Im November 2013 reiste eine Delegation des Bennohauses, bestehend aus Mitarbeitern und Freiwilligen, nach Rishon LeZion, der israelischen Partnerschaft Münsters. Gemeinsam mit der dort ansässigen „Revivim“-Highschool wurde die 13-jährige Kooperation der beiden Einrichtungen gefeiert. Die folgenden Erlebnisberichte wurden von den Teilnehmenden verfasst.
Sunday, 17th November
Our journey to the „Holy Land“ started at a rather „un-holy“ time. Thereby Germans proverbially refer to any activity on Sunday mornings that keeps you away of going to the church. After weeks of preparations it was not possible to hide the excitement anymore when our delegation of six youngsters and two official representatives of the Bennohaus Muenster met at 2 o’clock in the morning at the city’s central station. Especially as it would be the first trip to Israel for most of the participants. With all the equipment we would need for the following days, such as tripods, film and foto cameras we proceeded our journey. After three hours of train, another three hours of waiting at the airport and about four and a half hours of flight we arrived happy, however a bit tired after that sleepless night at the airport of Tel-Aviv Yafa. There we were welcomed very heartly by Merav, Tal and Asher, our hosts from the Revivim School, the Youth Department and the Municipality of Rishon Le-Zion. After the presentation of both German and Israeli participants of the media camp which takes place in honour of the thirteen year partnership of the Revivim Highschool and the Bennohaus Muenster we got to know our host families and had the possibility to relax a bit before the official dinner in the evening. Then we had the chance to socialize and get to know each other during a fantastic and very rich dinner at the restaurant Francesca at the beach of Rishon Le-Zion. Tired but very happy we fell in our guest and hotel beds later. Looking forward to a progressive and interesting working week and an interesting cultural exchange in Israel!
(Anina Laura Pommerenke)
Monday, 18th November
After the first night in our host families, we gathered at the city hall in the morning where we were honoured by the very warm welcome of the Municipality of Rishon Le-Zion. Firstly, we met the mayor Mr. Dov Zur and exchanged greetings and presents. In a short film, the guests learned more about the Israeli sister city.
Afterwards, we enjoyed a guided tour through the old city center beginning at the First Well. This bears a special meaning for the city, because the settlers who founded the city in 1882 strongly lacked water and worked very hard for the construction of this well which goes 84 meters into the ground. Nowadays, this is still to be seen in the emblem of the city. We also found out more about the life of the settlers in the Municipal Museum where several houses from that time can be visited. What is more, our guide explained the important role Rishon Le-Zion and „the firsts“ (settlers) played in the history of the still young country regarding the creation of the flag, the establishment of Hebrew as common language as well as the origin of the national anthem. Later on, our group visited the House of the Fallen Soldiers. On the walls, there are the names and photos of over 700 soldiers (which also comprise women) who died since the foundation of Israel in 1948. To commemorate, our Israeli friends had prepared some flowers which two representatives of our group members laid down. After a light lunch, we got the chance to take a quick glimpse at the synagogue before getting on our bus another time. When visiting the Sister Cities Park, we surprisingly found a copy of the ‚Promenade“ with original banks and lanterns. Then we went to see the Holocaust House of Rishon Le-Zion where we informed ourselves about the activities of the house. We talked to young Israeli volunteers who take care of social and economic problems that survivors of the holocaust face today. Furthermore, one of the survivors who meet every day at the house told us in German of her experiences. To end this day full of impressions, our group took part in a workshop with pupils from the United States and Israel. Actually, many more stories could be told from this emotional as well as highly interesting day. To end with a curious one: As explained before, water has a special meaning to the municipality. This was curious, because today it rained for the first time in weeks. Our Israeli friends – who partly have been to Muenster and are familiar with its weather – are sure, it was us who brought the rain here. As it is seen as a blessing in Israel, this does not bother us at all and we are very much looking forward to the next days!
