I spent my volunteering semester at The Jaffa School in Tel Aviv. Even though the school itself is a Jewish school they recognized that their community has a big Arab population because of its location. A main focus of the school is to teach both sides of things- they don’t just have Hebrew classes, they also have Arabic classes. Volunteering there was the first time I interacted with a lot of Arab kids, and with Arab people in general. It was really fun, going to Jaffa every day, seeing their community, and being a part of it in a little way.
An even bigger immersion into an Arab community was the week of Special Interest Month I spent in Jisr Az-Zarqa, an Arab Village near Caesarea. Jisr Az-Zarqa is known as one of the most dangerous villages in Israel. We did the same kind of volunteer work there that we did in Jaffa- we played games in English with the kids so they could build their confidence. We weren’t there for very long but by the last day the kids we had been working with were dancing and singing to different songs and having a lot of fun. We were the first group of volunteers to ever come to this village, and it was cool to see the kids start to get used to seeing people who were not like them at all.
In the afternoon we would meet at a community center and talk with kids our own age. We talked with them about their experiences and became friends with them. Joel, one of the other volunteers from Year Course, became friends with a boy named Mohammed- they are both interested in studying the same thing in college. It was also interesting to talk to the girls because their life experience is just so different from anything I have ever experienced. Even though we were only there for a week we began to understand their reality- they talked about how they don’t go out after 7:00 at night because they are afraid, but they also talked about school and how excited they are to go to college. They are figuring out ways to do what they want to do and not just be a part of the cycle of poverty.