My Experience Teaching In Israel

A drawing by one of the kids in Liv's school

A drawing by one of the kids in Liv’s school

This summer I got the incredible opportunity to return to Israel on a pilot teaching program. Three years ago I made my first trip to Israel as part of a two-week social justice for Teach for America corps members and alumni. After that trip I made the decision to convert to Judaism.

So I was excited to return this year for many reasons. I just completed my conversion a couple months ago, so this time I would be going to Israel officially as a Jew. I was also going to get to do what I love—teaching. I am currently part of TALMA, a pilot program through the Israel Ministry of Education, the Steinhart Foundation, and the Schusterman Foundation.

For three weeks we are teaching English to third, fourth, and fifth graders in Migdal ha-Emek and Nazareth Illit (near Haifa, in the middle of the country). I knew that teaching English as part of a quickly-designed pilot would be an interesting enough experience, but the current situation has made teaching even more memorable.

When I told TC Jewfolk I would be happy to write about my experience, it was mainly selfish: I wanted to have some outlet to write about my feelings about what was happening around me.

But I’ll be honest, I had a very difficult time writing about this. Spending my time here surrounded by children, I wanted to make some big statement about how your life is impacted by your early years and early coping strategies. Or write about how nice it is to be in a program where we keep teaching, and creating learning experiences for children regardless of the situation. Or about what this all meant for my personal “Jewish journey.”

My writing is stuck because of how frightened I am by everything. I worry that if my phone runs out of battery, I’ll miss some warning to stay safe. When I shower I worry that a siren will go off and I won’t find my glasses in time to get to the mamad. I feel my skin crawl during the school magic show as jet after jet fly overhead, headed south.

And I’m also stuck on how unjust it is that children around the world are mired into the worlds of violence created by adults. If I, as a (perhaps overly) brave adult am afraid, how can children possibly appropriately respond to this much uncertainty and trauma? Children are incredibly resilient and adaptable, but there is something inhumanely unfair about forcing them to deal with the violence that is thrust upon them. And at the end of the day, whether it’s a rocket in Israel or street violence in Baton Rouge or domestic violence in Edina, a violent world is no world for children.