Sunday, December 2, 2007

Meeting people.

Young people from Germany come to Israel for a year to work as volunteers with handy-caped children, old people or in various other social settings.
I am in touch with two of the bigger organizations, 25 –40 people each, “Hagoshrim”, (“Bridge Builders”), and “ASF” (“Action Reconciliation and Peace Work”) and am a member of their “Circle of Friends”.
These are young men and women, just having finished school, wanting to get a taste of the big world. Some of the boys among them do it as their Civil Service instead of military service in their country.
They are part of a greater contingent of some 600 volunteers from Germany belonging to many different organizations, working in places like Kfar Raphael, Sheckel, French Hospital, Ilan, Akim, the Leo Baeck Institue , Yad Vashem and other places of work in different parts of the country.

The 5th of December is the international day for Volunteers. That would be as good a time as any for them to make contact with the local school to introduce themselves and their organization. Volunteerism is what young people of both countries have in common. Communicating with each other on common ground is important aspect to foster good relations among the present young generation complementing the official diplomatic relations.

Many of them come here with preconceived ideas about Israel, based on what the media brings across. Some come to get close to the conflict. Being young and inexperienced they think that they know it all and can tell us what we should do to solve our problems.
It does not take long for them to find out that life in Israel has its own pace, different from what they were used to at home, life goes on, difficult times or not and can be interesting and meaningful for them in spite of the hard work that some of them have to perform. They soon learn to adjust to the local scene.
Some, in addition to their other tasks, pay regular visits to several old people and find that of great interest. One of them visits me once a week for a couple of hours. He takes me for a walk and we talk together about his work in Yad Vashem, and I use him as a sounding board for some of my writings.
Whenever a new group arrives, these organizations call on me to give a talk, to tell The Story of my Family or about our Jewish Holidays. Those that want to hear more, come to visit me.
Occasional I write an article for their paper, or speak for groups that visit them in Jerusalem.
That way I meet interesting people and keep in touch with the young generation.

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