I am a 24-year-old Bostonian. Two weeks ago, I packed up my bags, boarded a British Airways flight to London and then another one to Tel Aviv. After spending two days in Jerusalem and three days in Tiberias, myself and 25 other twenty-somethings, also known as Israel Teaching Fellows, headed to our new lives in Netanya. We will be living, working and learning in this city for the next ten months. My Fellows and I are teaching English to underprivileged children in various schools across the city. We all have a passion for tikkun olam and I couldn’t ask for a better cohort to spend my time with.
I can’t give a direct answer as to why I elected to give up my job as a nanny to three amazing Jewish boys, all the other children I babysit throughout my home state of Massachusetts, my friends, my home or my language. Maybe this trip is my quarter-life crisis as I will turn 25 in April of next year. Maybe I moved here because even though I have worked with children for nine years, I have never taught in a classroom. Maybe I’m here because I’m not married and I don’t have kids, so I deserve to see the world while I’m still young and not tied down to other people.
At the end of the day, the only answer that seems to suffice as to why I moved to Israel is that I wanted to give back to the country that gave so much to me. I was so fortunate to go on a Birthright trip last July (Shalom, Bus 129!) and it absolutely changed my life. I’m not religious by any stretch of the imagination, but there was just something about Israel that drew me in. It doesn’t hurt that my Birthrighters are the kindest people that I have ever met. Before Birthright, I was just going through the motions and not really living. I wasn’t respected at my first nanny job and I was sad all the time. The kindness that the Birthrighters and the Israelis showed me during those ten days in the land of milk and honey left footprints on my heart that never went away. I can’t say one negative thing about Birthright, except that I busted my foot in the Golan Heights.
Even though I am living abroad, Israel is not the first country I have lived in. In 2010, I studied abroad in London and I also did a political internship. My study abroad experience was fraught with difficulties in varying degrees of severity and three years later, the pain still haunts me. At least these days, my outlook on life has vastly improved. I have learned from the mistakes that I made in London and both my Fellows and the State of Israel offer fantastic examples of radical optimism on a daily basis. Every day that I spend in Netanya, my Fellows continue to inspire me to be a better person.
I have only been to the school that I have been placed in one time, so writing about my experience there will come later. I was able to observe several classrooms yesterday with my teaching partner, Brian and we had a wonderful time. The children were incredibly well-behaved and nothing will compare to seeing their smiles when Brian and I told them that we would be working with them. It is such a joy when a child wants to learn. I look forward to the children teaching me things, too.
As I prepare to run upstairs in my apartment building to the rooms of other Fellows for teaching ideas, I think of how lucky I am to be able to experience the chance to live in a country full of an interesting and complicated history, that I get to live with and learn from other fantastic American and Canadian Jews who are the best people imaginable and that, most importantly, I get to make a difference in the lives of children. They need me just as much as I need them.