post comes from TJ Ohley.
Yahel has been a great experience thus far. I’m a part of many different activities around Gedera.I teach English to 7th-12th graders, work with mentally and physically handicapped youth, volunteer at a youth center, help local musicians practice and record music, tutor young adults in English, and mentor teenagers and help them prepare for the future.
The most rewarding part of my experience has been my personal interaction with community members. I feel that in order to help a community, I need to become a part of the community. I’ve enjoyed getting to know people on a personal level and understand their culture beyond what the books and films teach. I see the Yahel Social Change Program as a lifestyle and a way to personally touch the lives of others, while also growing and learning from the community.
Since I came to Israel three months ago, I’ve been welcomed with open arms by almost everyone I’ve met. I first came to Israel on Birthright, where I met many Israeli soldiers and students. I consider many of them to be my good friends, and they invite me to their homes and treat me like family. The same has happened to me in Gedera since Yahel has begun. People whom I’ve just met have invited me into their homes, fed me and made me feel like I belong here. When I walk down the street, I’m bombarded with friendly hellos from people of all ages: students, friends and co-workers. יחא (“achi,” my brother) and יתוחא (“achoti,” my sister) are easily the two Hebrew words I use the most. This level of friendliness is something I personally am not used to back in the United States, and the hospitality has been an amazing surprise.
The combination of this warm heartedness shown by my community and my newfound love for this country have made me consider making Aliyah and serving in the IDF once I have finished my time with Yahel. Without the experience Yahel has given me, I wouldn’t have realized that this is a place I love and where want to build a life for years to come. Israel is an amazing place unlike anywhere else in the world. With that being said, it is still a very difficult and complicated country where there is a lot of work to do to improve the quality of life for many of its citizens. I am lucky enough to be able to be a part of the betterment process, along with my fellow Yahelnikim. I’m confident about a bright future for Israel. I want others to be able to experience the great things Israel has to offer, just as I have been fortunate enough to do. For a better tomorrow!