Thursday, March 29, 2007

Magic in the air but not on the pitch

When I left you last I was saying my final goodbye's to Karmiel on Thursday night, and I suggested that the next couple of days would be somewhat magical. Well if this was the case the location of our weekend was far from magical. You see your humble narrator along with four of his fellow participants made the hour long journey to Shlomi. Shlomi for all those who are mildly curious is a tiny town of about 9,000 just by the Lebanese border. Karmiel looks like party central compared to it. So why did we go there of all places. We went because of Magic Moments (and the Hogwarts like allusions become clear). Magic Moments is a program that sends Israeli teenagers from settlements and communities in the North of Israel, to England for a week where the Israeli's show their English hosts how to celebrate Israeli Remembrance and Independence day. They have been preparing for some months now and over the course of the weekend it was up to us to answer any questions, reassure any nerves and to try to explain the differences between England and Israel. We were doing this along with our friend from AJ6 and Hanoar. The reason why Shlomi was chosen is because it has a very nice and spacious youth hostel there.

So we arrived in Shlomi but instead of going to the hostel we went to the AJ6 flat, they do their volunteering in Shlomi. We spent a few hours there just chilling and watching TV, and then we went to the hostel. The next day we woke bright and early for breakfast to meet everyone else and to prepare for the weekend. As the kids were not arriving till two we had ample to finalise our programs, do last minute preparations and blow up a lot of balloons.

Two comes and so do the kids, well not on the dot of two this is Israel, but half an hour later we were ready to begin. We started with an introduction that I would rather not mention and then we divided the group into smaller groups. In these smaller groups we gave them a presentation of people they were likely to meet in England the chav, JP and aristocrat. After this everyone was given the chance to go and prepare for Friday night.

Everyone reconvened for the Friday night service and dinner and in true Israeli style they all looked just as messy as before. The service was poor as no-one was singing (most of these kids go to shul twice a year) and any attempt to start any singing at dinner tended to fail because of the nature of the hall, the noise and the sheer number of kids (around 80). The onegg (which I was in charge of) was also hellish because its just so hard to keep the focus of so many people. However, once all the programs for the day had finished I had a nice time chilling with the kids, many of whom had excellent English.

The next day there was meant to be a main service and an alternative one (ie. no praying) of course the alternative one was packed and I dont actually think anyone meant to the main one. Following this there was another program about different denominations using game shows. I had to make Israeli kids try to describe things like Informed Decision Making (Reform Movement) without using those words. It was hard enough for me to explain it to them and it would be virtually impossible for them to do it in English so I permitted them to do it in Hebrew.

Following this there was lunch, followed by free time where the kids showed just how easy to amuse they are. For example they spent about half an hour watching each other jump over three shoes. After this we each went off with a small group of kids to talk to them about the particular communities they were going. There was a slight problem in that we all came from a very few selected number of communities and these were not the ones they were going to. The group I had will be spending their time in Cockfosters and North Southgate, now I don't even know where that is on the map, but I felt I managed pretty well with no knowledge whatsoever. I did make a disclaimer at the beginning saying I have never been there (well I said I may have been there once) and so everything I say should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Following this we did the most British Shabbat activity there is and left the Shabbaton to go to the football. The drive down to Tel Aviv was about three hours with a thirty minute for the driver to eat MacDonalds. The drive was filled with much debate about who to support and England and Israel chants were screamed shouted at each other as we approached Ramat Gan.

I was sitting with the two Richard's, Annabel and Nick in the Israeli fan section (the rest of the group had got their tickets at a later point and were sitting elsewhere) in the block to the left of the England fans. Although we were all supporting England (well Annabel was a bit confused and she seemed to be supporting both teams) we kept ourselves relatively hidden not knowing our presence would be taken. As we walked into the stands we were given an Israel shirt from Pellophone (an Israeli phone company) and I think they gave these to everyone who entered the stadium even the England fans, and so nearly everyone was wearing Israeli blue, (although I didnt put mine on till after the match to highlight my exasperation with England.

Anyway as I was saying the idea was to keep a very low profile. That was until we spotted a group of your typical England fans a few rows ahead. Loud, tattooed, fat, louts either sporting England shirts or no-shirts, and the Israelis around them were all chatting happily away with the Brits and even taking photos and having photos taken with them. Before the game started one of the Brits got out a megaphone and turned to all the Israelis behind him and said 'Shabbat Shalom' into the microphone to the applause and laughter of all around him. By this time we had realised we were very safe and had no qualms about showing our support for our boys, singing both national anthems with pride but clealy England supporters. This did not me from shouting 'Yisrael Milchama' literally meaning 'Israel War' which might seem to be slightly inappropriate considering the past year, and the cry should be seen as another wonderful example of Israeli humour. The atmosphere was amazing the match was, as I am sure you all aware, pretty poor. So poor infact that after the game when waiting for our friends at a rendesvous outside the away supporters gate I along with many other Brits took great pleasure in jumping up and down in front of the Sky News cameras and wearing our Israel Pellophone shirts and chanting 'Yisrael Ole'.

After the match we met up with our friends from Netzer who I hadn't seen since the end of Machon (in general they were all a lot hairier having spent the past couple of months on Kibbutzim) and went out for a late dinner. After dinner we said our goodbyes and got a taxi to Jerusalem, this took a lot longer than it should as a taxi driver had no idea where the hotel was despite passing it as we entered Jerusalem. The reason we were going to Jerusalem was so we could be nearer the start of the third and final part of the program.


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