Year Course participant Sam Reichstein writes about volunteering in Bat Yam.
On my Year Course journey, I’m amazed at how much my life, and myself, have changed so much in such a short amount of time.
I am an active Young Judean, so going on Year Course has been engrained in my head ever since I was around eleven years old. For years I would tell family and friends that I was planning to spend my first year out of high school in Israel, yet I never let myself think about it long enough to picture what exactly I would be doing.
Now Bat Yam, a 3-mile city most Americans have never heard of, with a 30% Russian population has crazily, yet indefinitely, become my home. Bus routes have replaced my Hyundai Elantra, my local Randall’s has transformed into the ever-famous “Super-Douche”, and my days of giving my mom a full basket of laundry have become nights across the street, using free-Wi-Fi, as my 15 shekel wash awaits it’s drying moment. Though quirky and strange to those who are not experiencing this with me, these are just a few of the many changes that are building my amazing journey here in Bat Yam.
Our main focus here this semester is to volunteer, and the opportunity given to me could not be at a more rewarding location. Alongside two good friends, I help teach English at a school with children who need additional help. My first few mornings were intimidating to say the least. Never would I have imagined being scared of what eight year olds were thinking of me, but using my basic Hebrew and receiving blank stares and angry responses of “Mah?!” placed me in a terrifying circumstance.
Luckily, things turned around quickly. Before I knew it my morning walk into school brought chants of “Hi Sam!”, “Sam!”, or my distinctive home-state, “Texas!” The kids love us being there, and are beyond excited to learn anything new. It’s amazing to me how they are learning— or even attempting— to become bilingual at such a young age. There are moments when my simple Hebrew and their struggling English collide and create understanding. It makes the whole process and experience of teaching so much greater.
Though I may not be able to haggle my cab prices down when I want, and I still end up not getting off at the right bus stop, finding myself in Central Tel Aviv, I know that as my bus arrives in front of Anna Frank, feelings of ease and comfort arise as I know that this is my address. These few months have been a whirlwind, filled with fast friendships, sunny afternoons lounging on the beach, experiencing nightlife in Tel Aviv, immersing myself in as much Hebrew as possible, and helping amazing children. In this short time, I feel like I know exactly what I am doing on Year Course, and I couldn’t be happier knowing how easy it is to call this small, eclectic city, my home.