Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Day two in Tel Aviv

As leader of the day, it was my duty to wake everyone up at 7 AM… which is not a very easy task.  The tired fellows slowly trickled into the breakfast hall like zombies.  After breakfast we all climbed onto the bus still trying to fully wake up.  This day was geared around volunteering and learning about unique areas in Tel Aviv.  At a place called Ramat Gan we jumped off the bus and got ready for the first activity of the day.  In Ramat Gan there is a place where people who are visually impaired or blind can receive economic benefits through work.  We learned about how the Israeli government identifies if someone is visually impaired and how this affects their life.  The Israeli government provides a certificate to an individual that identifies them as visually impaired, which indicates their work status.  We volunteered here by helping these people with their work (constructing electronic devices used in lamps and televisions).  As we worked we conversed with the workers and learned about how life is like for them being visually impaired and how they communicate effectively despite their disability.  

After volunteering, we headed to an interactive museum called Dialogue in the Dark in which we were able to experience life as a blind person.  In this museum we were guided through several rooms in complete darkness; in addition, our tour guide was a blind woman who for her, this was a reality.  In the beginning, everyone was anxious and nervous to lose their sight; however, as we progressed through the museum we began to rely more on our sense of smell, touch, and hearing.  We walked through a forest, log cabin, boat, market, busy street, cafeteria, and a music area.  In each of these rooms we walked around, endeavoring to understand where we were without sight.  After this museum, all the teens had gained a greater sense of appreciation for the ability to see (we also ate pizzaJ).  

Next we went to Jaffa and walked around a market.  Then we headed to South Tel Aviv and learned about the complex situation of the refugees who live there.  We explored the responsibility of Israel to refugees as a Jewish state despite its inability to be a home to so many asylum seekers and migrant workers.  South Tel Aviv is a more impoverished area in comparison to the rest of Tel Aviv and it opened up our eyes to a different lifestyle than we had yet seen in Israel.  

We then walked around the old streets of ancient Yaffo and learned about the history of this land.  Finally we went to dinner after a long day of walking around in the heat on Bugrashov Street.  By the time we got back to the hotel we were all exhausted and ready to pass out.  By learning about modern issues in Israel and seeing how they are dealt with, we were able to gain a different perspective that concerned relevant problems.


Monday, August 3, 2015

Last day of Congress and First Day in Tel Aviv

Today was our first travel day with the Israelis, but it was also the last day of congress. We started the day by waking up at Congress, going to breakfast, and going to a program. The program was about the sixth leg of Judaism, an addition to the initial five we learned about (family, memory, Israel, Hebrew, and mount Sinai). We discussed which leg we had a strongest connection to and in groups created a sixth leg. After the program we had a feedback session in our tribes. We said things that surprised us, our favorite memories, what we learned and can take back to our homes, and more. Personally, hearing everyone's opinions opened my eyes to all the different possibilities there are. People were constantly challenging each other in discussions and it was amazing to watch and participate in.

After saying goodbye to the friends we made, Pittsburgh karmiel-misgav boarded our bus to Tel Aviv. The bus ride only took about a hour and went by really quickly. Before we knew it we were standing in line for shawarma and falafel! The food was really good, but huge, so I could barely eat half of mine.

We next had a scavenger hunt in Tel Aviv. There were clues hidden throughout the city and we had to decode previous clues to find the next one. It was a lot of fun, but also very hot. By the end we were all sweaty and gross, so we went to the beach! We all ran right into the water and had chicken fights, dunking, and splashing. We were all exhausted by now but we are dinner at our hotel before showering and getting ready for magaal. We had our magaal on the beach, which was really fun. It was Sarah Grill's birthday so we had cake and sang happy birthday to her (and Jackie since we never celebrated her birthday).  We sang happy birthday to Sarah so many times throughout the day that I lost count. It was a great first day in Tel Aviv and I can't wait for our last few days!

- Abigail Busis

Congress Day 2

Avram Infeld started the day out with a lecture where he challenged everything we thought about what being Jewish is really all about. He had a five leg theory about what to focus on, and how every person can pick and choose what they want to believe. We then split in to our tribe groups and discussed the importance of the language of Hebrew.  I was surprised to see the variety of beliefs amongst my own group, let alone imagining what everyone at congress felt. 

Jewish leaders from around Israel were kind enough to enlighten us by sharing their success and difficulties with their positions. After the panel discussion, we split into groups of 20 to have deeper conversations. I went to hear Yahal Porat. After that we all congregated for the classic Diller Picture. Though it was difficult to get everyone under control, it only took about 7 minutes to capture all of the pictures. 

The worst part of the day is next. Shahar, the Karmiel-Misgav JC, was leaving. We had a 5 minute notice to say our last goodbyes as she heads off for her gap year before the army. Then it got even worse. Roi, a Karmiel-Misgav fellow, was going home early. This was also short notice and it was difficult to say goodbye because we will love and miss him so much. We hope to see him again soon in Tel-Aviv. Back in our tribes, for the last activity of the day, we put old text into modern words. Then we had a maagal lilah with our Pittsburgh cohort and had a peaceful night.

