Sunday, July 26, 2009

Signing off of a great trip to Bat Yam

Our last week in Bat Yam was very exciting, both at the Kadima Centre and at our apartment.

All of last week the older children left the Kadima Center to take a leadership training course. While the children were away with some of the staff, the Canadian volunteers had the opportunity to run a couple of fun programs, including a game of soccer and some arts and crafts.

On Thursday, when the children returned, we were privy to a unique ceremony which awarded them for completing the course. The ceremony was an incredibly interesting experience, and both the younger and older children were really taken by it.

We decided to spend the last Shabbat that we were in Bat Yam for as a group. We had a big shabbat dinner, and spent the entire night together hanging out in the apartment, and walking on the beach after. All in all it was a nice night and a great way to have a last shabbat in Bat Yam.

Tonight we will all be going into Tel Aviv to see the movie Zerubavel which is an acclaimed film by an Ethiopian director. A nice way to begin the end of our six and a half week journey through Kadima and the Ethiopian culture that exists in Bat Yam.

Thank you to everyone who has read the blog, and we will see you all soon.

Signing Off,

The Bat Yam Group 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

Cuba, El Salvador, Toronto, and Yemin Orde

Last week we recieved a visit to the Kadima centre by a Birthright Group from Toronto, Cuba, and El Salvador. It was a great opportunity for the kids to meet jews from all over the world, and for the birthright group to give back for the wonderful 10 day gift that they had recieved. The leaders of the kadima centre explained to the birthright group how life in Israel differs from life everywhere else.

Making specific reference to Gilad Shalit, the leaders explained to their group that life here is effected by many different events and actions. Afterwards they got the opportunity to build gift care baskets for Soldiers with the birthright group. The kids really enjoyed the activity and our group also had fun building these baskets with the group.

Then on Sunday we had the unique opportunity of visiting a youth village in the north, called Yemin Orde.

As we arrived there we met Racheli, who gave us a tour around the beautiful village. Yemin Orde is home to more the 500 disadvantaged, homeless or at-risk youngsters from twenty-two different countries. As we toured around the village, we learned about the many students who called Yemin Orde their home.

The collection of cultures brought by individual students from various different parts of the world made Yemin Orde a very interesting and important place to visit.

While we were there we took time to learn about the Ethiopian culture, and to see some unique cultural props which we might not have seen anywhere else.

All in all it was a great day!

Thats all for now,

The Bat Yam Group 2009

Monday, July 13, 2009

Field trip, Fun, and Visitors

The last week has been a very busy one in Bat Yam!

We went on two very exciting field trips: first to the pool, and second to the North.

On Monday, the pool was great. We got a chance to play with the kids in the water, and a good time was had by all.

After we finished at the pool we had the unique opportunity of checking out a kosher Ethiopian restaurant in the heart of downtown Tel Aviv. It was an exciting experience as we sampled different meat and vegtable dishes with injera - an interesting spongy breadlike food.

As if that wasn't fun enough, the next day we got an opportunity to head up to the North with the kids. We went for a small hike, and swam a bit more. Following this we went to an outdoor barbeque on a kibbutz at the home of one of the israeli volunteers! All in all, a jam packed day.

Excepting the field trips the students have been working with the kids on their end of the year play. Two of the girls have been teaching the kids extended dance numbers. The kids seem to be enjoying this, and are working hard and diligently on their dances.

On Friday, we split up for a couple of days. Some of the students stayed at the house, and a couple of student volunteers from the Israel-India trip joined them. The rest of the students (and Matt) went to visit Haifa and Tiberias.

Everyone had amazing weekends. The students who went to Haifa and Tiberias toured the Bahai gardens and went to the body world exhibit at the Madatak (science museum). The students who stayed in Bat Yam enjoyed a shabbat with new students.

Keep checking in to see the latest on whats going on with the Bat Yam group :)

Thats it for now!

The Bat Yam 2009 Group

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Robots, Safari, and Canada Day FUN!

Hello again,

It been about a week since the last time anything was posted here, so I thought I would give a brief update as to what we have been up to so far.

Everyday last week we volunteered in the Kadima centre after school program. We read stories to the kids, played board games, and participated in programs. We also had a couple of great visitors - we had a nurse and the K-9 Unit from the army. We also had the bomb squad speak about their important role, in the safety and security of the Israeli people. The kids found this particularily interesting, especially since the bomb squad brought their massive robot with them which the kids could play with.

