In September, a new group of volunteers from Action Reconciliation Service for Peace arrived to Israel.
During their first days in the country, ARSP volunteers participate in a two-week welcoming seminar, taking place at BBY, where they study Hebrew and aquire their first insights into Israeli society and the city of Jerusalem.
At the end of the seminar, the volunteers move to apartments located all over the country, in the places where they will be throughout the year. This year, between the end of the seminar and the beginning of their volunteer work, we will celebrate Sukkot with ARSP volunteers, hosting them as Israeli families. Sukkot is a one-week-long holiday that reminds us that during the Exodus from Egypt, the people of Israel were living in huts (or as they are call it in Hebrew: Sukkot).
During the first two days of Sukkot, friends of ARSP, like me, host volunteers in their homes. I had the pleasure to host two girls from the group during the holiday.
I’m a member of a traditional Conservative community. On Sukkot we build a sukkah, a temporary outdoor structure to eat and sleep in. During the first evening of the holiday, we gather there, pray and celebrate. Different than in Orthodox communities, where men and women sit separately during prayer and only men are allowed to read from the Torah, our community allows women and men to sit and pray together. There is no separation, and women read from the Torah, lead the service and serve as prayer leaders as well.
After the service, we gathered in the big sukkah. Each guest had brought a dish for the shared meal, followed by a communal singing of special Sukkot songs and other Israeli music.
Together, we reorganized the space and returned to our homes.
I believe the girls we hosted enjoyed the evening and explanations about the Jewish holiday. The following day, we toured Jerusalem. We visited the German Colony neighborhood and its main street “Emek Refaim”. We showed our guests the ancient houses that were built by the Templars.
At the end of the holiday, the girls left and returned to their apartment. The next day, they were to begin their work. A first encounter with life in Jerusalem, with people who they do not know, in a language they do not speak, working with children who do not speak English. A lot to process.
We wished them success and said goodbye.
I hope they get along and enjoy Jerusalem.