- Jackie Dervin 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Day One of Congress

After a final meal with our host families, it was time to say goodbye and head to Congress! But before our two hour drive, we played a very aggressive game of laptag, and engaged in an amazing program. In the program we were each given unique pieces of paper with a blue stripe somewhere along the paper. On this paper we were asked to draw a moment where we felt connected to Israel. I chose to draw a moment that really stood out to me.  It was a Saturday night in Jerusalem and we were doing Havdalah. Harrison recited the prayers, Noa held the spice, Victor the flame, and I the wine. With everybody in a circle arm in arm, I realized not only my connection to Israel, but to our cohort. This activity really allowed me to reflect on the past two weeks. After this activity we loaded the bus to Congress!

Arriving to Congress was a bit overwhelming with over 400 teens, but we quickly settled in. We quickly ate lunch and got to see international Diller teen fellows. Following lunch was the opening ceremony. The opening ceremony consisted of each of the cohorts introducing themselves, a few speakers, and a then we headed to the opening ceremony. Next we headed to the complex we are staying at and toured the area after dropping off our bags. Next we split up into tribes which consist of about 20 fellows, a couple from each cohort. We did some icebreakers and came up with a cheer. There we had a program involving family. We were asked what three characteristics are required for a family. My tribe came up with love, respect, and a sense of belonging. After the program we ate dinner and returned to our tribes. We ended the day with an emotional ma’agal, where we received letters written by our parents.

Pretty tired out we made a quick appearance at white tent, and ended the night. All in all it was a good day with easy transitions and meeting a lot of new people!

- Ilana Udler

Community Week Closure

Today was the last full day of community week, Karmiel and Misgav culture day. To start off the day, we met at the family park in Karmiel. It was a playground that really brought out the inner children in most of us. After goofing around for a bit, we had a scavenger hunt around the park. Different places in the park represented different things about Karmiel and Misgav. It was really interesting for all of us to realize how much there is in such a small city.

Next, we drove to a building to talk about youth movements in Karmiel. The specific one we learned about here was called Krembo wings. This is a special youth group that helps disabled children. The kids come together and simply play, and do simple things they wouldn't normally be able to do. The people that helped with it said it is amazing how meaningful it was to them. It really change many of their outlooks on simple things, and changed them as people. It was interesting to think how things like this can change people in such a big way, perhaps just as Diller is changing us. 

Next was lunch. We drove to a Hummus resultant, and had a very Israeli meal of Hummus and Pita. The food was fantastic, and everyone enjoyed feeling Israeli. 

After lunch, we drove to a view in Misgav, where you could see Karmiel, and many of the Misgav villages. It was interesting to see how close all these communities are, yet how different they can be. Once we finished enjoying the view, we drove to a community center in the village. Here we learned about how Misgav operates, and how it's government works. We also talked about how all the villages have different youth movements, but they try to have general programming the same to unite all the villages, and make them stronger together. It was interesting to learn how such small and separate communities could be so connected. We also did an activity comparing Karmiel to Misgav by making Instagram pages for them. It was cool to see how different life in the small city is from Misgav.

After learning about Misgav, we drove to the closing ceremony. We had an award style "fancy" ceremony, where everyone's dressed up. We had an amazing dinner and a fantastic ceremony, which really made everyone feel even more connected, and sent us out of Karmiel conflicted, glad to be so close, but sad to be leaving a community we can now call home.  

We happened to be lucky enough to be in Karmiel for the dance festival, which started tonight. It is the main attraction in Karmiel, and most people wait all year for it. So after the closing ceremony, we went to this amazing Festival. There was tons of booths, food, and dancing. The festival was somewhat overwhelming, especially seeing how big it was, in such a small city. But it was an amazing experience, and something truly unique to Karmiel. Everyone was exhausted after the long night, and hopefully sleep well in their last night in Karmiel.

- Adam Morris 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Community Week Day 6 - Tikkun Olam

Today was Tikkun Olam day. To repair the world we have to come together.

We started the day off by having a ma'agal where we really connected as a group. Ma'agals are very important to get close with each other and reflect.

After, we went to Pithon Lev, a place that is like a food pantry that helps approximately 450 families who don't have the ability to afford food. We bagged food, sorted clothes, and played a game to learn more about poverty and how we can address the challenge of poverty in our community. I had a really good time here, when I was told I would be sorting potatoes, trying to find them in a crate filled with dirt- I admit, I was a little hesitant. Finding the biggest potatoes became a new motive.

Having friends while volunteering can change the atmosphere. After lunch, we volunteered with Hashomer HaChadash. HaShomer HaChadash is a young, grassroots volunteer organization established in 2007 to help farmers and ranchers in the Negev and the Galilee who administer vast tracts of state-owned land to deal with the threat of illegal seizure of their land. Like the original Guardsmen who protected remote Jewish settlements 100 years ago, HaShomer HaChadash works to ensure a stronger Jewish presence in the Negev and the Galilee and uphold the Zionist ideals on which the State of Israel was founded.


This was one of my favorite activities. Along with having an amazing volunteer who led the program, we built a wall for farmers whose fences were broken. Although we were building a wall, some of our mental walls broke down during the activity. Shlomo, the leader, talked about our responsibility to Israel and to the land. The provoking questions really made everyone think about the amazing place that we are in right now. We concluded the day with some reflection on Tikkun Olam. Each day I feel like everyone is learning more about a different culture, and I think today taught me how little things can make a big difference.

- Zoe Papernick