Monday, 4 July 2011

And so it ends, my final post of a year of trouble, tribulation and triumph!

The weekend after Northern Tiyul was the 'World Movement Seminar'. Originally we were supposed to talk to Netzer Olim but for some reason that fell through so it ended up being a seminar predominantly on Aliyah. Either way my incoming wisdom teeth decided it was a good time to get infected so after an emergency trip to a very nice dentist on Hillel Street, and a prescription for antibiotics I spent most of the weekend in bed trying to distract myself from my extremely painful inflamed cheek.

By Monday morning and Josh's Israel update class I was feeling a lot better. Thus began our final two weeks of full schedule classes. That evening we headed to our final MASA event which nobody was especially looking forward to however after some dubiously interesting sessions, a panel discussion from Danny Gillerman, former Israeli Ambassador to the UN and Alon Pinkas, former Consul General of Israel in New York. The discussion surrounded the de-legitimisation of Israel in the Diaspora. Following this we then we had a talk from some of the innovators of the hi-tech appliances in Israel, featuring a flying robot and a bicycle clock. The part that really made the evening worthwhile and was truly incredible, probably the very best thing we have formally attended on Shnat, a performance from the all singing all dancing all beat-boxing troupe Mayumana.

On Tuesday we went back to full day normal lessons and had yom tnua in the evening. We had the standard netzer platform peulah run by Sivan and Ethan which was focused on activism and was about what we could do in Netzer to be active when we get back home. Then we had a ma’amad written by Becky and Nikki which was a self-reflective journey using a pack they had produced which was really appropriate and calming for the timing.

On Wednesday we had lessons and then did our meoravut (volunteering). As a continuation of what I have previously talked about , my Israel Activism group was now focusing on raising money and awareness for LGBT rights in Israel. On this specific session we were the first group ever to be allowed to go to visit 'Beit Dror' the shelter we were raising money for and meet some of the teenagers and talk to them. The shelter is for Israeli kids who have been kicked out or have run away from home for their sexual orientation. We decided on several strategies to raise money, the first being a club night which half the pre-sold ticket money goes to the shelter, the second volunteering at Gay Pride in Tel Aviv to give out flags and collect money.

The Thursday was our penultimate Yom Yisrael. We spent the day on a tour around the Supreme Court (of which the most interesting part was the architecture) and a brief talk outside the Kineset. Our Sikkum consisted of a government simulation where we had to decide on a set of personal 'beliefs' and then form parties using a point system and comparing your point values. After this you had to agree on party beliefs and policies and this of course caused splits which was all very interesting to analyse at the end.

On Friday morning Miriam, Relf, Rio, Tamara and I headed back to Karmiel to visit our host families for the weekend. It was such a lovely weekend of chilling, chatting, watching movies, eating yummy food and seeing people we hadn't seen for a while. We even had an ice cream and waffle at Aldo with Galit. On our way back to Machon we stopped in 'Crack Square' to watch the football alongside hundreds of other people on big screens outside the bars.

Sunday was a fairly boring and uneventful day except for being the first day of our last week of classes on Machon. Monday began with our final Israel Update in which our political knowledge really was put to the test. We simulated peace process discussions between the Palestinians and the Israelis over key issues such as Water, Jerusalem, Borders, Security and Refugee. The Simulation consisted of two classes, each representing a different side and each split into mini groups to focus on specific topics. Our class was representing the Palestinian side of the negotiations and so to make matters even more interesting, myself and a few others were instructed in secret to represent Hamas in the discussions without telling the rest of our group. Needless to say very few group came up with any substantial conclusions, further illustrating the depth and complicating (if we didn't already see it) of the conflict. The day continued with vastly less interesting occurrences such a a Hebrew test, Judaism class and lots of Hadracha.

Tuesday consisted of my final morning of Jeremy Leigh classes, sad times, despite the 8 o'clock start with a Holocaust elective by far one of my most interesting mornings of lessons. In the afternoon, aside from a usual set of Yom Tnua events we also had a rehearsal for the CD some of us are making of a a bunch of songs, tunes and harmonies we have sung during shnat to take back to our individual sniffim.

