The following was written by Oriel Eisner, a participant in Achvat Amim from September 2015 - February 2016.
When I arrived in the Israel/Palestine 9 months ago I was filled with questions and doubts. What is my relationship to this place, individually and emotionally? What is my relationship to this place politically? How am I/should I be related to what's happening here? What do I even think about what's happening here? I had some semblances of answers and thoughts which guided my responses to these questions, but I was fairly open and excited to wrestle with these things. I also had a strong feeling that I wanted to be actively and positively involved in fighting for social change here. During my first few months I spent time with family and allowed myself to settle into life here. I then began searching for ways to become involved and to engage with these questions.
I eventually came across Achvat Amim, emailed Daniel to get more information, and then we met in a coffee shop and spoke for an hour and a half. Pretty much immediately after leaving the meeting I decided that this program was exactly what I was looking for. It gave me a chance to be directly involved in activism and grassroots work, and the questions I was struggling with were the same ones that guided the learning process which is central to Achvat Amim. What follows is a reflection on theories of solutions and theories of social change, core issues which Achvat Amim—through the learning process and my volunteer placement—allowed and prompted me to think through.
The following was written by Katie, a participant in Achvat Amim from September 2015 - February 2016. This is an excerpt from a more detailed post on https://katiegoestoisrael.wordpress.com
Since it started in September, this spate of violence has been called the "youth intifada." I want to offer a completely different experience with youth in this land. The kids I encounter every week are smart, funny, honest, and inspiring. They are doing what so many adults are too scared to do - meeting, listening, empathizing, and collaborating. They give me hope.
I recently celebrated my 28th birthday in Israel as a volunteer with Achvat Amim. The whole experience was surreal – especially that it happened in Jerusalem. I realized that, ten years ago, I was 18-years-old - the same age as many of the kids I work with in this city. When I was 18, I was deciding between college at Purdue University or Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. When I was 18, if you had told me that I’d be living in Jerusalem in ten years, I would have told you that you had the wrong girl. I was so far removed from my Jewish upbringing by the time I graduated high school that it wasn't even a possibility. All I cared about was going away to college, and that’s what I did.
Today, in my Jerusalem life, my favorite few hours every week are those that I spend at the Jerusalem International YMCA with the kids in the ACTV Youth Program. They are anywhere from 14- to 18-years-old, and they are from both East and West Jerusalem. These teens are amazing, and many of them already speak two or three languages. They are smart, honest, interesting, funny, and sweet. They continually impress me with how they behave as if there are no boundaries between them. They talk to each other in whichever language they have in common, even if it's limited English on both sides of the table. These kids appreciate each other, share their artistic creations with each other, and create new things together.
This coming year (Spring 2017), we are launching Achvat Amim: Ruchani, a Religious/Spiritual track. In addition to the core Achvat Amim program of volunteering and learning, this track provides an opportunity for halachically rooted Jewish living and spiritual practice, as well as rigorous and reflective Jewish learning, as a foundation upon which to engage with issues of the conflict, justice work and human rights.
Learn more at achvatamim.org/ruchani!
Sophie, Achvat Amim participant (Sept. 2015 - Feb. 2016) from the Netherlands, tells us about the program in Dutch!
Check out the post on us from the International Jewish Center of Belgium! Here's the post.
By Hope Vernon, 2014-2015 participant
I grew up in the Union of Reform Judaism, I spent every summer at Jewish Camp, and practiced leadership skills in the North American Federation of Temple Youth movement. In this upbringing, I have always felt a strong connection to Judaism and Zionism.
Fast forward to this past summer. I was living in downtown Seattle and went to my first I Stand with Israel Rally. The community was singing Am Israel Chi, I felt the energy of The Jewish Community and once again I felt at home with my people.
Then I reached the edge of the rally, and saw a line of police officers separating the celebratory Pro-Israel Rally and silent Free Palestine protestors on the other side. As I stood in the divide, I realized I didn't really understand these divisions; this situation we were in. What information was I missing? The only way to know the truth is to search and learn, first hand. For me this meant moving to the center of Jerusalem, Musrara on the West side of the Green line. Here, the separation is the line marked by the light rail track, and people aren't just divided for a few hours during a protest and then returning to their lives, these are their lives; and now mine.
News and Updates
We'll post updates about the program, interesting news and conversation starter here.