One week from now I will be somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, on my way back to Pittsburgh. Much has happened since my last post in mid-December, 2013. Here is how it all turned out:
At the end of my first two months here, I noticed a real improvement in my Hebrew — both listening and speaking. It was nice to finally understand most of what was going on at Tzav Pius staff meetings. (tzavpius.org.il).
I started to feel like I had made some friends in Jerusalem, at Tzav Pius, at talk cafe, and at SVFI. Although it came fairly late during my tenure at Tzav Pius, the slide show about Pittsburgh that I put together on my iPad and shared with the staff there was a great ice breaker.
After the first two months, I had learned enough about Tzav Pius to be able to make some real contributions in areas that I, as an American, was uniquely qualified to understand.
I finally started to understand how the streets and neighborhoods in Jerusalem are connected (sort of).
I started to have “favorite places” in Jerusalem.
When I first arrived in Israel, Marla and Judy told me that there was -1 degree of separation among the people in Israel. I experienced the truth of that assertion many times in Jerusalem. Among the people I met was a woman from Cleveland (where I grew up) whose father used to work with my husband’s grandparents (got it?) “back in the day.” She just stopped me on the street to ask for directions, and before I knew it we were in Mr. Peabody’s Wayback machine, traveling to the 1960s.
I spent a pleasant afternoon with another SVFI volunteer who had just arrived in Jerusalem and got to feel like a “veteran” in the city.
Tzav Pius planned a tiyul in my honor. The destination — Ein Gedi — was a dream come true for me since I had such nice memories of the two weeks I spent at the kibbutz there on my previous visit to Israel 40+ years ago. Highlights of the day were singing old Israeli tiyul/camp songs in the car on the way to Ein Gedi; seeing ibexes, hyraxes and lots of colorful birds, wading in a pool under a waterfall, and climbing up a mountain at Ein Gedi Nature Reserve; and spending time on the beach and in the water at the Dead Sea.
The only one of my original goals for this trip that I did not meet — and probably never will — is “understanding” Israel today. But I read a lot, and learned a lot from my work at Tzav Pius, and I certainly feel like I understand more now than I did three months ago. Eizeh kef — what a fun experience!