As we are putting together this newsletter, the country is in a battle over its future character. Large segments of the society are deeply concerned and fearful about democracy in Israel, particularly around the Judicial reform designed by our new government. Civic unrest is everywhere – from large demonstrations every Saturday night for the past 10 weeks, to initiatives to disrupt daily life, declarations of IDF reservists about not willing to serve in the army, uproar of the High-tech sector with some companies taking their assets out of Israel and much more.
Negotiations led by the President of Israel have started – with the aim of finding a compromise that will be acceptable to the Coalition and Opposition factions in the parliament.
We are an organization that believes in service, believes in the need for people from around the world to be part of shaping this society and see our participants as future leaders around the world. Throughout our years of working in marginalized communities in Israel, we have seen first hand how deep the rifts are between different factions in Israeli society. Our work often includes bridging those rifts and we have come to understand that there is no choice but to build a future together – even with people who we deeply disagree with. It is in this vain that we work on increasing diversity within our programs and we know that this often means that our participants have to work through challenging situations as they navigate collaborating and living with people different than themselves.
I find rays of light in seeing the vibrant civic engagement in Israel and yet I know that the true work is one that is much deeper. Whatever the result may be, we cannot go back to the way things were before and we have to find common ground and connection with those we disagree with. The alternative is aggressive, violent and not viable.
In this newsletter we have chosen to focus on diversity in Yahel and I hope you will enjoy reading about it and seeing the rays of light in this ongoing good work being done on the ground.
From Local to global
Yahel Alumni around the world
Several years ago, we decided that we wanted to be intentional about building cohorts that are diverse in a variety of ways. We saw how much richer our programs were with an extra layer of geographical diversity and we set out to attract young adults from around the globe. We are proud to share that our current alumni community includes over 600 young adults, both Jewish and non-Jewish, from more than 15 different countries around the world. These alumni all served in periphery cities and neighborhoods across Israel, engaged with Israel through the lens of social change, and are now part of a growing international community.
Leveraging our growing international alumni community, we are excited to share that this summer we will be launching our first ever:
YAHEL INTERNATIONAL DAY OF SERVICE
In Partnership with Repair the World
SAVE THE DATE: SUNDAY, JULY 30th, 2023
This year, we are seeking to amplify the social change skills of our alumni community to officially launch Yahel’s volunteer work globally to help effect change around the world!
Stay tuned for more information and let us know if YOU would like to get involved locally!
Learning a different language means having another way to look at the world. 15 different languages are spoken in our 2022-2023 Fellowship cohort. That's 15 different ways to feel at home, 15 different ways to understand a culture, and 15 different ways to build meaningful connections with others. View the video below to hear from some of our current fellows about what Yahel means to them in the languages that they speak.
I grew up speaking Flemish (Dutch) and Hebrew at home. Next to those two languages I do also speak French and a little German, since they both are also official languages of Belgium, and English.
What are some differences between your own personal culture and the culture in Israel? How does this affect your service in your community in Kiryat Haim?
I have been exposed to this country and its culture for as long as I can remember, because my father is Israeli and we often came here to visit family and friends when I was younger. For me, Israeli culture is strongly intertwined with the Hebrew language itself. This translates into my daily life where I show a certain version of myself when I speak a certain language. For example, when I speak Flemish, I behave more according to Flemish culture, which means I am more reserved and quiet. In contrast, when I speak Hebrew, I notice that I am louder and more direct.
Has your own language or culture prepared you for this experience? If so, how?
The fact that I speak Hebrew has been a great help for me in connecting with the kids at my placements. It has also played a big role in my homemaking process here. I associate Hebrew very much with feelings of 'home', since that is the only setting in which I speak the language back in Belgium. Here in Israel, however, the Hebrew is everywhere around me, and this association of the language with home has helped to feel quick at home here in this country.
In addition, I found having learnt English as a foreign language very useful while teaching English in my primary school. Having learnt the language myself at school, I know the grammar rules and can empathise with the difficulties students face when learning English as a new language. I also feel that I can encourage children to learn English since I understand and feel the limitations of having a not common spoken mother tongue.
Personally, I don't really feel a language barrier during my internships or in everyday life here. The barrier I struggle more with is that with other English-speaking fellow students. Since I learnt most of my English at school and through exchange projects, before this programme I was really only used to talking to non-native speakers. The continuous intensive interaction in English with (mostly) only native speakers brings many hidden challenges and frustrations. Some concepts simply cannot be translated into English, without losing nuance or meaning. And the other way also applies of course, some concepts in English are not directly translatable, and require lengthy descriptions from the other fellows - try to describe the meaning of quaint in 1 sentence and you'll get the feeling. I must say that I am extremely grateful for the patience and enthusiasm with which they teach me new words and phrases every day, enriching my English in a way only native speakers know how to do.
This is the first time I have been away from home for so long without a Dutch-speaking person with me to talk to on a regular basis. Even though I've been practicing all the other languages I know while I'm here, I have to brush aside the one dearest to me. This has made me realise how much I value my own language, Dutch, and how beautiful it is.
The first picture is of Iriet eating a crêpe (of course with some Belgian chocolate), since it reminds her of home. The second picture is a sign saying ‘wieder’, meaning ‘us’ in Iriets' Flemish dialect. Recently, she has noticed that as a part of missing her language, she is suddenly seeing it everywhere around her and has been taking pictures of these signs and writings in which she ‘recognises' some Dutch.
Together, We Illuminate Change
This February, we received a wonderful visit by our Board Member and Chair, Shelly Mitchell. Shelly was first connected with Yahel in 2013 when her oldest daughter, Erica, participated on a Yahel program in the city of Gedera.
Our Lod and Haifa fellows showed Shelly around their neighborhoods and volunteer placements as they shared challenges they have faced on the program, things they have learned, and the meaningful experiences they have had in their communities and with their cohort.
Thank you, Shelly, for dedicating your time and leadership to support our mission and values. The guidance that we receive from our Board is essential to the work that we do on the ground. It was lovely sharing our current work with Shelly in person. Thank you for believing in Yahel!
We're on the search for our highly motivated young adults between the ages of 22-30 years old who are eager to roll up their sleeves and engage with critical work on the community level.
We'd love your help with filling up our 2023-2024 Yahel Social Change Fellowship Cohort.
The 2023-2024 Yahel Social Change Fellowship will run from September 20, 2023 - June 30, 2024.
Fellows receive a living stipend, housing, health insurance, Hebrew and Arabic courses, educational programming, and more!
Our FINAL Early Bird Application Deadline is only days away! Send someone our way by MARCH 20TH and they'll have the opportunity to choose the city that they want to live and volunteer:
→ Rishon LeZion
*After March 20th, applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until our cohort is full