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Benny Winkelmann Feels at Home in Hadera-Eiron

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

II applied for the P2G Southeast Fellowship program almost two years ago, but it was postponed because of COVID. Since I was accepted, I waited for after the High Holidays, so we could finally get going and start the task ahead of us.

All this waiting has made this moment more special. October is here and what a month it has been! It is so good finally to have my feet on the ground here in Israel.

The care I have received since landing; it’s almost as if I never left home. If anything, I traded one family full of Jewish mothers for a whole neighborhood of them. The entire region of Hadera-Eiron has been beyond welcoming. From the minute we landed we had everything set including a ride from the airport to the apartment.

Every night we have a new family who wants to host us for a meal, so much, so that Jasmine Hubara (My partner from Charleston) and I have not even cooked for ourselves yet.

Having Lunch in the Office in Katzir

The Partnership Director Maya Shoham and Programs Coordinator Shimrit Orgal met us at our new home, and it was already set up with everything a person could need. They even stocked the fridge (for those of you who know me, you realize the importance I place on food)!

We then had a short quarantine period, over Shabbat, when Jasmine and I used the time to be better acquainted.

During the week that followed, we began working and meeting people. We’ve gotten to explore the local institutions, meet the teachers in the schools in which we will each be working, and met the Israeli counterparts of the Jewish Agency that made this experience possible.

In the elementary school, the kids asked a thousand questions, all at once, and one of them even stood on a chair just to get closer and make sure I heard him.

Benny Teaching at Ort Haklai Junior High

In addition, the kids graciously asked me to join them at recess and from what I hear the request is a standing one. As part of the program, we study Hebrew twice a week in an Ulpan, and yet nothing will oblige me to know this language more than to be able to connect with these young children at school.

Once at middle school, the native speakers I have begun to work with seemed thrilled to have an opportunity to exercise their English. We have played word games -- they happily learned about mad-libs --, and we plotted out the books we would read and review this year.

For one of the lessons, I brought a poem that led to a discussion about Nelson Mandela and apartheid and from here, a conversation also developed on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

The experience I gained while working at AIPAC had an advantage here. We also talked about how a person can lift himself or herself and take care of empowering themselves regardless of what life calls for him or her.

These are exactly the encounters I expect to deepen and be of value.

I have only been on the ground here for a couple weeks, but already it feels like home. From Shabbat dinner with one of our new Pardes Hanna families, to hiking a piece of the cross-Israel trail with Shimrit’s husband, Nitzan, I have to say, our community may be partnered with the best region in Israel. Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible and I look forward to sharing more in the coming months.

-Benny W.

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