The following is my farewell letter to the people who shared our YALP experience – Australia 2005-2012.
Anthony and I are going home. Seven years. For me, actually, closer to eight. A Chunk of Life overflowing with places, people, events, struggles, ideas, laughter, challenges, hopes and fears, friendships, learning.
Overflowing with Love.
How does one make sense of it all, so that all that has been learnt doesn’t simply get archived in one’s life experiences?
When Helene first asked me to talk about learning at The Event, I asked myself, “Okay, Dr Judy, tachles – what have you learnt over the past eight years that is truly worthy of sharing? How has Australia enriched your life?”
There are so many lessons.
I could tell you about what I learnt about language: that in Australia, when you are invited to supper, you should always make sure to eat at home, because all you are going to get are deserts … but, if on the other hand, you are invited to tea, you can go on an empty stomach, because you will surely get a hearty meal – not just some nibblies or a cuppa. I could also tell you that shouting is not a necessarily bad thing, and when someone shouts you a cup of coffee or a beer, it is actually a demonstration of generosity.
I could share with you some of the numeracy lessons I have learnt. Distances, for example, are relative. A four-hour journey in Australia is no big deal compared to Israel, where it’s the travel time from the top end of the country on the Lebanese border all the way down to Eilat on the Red Sea – Israel’s furthest southern point.
I have also become pretty good at converting currencies or figuring out time differences between countries … and which country is ahead of which depending on our immediate location.
I could tell you all about Aussie Rules or about meat pies with tomato sauce – tomato sauce, mind you – NOT ketchup. I could even let you in on some baking tips, like how to make scones with lemonade and cream instead of crumbling butter.
In Australia I experienced Christmas for the first time (a bit confusing, however, Christmas in the summer time). Oh, how I delighted in the decorations, the colors, the lights, the cheerful faces worn by people from a myriad of religious and ethnic backgrounds. Once, I even waited in queue to see Santa. It was just like in the movies! And, one year we “did” Boxing Day. I just had to see if crowds of crazy shoppers, grabbing at whatever merchandise is still on the racks, are for real. And guess what! They are.
But the more I thought about it, the stronger my urge to share with you all – the people who have shared this journey with us, who have touched our lives – a few of the more personal life lessons I have learnt. And each, of course, comes with a story.
Lesson #1: YOU CAN’T CARE ABOUT WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW.
2004. It was an ordinary day. The phone rang. It was Professor Elite Olshtain. “Sit down,” she said.
I had just begun my doctorate with Elite and I was convinced that she was about to tell me that she would no longer be able to be my supervisor.
“Can you go to Australia?” she asked.
“Why would I want to do that?” I responded, “I have a life.”
“I have a job for you, that fits you like a glove,” she begged. “At least think about it.”
So, I called Anthony. “Are you sitting down?” I asked, “Elite wants me to go to Australia.”
“So, go!” he said.
Little did he realize that a year later he would find himself in Aurukun.
The point of the story is that at the time, I knew nothing about Australia; I knew nothing about its people, their culture, their way of life; I knew even less about the Indigenous people and the truth is that I didn’t really care.
You see, YOU CAN’T CARE ABOUT WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW.
Lesson #2: THE MORE YOU LEARN ABOUT OTHERS, THE MORE YOU LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF.
When the first YALP team of Israeli educators arrived in Australia, we were an attraction. At one of the early YALP functions a politician challenged me, “Why do you think that you Israelis can teach us something we don’t already know?”
Looking him straight in the eye, I quietly responded, “Because we are something you will never be – OUTSIDERS … and as such we possess a different perspective. We can see things you can’t possibly see from the inside, things you take for granted.”
As an outsider, I found myself asking questions. As an outsider, I found myself being asked lots of questions. And what I discovered was that the more I learnt about Australia the more I learnt about Israel and myself: who I am, the person I want to be, what I stand for and the meaning I wish to create in my life.
Lesson #3: LET PEOPLE HEAR WHAT’S IN YOUR HEART, BECAUSE THAT’S HOW THEY’LL KNOW YOU CARE.
The third Australian lesson I would like to share with you is something I learnt only recently. The related events are still too “close to home”, too numb to share. So instead, I will share with you a story from my youth, which bears a similar theme.
March 1968. Following a series of Fatah raids on Israel from Jordan, including an Israeli school bus hitting a mine, Israel attacked the town of Karameh, where the Fatah terrorists were based. It was a short, but deadly operation. 28 Israeli soldiers were killed. 69 were wounded.
Fifteen years old, I was on a three-day school trip when the fighting broke out. My brother was a parachuter and I knew that he would be fighting. Now you have to remember that at that time there was no internet. There were no mobile phones, so I had no means of communicating with my family. I was hysterical. On the way home, our bus stopped at a kiosk and I bought a newspaper. I remember my friends grabbing the newspaper from me to peruse the list of casualties before I saw it to make sure that my brother wasn’t on it. He was not.
When I came home, I rushed to the shower without saying a word to my parents. I made no mention of the operation, my brother or the turmoil of emotions that filled my heart. As I stood under the hot water, I wept uncontrollably. When I got out I dried my tears leaving no sign of my emotions. My Mom, disturbed by my visible indifference told me off for not asking about my brother calling me selfish, thoughtless and insensitive. Because I had said nothing, my Mom simply filled in the gaps with her own assumptions and [mis]interpretations.
My last YALP lesson has been a powerful one. It is easy to care, but caring is not good enough. If you don’t stand up for what you care about, if you don’t let people know what’s in your heart, how are they supposed to know that you care?
So, to sum-up and reflect, these are the lessons I am taking home with me:
• Lesson #1: You can’t care about what you don’t know.
• Lesson #2: The more you learn about others, the more you learn about yourself.
• Lesson #3: Let people hear what’s in your heart, because that’s how they’ll know you care.
That is what learning is all about.
That’s the meaning of b’yachad – together.
And, that dear People, in a nutshell is the essence of YALP 🙂