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A Talmudic story tells of a righteous man who was on such a high level that Elijah the
Prophet - who in Jewish tradition never died, and serves as a gateway between the
spiritual realms and the human world - used to visit him regularly. One day, the righteous
man constructed a small guardhouse in front of his courtyard which, even though it
might not have been his intention, prevented the poor from approaching his door and
shut out their cries for help. Elijah the Prophet ceased visiting him. By shutting himself
away from the poor, he also blocked the gate between heaven and earth.
Some 50,000 post-army Israeli backpackers traipse
through South Asia every year. They come to escape to
the enormity of the Himalayas, to trade the claustrophobic
intimacy of a place where everyone acts as if they know
you for the kaleidoscopic anonymity of a place with a
billion people and a thousand cultures. They come to
smoke hashish and to rest from the wars of the Jews in
a place neither Christian nor Muslim, a place untouched
by the Holocaust, the intifadas or the Crusades. They
come because of the music, the yoga and the wandering sadhus, because everyone
else they know has been there or is going, and because the South Asia route, with
its "Israeli" outposts like Parvati Valley, Goa, Rishikesh, and Dharamsala, has
become a movable feast of friendships and romances, a peregrinating eternal
summer camp of love, the perfect fusion of lust and wanderlust.
I began my travels as a journalist soon after moving to Israel, eighteen years ago.
I traveled to Ethiopia, Somalia, Nepal, Burma, Indonesia and a host of other
countries and wherever I went I saw the poor, the vulnerable, the powerless,
living life always on the edge of survival. There is terrible poverty in Israel too.
Still, poverty in the developing world is of a different order. Children die of
curable diseases due to lack of clean water, thousands of children live on the
street, and chronic malnourishment, if not starvation, is the fate of hundreds of
millions. Our civilization has put up guardhouses to prevent their cries from being
heard. For the sake of the spiritual health of the Jewish people, I felt that we had
to break down these guardhouses and once again connect our lives to those whose
vulnerability is greatest.
On one of my trips I traveled the route of the young Israeli backpackers for
several months. Talking to and observing Israeli young people, I realized that
alongside those who wanted to indulge themselves after three years of scary and
tedious army service by getting wasted against the backdrop of the Himalayas,
there was another kind of young Israeli traveler: sensitive, curious, and idealistic,
yet still rugged and proficient.
What if, I asked myself, the Israeli youth-jaunt through the developing world
could be harnessed to transform the thinking of the new generation? Could it
spark an Israel that addressed the dilemmas raised by globalization and by the
continued suffering of the world's poor? What if, inspired by the struggle of the
slum dwellers of Delhi or the solidarity of peasants fighting agribusiness, young
Israelis came back from "the trip" awakened to their own power to transform
reality for the better?
Right this moment I am in Jerusalem. I have often thought about what makes
Jerusalem geographically distinct. Buddhism and Hinduism were inspired by the
highest mountains in the world. But Jerusalems only special geological quality
is that it is a hill that rises up from the plains of the Dead Sea, the lowest place
on earth. This means, I think, that our charge as Jews is not to climb upwards to
God, but to draw God down into the world. Not to give up on the world. Not to
give up on ourselves.
It was in this spirit that Tevel bTzedek was created--in the hopes of adding a
new aspect to the Israeli presence in places like Nepal, to connect our Jewish
wanderlust with tikkun olam and with the rich knowledge and experience of
American and other Diaspora Jews, for whom tikkun olam is a central concept
in religious life.
Our goal is to show that caring about the world in all its brokenness does not
signal an abandonment of Israel or Jewish identity and solidarity, because our
core task as Jews is to fix the broken vessels and raise the holy sparks so that the
world can hold beauty and goodness and abundant life. We cannot fulfill this task
without increasing our firsthand knowledge and identification with the other the
half of humanity, those whose lives usually remain hidden from our view. And
in this way, we can also return to Israel or the Diaspora with a renewed hunger
to struggle within our own nation and community for a more beautiful and
equitable world, and in the process, to fling open the gates and remove the
guardhouses, and re-invite Elijah into our homes and hearts.
