By Meredith van der Walde
(Summer Intern at Bakehila; 20-year-old college student from Massachusetts)
Throughout my years in school, I have grown accustomed to expect results almost immediately. Study hard, take the exam, and receive a grade within a couple of days. I am beginning to learn, however, from my time in the Bakehila office and various neighborhoods, that reversing social injustices takes time. Change is not something that can happen instantaneously—especially when we are dealing with real people and real issues.
This concept of time and gradual transformation is also particularly relevant for me as an American intern. During my first few encounters with the year-in-service volunteers and schoolchildren, the language barrier seemed extremely prominent. Since I do not speak Hebrew and know only a few basic phrases, I felt as though I was more of an observer than an active participant in many conversations.
Whenever I begin to question if my inability to speak Hebrew may limit the impact I can make at Bakehila, I always think back to the conversations I have had with my supervisors, Ofer and Yair. During my first week at Bakehila, Ofer described two separate, but still intertwining paths that I can pursue over the next two months.
I will have the opportunity to assist the organization throughout the summer by producing materials in English and perhaps by even developing a new program. Though I have begun to blog and preliminarily create activities for students to practice their English, I have spent a majority of my time thus far in the neighborhoods. By visiting each of the neighborhoods and meeting the children, teachers, and volunteers, I have been able to develop a greater perspective on Bakehila. It is obvious from the interactions between the students and volunteers that these young adults provide a source of emotional support and friendship for the children.
Since I am extremely eager to be a productive intern and contribute something meaningful to the organization, I initially began to view path #1 (visiting the neighborhoods and schools) as simply a way to arrive at path #2 (consisting of projects and goals that are more tangible). I realize now, however, that it would be unrealistic to begin marketing for Bakehila and planning a program without fully understanding and knowing the neighborhoods and people.
If I consider my visits to Gilo, Katamon, Neve Yaakov, Pisgat Ze'ev, Talpiyot, and Beit Zafafa as only a means to an end, then I could potentially overlook those experiences as sources of enjoyment and opportunities for learning. And I've already had quite a few wonderful ones. I have spent time with the volunteers in their communes, traveled to a kibbutz with the children from Gilo, and visited enrichment classes in Katamon.
Instead of trying to rush time, then, I want to embrace each day at Bakehila, both in and out of the office.