Quarantine is over! I am free, and I got an Ice Aroma to celebrate.
Let me explain about Ice Aroma. First– if you ask for iced coffee in Israel, you are asking for the equivalent of a coffee cappuccino. If you want iced coffee like in the states, you can ask for cafe cos— cold coffee. You should not ask for this because, guess what, it is not very good.
The most common and possibly best place to get iced coffee as they make it in Israel is Aroma, which is a shining gem and maybe one of the only things Israelis seem to agree on. Aroma is so good, that when Starbucks tried to set up here in Israel, it failed, because Aroma is better and people didn’t bother with Starbucks.
Later that day, my other two roommates arrived! That makes five of us here in a three bedroom on HaPalmakh Street.
We ventured out and discovered some fantastic schwarma. Here is my schwarma pita, complete with pickled onions, zhoug, hummus, and tahini:
Early Tuesday morning, we left Be’er Sheva for Naveh Ilan, a town near Jerusalem. We spent the morning in the desert nearby (in southern Israel there is always desert nearby) reflecting and doing some really fun team building activities. The site was on a hilltop, and it was beautiful:
We spent Tuesday afternoon at a pool party, which was a blast. It was SO NICE to cool off after a morning in the desert. Plus, I brought my camera waterproofer, so we got to take some fun underwater photos:
Tuesday evening, we checked into a hotel where we had dinner, did some activities, and then we were left to our own devices until the morning. A bunch of us sat outside, chatting, singing a little, and playing guitar. It was such a special, soft evening.
In the morning, we had an incredible Israeli breakfast. Overall, I don’t want to make this blog too much about food, but I have to show anyone reading what an Israeli breakfast buffet looks like:
Right after breakfast, we took in the view from our hotel:
Then, were back to programming. First, we had a seminar on how to ask good questions. As a kid, I would get in trouble for asking questions that were too hard. As an adult, my social work education honed my question asking abilities. I had a great time getting to work on asking questions that were open-ended, thoughtful, and thought-provoking.
Then, we had a guest speaker. She is an asylum seeker who came to Israel from Ethiopia, through Sudan. She spoke of unfathomable hardship and cruelty, as well as unparalleled kindness. Her story may come to mirror that of many of my students, as soon, I’ll be working where she and many other asylum seekers and refugees live in Israel, in southern Tel Aviv. So, I asked her what I could say to be of comfort to any students I have who are refugees or asylum seekers. She advised me to treat them as I would any other student, but with an extra dose of kindness, rather than pity. I loved that her perspective on hers and other asylum seeker’s situations was strengths based– she mentioned more than once how lucky she felt to be here. Her resilience felt contagious; listening to her, I wanted to be the supports she talked about, the ones who brought her reassurance and pride in herself, for my students.
Next we had another guest speaker, Ismail Khaldi. Ismail is the first Bedouin diplomat at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is especially relevant as on Monday, I will be starting my teaching at a school in Rahat, the largest Bedouin city int he world. Bedouins are a group of nomadic Arabs. Most of them were or are shepherds, hosting flocks of goats, sheep, camels, or cows, living in tents and roaming the Negev. Very recently, (Rahat was founded in 1972) the Bedouins began settling down in Rahat, Galilee, and other parts of Israel.
Ismail spoke to us about Bedouin-Jewish relations, and highlighted some key aspects of these relations that affected our students profoundly. He noted that Bedouin cities only received electricity in 2008– around the time my students were born. He also added that there is a significant clash between the Bedouin way of life and the way the Israeli government wants the Bedouin way of life to be– Bedouin cities are nice, he said, but they do not allow for the freedom to engage in traditional Bedouin shepherding culture. This bureaucratic setup is so obviously stifling– in Bedouin cities, pens for animals are illegal. How can people settle down and tend to their flocks, if they can’t keep their animals safely contained? Ismail mentioned he had about 30 goats himself, and when I asked about this, he said he and other Bedouins simply kept animal pens anyway.
I was so floored by what Ismail told us about the way he and other Bedouins were treated– the racial profiling that occurred, and how dangerous that profiling made it to simply exist as a Bedouin in Israeli space, but the way that Israeli bureaucracy actively worked to embed Bedouins in Israeli space.
My biggest takeaway from Ismail’s talk with us was that we are incredibly fortunate to be invited to teach English in Rahat, and that a crucial part of our job will be to teach English from a perspective that enriches our student’s lives and supports them in expressing who they are. I cannot wait to get started on that work.
Tomorrow, errands and recovering from our two-day adventure. Then, Shabbat. More, soon.