Micha Odenheimer is the founder and acting director of Tevel bTzedek. He was born in Berkeley
California, graduated Yale University, and received his rabbinic ordination in 1984 and made
aliyah in 1988. Micha has written for The Washington Post, The London Times, Foreign Policy,
Haaretz, The Jerusalem Report and many other newspapers and magazines. He was the founding
director of the Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews, and has taught and written about Jewish
tradition and social and economic justice for the past two decades. He lives in Jerusalem (when
he is not in Kathmandu) with his wife and three children.
Tevel bTzedek - Timeline
Tevel bTzedek is an Israeli I-NGO with a unique charge. As its central focus, it educates and expands the consciousness of its volunteers, while
pioneering new methods of development. Twice a year, two groups of volunteers are sent to Nepal for an intensive four month program. Though mainly
constituting of Israelis, the volunteers also come from around the Diaspora.
The first month is entirely dedicated to orientation - the education of the volunteers in Nepali language,
Nepals society and culture, the effects of global economic systems on developing countries, and
theories of social justice in Judaism.
Starting to Volunteer
Empowered with this knowledge and understanding, they are introduced to various local organizations, and
each volunteer has the chance to match his interests and skills with a particular organization and area of focus.
Volunteers can pursue the projects started by previous groups but can also initiate their own.
The remaining three months combine a gradual intensification of the volunteering together with bi-monthly
seminars, held around Nepal, which aim to further the education of the volunteers and to strengthen the
group spirit and the exchange of ideas and experiences.
End of Programm
The current group started March 26th and will end July 24th. The next group begins September 1st.
Day 8 of the orientation - a trip to the brick factory
A five year old boy is carrying his two year old brother on his back. Both are
barefoot and filthy, their gaping eyes staring in wild amazement at the oranges
that weve brought for them. Their father is looking at the orange balls in
confusion. He says that he doesnt know what to do with them - hes never
seen such a fruit in his life.
Parents continue to work while they watch
their children take a break and eat their fruit.
They notice the smiles on their childrens faces
and their eyes soften, but only for a moment.
Donkey dung is mixed with dust and mud. Everything around is barren. I am
surrounded by shades of gray, brown, terracotta and dark red - the colors of
one of Kathmandus infamous brick factories, in which families and solitary
children (orphans and runaways) work and live. They work for the factorys
contractor and earn their wages per brick that they produce. The factory is a
vast gray space dotted with puddles of brownish red mud.
In the factory, I see them shape and mold the bricks. After drying in the sun,
they load the bricks onto donkeys that carry them to the kilns, and then they
are stacked onto the tired heads of rail-thin men, who carry them to a truck,
which distributes the bricks to construction sites across Kathmandu.
All of the bricks look exactly the same to me, and so do the people. At first,
I cant differentiate between them, like the anonymous extras in a movie.
Maybe it is just a movie, and not reality, I think. But slowly, I start to see the
differences some have droopier eyes than others, i see a purple shirt on the
little boy and an orange hair band on a little girl, a dimple, the trace of a
moustache. They are all covered in dust and mud, barefoot and wrapped in
rags. Infants are taking their first steps through the mud and the dirt. A young
boy is running, one hand holding his pants up from falling down his starved
body, the other cradling the fruit in his shirt.
It takes me time to understand that the people dont just work in the vast
brown gray space but live in it as well. I see a small structure made of the
very same bricks with a metal roof. Not far, there is another one and
The color of the scenery is the color of their labor, and the color of the ground
is the same color as the dust on their skin; there is no place to run. Before my
eyes, orange dots disturb the gray landscape. Our bright oranges and colorful
bus dont seem to belong here. Some of the children dont take any of the
fruits - they dont have time. The more bricks they make, the more they earn.
Parents continue to work while they watch their children take a break and eat
their fruit. They notice the smiles on their childrens faces and their eyes
soften, but only for a moment.
On my way back home, the bricks that Kathmandu is built on suddenly take
on a whole new meaning for me. They used to be in the backgroound. Now
each one stands out and I cant help noticing them everywhere.
Once Im home, I hear the rain start and I know that all the days work at the
brick factory has been for nothing. All of the bricks still in their molds have
lost their shape. The families wont get paid for these bricks- all that they
earned today were the oranges we brought and a little entertainment when a
strange Israeli girl turned up momentarily. Was it really worth it?
