My name is Alexandra Levine and I am in going into my fourth year of studies at McGill, majoring in Honours International Development-with a focus on refugee policies and human rights- accompanied by a minor in Jewish studies. This summer, I was looking for a meaningful internship that not only addressed a key developmental issue, but also one that was able to encompass my Jewish studies, learning, and love of Israel.
Two summers ago I was studying Arab-Israeli conflict in Israel and noticed a large and impoverished African population residing and conversing near the new central bus station in downtown Tel Aviv. I am not sure what it was exactly but something about the scene sparked something inside me and I went home that night to do research regarding what I had seen. Evidently, unbeknownst to me, who at the time was solely focused on the Arab-Israeli conflict, there was a mass wave of asylum seekers entering illegally into Israel through the Sinai, the majority hailing from Eritrea, with other minority groups including Sudanese, Ghanians and Nigerians. … More Working Inside the System to Affect Change
Lod’s wealth in historical property is often overlooked. It was on this particular Wednesday evening that a historical site (“Khan el-Hilu”), once left crumbling to pieces, was filled with life as people hurried to setup for the night market located in the Old City of Lod. Inside the Khan vendors arranged food stations. Outside, clothing and jewelry vendors put up their tables, and a moon bounce was inflated which had kids jumping with anticipation for the event to officially begin. … More The Night Market: Where the Past Meets the Future
Israel is a land of stories. Stories of immigration, homelands, hardships, victories, love, war, poverty and success. Stories and history intertwine with each other to make this land flow rich with Nescafé and Sachlav.
The main story most commonly discussed (argued) in Israel is the Arab-Israeli conflict, but there are many narratives in this conflict that are often overlooked. One that has found its way into my heart is that of an Arab group called the Bedouins.
The Bedouins are traditionally a nomadic group who live in the Negev desert. When Israel became a state and country borders were created, some Bedouins were living on the Israeli side and on the Jordan side. The Bedouins who happened to be living in the new State of Israel in 1949 were forcibly moved from their homes into “temporary” camps…and have since lived there because they are not legally allowed to move. There are three types of places Bedouins are allowed to live in the Negev: government built townships, recognized villages, and unrecognized villages. … More Stories
This is exactly what I set out to learn when I was looking for a volunteer program eight months ago. However, while the program I chose happened to be in Israel, I couldn’t imagine gaining this insight anywhere else. This tiny country, in which it only takes half a day to drive from top to bottom, is so intrinsically complex that almost every major world power is a stakeholder in its affairs. And in a way, I’m a stakeholder too. I’m not an Israeli citizen, but I could be if I wanted to, through the Right of Return policy. I haven’t donated to Israeli charities in the past, but I received Israel Bonds my whole life – many of which I used to travel to Israel in 2010. And whether I invest or divest in this country, I am engaging with Israel on some level. I just choose to engage with this country through (what I believe to be) a productive, sustainable means. … More Wooaaahhh, We’re Halfway There!
Today’s participant blog post comes from Benji Bernstein, a participant in the Yahel Social Change Program. Benji’s group is living, learning and volunteering in Lod, Israel for 9 months this year. This post was taken from Benji’s personal blog, which can be found here. The last few weeks in Ramat Eliyahu have been very busy, but exciting as always. … More Creating Dialogue on Social Change Through Israeli Hip-Hop
This year on MLK Day, I found myself thinking of nonviolence a bit differently. I had always taken nonviolence as a given—it seemed obvious that the most effective road to change was through peaceful protest. But recent experiences in Israel have suggested otherwise. There was the Palestinian activist who told me that his people are justified in using deadly force out of desperation. There are reports of Israeli soldiers raiding homes after the deadly shooting in a Tel Aviv bar this month. And there is the constant military presence, at checkpoints and train stations, that reminds me that the only way to deal with threats of violence is with more guns. … More In Defense of Nonviolence
Deciding to pick up and move to Israel for a year was an easy decision. This was the next step in my life after graduating from university (Carleton – Go Ravens!). I knew that after finishing school, I had a responsibility to myself and the world to give back. Nonetheless, I had huge expectations. I was going to change the world! Based on my background in social justice, I was lucky to have found a program such as Yahel, which incorporated assisting community leaders with major social initiatives, and giving my thoughts and (Canadian!) perspective towards creating sustainable and positive change. I was excited to embark on this incredible and challenging journey with 15 other motivated young adults from around North America. … More Seeing The Big Picture In The Small Picture
Since I’ve been in Israel, and living in the mixed Arab-Jewish city of Lod, I’ve constantly heard about the difficulties Arab citizens face on a daily basis as a minority group within Israel. As a white Jewish woman, I recognize how I experience fewer barriers in my daily life within Israel as a part of the majority. I also grew up with the notion that privilege somehow equates with an inherent ability to help others. But as I spoke to these incredibly smart, funny and kind students, all I could think about was the tremendous capacity we all had to teach each other about our respective languages and heritages.
Walking back home from the first exchange meeting, I was so excited to have the chance to participate in such an initiative. I know that English is a valuable tool here in Israel, so I’m glad I can be of help for students to whom English is a second – and sometimes third – language. Conversely, I have so much to learn about Arab society and culture here in Israel, and now I have a tremendous resource through this partnership. … More Partnership ,Tzedakah and the Universality of Giving
In all, the night showed the importance of having pride in your roots, as there is so much beauty and power in the cultures and histories of each ethnicity. Sometimes though, what kids need most in order to be influenced to see this is young role models–whether its those at the community center, a young rabbi, or their youth group “representative.” … More Role Models and The Sigd
As I have been progressing in my post-college period and attempting to figure out my goals for a successful future, there have been two main ideas to grapple with: what it means to be a leader, and what it means to be in a community. I have had many opportunities to delve into these topics during my time on Yahel, but the most meaningful of these have occurred over the past week. During this time, I have realized that leadership and community are tied closely together, and one of these factors is essential to have for the other to occur. I have also learned that both factors, especially leadership, have different meanings for different people, and one can create their ideal community and leadership to fit their future plans and way of life.
… More Leadership and Community