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“Chosen People” - First Week in Israel. Youth At Risk, 2015

 

When we first made our way from the massive halls of Ben Gurion Airport, all we were armed with was the eagerness to learn… and, of course, a welcome letter from Mashav coordinator Damian Filut. For many of us, setting foot on the “Holy Land” is an experience featuring many firsts.

 

We were greeted with jaw-dropping scenes of the magnificent Old City and a panoramic view of the mountains surrounding Israel. Limestone defined most, if not all, of the structures around and the weather was fabulous—especially for Asians like us who are used to tropical weather.

 

Our first official trip to “Rene Cassin” High School gave us a snapshot of how the education system works in Israel. We realized how crucial it is for teachers to truly connect to students and establish a loving relationship with them. Although some of us wondered why students called their teachers by their first name, the mutual respect they had for one another was palpable. On our first day alone, we have come to this conclusion: It is genuine love for the youth that is at the very core of Israeli education.

 

We went on to hear more from Ariel Cegla, about Israeli society and how her unique history has molded their education system. And no less than Dr. Ilan Shemesh gave us a preview of their various initiatives for at-risk youth. In the afternoon, our case study analysis with Dr. Talal Dolev provided us a taste of how it is to design programs in light of given data and a fixed budget. It was like defending a master’s thesis all over again!

 

Finally, we capped our first week with a seminar-workshop by Eli Barenboim of PresenTense. He imparted practical business principles, which we all found relevant in evaluating our existing programs. The “4Cs” and “Perceptual Map” were useful tools in equipping us with a business mindset even as educators. Identifying our “Egypt” helped us come up with a clear vision of how we can possibly steer our people to “march on” with our new proposals. We were burgeoning with ideas as we dreamt of rallying our colleagues to cross our own Red Sea and walk through the desert on to our own “Promised Land.”

 

Israel is truly a nation set apart for God; our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, after all, is Jewish… and yet, all 25 of us Mashav participants couldn’t agree more that we are truly a “chosen people”—for everything that we have already learned and experience—even in just this first week of simply getting a taste of what’s to come.