בינה בפייסבוק בינה באינסטגרם צרו קשר עם בינה במייל

Culture Shock | BINA MITF Tel Aviv+

My little brother asked me the other day, “What is the biggest culture shock you’ve experienced since you moved?” This a totally valid question from the boy who doesn’t understand what a periphery city is and can’t pronounce “Kiryat Gat.” My brain was flooded because everything about this journey has been somewhat of a “culture shock.” I thought I knew everything about Israel and that, although my Hebrew wasn’t great, everything would make sense. When everything wasn’t immediately perfect, I was struck with the harsh realization: picking up and moving to a new country where you don’t speak the language is not easy at all. This journey of growth and self-discovery is not going to be an easy one, but nothing worth having is easy.

My name is Alexa, and I’m on the Tel Aviv + track, starting off in my peripheral city of Kiryat Gat. I’m 23 years old and graduated college in 2021, mid-pandemic of course. I decided to move home for a year to work and save up some money while I figured out what I wanted to do next. I randomly got an email about this program, and it felt like fate. I knew I wanted to work with kids and I knew I wanted to spend time living in Israel. I chose the Tel Aviv+ track because I thought it was such a unique experience to be able to see two sides of Israeli life; small periphery life and big city life.

The First Shock

We visited our schools before the first day, just to make sure we knew where we were going and what bus stop to get off at. I work at a religious school, which includes all the students praying every morning as well as before and after meals, girls wearing skirts, boys wearing kippot, listening to the rabbi speak on Fridays, etc. Despite the school atmosphere, to these kids, I was a random American who just showed up at their school. At first, they didn’t understand that my Hebrew was not great and I was bombarded with a million Hebrew questions at once. My host teacher had to explain to them (in Hebrew of course) who I was. This in no way stopped the incessant questions, so instead, we dedicated a class period to asking questions about Alexa.I created an intricate PowerPoint (mostly with photos of my dogs), and my host teacher let them ask any question and she would translate. They wanted to know everything about me, and I mean everything. Through their questions, I was able to learn a lot about their perspective, but it was incredibly overwhelming being pelted with Hebrew that I could not understand. Not being able to communicate with these kids easily has definitely been a challenge but the other teachers are incredibly supportive. Outside of English class, my students love to help me with my Hebrew. Although we have since learned how useful google translate can be, my Hebrew gets better as their English gets better and it is an awesome learning experience alongside them.We really underestimate the power of nonverbal communication, TikTok trends, and obscure hand gestures.

 

The Funny Shock

Figuring out the bus stops was probably our biggest challenge. The Israeli bus system is interesting, to say the least. When we found an easier bus stop on the map, we tried to find it. The way the bus works in our neighborhood is comical; the stop closest to our apartment is the beginning of a 20-minute loop that goes around the entire neighborhood and then into the city. This new bus stop was a 5-minute walk away and was at the end of the loop, making it a 10-minute bus ride instead of 30. It’s on the map, but sometimes it’s not physically there because the construction workers just move it and the bus won’t stop for you if it’s not there. There seemed to be a new challenge with the buses every day, but after each mistake, we learned something new.Plus, nothing bonds you and your roommates like having a bus driver shrug and pass you because the bus is just too full. Figuring out new public transportation is never easy, but now the bus drivers recognize us and we can share all our favorite bus routes with every Fellow that follows us.

The Best Shock

My roommates and I are the first Masa Fellows to live and teach in Kiryat Gat, which is an incredibly unique experience and also means learning new things about this city daily. Alongside BINA and Masa we are finding the best grocery stores, where to get a SIM card, where the closest Aroma is, and so much more. One thing we’d never thought we’d find was a community of English speakers! Shabbat was definitely a big culture shock in Israel; watching most of the country shut down for 25 hours is beautiful, but it was still an adjustment from the way we were used to living. On one of our Shabbas walks, we heard something we almost never hear in Kiryat Gat, English.We stopped awkwardly to make sure we heard correctly, and before we knew it, they were inviting us over for a Shabbas party. The Goldbergs instantly became a family. They welcomed us into their home and introduced us to a vast community of English speakers that lived next door to us. Learning Hebrew has been a huge part of my journey in Israel, but being a part of this community made me feel safe and comfortable, and I knew if I ever needed anything I could ask without using google translate. Finding a balance and space to disconnect is so important when moving to another country. I found my safe space and experienced the true magic of living in Israel. Finding a balance and space to disconnect is so important when moving to another country.I found my safe space and experienced the true magic of living in Israel. Finding a balance and space to disconnect is so important when moving to another country. I found my safe space and experienced the true magic of living in Israel.

Living in Kiryat Gat now, I am so happy. I adore my roommates, and we have experienced so much together we will be forever bonded. I feel like a local now; how wonderful to know a city this intimately. Moving to another country is hard regardless of where you’re going. You have to learn the customs, the public transportation system, constantly tell people why you moved here, etc. I can’t wait to share everything with the next fellows and watch them explore the city even more. My advice would be to expect nothing, embrace everything.

Alexa Schwartz, BINA MITF Tel Aviv+ Fellow

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