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Birthright Israel | Bus 229 special extension program in Tel Aviv!

Jan 06, 2016

Volunteering in Tel AvivI'm not really a worrier when it comes to dealing with kids. I've done enough babysitting and been a camp counselor for enough years that I'm pretty confident in my ability to work with children. When we were being prepped for the program on Sunday, however, one of the women told us that they were not like ‘normal’ kids, that they were rude and violent and maladjusted, and to be prepared. This is when I started to worry.

But it turned out to be for nothing. It's true that they don't listen as well as the kids I'm used to, it's true that they hit each other a bit more often and don't share too well, but at the end of the day, they are kids. One second laughing, one second crying, endlessly curious and full of boundless energy. Maybe I'll sing a different tune tomorrow when Scott and Daniel leave and it's just me and Avivi, but for now, I'm excited for my last day and proud of the improvement the kids have shown in just a few short hours.

Last night, we had a program with an Israeli screenwriter who showed us some clips from a few different movies discussing the image of the sabra, the quintessential Israel-born Israeli. That may not seem connected to our work with the kids, but both the exploration of the sabra and the debate surrounding the asylum seekers and their children bring up similar points: what does mean to be Israeli? What does it mean to be Jewish, and to have a Jewish country? How do we maintain a homeland for the Jewish people that also functions as a democratic state where anyone can live and practice any religion?

The refugees are not Jewish, yet they live here in the Jewish state, and their children go to Israeli schools and learn Hebrew. Where do they fit?

The image of the sabra was created as a tough-skinned Jewish man who would found and protect the land of Israel, but he is always male, committed to the we over the I. Where do the women fit? How does the individual factor in?

On Birthright, we learned about the achievement of the dream: building a home for the Jews. On the extension, we are realizing the reality: how to run modern nation full of disparate people and ideas.

Jill Levinson is a sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill.

North Carolina Hillel Foundation
210 West Cameron Avenue
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
(919) 942-4057

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