James Tenenbaum's special connection with Israel started in 2006. He recently returned for his third visit where he participated in a Masa Israel program, in which he taught English and computer skills in a Darfuri community center. In his free time, James also volunteered at Lasova, a soup kitchen in southern Tel Aviv. Read on for James' personal account of his time volunteering in Israel.
It's fascinating to look back upon my three visits to Israel - the first in 2006, then in 2012 for birthright, and now as part of the Masa Career Israel program, and observe the differences within me, as well as in the country itself. Now that I have been here for over four months I am just starting to understand how unique Israel is as both a homeland and a cultural center. I moved here in August 2014 after graduating college in Florida, however, I am originally from Northern New Jersey. It had been my dream for some time to move to Israel for an extended stay and I jumped at the opportunity to join the Career Israel internship group.
Career Israel works with each participant to find the perfect internship in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem in order to both explore the Israel as more than a tourist and to assist in career advancement. My internships are at a Jaffa Institute after-care facility for refugee children and in a local refugee community center, part of Bnai Darfur- a non-profit humanitarian organization that works to develop a communal identity for Darfurian refugees in Israel, where I teach English and computer skills to Darfuri refugees. From the first day it was an incredible experience, mostly because every day I ended up learning more than I taught, whether it be Hebrew words, Fur language, how to make tribal drum sets, or even what constitutes Darfuri cuisine. My time here has been invaluable, and it showed me that different languages, cultures, or histories will never prevent two willing, aware people from forming a friendship.
Ruach Tova helped me expand my range of activities by introducing me to Lasova, a group that operates a soup kitchen right near the community center where I teach. My favorite part of working at the kitchen is the atmosphere and the camaraderie between those serving food and those dropping in for lunch. Everyone I met is patient, direct, honest, and compassionate- and each volunteer comes from a vastly different walk of life. From those operating the soup kitchen I was able to better understand the homeless and their problems, without judgment or preconceived notions. I couldn't be more grateful for the short time I have volunteered at Lasova.
This article was written by James Tenenbaum. Interested in volunteering in Israel? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call *9093 (international: +972-3-5436888) to find the perfect volunteering opportunity for you.