Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Update from Alex Kadish

After our first full day of action during the community week
yesterday, it's safe to say that just about everyone was ready for a
good night's sleep. The schedule for the day, meticulously planned by
three of our Israeli counterparts, was jam packed with a variety of
activities. Though many of us had stayed up late hanging out with each
other at the Ashqelon "Marina" the night before, our morning started
at eight sharp with teambuilding activities followed by an exclusive
informational meeting at the city municipality led by Ashqelon's
deputy mayor. A quick tour of the city's volunteer center, funded
primarily by Baltimoreans, gave way to truly the most eye opening and
rewarding experience of the trip that I've had so far. The emotional
experiences of the Kotel and Yad Vashem paled in comparison to the
connection I felt when we visited Beit Canada, an immigration
absorption center geared towards Ethiopian Jews. I felt as though I
had stepped into another world when we entered the gates of the
complex and came to a courtyard where dozens, maybe seventy kids were
waiting for us to play games with them or paint their faces. Able to
speak a pretty solid amount of Hebrew, I made an attempt at conversing
with the kids, ranging in age from 3 to around 15 or 16. I found that,
much to my amazement, many of the Ethiopians living in Beit Canada had
only been there for a few months, some only a few weeks. Their level
of adjustment to the unfamiliar surroundings and language that faced
them was enough to convince even the most skeptical of the sense of
belonging that Israel inspires. Falling into a rhythm of painting
hearts, flowers, and sad excuses of butterflies, I was taken aback
when the kids starting requesting that I brand them with such slogans
as "I love Ethiopia" across their arms. Alongside this tribute to the
homeland they so recently abandoned, many of the kids asked that we
draw Jewish stars as an obvious nod to their new home. Hopefully, our
afternoon in Beit Canada educated us all in the power and importance
of perseverance and positivity.

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