Midpoint Means Making Meaning at Project Harmony Israel

Ariel paints a rock from the garden at camp
Ariel paints a rock from the garden at camp-part of the purpose of this project was to take the symbol of rocks (often associated with violence during the 2nd Intifada) and transform them into symbols of creation.

I am imminently feeling the speed of time here in Israel working at Project Harmony. Each day begins early, at 6:40 AM. The commute is over a half hour on a bus that never comes when it says it will (this can mean up to a half hour early, or over an hour late). Because of this chaos I arrive very early and often spend a lot of my time waiting for the bus; as I wait, though, I have time to be present at my stop across from the downtown shuk (market) or to reflect on my experiences here in Israel.

Some of the things I think about are how:
This place is a beautiful mess (which fits with my internship and role as an Art’s Specialist at Project Harmony Israel). Time is a suggestion here, food is a priority, and there is no consistency. Some days I have 40 kids to look after, and others I have 12. Most of the children who behaved the day prior will be ill behaved the next. Nothing is for certain here, and I have come to love that more and more each day. At first I was so troubled by feeling out of control, but living and working here has taught me that being out of control does not mean that what I am doing or working towards isn’t meaningful or effective, it’s just dysfunctional along the way. I think this is an invaluable lesson that is applicable in my personal, academic, and occupation-related life.

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Identity flag mural in the works

I have learned part of this lesson from the various children I work with, and with whom I spend upwards of five hours a day. The children at Project Harmony Israel are rambunctious, and culturally dramatically different from the American children I have worked with in the past. I feel myself living out cross-cultural encounters like the ones I read about in my Anthropology classes, but I also find myself witnessing them. For instance, in one conversation I was explaining a project very slowly in English to a young Jewish girl who then turned to her friend and translated everything I had just said into Arabic. Moments like these, where I feel like the children teach each other, are the most special and meaningful part of this experience working here. My approach towards cross-cultural understanding was fostered academically at Brandeis in my Anthropology classes, but my approach and application has been tested and developed by these specific instances and interactions.

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Plaster hands and mask-making then used for theatre productions at camp

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