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Educator Seminar Blog

First impressions: on cars, cemeteries, caring and Office Depot

First impressions: on cars, cemeteries, caring and Office Depot

As we drove away from the airport with 200 unfamiliar feeling shekels in my hand, I turned my head from left to right and back again making sure to take in all I could in my first minutes in Israel.  I haven't traveled outside of the US since 1986 so the first thing that struck me was the Hyundai that passed our bus. And then the Ford, Chevy, Mitsubishi, Toyota, and so on. The world had certainly changed in a very tangible way...while the scenery didn't look as "shiny" as back home, the plethora of cars reminded me that we indeed live in a global economy.  All of the concerns I had about taking this trip melted away as I knew then that at least on some level I was able to relate to Israel.

David Mitchell, Dean of Jewish HIstory Studies, gave us the tour as the bus drove towards our destination.  He pointed out the the park areas that had evolved from waste dumps sharing Israeli ingenuity that solved a potentially dangerous situation.  We drove past a safari park and David shared anecdotes about the popular site and outings that he enjoyed with friends. And then there were the cemeteries which were unlike any I had seen before.  In order to conserve ground space despite a growing need for it, on the landscape was a cemetery that looked remarkably like a parking garage. Within Judaism, people are to be buried in the ground.  Fortunately, stone is considered ground. So the cemetery was situated much like a parking garage with the circular end for the cars to drive up to the floors where their loved ones were interred. Again Israeli ingenuity solved this problem by creating large stacked stones which served as tombs allowing each person of Jewish descent to buried appropriately within Jewish law.

Our destination was a building housing Saving a Child's Heart, one of the many service opportunities at Alexander Muss.  SACH provides a before and after non-medical care to children who will be undergoing or have undergone heart surgery which has been provided at no charge to children with life threatening heart problems.  While SACH is not an HSI affiliated non profit, it relies on volunteers such as the kids from AMHSI to play with the children. It's one of the many service opportunities that are incorporated into the work that the students at AMHSI do.

As we moved on to the dinner venue, I replayed the day's impressions from cars to cemeteries to caring. Then we drove past one last very real reminder of just how small our world had become. I noted that to my right on a typical looking street was one more reminder of our similarities: the Office Depot on the corner.