I have spent this summer volunteering for an organization called Rabbis for Human Rights. Founded in 1988, it is the only organization known to be a rabbinic voice in Israel explicitly dedicated to human rights. Over 100 rabbis and rabbinical students, which represent the organization, have banded together with a mission of “informing the Israeli public about human rights violations and pressuring State institutions to readdress these injustices.” RHR works within 4 main fields: human rights work in occupied territories, challenging land confiscation in occupied territories, socioeconomic justice work in Israel, and promoting human rights education in Israel.
My journey with Israel/Palestine, I guess one might say, simply began with the fact that my dad’s side of the family is Jewish. Jewish traditions were never a part of my life but I had known for quite some time I had Jewish family lineage. Though what truly sparked my interest in this part of the world is the conflict. I, just like many others, started to learn about it in the classroom.
I read and re-read articles related to the conflict as well as researched on my own. One of my professors also helped to so-call “fuel the fire” in terms of my interests pertaining to the conflict. The deeper I dug into the conflict the more and more I became obsessed with the idea of going to Israel. And one day I decided, “Well, I have one more co-op left so I am going to Israel…some how, some way” and never thought twice about going somewhere else.
My work has been filled with both office and fieldwork. I am quite a busy bee; not many days go by where I am not doing something related to work. In the office I mainly work on donation work from entering and writing thank you letters to doing research. I have also helped the grants director finish a large project in which RHR paired with Breaking the Silence, another organization here in Jerusalem. The type of fieldwork depends on the season. Because it is the dry season, we aren’t helping much in the way of agricultural work. So whenever I go out to the field, I walk with Palestinian shepherds to make sure that the military doesn’t harass them while herding their sheep or goats. Two projects related to the West Bank that I have been involved in is rebuilding a road. This road that we helped to rebuild is the only road that a specific Palestinian village is able to use to get to any medical help, if needed. Another project is the summer camp involving Bedouin children teenagers.
For 3-4 hours several times per week for a two-week duration, we play games, do arts & crafts and teach the children and teenagers English words.
Having this opportunity to co-op in such a conflict-ridden zone has challenged many views and definitions I previously had before coming. Life here, especially close to the territories, is full of tension and uncertainties. I could only study so much in the classroom. But just as our language program states, immersion truly is the key to understanding a subject like a language, culture or conflict and has shown me a side that no article or newspaper could have shown. A newspaper, book, or article most certainly couldn’t have explained the emotional rollercoaster I went through after witnessing the stabbing of a 16-year-old girl at the Gay Pride Walk in Jerusalem or the feeling of being segregated and treated like an animal going through a checkpoint or the conversations I’ve had with both Israelis and Palestinians about the conflict or falling in love with such a screwed up part of the world…
Enviroflight is a tiny but growing company with an office, warehouse, greenhouse, wetlab and 3 raised garden beds. With five employees, including myself, we manage the facilities seven days per week in order to bag frass. Frass, being the left over product of feeding black soldier fly larvae, is what we are after. It has the nutritional value that is needed in the aquaculture feed world. So, here at Enviroflight we raise lots and lots of flies!
Yang, the lab technician and I have five different types of trials running. Yang is testing to see how we can ramp up production. He is looking for how much to feed, what to feed, and when to feed. So far we have had promising results. The second trial, which I mainly run, consists of the yellow perch. We are testing four different diets on 202 perch to see the results of weight and growth.
The third trial, which I created, is the pasture fertilization trial. On the Antioch farm I am testing the growth rate of hay using frass as a fertilizer. The fourth trial consists of fertilization with vegetables. We are testing and comparing our frass with another organic fertilizer to see how vegetables sprout and grow.
One of my objectives during co-op was to figure out whether I wanted to go to pharmacy school. I have used this co-op to figure that out. I learned on this co-op that I love science but do not like official lab work. I looked back on when I worked at a pharmacy and realized that I really did like working there. I didn’t like unpleasant customers, crazy doctor’s offices or unhelpful insurance companies but did like the chemistry and math behind the compounding areas of the pharmacy. So now, I have reconsidered pharmacy and hope to work as a hospital compounding pharmacist.