Earlier in the day, as our bus turned into the factory, our director, Micha,
mentioned that the tall tower with smoke coming out of it reminded him of
the Holocaust and I had responded by saying that I didnt think of that at all.
Now, visions of children lifting bricks onto their heads and a three year old
boy naked and barefoot in mud run through my head. And if they are the
imprisoned who are the wardens? Who am I? - A prisonner or a warden?
I dont want to answer that one.
Written By: Tamar Priel
Voices from the project
Women of Nepal
Stories From The Farm
My grandfather was a well-known
Zionist pioneer and thinker. I have always
valued his work but I have never
succeeded in feeling what he felt. But
now, on the farm, I feel it. Yoel, 24,
from Jerusalem is one of the first three
volunteers that Tevel bTzedek has sent
to Panchkal, a farm on which the
organization has been generously lent
some land as well as a large building by
the Bal Mandir orphanage . Tevel
bTzedek intends to create in Panchkal
an alternative hostel, in which backpackers can live in and volunteer for both
the short and the long term. Volunteer positions can be in any one of the
different agricultural activities as well as in education in the schools and
orphanages of the area.
Yoel is currently experiencing some of the feelings and experiences that his
grandfather went through about a hundred years ago in Palestine. Tevel
bTzedek created a mandate for its three pioneers to plan and implement
sustainable agriculture on the farm, which will act as a model for local farmers
who would like to learn new agricultural methods. Currently, the volunteers
are working and learning the field in order to decide what this model farm
needs to include. Afterwards, it will be their responsibility to bring their plans
to fruition. In order to do so, they are investing in the vision of the farm much
thought, research, preparation and many dreams.
When I thought of my volunteering I had assumed that I would be involved
in something relating to logistics or work with children, but none of those
options felt fully right for me Yoel said. Now, the farm has enabled me
to work with children, to spend several hours working in manual labor outdoors
as well as to work in strategy and logistics. The three volunteers are currently
teaching English and holding educational enrichment and social-awareness
activities for school children and orphans in the area. In addition, with the
help of backpackers who volunteer for short term periods, they are preparing
the foundation for the different elements of the model farm chicken coops,
a compost system, a vegetable garden, a water-recycling system and more.
Up until two months before the group set out to Nepal, Yoel was a law student
that lived in a city apartment and read books in the Jerusalem coffee shops.
His current life is very different. We are sleeping on the floor of a large
room filled with windows and mosquitoes, awake at six in the morning and
work outdoors until nine. We have a daily breakfast of rice and lentils and
we continue on with our day. Not a single person around us speaks a word
of English and our Nepali is poor. Yoel heard about Tevel bTzedek after
he decided to take a break from the usual army-university-work track. He
didnt imagine that such a future would be in store for him or that his
experiences would have such an effect on his life. This is huge thing for me,
to work the land - my family has a piece of land in the Galil, and my father
always hoped that I would work on it, but for me it was always just a burden.
Now however, I think about it differently. When I work in the garden I cant
help but feel that this is my flowerbed and I love it! My favourite moment
since Ive arrived in Nepal was when two snakes appeared in the garden and
I killed them with one blow. I was very angry because they had the audacity
to appear in my garden mine!, Yoel relays with a smile and continues in
a calmer tone, As soon as I arrived in Kathmandu I fell ill and felt as if my
body was telling me that I am not meant to be here. Now, on the farm, my
body tells me that its healthy. Its saying that its in the right place, and that
it feels good.
There are currently three areas of work
with women which we at Tevel bTzedek
are engaged in.
Drop-In Center for women who work as
hostesses in Nepals Cabin Restaurants.
These women, ranging in age from 16 to
38, are expected to play the role of hostess
and/or prostitute, depending on the
demands and expectations of their male
clients. For these women, the Center offers
a chance to learn sewing and gain other
skills such as basic literacy and health
awareness, among other options. We run three 2-hour sessions each week
incorporating art, dance, theatre, general discussions, and group work. From
the start of our involvement, the women have relished the opportunity to
engage in creative exercises. Last week, a 20 year-old explained that although
she loved to dance, she had not done so for more than 2 years. Another
remarked, when I came here my head was full of so much tension, but now
it has all gone. Providing a space for these women to support each other,
have some time to themselves, to have some fun and to explore other possibilities
in life is all a part of the work we are doing in the Drop-In Center.
