Monday, September 22, 2014

Petach Tikvah Sheli - פֶּתַח תִּקְוָה שלי

Walking up the stairs daily at Belmont High School (the school I worked at this past year), I always took a minute to admire a certain mural. The mural read, "Don't worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition." These words, spoken by Abraham Lincoln, always forced me to stop and reflect. Working at Belmont was extremely challenging and emotionally taxing. Simple "thank you's" and appreciations from administration came few and far between. This quote reminded me that all that didn't matter. I wasn't working with at-risk youth for the recognition, but rather because it is what I am passionate about. So I continued on and spent the year cultivating my passion while simultaneously undergoing the most transformative year of my life.

My daily affirmation

Coming to Israel as a volunteer, I kept Honest Abe's words of wisdom in mind. I would neither expect nor seek recognition for my service.

There are no words to describe how pleasantly surprised I have been. Since we arrived in Israel, everyone has been so appreciative of the work us Fellows are doing.

A day after we arrived in PTK, the city municipality arranged a private tour for us around the city. Our tour began at HaMoshava Stadium, the primary football (or "soccer" depending on who you ask) stadium in Petach Tikva. It's a relatively small stadium with seats for up to 11,500 people. The stadium has 10 VIP suites, one of which was designed as a tribute to the memory of the soccer league in the Theresienstadt Ghetto. The exhibit was created "against the background of rising violence in Israeli soccer and to commemorate and to educate about Jewish sport during the Holocaust; close to the lawn of Israeli soccer." After touring the VIP Suites, we learned that the municipality extended an invitation to us to watch a football game from the comfort of a suite.

Seen inside the VIP suite
The beautiful stadium 

The municipality thanked us relentlessly for the work we are doing and gave us gift bags as parting gifts. The bags read "Petach Tikvah Sheli," meaning "My Petach Tikvah." The most meaningful gift that came out of the bag is a keychain embellished with a few different charms. One of the charms is engraved, with words loosely translating into "In recognition [of your work] in Petach Tikvah." 

Quite the 180 from last year

Everyone has truly welcomed us with open arms. From teachers offering us rides home to strangers opening their homes to us for Shabbat dinners, the culture of Israeli hospitality has made moving so far away from my family and friends so much easier. More than anything, I consider myself to be the fortunate one in this situation. I am incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to give back and spend 10 months serving in such an extraordinary country.

An appreciation card from students. I will only answer to "Degerey" from this day forward

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ask Me if I'm on Taglit One More Time...

It all happened sort of quickly. After months of waiting anxiously, I had discovered that I had been admitted into my dream graduate school program. I would be moving to New York less than a month after my year of service with City Year was to end - to say I was elated would be a gross understatement. 

But then, just as quickly, reality began to set in for me. I started looking at the cost of tuition more seriously and then realized that once I completed my masters program -- in a mere 13 months -- I would have to begin my career and become a real person. I am only 23 and still have so much I want to do before I settle down and "grow up." 

So I did what any responsible 20-something year old would do and decided to defer graduate school for a year in order to move to a foreign country for 10 months. 

Seen at the Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem. Too perfect.

And that's how I ended up in little ol' Petach Tikvah/Petah Tikva/Petah Tiqwa, Israel. As Wikitravel is quick to point out, Petach Tikvah (or PTK for short) is a "sleepy Israeli town that lies a few miles east of Tel Aviv." I will be living in PTK until July 2015. During this time I will be participating in a Masa Israel program called "Israel Teaching Fellows," through which I am fortunate enough to spend another 10 months striving to be a change agent in the world of education. As an Israel Teaching Fellow, I have the privilege of teaching English to elementary aged students at a public school here in PTK. As Muhammad Ali once said, "Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth." 

I don't really have anything extremely profound or groundbreaking to say - I think Muhammah Ali covered that for me- but I hope to use this blog as a way to give a bit of insight as to what goes on in my day-to-day life here. Though I have been in Israel for about 3 weeks now, I just finished completely unpacking last night so I'm now ready to Take PTK and blog about it along the way.

Our view of the Dead Sea from our first weekend in Israel

Cheers to new roommates and new beginnings