Wednesday was Yom Yerushaliym (something that previously to Shnat I had never even heard of). As Netzer has an undecided view on this, whilst for others the day was one of celebration, we took a tour round parts of the green line and East Jerusalem with Mark Lazar to discuss the implications of Jerusalems borders. That evening I went out for dinner with my room mates as a farewell dinner all together before the end of Shnat.

Thursday was long and unnecessary and everyone was exhausted for most of it. In the afternoon I went to sleep for a 10 minute power nap and woke up five hours later when everyone was getting ready to go out. It was our fireworks themed club night raising money for Beit Dror and went extremely well.

On Friday morning I got up at six to go to Women of the Wall. To explain further who they are I will insert their mission statement : 'As Women of the Wall, our central mission is to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall'. The concept many people have issues with, of using prayer as protest was something I also wasn't totally sure about. Having said this I felt I should go along any way at least once to make up my mind based on fact. It was actually very pleasant and quite powerful and genuinely felt like it was simply a group of people coming together to pray. Apparently there was a lot less controversy than in the past and we didn’t get yelled or spat at by anybody. Interestingly there always had to be at least two people outside holding the Torah as we weren't slowed to bring it in. Rachel and I didn’t stay for the Torah service as we had many missions for the day to complete. We jumped onto what we are still not quite sure if it was a Haredi bus and made our way to Yad Vashem as we had both missed the Machon trip there. It was really important to both of us, though we had independently been there before, to revisit, post our year in Israel and with a completely different outlook. After Yad Vashem we headed to Machane Yehuda for lunch at Pasta Basta before heading home for shluf time.

At this point everything got slightly crazy so I created a massive backlog in my blog which is why the next bit is just a brief recounting. On Saturday I spent most of the afternoon in the Arab Shuk with Miriam collecting all the bits and bobs we hadn't managed to get yet. Sunday and Monday were a 'Special Seminar' which was largely exceedingly boring and a lot about Aliyah and taking things back to the movements. On Tuesday morning my Chavura had our Shavuot peula, a three part peula based on a song, an interactive museum and a tikkun session. That evening everyone headed out to various study sessions before all congregating at four in the morning to go to the Kottel for the sunrise. As a result of this most of Wednesday was spent sleeping and in a CD rehearsal. On Thursday morning Etgar had their last day of classes so Miriam, Bec, Helen and I went to Herzliya to spend a chilled out day tanning on the beach. We awoke early on Friday morning to jump in a shirut to Tel Aviv to spend the day volunteering at Gay Pride, raising money for Beit Dror shelter (over 8000 shekel in the end). On Saturday morning, the last day of chofesh, a bunch of Netzer-niks congregated at Yellow Submarine bar which also has a recording studio. We spent about 8 hours recording 11 of our favourite most used and different songs we had sung during Shnat. Sunday and Monday was Sikkum Tiyul starting we a 'Great Race' from Jerusalem ending in Netanya, followed by lots of beach, sea, swimming, games, reflection, paint balling, archery, rock climbing and chatting. Tuesday and Wednesday consisted of Sikkum sessions, feedback, packing and our Final Dinner. They set it up like prom so all the boys were given girls to ask in the most romantic way they could think of. (most boys had two girls due to gender imbalance). Thursdayy was the saddest day of all, a day of Closing Tekkes, yearbooks, tears and hugging as we said goodbye to ourAustraliann and South African friends who had become as much a part of out shnat as our fellow Netzer-niks and most of whom we would probably never see again.

After leaving Machon we met up with Etgar, said goodbye to the Netzer Southerners and went on our way to Shvaiim to begin our Sikkum Seminar and final four days of Shnat. A weekend of sadness, reminiscing and saying goodbye.

I write this sitting in Ben Gurion airport as we are waiting to board the plane home. It has most definitely been a year of discovery, a year of struggle, a year of joy, happiness and new experiences.
When I think about the decision I made to come here, maybe it was for the wrong reasons but when I look at the experience I had, I know it was the right decision. I never knew even half the things I would get out of Shnat and I feel so lucky to have somehow stumbled upon exactly the right way to spend my year. My biggest worry now is how to readjust to life at home, and make sure I don't waste all that I have gained this past year.