WUJS Israel
post-college Israel programs

May 2009 Archives

 

Megan McLean volunteers at Yedid in Jerusalem and is currently traveling around Israel with her work

YEDID ("friend" in Hebrew) was established in 1997 to promote social and economic justice in Israel through a national network of Citizen Rights Centers in disadvantaged communities throughout Israel.  Since its founding YEDID has helped over 220,000 individuals and families from across the spectrum of Israel's multicultural society: Jewish, Arab and Bedouin citizens; veteran Israelis from North Africa and the Middle East as well as Eastern Europe; immigrants from Ethiopia, and the FSU.  YEDID's most important resource is its volunteer base, which is comprised of 1,000 people who carry out most of the day-to-day work of their centers.  The majority of their volunteers are empowered former clients, working side by side with students and professionals in the fields of law, education, psychology and social work.  YEDID's Three-Tiered Strategy includes: Individual Assistance - YEDID's 26 Citizen Rights Centers (located all over Israel) provide individuals and families with information about and access to services and legal rights, Community Empowerment Programs, and Litigation for Change.  In addition to providing direct service to Israeli citizens from all backgrounds YEDID's Centers promote coexistence, providing rare opportunities for citizens from these diverse communities to work together to promote democracy and solve communal problems.  Every day YEDID's Centers provide clients with the hope and practical assistance to fight discrimination and break the cycle of poverty.

This summer I am helping Yedid build and improve their English-language website.  This site is very important to help Yedid with its fundraising in the English speaking world, mainly the US and the UK.  I started by taking annual reports on various centers; editing and adapting the information to better suit the website.  I also did additional internet research about the cities in which the centers were located to give more background information as to why different programs were needed in these areas.  Now, Yedid is sending me around the country to visit the centers and meet with their directors and other staff, volunteers, clients and Social Work student interns.  The interviews I am conducting and photos I am taking greatly enhance the information they have on the different centers' programs. My new colleagues at the satellite offices have even invited me back to participate in upcoming events in their centers and to document them for the website and their Facebook pages.  I will also get to meet and speak with more of the clients to learn about why they came to Yedid and how they were helped by the volunteers there and to include their stories in the center's web pages.  This gives me the opportunity to better understand what Yedid is doing in different regions of Israel, get to know more of the people involved in their work and update the information from the latest reports to further improve what is going on the website. This experience has been especially rewarding for me because I am getting to see parts of Israel I might not have otherwise, with people who know the areas well.  The staff at Yedid is also providing me with valuable information in regards to pursuing a Social Work degree here in Israel. 

 

Stephanie Jolson volunteers at Shomera in the Jerusalem Forest

 

For many of us, contributing to environmental causes in Israel has taken the form of donating a tree in memory or honor of loved ones. During our time in Israel, making a positive impact on the Israeli environment has taken a much more active form through our volunteer placement with Shomera, a non-profit organization that was founded in 1988.

 

Based in the Har Nof area of the Jerusalem forest, Shomera takes an active approach at engaging the public in environmental activities through education, activism, and work with communities. Shomera recognizes the vital importance of the Jerusalem forest to both local residents and visitors and through formal and informal experiential progams, and imparts the necessity of forest preservation and sustainable lifestyle practices. A year after its founding, the JNF offered Shomera 20 dunans of land to create the Shomera Forest Education and Activity Center. During the past decade, the site has welcomed thousands of school children and adults alike to benefit from public classes on permaculture as well as mishnayot on agriculture, ancient crafts, the Jewish annual cycle and organic gardening. Moreover, Shomera recognized the need to reach out to people who could not necessarily visit the Center and has since established programs at numerous community centers and other public institutions as well as initiatives like Project Ace which helps rehabilitate youth at risk from Har Nof and Gardening Therapy for individuals with special needs at Hadassah Hospital.

 

On any given day, our work with Shomera can vary as much as the projects themselves. Some days, we find ourselves out on site, building domes out of palm leaves that serve as protective shelters during the rainy season or that provide a shaded activity area during the hot summer months. At other times, our work takes us out into the community such as during a recent Earth Day fair in Jerusalem where we represented and promoted the activities of Shomera to the community at large. At other times, our work is more research based, exploring various new ways for Shomera to expand their programs and ways in which the organization can both reach more people and engage in environmental activism on a local and national scale. This opportunity to impact the land and people of Israel through our hands-on work with Shomera has truly been a worthwhile and rewarding experience.

A packed house of more than 5,000 spectatators packed out the Hapoel Jerusalem basketball studium to watch the State wheelchair basketball final between Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem's wounded soldiers' centers (בתי הלוחם).  Among the audience were a group of WUJS participants who watched on and cheered as Tel-Aviv emerged victorious.  It was a great night full of passion and admiration for the athletes on the court.

WUJS Israel Participants Volunteer in Food Drive

Preston, Mike and Brett volunteering with Latet

Prior to the Pesach (Passover) holiday, many organizations in Israel kick into full gear in an effort to make sure that many of the homeless and needy have food for Pesach.  This year the WUJS Israel groups in both Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv volunteered with an organization called Latet.  The majority of the time was taken up by standing outside supermarkets and asking shoppers entering the store to buy a few extra items that they are willing to donate upon their exit.  A great effort was put in - kol hakavod!