This past Tuesday we went on a fun exciting field trip to the safari. The safari was in Ramat Gan, which is not too far from Bat Yam. We divided into two groups, and each of the volunteers got a chance to check out the animals with our israeli friends. We saw many different animals, and the kids even got a chance to get up close and personal with Kangaroos and Emus. All in all it was a fun and exciting day.

Today we will be running our own program for the kids. It is a Canada day program with many fun different activities. We have planned an obstacle course, and some other fun and exciting programs. Of course, the day would not be complete without some hockey, and we have brought sticks and pucks to teach all the kids how to play.

We hope to plan many more exciting programs for the kids, and should be able to teach them many new things.

Thats it for now, keep checking for more updates.

Matt (and the Bat Yam group)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Second Group is Here (Most of Us :))

I've been here now since Tuesday afternoon, and gradually our trip is becoming full! As I sit typing this, everyone is here except Adam, who will be joining us next week. So far the trip has been very fun and exciting. We have explored bat yam, and started our volunteering at the Kadima Centre. We have met many of the cool kids that the last group described, and the great staff who are here in Israel. We have also explored the beach, and made our way into tel aviv.

On Friday night we had our first group shabbat dinner. It was fun and interesting, as we all got an opportunity to say the kiddush, and enjoy each others company over some shnitzel and kiddish wine. It was a nice break from the ordinary.

Then today, we really got an opportunity to meet with the kids, and play games with them. The kids at kadima are really great, and we had some brief experience with running activities. Some of the kids painted their fingernails, while others drew and beaded. All in all it was a fun day.

Tommorow a couple of the girls will be going in the morning to a school with some younger kids, for a different experience. Afterwhich we will be off to Kadima again.

Keep checking with us as we post all of our experiences on the blog!


Monday, June 15, 2009

Our Last Day

Yesterday was our last day at Kadima Centre, and it was a bitter-sweet experience for everyone. We were really happy to have the opportunity to facilitate one last fun programme for the kids. We started by showing a slide show with pictures of the kids from every activity that we have led over the past month. The kids and staff cheered as they watched their smiling faces come across the screen, and danced to some of their favourite songs.

After the slide show, we played a game of trivia with the kids. All of the trivia questions were about us, the volunteers. Many of the questions were about our lives in Canada, our connection to Eretz Yisrael, and funny things that have happened throughout our stay in Bat Yam. To reward their hilarious efforts, the kids received candy and other Canadian prizes.
When we finished with our activity, the kids and staff at Kadima gave us certificates of appreciation, and thank you cards. We were truly touched by the cards that were made by each of the children. While gratitude from the children was completely unnecessary, I know that their heartfelt notes will be kept when we return to Canada, as a reminder of the incredible connection that has been built here.
As we left the Kadima Centre after many hugs and goodbyes, a few of us mentioned how sad we were that we would not be returning the next day. As we walked back to our apartment however, we decided that this did not have to be the end of our experience in Bat Yam. The consensus was that we all want to keep in touch with the kids at Kadima through emails, letters, and other updates. As well, we all hope to be able to advocate for this amazing community in any way that we can, upon our return to Toronto. Later this week we will all be far away from Bat Yam. I am positive however, that we will remember the kindness of the children, and the warmth of this community for years to come.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Lost in Translation

Ever since our arrival at the Kadima centre, the children have pointed out our insufficient knowledge of Hebrew slang. On the first day, we were welcomed with the question “Etz o Pali” which is equivalent to asking “heads or tails.” However, we quickly learned that this was not just an innocent game of heads or tails as either response led to whispering followed by lots of giggling. We’re still not exactly sure what they were giggling about but the children have moved on to another question: “yesh li po ma-ader?” as they point to their heads. This literally means “do I have a shovel here?” When we answer no, they respond “az lama ata chofer?” (then why are you digging). Despite understanding this phrase, they still ask us daily. So we started asking them. It has turned into an inside joke that we can all laugh about.

The children have also come up with some nicknames. For example, Rachelle has become Marshmallow and Monica has become Economica (which is bleach in Hebrew). This is their way of getting our attention and creating a bond between ‘the Canadians’ and ‘the Israelis’.
Also, during one of our educational programs on hygiene, one of the boys took it upon himself to schmere shaving cream on Yael’s face, getting it in her hair and on her sunglasses. It became a game between them as the next day he put ice cubes down her back. It was all in fun but after the shaving cream incident he helped her get it out of her hair and off of her sunglasses.

Even though most of our communication is gestures and body language, we are still able to understand each other and strengthen our bond. It has taken a couple of weeks to really get to know the children, but we are definitely sensing a deeper connection and a great interactive environment.

By: Yael Hart and Rachelle Marmur