Hi! My name is Samantha Acriche, I am 26 years old, and I am from New York. It is hard to believe that I have been living in Israel for 5 months and that in just 2 weeks’ time I will be moving from Nof HaGalil (where I live) and Nazareth (where I work) to Tel Aviv (where I will be living and working)!! I swear, the older I get, the faster time seems to fly by.
As this chapter comes to a close, I want to take a moment to reflect on my time in the North by writing about the physical spaces and the experiences in or around these spaces that have shaped me and my time here.
In no particular order…
My Apartment: I remember walking into the apartment late one August night for the first time. I was quite delirious after 24 hours of traveling, filled with anxiety and apprehension, and I honestly wanted to cry at the site. Four strangers (Allison, Matthew, Alex and myself) were to live in a rundown, three-bedroom apartment with one questionable bathroom. I could not believe it. Over time, however, the space filled with intellectual conversations, laughter, tears, learning, frustration, and lots of cooking. The apartment became a home and the very different people living there became friends. Here, I learned to be more patient with and accepting of others and to be more flexible with my expectations, needs, and time. Thank you Sderdot Hashoshanim 13 for being so much more than just a place to sleep.
Sderdot Hashoshanim: There are two reasons why I love the street where we live in Nof HaGalil. The name translates to “Boulevard of the Lilies,” and fittingly, the municipality had all the poles, fences and signs painted a vibrant pink. After 5 months I still look down the street and smile. There is something about the color that makes me feel brighter and calmer. That is reason number 1. Reason number 2 has to do with the diversity of the people who reside on the street. On a casual stroll, I will see Jewish people from Russia, Ethiopia, and Tibet (Bnei Menashe) to name a few, and I will often hear the languages native to these areas. It is beautiful to see and a constant reminder that there is no single way to define a Jewish person.
My Host Family’s Apartment: It takes a special type of person, a special type of family, to take in a complete stranger and care for them as though they are family. Galit and Leor are both generous, authentic, thoughtful, and hilarious individuals. As life partners they are simply magnificent and are raising three kind, independent, curious, and loving children – Ariel, Ayyala, and Golan – in a way that I hope to one day emulate. I won’t recount all the wonderful memories I’ve shared with them or the many thought-provoking conversations we had in the kitchen alley, but I will instead say that they single-handedly changed my experience in Nof HaGalil and Israel more broadly. I will miss hanging with them each week, but they are family and family is for life.
“The Highway”: The boundary that separates Nof HaGalil (a Jewish city) from Nazareth (an Arab city) is a main road, which I have dubbed “The Highway.” To me, this physical demarcation represents the very real boundaries that exist between Arabs and Israelis in Israel. Transcending this boundary twice-daily to get to and from school provided me with an invaluable perspective on living as an Israeli and as an Arab in Israel. This insight has shaped my views on the country and impacted how I engage in conversations about and how I will continue to educate myself on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other political issues in Israel.
Jubran Khalil Jubran (My School): Teaching is a difficult job. Add a language barrier and many cultural, behavioral, and pedagogical differences and teaching becomes a seemingly insurmountable challenge (fun fact, it’s not insurmountable). Through this difficult work, I have developed tremendously as an educator, professional, and as an individual. I witnessed growth in my students’ abilities to speak, write, and comprehend English, and I feel honored to know these individuals both as students and as people. I am so grateful to the teachers and students for being welcoming and warm and for allowing me to be an active member of their community. A very special shoutout to my host teacher, Reem, who took me under her wings and ensured that I felt safe and supported each step of the way. Reem’s positive energy is contagious and through her I have learned how to have more fun in the classroom.
The Library: Nof HaGalil has a beautiful community center that houses a library and theater. I happen to love libraries and public spaces generally, but I especially grew to love this library for it is one of very, very, very few places in the city to just “hang” besides the apartment. I came here to read, work with students, and to do Ulpan. It is also the place where I met a really amazing person (wink wink). The people who work at the community center are inviting, they care deeply about their community, and they are committed to making Nof HaGalil a cultural city. Special shoutout to the librarian, Guy, and the head of culture, Yackov (two people who are worth getting to know if you find yourself in the area.)
The “Cow” Hike, Local Trails and Tiger Track: I spent much of my time in Nof HaGalil training for the marathon. The “cow” hike, Tiger track, and some other local trails literally shaped my physical body (hills on hills on hills), but more importantly, they were the places where I realized just how capable I am of achieving really big, scary goals. Mental strength is real and super powerful.
Much love and appreciation Nof HaGalil and Nazareth!
Samantha Acriche, BINA MITF Tel Aviv+ Fellow