My name is Emma Pearlman, I'm from Essex, UK and in September I will be going into my final year at the University of Leeds. I have just completed a semester studying abroad in the Netherlands and I am now doing a MASA Career Israel program, where I am living with around 40 other young people who are on the same program and I am interning at World WIZO.
Growing up, my family had always taught me about Judaism and what it means to be Jewish, however, it was not until I was 19 years old that I went to Israel for the first time on a Birthright trip. I did not know what to expect but I loved every minute of it and this was when my love for Israel started. I wanted to learn more about the country and experience everything it had to offer. When the trip was over, I knew I wanted to come back for a longer stay. I have now been in Israel for just over a month, and have 4 months left on the program, every day I am learning new things and appreciating Israel more and more.
I am currently interning in the Fundraising Department at WIZO, helping to write grant proposals to support WIZO projects as well as writing reports on these projects. This week, I got to travel to Jerusaelm to visit the WIZO Beit Hakerem Secondary Vocational School which is part of the WIZO Rebecca Sieff Center for the Family. I felt very lucky that the first WIZO project that I got to visit was a UK funded project, where I got to see the school as well as the day care centre.
We were greeted with a warm welcome by Kobi Hillel, Director of the WIZO Rebecca Sieff Center, who explained how the school works and then gave us a tour. We got to see the recording studio and even listen to 3 of the students recording a song. We met with one of the music teachers who spoke with us about music as a therapeutic tool and how much it can help the students. The youth at this school have all suffered extreme emotional or psychological trauma and so music is very empowering and can act as an outlet for them to express themselves creatively. As well as music, they offer many other courses; we got to see the new hairdressing salon and the vocational kitchen. We then walked through the day care centre and saw some of the children, their toys and the artwork on the walls. We also visited the Tanner Garden and the area where the new trees are going to be planted.
The whole experience was very heartwarming. The hardship that many families in Israel face was something that I had not yet seen in my very brief time here. Seeing the students in the school trying to better themselves and overcome their issues, as well as the time and effort that the teachers put in, gave me a greater appreciation of everything that WIZO does. Visiting the site gave some more context to the reports and proposals that I have been writing up, and it allowed me to conceptualize what these centres are like, how they really help people and how important they really are. This experience definitely opened my eyes, showed me a side to Israeli society that I had not seen before, and showed me how significant the work of WIZO is in daily life. It is something that I feel very fortunate to be a part of.