Ilan, a current Gap participant, talks about his experiences so far in BINA’s Gap year program and why it is so special. Read on to find out more!
My name is Ilan, I’m from Toronto, and I’m currently participating in BINA’s international Gap program. One of the main reasons I chose to come to this specific program was to really understand Israel and what it means to live here.
One of the ways that BINA is unique is its location. While most Israeli Mechinot take place in a more isolated setting, BINA is intentionally located in Shapira, a very unique neighborhood in the south of Tel Aviv. It is a place with a vibrant culture that doesn’t get much attention and is quickly forgotten if you are just visiting Tel Aviv. However, living in this neighborhood has given us an insight into Israel that we had not experienced before. Getting an understanding of the complexity of this neighborhood takes lots of time and it can only really be done by making it an emphasis in the mechina. BINA’s goal is to first educate us on this community, its history, and its current issues, and then to begin to make an impact. We have already started to make progress towards this goal by putting food into a community fridge a few times. We collect food from different vendors from different shuks and then carry it to a community fridge where anyone is free to take what they need.
We also heard from a guest speaker who shared his story about how he fled Africa as a refugee and eventually found his home here in Israel. He now works towards bringing other refugees here to Israel. Also, a few days ago, we went around and interviewed people from the neighborhood, got to know different people’s perspectives, and introduced ourselves as the new group in the area. Additionally, we met with the owner of Cafe Shapira (the cafe where the community fridge is located). He shared with us how his cafe is unique as the purpose of the cafe is to welcome everyone in the community and give them a shared space rather than focusing on making a profit. He talked about having a very open-minded and realistic perspective about the future of the neighborhood. It was really important for us to hear this because we live there. Having this unique experience is very meaningful because it allows us to really experience all aspects of Israel, including its problems. I am very excited to be learning about Israel in a deeper way than simply all of the things Israel is commonly known for.
Ilan Aronowitz, BINA Gap Year Participant