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
For those who may not know, I am currently in training to serve for the year as a volunteer community organizer in the developing Ramat Eliyahu neighborhood of Rishon LeZion, Israel. The community is largely comprised of Jewish Ethiopian immigrants, many of whom came to Israel by way of the covert Israeli military evacuations of Ethiopian Jews from both Sudan and Ethiopia (due to famine in Sudan and political instability in Ethiopia). Operation Moses, the mass evacuation from Sudan, occurred in 1984, while Operation Solomon took place in 1991. As a result, much of the millennial and post-millennial generations of Ethiopian Jews in Israel are first-generation Israelis, and in the short time that I have been here, I am already starting to pick up on the subtle cultural identity divide between the native Ethiopian parents and their Israeli-born children. … More A Beautiful Metaphor
Greetings from the bustling Israeli metropolis of Lod! This city will be my home for the next nine months as I take part in the Yahel Social Change program.
Why Lod and what’s this city all about?
Lod is one of many biblical cities in Israel. It’s mentioned multiple times in the Old Testament, it’s the hometown of roman soldier-turned-martyr St. George, 7th century capital of the Muslim military district, Crusader town, Ottoman industrial hotspot and a city called “Lydda” as part of the British Mandate in Palestine. It’s almost impossible to find a city in Israel that is not made up of layers upon layers of history, and Lod is certainly a prime example.
Unfortunately, Lod’s present does not reflect its rich history. Lod is the kind of city that most Israelis stay clear of.
When I was visiting the Israeli consulate to get my visa, the security guard told me, “be careful, that’s a rough place,” upon finding out I would be working in Lod. … More Life in Lod: Challenges and Change
In the states, Yom Kippur is a whisper. We fast, attend services, and reflect on the past year’s transgressions and our intentions for the future. But the world keeps going on around us, so it is easy to get distracted by our daily lives. The significance of the day is a murmur caught up in the chatter of our surroundings.
In Israel, Yom Kippur is a deep, whooshing breath that you hold in your chest for a whole day. Everything around stands still for the holiest day of the year– there are no cars on the road, no people in the streets, and all business doors are closed. The silence forces you to observe deliberately, and reflection becomes a necessity rather than an afterthought.
When was the last time your entire world stood still?
For us, Yom Kippur began with Arab music. … More Yom Kippur Was…
Today during art, Tamra* asked me for the piece of tile that I decorated in nonsense doodles and lines. On the back I wrote, from Naomi to Tamra, remember that you will always be smart, strong, and beautiful.
She smiled at me bashfully when she received it.
Tamra is a wonderful, quiet and kind fourteen year old, who has only begun to come to the Meitar, the youth village, recently. A few weeks ago I started teaching Zumba and fitness lessons to the girls. Rarely do the girls ever go into the weight room, but we’ve been working on changing that. A few days ago, after the herd of boys left the room, I saw one of the girls, Tamra, peak inside. I asked her if she wanted to come in with me and learn a few things. Within minutes we were weight lifting, and the look on this girl’s face was brighter than I had ever seen. She saw the eight-kilogram dumbbells in my hands and was amazed that girls could be that strong, that girls were even able lift weights, to feel the power that comes with moving your muscles. Next time, she wants to do more, and even start learning some boxing moves. … More “You Too Can Be Strong”
Studying Zionism with Zionists on Kibbutzim, like Kibbutz Hukok in the Galilee, and urban Kibbutz Mishol in Nazareth, I come to the conclusion that Zionism is no different than anything else in the Middle East. It’s not a racist, colonialist political movement, nor is it the saving grace of the Jewish state: it’s complicated (insert expressions of shock and outrage here). … More Do We Need to Reclaim “Zionism”?
Today’s participant blog post comes from Jens Jacobsen, a participant of the Yahel Social Change Program. This group is living, learning and volunteering in the Ramat Eliyahu neighborhood of Rishon LeZion for 9 months this year. When you decide to move to a foreign country, city, neighbourhood and community with the goal of having an impact for social … More Shofars and Social Justice: An Exploration of Ramat Eliyahu’s Religious Communities
For me growing, preparing, and sharing food has always been a powerful way to connect with people and cultures. Throughout my travels, some of my favorite memories are dominated by cooking experiences, often bridging gaps in language, culture, and economic status. So, upon arriving in Ramat Eliyahu I wasted no time in making my desire to learn to cook Ethiopian food known. … More In Pursuit of Injera: Exploring Questions of Community
This summer, 50 volunteers participated in Yahel Insight programs. Each one will share their “Yahel Moment” on Yahel’s Facebook Page. To follow their moments, please Like us on Facebook. This moment was submitted by Hannah Roberts. My Yahel Moment #47: “Today was our last day volunteering at the women’s shelter. We began the day … More My Yahel Moment #47