Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Independence and Team Building

One of the most fulfilling aspects of the Yahel program has been its apparent adult quality. I have been on so many trips to Israel that are completely prearranged and do not allow much flexibility in the schedule. Contrary to this, my Yahel experience has completely broken many of my preconceived notions of an Israel program for young adults. This has been done primarily through granting the participants a largely independent routine and instilling many teamwork and confidence building measures.

Many of these beneficial components were found in my retreat to the North this past weekend. The two Yahel groups from Lod and Rishon L'Zion spent last Shabbat at Yarok Az, a moshav (farming community) in the Gilboa Region of Northern Israel. We began the retreat with a productive day of hiking down a mountain and through a river. The mountain hike was very challenging. It was over three hours long, and it was very rocky and steep. However, we got to look over a beautiful valley and learn about a region that is important in the Bible as a site of many famous battles.  The water hike was a lot more fun because we were up to our heads in water, so it was a great way to cool off on a hot day. There were also tunnels that we could go through very fast along with the current, which was a great thrill.

Taken by my friend Alex with a selfie stick

The bulk of the retreat took place at the moshav, where we were able to form most of the schedule without the staff. This was great because we really got to do exactly what we wanted and feel accomplished when things went according to plan. One of the things each group took charge of was planning the meals for the entire retreat. The Lod group in particular was responsible for cooking Friday night dinner and Saturday lunch. It was challenging to cook big meals for 20 people, but our group was able to delegate tasks very well and everyone pitched in to make delicious meals. Additionally, both groups worked together to plan our Shabbat experience. Each person was able to contribute their preferences, and we had a very meaningful day with a variety of activities. From this component, I gained a lot of confidence in my creativity and ability to brainstorm effective programming.

Another essential component of the retreat was our many teambuilding exercises. The group spent half a day performing tasks such as creating a ground-based map of the world and a timed relay race that were designed to improve our ability to work well in a group. I greatly enjoyed these activities because they taught me about different roles I have when I am in a group and how to implement those roles to the best of my ability. For instance, during the relay race my team was far behind the others, and I needed to find a balance between taking charge of the situation and working with my team to come up with a productive solution. I also learned about the importance of communication in order to achieve a successful result. This was especially apparent during an activity in which we needed to carry people through different levels of a ropes course without touching the ropes.

This week has been short so far, but it has already been very eventful. I went to a host family for Sukkot dinner and lunch. The food was delicious and everyone was very kind. I look forward to seeing more of the hospitality this community has to offer.

Tomorrow is a big day with starting Ulpan and looking at potential volunteer placements, so I'm signing off for now. L'hitraot!

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