Forever Changed

Posted on September 8, 2016

Israel…… Even writing the Word brings tears to my eyes.  This is not a trip that you can simply make by reserving flight, hotel, and tours and expect to have an authentic experience of the country and the people.

Somehow I understood this and knew that I had to make a positive contribution to this land that has witnessed so much.  I wanted to work.  My hope was that my skills would be of value to a social justice cause.  Skill Volunteers of Israel truly listened and provided me with an experience that was so full of wonder I could feel the beating pulse of Israeli life in my core.

My background as a Costume Designer and Arts Administrator presented the organization with challenges, yet Skilled Volunteers of Israel successfully accomplished the mission!  My summer 2016 placements in Jerusalem were with The Zionist Confederation House Hullegeb Ensemble an Ethiopian Israeli theater and the YTheater, a Palestian Israeli theater.

I served as a mentor in the areas of international fundraising and grant writing, educational curricula development, and outreach.  The month long assignments went by way too fast.

My volunteer work was not the full extent of the opportunities that Skill Volunteers offered to me.

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Mira Mahfouz Executive Director of the Theater and Susan Handler

I became a member of the Jerusalem community.  In my daily life I talked to the people and watched them interacting with each other.  I traveled by foot, bus, tram, and train. I spent quality time at historical and religious sites.  I wandered the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem and walked the Rampart Walls.  I explored the tunnels that lie beneath the Western Wall and Herod’s Castle.  Hours and hours were spent at The Kotel and the Egalitarian Kotel.

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Hullegeb Israeli-Ethiopian Theater Ensemble Under the artistic direction of Moshe Malka presents: “The Mark of Cain”

I attended Human Rights classes at the Conservative Yeshiva. I even experienced the medical care system, and Skilled Volunteer’s Coordinator Terry Hendin was with me the entire time.

My first month in Jerusalem prepared me for the final three weeks touring the country by myself from the southern tip of Israel to the northern-most areas, including all four bodies of water (Mediterranean, Dead, and Red Seas and the Sea of Galilee).  Without the foundation of Skilled Volunteers I could never have begun to understand this sacred land and its people.

How do I feel now?…. Ancient DNA has been activated.  I am changed forever.  

Thank you to Terry Hendin and Marla Gamoran!!!

Susan H. Atlanta, summer 2016