Chen Bat Service at the Jerusalem Branch
To the full letter
Representatives of Strauss celebrate Purim with the children of Elia
Representatives of Strauss came to the branches of The Israel Security Alya on Purim, danced and celebrated with the children, and brought many sweets with them. The kids and crews really enjoyed the successful activities!
"A memory burned in my mind is the acceptance of the Sabbath on Friday. I was with my dad, who came to visit from the U.S. We were wessed at the tiny children and the ceremony they held." Sam Foreman tells "First Person" about volunteering in kindergarten for visually impaired children.
About six months ago, I came to Israel together with 320 other young men like me from around the world for a period of about a year, as part of the annual course of "Yehuda HaTzair" – the youth movement of hadassah women, and in cooperation with "Mesa" of the Jewish Agency. As part of the course, we study Judaism, Zionism and Hebrew and choose voluntary activities in educational institutions, social organizations and hard-working communities throughout Israel.
When I started my volunteer work in Jerusalem at elia kindergarten (the Association for the Advancement of Blind and Visually Impaired Children), I had high expectations, and the actual experience even surpassed them.
The Elia Kindergarten, located in the Variety Center in the Rehavia neighborhood of Jerusalem, combines blind and visually impaired children with children without disabilities. From my first day in kindergarten, I was fully accepted as a staff member. Together with three teachers and one head kindergarten teacher, I worked in a combined class of 13 young children, all aged two to four. The class consisted of two blind girls, four students with serious visual impairments and all the others who had normal vision. In addition to the diverse nature of the class, a number of children were religious Jews, others secular, and one Muslim child.
Every morning when I entered the classroom the kids were excited for me and I started the day playing with them. Some activities were simple childhood games, but the more time I spent in THEA, I learned that even elementary tasks help visually impaired children function in the real world. For example, in order to prepare blind children to read Braille, basic actions such as placing cities on a board with holes, or sorting coins into a charity box slot, help them develop essential skills later in life.
The highlight of the week is On Sunday afternoons, when the children are taken to ramot neighborhood in north Jerusalem for horseback riding. When I joined the activity, I saw that the children were eagerly waiting for the donor to get on the ponies and didn't want to leave when it was time to return to the garden.
Another memory burned in my mind is receiving the Sabbath on Friday. Although I did not volunteer on Fridays, I arrived that day with my father, who came to visit from the United States, so that we would experience the Sabbath reception together in the garden. When my father and I entered the classroom, two children were at the top of the class alongside the kindergarten teacher: Shabbat's father and mother. "Mother of Shabbat" helped light the candles, and the kindergarten teacher told the whole gardener the weekly affair. "Father of Shabbat" held kiddush and the children ate challah and 100 grape juice. My father and I left when we were moved by the level of knowledge of the little children and the Sabbath reception ceremony they held.
In Gan Elya, I experienced happiness and supreme satisfaction. I thank the staff who accepted me and the opportunity that gave me the annual course of the "Yehuda Hatzair" movement to volunteer in such a fascinating place. I learned a lot and my Hebrew also improved significantly through my conversations with the children. I know that every time I am in Jerusalem again, I will return to visit the garden. This volunteering is so far the highlight of my year in Israel. Of course, I do not stop volunteering: these days I am moving to Bat Yam, for the second part of the course and here too I will surely have new and intriguing challenges.
When you come to Israel together with young Yehuda's annual course for a period of one year, and experience both studies and the opportunity to integrate into the community, the value is enormous. During this period, we are given the opportunity to get to know the state and the people who live there. It is a completely different experience and much more powerful than the experience made possible through a personal and short visit to Israel.