Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Split

After weeks, maybe a month, of trying to chase down a leader in the Sudanese community (turns out that two people had two different wrong numbers), Alexis, Joel and I were finally able to sit down with Peter, the Sudanese community president of Arad. Peter speaks a descent amount of English compared to others we've encountered and has a good idea of certain aspects of the community, though there seems to be a split in leadership/opinions of the community which is still unclear to me. We asked Peter what the Sudanese community needs - how we can help in Arad. He asked us to teach English/Hebrew to adults on various nights of the week. He also requested specific help from Joel with his English on his computer at home, which Joel did yesterday. We want to paint the entirely white Gan as well, and he welcomed us to do so. As of now, we're working on setting a date and getting materials.

What nineteen year old do you know that doesn't want cookies? Exactly. Directly after volunteering at the Gan today, Alexis and I spent four hours in a minimally equipped Year Course apartment baking cookies which we then sold before and during the break at Ulpan, our Hebrew class. We raised well over 200 nis which is about $60 for our Gan renovating plans.

While most Americans (particularly young Jewish activists as myself) are struck somewhere in their soul and memory by the idea of helping genocide/civil war stricken Africans, its not quite as simple in the democratic and theocratic Israel. So let's ask the question that many are too scared to ask: Do we as Jews have more of a responsibility to help each other than non Jews? If this is the case, does a Jewish life, thus, have a higher value than a non Jewish life? When push comes to shove, how do I, we, as young, American and British human rights activists, but also Jews and Zionists come to a balance? Can one's ideals be right winged and simultaneously be an active member of Garin Tzedek? While most people in the Garin, myself included, have developed personal answers to all these questions, most would have trouble convincing the average Israeli. To me, it seems unreasonable that I'd have to justify to ANY Jew helping a fellow human, particularly one who has been suffering the same fate that we did. These same people who's grandparents hid in the floorboards of Christian homes in Eastern Europe during the Holocaust will ask me how I could possibly spend my year in Israel working with Sudanese people. Maybe there are potentially those who value a Jewish life more. Maybe there are those who feel that as a chanich on a gap year in Israel, that we should be working with Jews. These are all valid arguments and a wide ranged controversy that has kept Garin Tzedek a safe distance from a specific political stance in the past. So there's a struggle, a split. PLEASE, Jews, activists, Zionists, comment. Bring the struggle home, discuss it, post it, tell us what you think.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Garinei Ha'am Shabbaton

This past weekend, Tova and I helped lead a shabbaton of sorts, of the three garinim that Year Coursers of 2010-2011 have continued/created. They include Garin Tzedek, Garin Arevim (of whose participants donate time to support victims of shock and terror), and Garin Kayamut (of whose participants want to live in an environmentally sustainable way). We came together as Garinei Ha'am, with the common aim of making the world a little bit better by continuing to build Israel.
Over the weekend, guest-speaker Nic from the African Refugee Development Center came and spoke about the problems facing refugees and asylum seekers, particularly the plight of the Darfuris and South Sudanese.
Those interested in Garin Tzedek were able to have questions answered by Nic, and use his information to start developing plans for this year in every section of Year Course.
Meanwhile, in Arad, Tova and I continue to volunteer at the Gan. One woman takes care of about 20 kids for the entire day. She cooks, cleans, and tries to supervise all of them. The ages range from about six months to 12 years old. We come to the gan to give the kids attention that they need, and help them start to learn Hebrew and English. They are stuck inside one room, because the one and only caretaker cannot supervise two areas at once. She also doesn't speak Hebrew or English (only Arabic), but insists on feeding us at least once a day. Everyone in the community chips in for the small apartment that the kids go to for daycare, and they have some toys and food, although it seems minimal.
Discipline is extremely different in Sudan than in Israel, or America. The kids learn from their parents and peers, and resort to crueler methods of punishment. It is for this reason that we'd love any comments about behavior modification for small children!
We hope to improve the Gan by painting it, or raising money for more age-appropriate toys and options for the kids, but are often hindered by the red tape and meaningless structure that exists even within the Sudanese community of Arad.
We'd love to hear suggestions on how to help improve the lives of these children of the Gan, and can't wait to work with the rest of our section to effect change here.