This week’s participant blog post comes from Ethan Goldman, one of the incredible volunteers on this year’s Yahel Social Change Program. Tomorrow is the last day of the program; here, Ethan reflects on his time living and volunteering in Gedera.
I am going to leave Gedera and Israel in two days. Although I am not looking forward to saying good bye to the many close friends I have made over the past 9.5 months and the beautiful place that was my home for this time, I must admit that I am very excited to return to the US and Boston. The past 9 months have been nothing short of incredible for me. I have made great friends, traveled to amazing places, and learned a lot about Israel, Judaism, social justice issues, and my own personal values. There have also been a few struggles throughout the experience as well, such as coping with the chaotic Israeli school system, communication barriers, and the public transportation. I am, however, very happy to say that I have accomplished the two main goals I had set for myself coming into this year.
The first goal was to successfully live abroad in a very different culture than I was used to. Living in Gedera, specifically in the Shapira neighborhood, was dramatically different than anywhere else I have spent a significant amount of time in before. There are many customs, interactions, and smells that I had never encountered before that now seem normal to me. I have made many friends in this neighborhood that I will not easily forget, such as the little girls who I have had a 9 month long game of tag going with to the elderly women who commend me for eating as much food as I possibly can. I have really grown to appreciate this neighborhood and community and although it took it some time, it really has become a meaningful place for me that will hopefully always remain to be a home away from home.
The second goal I set for myself coming into this year was to figure out what I wanted to do with my self professionally, at least for the next few years. After working in this type of service work for the past year I have come to find it very fulfilling as well as necessary. Through our many learning sessions and trips I have also become aware of the immense amount of privilege I have been lucky enough to have growing up and the opportunities that go hand in hand with that. That is why I feel the best way for me to spend my time and energy, at least in the next few years, is to continue this type of work. Next year I will be working at a non profit organization in Boston that promotes healthy living, academic advancement, and development of the “whole” child to at-risk youth. It also works to my advantage that their programming is based around soccer, one of my passions that I was also able to incorporate into my volunteering in Gedera.
In all, I am proud to say that Yahel has been an amazing experience for me, and I am extremely happy to have made the decision to come here. The past 9 months have undoubtedly changed my life and I will carry with me what I have learned and experienced here for the rest of my life. I can only hope that I get to come back here and people will still remember “Gingey.”