Messima in the Mechadshim

Hey everyone,

First of all, let me introduce myself to those of you who don’t know me. I’m Ziv Bar-El, a בן געיין  (member) of Garin Silan and partner with Lily, Gabe, Emma, and Sam. I’m from California, I grew up in LA and went to School in Berkeley! I grew up in Habonim Dror too and found Machaneh Gilboa to be a special place, within it the values and codes of the youth movement I choose to live my life by now. I’m excited to talk about what I’m doing for my messima (movement mission), being a madrich in the Mechadshim at Snif Afula, to share struggles and triumphs based in being confused in a new place and a liberated work environment / day.  

A madrich is a person who guides a process for youth in a youth movement (here Hanoar Haoved), specifically a kvutza of a shichva (school grade). The Mechadshim, which in Hebrew means to renew, is an organ of Hanoar Haoved that is renewing the path of the youth movement to reach out to working youth, as it did in the early 20th century. This section of the movement primarily operates out of snifim (branches), which can be in beit sefer miktzoi (vocational schools) or other buildings where chanichim can come after school, such as Snif Afula. The Mechadshim is even the reason that some of these professional schools are still open, which is really important because they provide a unique educational experience that includes learning highly advanced skills, like building planes. Madrichim in the Mechadshim recruit chanichim through schools by running lessons about society and fun activities during the 15-20 minute school break.We run activities at least once  week for a specific age group, activities for the entire snif, and run larger events that bring chanichim from different snifim together, such as seminars and tiyulim. These activities set a foundation for a youth community to grow.

I never expected a smooth transition into doing messima in HaNoar HaOved v’HaLomed (NOAL), but I never realized how bumpy the ride would be until I started experiencing it. The first few weeks I had no idea what I was doing and it was hard to understand what was going on around me. We went to a school and started setting up for a hafsaka peila (activity during school break), and without instructions we started setting up tables, a pop up shade, musical equipment, a graffiti wall, and more. I was totally dazed and confused, I even had trouble just tying knots and doing really basic things. I had a lot of questions: What is a hafsaka peila? What activity do we have planned? Why are we doing things this way?. Things were pretty tough and hard to manage. My schedule was really different and I wasn’t eating well. I had a lot of trouble speaking in Hebrew with chanichim. I realized my Hebrew really needed to improve, and sometimes I felt really self-conscious, that I would say something wrong or sound stupid. Even if I knew the words to speak, they just wouldn’t come out, or my words would be very jumbled. How could I bring chanichim to the snif if I can’t speak Hebrew well enough? Should I really be here? I was (and still am) the only person in my garin doing messima in NOAL. How could I ask for their support when they aren’t experiencing what I’m doing? And how I can break the work / play dichotomy that exists in our capitalist system if I’m not going through a similar experience with people at home?

I’m still searching for answers to these questions. Sometimes I feel like I have a sense of direction, but there’s still many times I’ve been confused and not sure what to do. I’ve found myself in some very hard circumstances that are hard to feel like i can overcome some days. I’m still struggling with the language. I’ve learned a bit about what the Mechadshim is and what we’re doing, but it’s still hard to feel like I’m a part of the “we” when I still don’t feel like I have the ability to build a kvutza or to be a madrich in a foreign language. It’s hard to genuinely be a madrich for a chanich who loves rapping or theatre, when what they’re saying is the method of expressing themselves. I can nod along through my partial understanding and say how I like it (and seriously do like it) but at the same time I feel like I can’t support them the way I would like to. I really like the chanichim in the snif and want to give them a taste of the movement, but it’s difficult when I can’t account fort these kinds of needs.

As these months has passed, I realized that labor has been a pretty central element of my hadracha (leadership) in the summers at Gilboa, and not having experience with chinuch (education) leaves me with a large gap that is hard to fill. I wanted to make the mitbach labor an integral part of machaneh and a space for movement hadracha. I think that still needs to happen, but since taking on a new messima, I think I’m starting to realize that maybe I made a wrong choice. This choice to take ownership over the mitbach might have been great for machaneh, but since I left I realized that it prevented me from building partnerships with others, especially at Gilboa, but also in HDNA in general. Those partnerships could have enabled me to have a more versatile hadracha and be a more capable madrich here, and that’s hard to face because it challenges who I am, the way I choose to live my life, and the person I want to be.

Messima has taught me many things about myself.The process of emigrating to a new country must teach everyone new things about themselves, but messima has definitely enhanced that experience. I can’t remember a time that I felt so demanded of, and while it feels shitty when I can’t reach expectation of others and myself, I know that I have strengths to contribute as well. I also realized that in lots of ways I really like being a madrich for chanichim and really want to guide a kvutza. I see the pressures they face in school and want to provide them with an alternative lifestyle that will empower them to dream and build things they never saw growing up, to build a brighter future and better Israel. I believe in dreams for myself and the future of the Jewish people, even though I don’t feel great about my ability to succeed right now. I’ve learned that messima is a really meaningful way for me to be a part of society and change it to something better. My experience at machaneh provided me with some tools, just not others that I feel like I desperately need right now.

I value how messima allows me to make choices that are linked to relationships with people, rather than earning a salary. I like that I don’t have to feel like I’m looking for a job to survive on. Since my basic need of having an income is taken care of I don’t need to worry about looking for work, so I can better determine what that will be. It’s a huge privilege to be able to do that, but it shouldn’t be. I really rely on my tzevet in ways I think that I wouldn’t with other coworkers because we have a shared reason that isn’t related to a salary at all. I am constantly challenged to rely on them, which is hard because I’m still getting to know them. I feel liberated and grounded when I do talk with them about deep life things, especially the struggles,. I’m able to be a better madrich in the snif and support for them and even other people.

Messima pushes me to be creative without expecting immediately quantifiable results, which allows me to think through actions and take mistakes as things to learn from and not a waste of time. I love getting creative with erev tarbuiot (evening activities), talking with chanichim about their lives, and providing the chanichim a space to be themselves. When something doesn’t go the way I had planned I get really bummed, and that’s happened quite a lot these past few months. It’s hard when what I’m doing something doesn’t work like I expect, there’s definitely no shortcut. That’s because chanichim are complicated, people are complicated but that’s what makes it worth getting to know them. It’s hard because of the language, but it’s also really awesome because messima guides me to choose meaningful encounters with other people.

It’s been really hard, and there were times I didn’t want to do messima and doubted myself. There are times I definitely still doubt myself, but that doesn’t mean I should give up.. The most meaningful thing I’ve learned is that the more I build relationships with others, the less alone I’ll feel in life and in work. It’s empowering that my actions will build relationships in work that have so much meaning, while scary at the same time because sometimes I’m slow at building relationships. The most comforting thing is that people in the movement here are all moving towards changing the work / life relationship, and so I’m not alone from the beginning.

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