WUJS Intern Tel-Aviv Journalism Interns Published Online

Elliot Antman       Stacey Maltin                 Josh Lichtenstein                      Adam Abrams

There are currently four interns on the WUJS Tel-Aviv program who have recenly been published on Haaretz.com and Ynet respectively.

Elliot Antman from Florida and Adam Abrams from California are both working at Haaretz.  Their articles can be seen by clicking on the links below.

Elliot Antman

Memorial Day / Reflections of an American Jew in Israel

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1081765.html

Adam Abrams

Are the People who 'Really Run the World' Meeting this Weekend?

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1085589.html

Will U.S. Financial Woes Lead to New World Order?

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1074110.html

 

Stacey Maltin from New York and Josh Lichtenstein from Maryland are both working at Ynet.  Their articles can be seen by clicking on the links below.

Stacey Maltin

Redeeming Kasztner

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3715335,00.html

A Visit to Sderot

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3709973,00.html

Raising Awareness to Celiac Awareness in Israel

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3709720,00.html

Taking a Swing at Coexistence

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3706101,00.html

An American Gingit Takes on Tel-Aviv

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3704733,00.html

Helping New Olim Get Started

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3705756,00.html

Get Up and Do Something

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3704720,00.html

Whoever is Hungry, Let Him Come and Eat

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3697523,00.html

Soldiers Speak Out Against Immorality Allegations

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3696566,00.html

 

Josh Lichtenstein

Illusionist Elliot Zimet to perform in Israel

Like Pigs to the slaughter

Study: Israelis in New York more Religious than US born Jews

What's Up Holy Land

New Book Questions Israel's Survival

Remembering Victims on Both Sides

Tel Aviv festivities kick off with a bang

Israeli/Palestinian Children find Peace through soccer

It ain't easy making Aliyah

Memorial Day - Relections of an American Jew in Israel

Following Memorial Day in Israel the following article by Elliot Antman on the WUJS Intern-Tel-Aviv program was published on Haaretz.com at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1081765.html

 

Being in Israel as it commemorates Memorial Day is something I would recommend for any one of my fellow Diaspora Jews.

One needs no more than to walk down the streets of Tel Aviv or pick up the local newspaper to understand the somber feeling that fills this tiny country on the Mediterranean.

There is no loud music to be heard, no picnics at the beach, and no Memorial Day sales at the mall. In talking with Israelis, there is a profound sense of introspection and hopefulness for what the future will bring.

 

It is difficult to find anyone in Israel who has not been affected by the death of a loved one or friend in the years-old Arab-Israeli conflict. This contributes to the disconnect between Diaspora Jews and those living in Israel. As an American Jew, I am grateful to experience this holiday from the Israeli perspective.

A Jew living in Israel has a much different concept of sacrifice than a Jew living in the United States.

For the last two generations, Americans have not fought a war in which the threat of losing their country was imminent.

Since my parents' generation faced war, the sacrifice of American soldiers has been shrouded in controversy over whether or not soldiers died while truly defending our freedoms.

From Korea in the 1950's to the current war in Iraq, nation-wide support of the mission has been hard to come by.

This frame of reference is entirely alien to Israel.

Had Israel truly lost any war since 1948, there would be no Israel to speak of right now. The responsive nature of most of its military campaigns leads to broad support by the Israeli populace. Contributing to this support is the threat of the alternative, which all too often means bloodshed on Israeli soil.

With the exception of 9/11 and the attack on Pearl Harbor, Americans have not had to deal with the damaging emotional trauma that war on the home front brings to its citizens. Unfortunately, this reality continues on a daily basis in Israel.

It saddens me to know that so many of my Jewish friends in the States fail to recognize the sacrifices that continue to be made on our behalf.

We might have a peripheral appreciation for the sacrifices previous generations made in leaving their home countries for a better life, however, we forget that our fellow Jews in Israel continue to fight for us in a country where we will never be second-class citizens.

One of the main reasons behind the establishment of Israel is the idea that the Jew will never be fully accepted into the fabric of another country.

Despite the success that many Jews have experienced in the last century, let us not forget that only a couple generations ago Jews across the United States were changing their names in order to avoid filling the Jewish quotas in higher education and other forms of anti-Semitism.

Let us not forget that today, across the continent of Europe, observant Jews must worship in synagogues fortified with high walls and barbed wire.

And let us be aware that observant Jews in the U.K. are all too often being forced to walk to shul under the close guard of the local police.

What the people of Israel continue to fight and die for is a country that offers safe haven to Jews across the world so that if, and when, the disdain for the Jew becomes too intolerable in foreign lands, our people will have a home that welcomes us with open arms.

This year, I hope my fellow Jews across the globe recognize the sacrifices the people of Israel have made on our behalf and offer a quiet moment of reflection.