The UJS team spent three weeks in a training period called Chazon, with one week spent in Israel to develop our knowledge of Israel Engagement, one of our core values. We did this through a number of different tracks, including social action, cultural, political, interfaith and Holocaust education.
My role as Jewish Society Officer includes a focus on Social Action, and we met with lots of organisations that enlightened me about many issues.
To highlight a few, we had the opportunity to meet with Bina, an organisation based in South Tel Aviv that works with refugees and asylum seekers in the area. South Tel Aviv is a place I have frequented a lot, mainly Florentin and Levinski Shuk during my gap year for brunch, or even a night out. I would walk from the central bus station to my friends and that is where my interaction with my surroundings would end. This tour helped me to see a wider crisis occurring around the world, not just in Israel, where people are seeking refuge and have nowhere to go.
South Tel Aviv is such an interesting area, where the word gentrification is a definite buzzword. No space is left untouched by graffiti. The walls are filled with colour, history, politics, all exuding with vibrancy. This area is decorated and marked by individuals and their self-expression. We went on a walking tour with Ashley Fairfield of My Israel Photos (above) who helped us to understand the cultural life of the neighbourhood and how art is so vital to the community’s eccentricity. Comparing these two tours was fascinating, showing us how different groups of people can live so close to each other but have such stark differences. The tours prompted many discussions concerning what we can do to help the wider community in the UK and abroad, both by donating time, or through artistic expression.
In the first week of Chazon we had the opportunity to meet with Keshet UK, an education and advocacy charity that promotes diversity and equality in the LGBT+ community. The following week, we visited the Tel Aviv Gay Center, where we learnt the stories of two women and their experiences, gaining an insight into the work the Centre does. The combination of these two talks has encouraged the development of our ideas as a team to ensure an inclusive environment for all students. We also highlighted that this does not only apply for LGBT+ students, but for anyone from any background.
These are only a few of the events that occurred over the last three weeks and quantifying what I have learnt in the last three weeks into a few hundred words feels virtually impossible. From various meetings with organisations, a week in Israel and bonding with the team, I honestly can say that I have learnt so much especially from my colleagues. The last three weeks were in place to allow the team to gain insight into the breadth of activities we’ll be involved in, to engage us with different issues that arise on campuses, and most of all, to inspire us as a team.