Sophie Reiss, a participant in the BINA Shnat Sherut (Year of Service), reflects on her worries before flying to Israel during the Coronavirus pandemic and what it was like to work for social change while social distancing.
Even though there were a lot of questions running through my head about travelling across the world to Israel amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, and I had some fears how the Coronavirus would affect my gap year, I never once had doubt that I would spend this year on BINA’s Shnat Sherut – Year of Service program in Tel Aviv. The opportunity to study courses about Judaism and Israel, coupled with the emphasis on social action and involvement in the community, is what ultimately convinced me to enroll in BINA’s Shnat Sherut program.
I specifically chose BINA’s Shnat Sherut – Year of Service because it allows Americans, like myself, to take part in a gap year in Israel alongside Israeli peers, truly being immersed in Israeli society. I think this will be an amazing experience for all of us to live together, internationals and Israelis, in one apartment, because not only will I learn from the Israelis, but they will also practice speaking English and learn about American culture from me.
I have been busy volunteering at two different places in the Shapira neighborhood in Tel Aviv, which happens to be the same neighborhood in which I live. One place I volunteer is at a collective for women seeking asylum from Africa. In the second place is at an after school club called Neve Ofer, a center for the Bukharian community in Tel Aviv.
I know that I will learn so much from the people I meet in both of these places, in particular, about their communities, their customs and their ways of life. Hopefully, this will also allow me to reflect on my own culture and customs as well.
Despite the Coronavirus pandemic and perhaps even thanks to it, I am here, in Israel. I feel so lucky to have made it to Israel and to be part of BINA’s Shnat Sherut (Service Year) in South Tel Aviv and continue making an impact in the local community while also immersing myself in Israeli culture.