Tuesday, 19th November
This day started very early in the morning – the second I woke up I realized this was the day we will go to the holy town Jerusalem which is seen as the informal capital city of Israel by the Israelis. First we all met at the Youth Center to get an impression of the „UN model club“ which is a programme for better understanding of the fields of democracy and foreign affairs. On top it`s about improving speech, debate and analysis skills. In various workshops the participating students get the chance to use their acquired skills for their own personal development and to learn more about the work of the UN. Together with the Israelian students we went to Jerusalem where we were split up into two groups. The Germans started a longer trip with much sightseeing which began in the Jewish part of the older city of Jerusalem. This was such an amazing experience because of all the colorful fruits, jewelries and souvenirs we saw. Our next stop was at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where everybody was touched by the impressive atmosphere. People from all over the world travel there to see the tomb of Jesus. To have a better view over Jerusalem we had a short stop on the rooftop of the old Austrian hospital which is now a hotel. The view was spectacular and we all enjoyed the sun for a while. To finish our sightseeing tour we visited the Western Wall where men and women are separated to give their prayers and wishes to god. Afterwards we had some time for ourselves in the narrow streets of old Jerusalem to enjoy the atmosphere and to buy some souvenirs. Following to our activity at the youth center in the morning we went to the UN Government House in the late afternoon together with the israelian students. There we first of all had a walk around the building with a great view down to Jerusalem. Then we all sat down in the rooms where normally important people think of important projects about peacekeeping. We learned many interesting facts about the complicated relationship between Israel and the UN in the past and of the aim to keep peace all over the world. In the end we all had the chance to discuss about the political situation in Israel. This day was full of new experiences and great impressions and we are all glad to learn and to work with such interesting people!
Wednesday, 20th November
Since 13 years the partnership with Revivim Highschool in Rishon le-Zion ledto numerous unforgettable media projects. On day four of our journey we went to visit the school to celebrate the fruitful cooperation. First we were welcomed by the principal Mrs. Michal Timan. She especially thanked our boss Dr. Joachim Musholt: „We want peace and love in these countries […] we are the bridge“. Afterwards Tal Genosar, the head of media section at the school and our longtime project partner, had prepared an amazing event which was also attended by 100 Israeli students. We saw fascinating films of the 13 years of cooperation, e.g. about projects with holocaust survivers carrying appealing messages like the wish for peace, tolerance and understanding. To give one example, we saw a documentation about Hanna Blumlich. She comes from a jewish family and survived the Holocaust carrying another name until the war ended. Tal expressed his thankfulness for the great connection and for making new friends.
This was also taken up by Dr. Musholt: „New media create new possibilities“. A special and emotional moment of the event was the presentation of media products made by Namaa Gawi, an alumni from Revivim Highschool who worked in the Bennohaus for eight months.
After the event we had a very interesting lecture about the history of German-Israeli relations and about the long way to respect. After this we started a small discussion to „stop and reflect“ like Tal said. We asked each other what they thought about „the others“ before the visit and realized that we were more excited than skeptical. The day ended with the production of a short video clip. Every participant had to stand in front of the green screen and say one word in the language of the others which was quite funny. After this long and very interesting day we all relaxed and finally went into a very lovely bar to have some drinks together. That was „YAFFA“ (nice/beautiful!)
Thursday, 21st November
On day five of our journey to Israel, we were invited another time to the Revivim Highschool. We started the day by watching a film called „Ajami“ which is the name of a neighbourhood in Jaffa. The area is known for bloody conflicts between Jews and Arabs. After two hours of watching, we were very astonished and touched. Together with students of the school’s media section, we subsequently had the chance to talk to one of the two producers whose name is Yaron Shani. He explained that the film is a unique production for several aspects. Firstly, it took 7 years to make the film. Not without reason, because no professional actors were involved. Everybody from the film is from Jaffa. The co-producers made the actors improvise, which they prepared beforehand by doing workshops with the actors. The plot is told by five perspectives to show the different realities of people living in Jaffa. Shockingly for us, we learned that the stories are mostly true. The co-producers wanted the film to look like a documentary which shows mistakes that are made and „how horrible the situation is“. Against all expectations, the film was a great success and was even nominated for the Oscar.
The discussion this morning did not only lead to talking about cinema techniques but also repeatedly to a debate and greater understanding on our side of the situation in Israel. Yaron Shani explained his view of the ongoing conflicts: „Because we are so different, we can make paradise here.“ The organizing teacher concluded this morning that we as participants of this journey would „not only pass by a place“ which in fact is the case thanks to the programme that has been prepared for us.
In the afternoon, our group and some of the Israeli students went to a skate park in Rishon Le-Zion. The skatepark forms part of a new youth center that is in the process of construction at the moment. There, we did not only try to skate ourselves, but could also film many talented skaters with special cameras. The evening was free, but with a part of our group we went to Jaffa to visit the city and have dinner. The face of the city we saw this evening was beautiful and presented itself as a vibrant attraction for tourists.
