Hi everyone! My name is Allison, I am twenty-two years old, and I’m from Cleveland Ohio. I am currently in the periphery half of my MITF Tel Aviv+ experience, living in Northern Israel in a primarily Jewish and largely immigrant city called Nof HaGalil and teaching in Nazareth, an Arab city with a lot of historical and religious significance. Before moving to Israel, I think many of us had experienced and/or heard about the classic Israeli stereotypes of bluntness and aggressiveness. While I can’t deny that working in Israeli schools has made me appreciate volume control, there is a value shared by all Israelis I have interacted with of many different cultures and religions that is not talked about enough: generosity.
I want to talk about moments of generosity from the various communities I have become a part of over my last three months. There are far too many to get to them all, so here are some standouts.
#1: My host family
I was so lucky to have made a connection through my cousin back in August and to now have a wonderful family living on a kibbutz ten minutes from my apartment who have all but taken me in as their own. From Shabbat and holiday dinners to random weekday visits filled with games and stories and laughter to always offering advice, recommendations, encouragement, friendship, and coffee, they have truly become not only a support system but family to me. I can only hope that if the situation is flipped one day, and I have the opportunity to take someone in and support them as they navigate a foreign country or a new chapter of life, that I would do it with even a fraction of the warmth and generosity that they have shown me.
Playing with my host family children:
#2: My host teacher
My host teacher is superwoman. From our first phone call to get to know each other and to learn about the school, she made it clear to my co-teacher and I that she was there to support us in any way she could, in school or just navigating life. While being the main English teacher at our school, working on curriculum with the administration, raising three kids, running a household, and much more, she always leaves time to guide us through our teaching, to teach us Arabic, and to just sit and chat about life and make sure that we are feeling comfortable and adjusting well. She is so selfless and kind and fun and I’ve truly never seen someone love what they do more than she does. She has made what could have been a very scary adjustment not only digestible but fun, and I love coming to school everyday and learning and growing from her, not just as a teacher but as a human being.
At school with my host teacher:
In both Nazareth and Nof Hagalil, I have been blown away by the kindness of strangers we meet on the street. On our first tour of Nazareth back in August, we were introduced to a young coffee shop owner who immediately invited us to feel at home at her shop (my favorite coffee and brunch in the city) and continues to be a great friend and keeps us posted on local events such as the Nazareth Coffee Festival (a huge highlight). Similarly, at the Nof Hagalil community center, my roommate and I went searching for the wifi password and ended up getting an hour-long tour of the building and gaining new friends in the librarian (an adorable old man who dreams of coming to America) and the Director of Culture (a brilliant young man with big aspirations for bringing more arts and culture to his city). To this day we are greeted with warmth and conversations every time we step into the community center.
Nazareth Coffee Festival:
#4: Spontaneous moments of connection
There have been so many moments that remind me of how lucky I am to be living in Israel and to be part of the global Jewish community, but one that I cannot stop thinking about happened this past weekend. I spent my Shabbat visiting my fellow MITF Tel Aviv+ friends in Qiryat Gat, a residential city in the South. While going on a Shabbat walk around the neighborhood, my friend and I bumped into a young couple who were also speaking English, and after a few minutes of conversation, they quickly invited us back to their house to spend Shabbat afternoon playing card games and singing songs with them, their adorable young children, and the dozens of other young English speaking friends who shuffled in and out of their house. Despite being complete strangers, these people had zero hesitation in welcoming us into their home and Shabbat community. As we lit the Havdallah candles, harmonizing beautifully with our arms around each other, I realized that this was my first Havdallah since arriving in Israel, and I was reminded of how lucky I feel to be part of the Jewish community and to participate in rituals like this with old or new friends.
These are just four of the countless instances of generosity and kindness that I have experienced in my first three months living in Israel. Moving to a foreign country is not all sunshine and rainbows, I’ll be the first to admit that. But these moments of connection and community, though maybe small and sometimes forgettable for them, have made a world of a difference to me. I am so grateful for the communities and individuals who have taken me in as their own and for the random smiles and greetings on the street which have given me a sense of belonging. I know that this is just the beginning, and I hope that I can pass this kindness along to others throughout the rest of my time in MITF and beyond.
Allison Cohen, BINA MITF Fellow