Friday, 22nd November
Our first free day – as we all are good friends right now we decided to go on a trip together: destination Tel Aviv. In Rishon we organized a typical israelian MiniBus for the ride and the great day started. First of all we visited a small market with beautiful handmade goods like jewelry, soaps and other souvenirs. Nearly in the same area there was another market where people sold cheaper stuff like souvenirs and jewelry again, but also uncommon fruits and vegetables, tea and sweets. It was really stressfull to walk through this part of the market because there were so many people. Our israelian friends told us before that we should whatch out for thieves so we were a bit paralyzed by taking care of our stuff. After this excitement we all wanted to relax, so we went to the beach for a while. The sun was shining and against the forecast of our hosts the water was still really warm. As we were all getting hungry, our „guides“ took us to Jaffa to eat the „best Humus in the world“ – and it really was amazing! Because we germans were all addicted to the sea, we also visited the old harbour of Yaffa which reminded us a bit to the „harbour“ of Muenster with all the bars and restaurants. The last part of the day was reserved for the host families as friday is a special day to most of them: Shabat. We all celebrated with our hosts, super delicious food and great conversations about differences and similarities of our cultures. The whole day was a perfect mix of tourism and experiences as we all learned more about our hosts‘ culture, their land and their behaviour.
Saturday, 23rd November
On our last day we spend much time together – we can not believe that the time has passed so quickly! Therefore we had the time to see the last sights together, to do the last minute shopping or just be with all to enjoying the free last hours. A few of us were at the beautiful beach „palmachim“ or to the „dead sea“ and the marina „herzelia“. In the evening we met at the delicious restaurant called „Dixies“ to celebrate our last time together. We talked about the highlights, reminded us back to the last days and gave a feedback about the delegation. As a result of this we had new ideas for the future like to create a common forum in the internet furthermore we appealed for more media cooperation with the hosts. “It was a pleasure to meet you together as israelis and germans – its like a miracle and we all become a very deep friendship with good memories“ told Meryav. In any case we want to see us again it was a really incredible time with so much new impressions and experiences. Finally we want to thank Dr. Joachim Musholt, Tal Genosar, Asher Cohen, Meyrav Kopito and Daniela Elsner that we had this opportunity to be a part of this wonderful delegation! We all hope to see you soon!
Monday, 25th November
Time for some final thoughts. Probably most of us had certain ideas and expectations in mind before travelling to Israel. What we did not see coming at all was everybody taking care of us in such a friendly and warm way. So let’s talk about hospitality in Israel. Facing our past a few decades ago it probably would have been impossible to bring together Israeli families and German students. So it was even more surprising that our host families welcomed us with open arms and took care about everything necessary to make our stay as comfortable as possible. In the morning your host would get up half an hour before you to put on the warm water to make sure you can have a nice shower. Over more he would prepare a rich breakfast so that you will make it through the day. Let’s say some eggs with onions and dry tomatoes or maybe sandwiches with homemade jam or fresh vegetables. Not to forget some typical black coffee or tea. If you have the chance you should definitely try a fresh orange or pomegranate juice which you can also buy for a couple of shekels in the streets. Eating in general seems to be a very important part of life in Israel which we were appreciating a lot. Visiting the country you should definitely try some Falafel with pita bread, salad and of course a lot of Humus. This is sort of a national plate. Furthermore you should not miss the mixed „antipasti“ that are traditionally served before dinner. You will have the chance to try several typical dips and salads. With it comes a lot of talking for sure. Not to miss is also the „Tchinna“, a sort of cream made of mashed sesame and a bit of water. As a vegetarian I also loved in particular the „Givetsch“ which contains mixed cooked vegetables with typical herbs and spices. It is served for example with wild red rice or a very smooth type of Couscous. Even though there is a big vegetarian/vegan movement going on especially in Tel Aviv you will as well find a lot of meat in the Israeli kitchen. Enjoy!
(Anina Laura Pommerenke)
Kabalat Shabbat – Welcoming Shabbat
The celebration of the Shabbat starts Friday evening, traditionally when the sun is going down. That is the right time to wish everybody a “Shabbat Shalom”, a peaceful Shabbat. It is the most important day of the Jewish week. According to their interpretation of the bible it is the seventh day of the week when you should not work. Foto der Israel-Reise des Bennohauses im November 2013So it is comparable to the Christian’s Sunday. My very first Shabbat started at about 7 pm when all of my host family’s members came together in the living room. The men put on their Kipas and all of us stood around the table. The head of the family started with reading psalms from the Torah and the family answered at certain points. He blessed a glass with special grape juice and passed it on so everybody could drink from it. Furthermore he also blessed a loaf of bread, dipped it into salt and threw a piece of it to each family member.As I was told afterwards the throwing is also a part of the tradition. However it reminded me a lot of the Christian tradition of the Lord ’s Supper. Afterwards the dinner started with a vegetable soup, different small dishes like an amazing eggplant salad and a main course of filled pepper. Personally I enjoyed the warm atmosphere and all the talking a lot. All of us were even singing and playing piano together later that evening. I learned a lot and I am really graceful that my host family let me participate in their familial Shabbat tradition.
(Anina Laura Pommerenke)