The second area is Saathis shelter for battered and abused women. The shelter
provides up to 6 months care to approximately 15 women at a time covering
medical, legal, and psychological assistance as required. These women have
undergone severe traumas of the worst kind, e.g., a women whose motherin-law tried to poison her, requiring her to have four operations to get her
voice back; a 15 year-old who was raped by a group of men as she was being
trafficked over the border from Nepal to India; and a woman who was beaten
so brutally by her husband that she required intensive physiotherapy in order
to walk and regain basic usage of her hands. Working with the shelters social
worker and psychologist, we run two groups each week in which we use art
as a way of enabling these women to express their feelings, consider ways
of supporting themselves, and build a stronger future.
Finally, the third organization we are working with is Women for Human
Rights (WHR), an NGO which focuses its efforts on helping the widows of
Nepal, a social group which faces discrimination in virtually all spheres of
life: socially, legally, and economically. In our involvement with a group of
widows at WHR, we are helping them improve their conversational English,
though our ultimate goal is something larger; we hope to work with them to
tell the story of a generic Nepali widow, and to paint a mural inspired by that
story. With these multiple activities, we hope to promote WHRs vision for
a Nepal in which widows are empowered to be completely integrated into
We are at the start of much of our work and therefore cannot yet determine
the successes of our interventions and what we would recommend going
forward. What is clear, however, is that all of our work is providing a unique
insight into the day-to-day reality of the women of Nepal and as such is
building a strong platform on which Tevel bTzedek can continue to grow
and develop its work. So too, it is providing women with some space in which
they experience a sense of freedom and fun even if it is just for 2 hours each
Written by: Carmel Pelunsky, Tome Lev Dekel and Esther ben Ari
[In their lives outside of Tevel bTzedek: Carmel Pelunsky works
professionally in London as a organizational psychologist, Tome
Lev Dekel lives in Israel and is an avid dancer, and Esther ben
Ari plans to continue to build on her thirty or so years of
experience with art in the comfort of her Tel Aviv studio.]
A filthy six year old boy is grasping a milk bag filled with glue waiting to be
sniffed. He looks at the world through foggy eyes. Children are sleeping in
the temple hoping not to freeze during the night; a five year old sleeps amongst
When these children arrive in Kathmandu, some of
them are immediately pulled into factory work or
prostitution while the rest join gangs and take on
the life of the homeless street children, sleeping
amongst the trash
a large smelly pile of trash.
Throughout the streets of Kathmandu one can find tiny
dusty creatures, dressed in dirty raggedy clothes that
dont fit. These are the street children of Kathmandu
and they number in the thousands. Between the
ages of 4 and 16, they dont have a roof above
their heads or an adult responsible for them.
Throughout the day, they beg in the streets of
the tourist getthos; collect plastic bags, bottles,
and cartons from the trash, or precious metals
from the ashes of the cremated bodies along
the river all of which they sell for pennies.
If the kids dont find food, no one else will
find it for them, and yet, most of their earnings
go towards drugs, alcohol, and the glue which
they stick inside empty milk bags and inhale over
and over again. Most of the children come from the
rural villages outside of Kathmandu. They were lured
by the temptations of big city life, were trying to escape
domestic violence, their broken homes, or the hard labour in
the villages. Family members rarely search for them once they disappear.
When these children arrive in Kathmandu, some of them are immediately
pulled into factory work or prostitution while the rest join gangs and take on
the life of the homeless street children, sleeping amongst the trash. The Nepalis
call them kata, a humiliating word which implies that they are worth less
than dogs and are even treated as such by the police and hospitals who dont
take care for them.
When Tevel b'Tzedek began its work in Nepal, the volunteers started to work
with different organizations dealing with street children. The organizations
sent out professional agents to the streets at night time to try to convince the
children to come to their drop-in centers where they were to be provided with
a place to sleep, a shower and food. If the children remained in the center and
acted accordingly they were able to move into the shelters, which provided
organized education, activities and therapy to help get them off the streets
permanently and plan for their future. It was often next to impossible to persuade
the children to abandon the temptations of the street the feeling of freedom,
lack of family and educational structures, and the desire to sniff glue.
However, the volunteers of Tevel bTzedek soon discovered that these werent
the only problems. Ili Margalit, Ben Katzir and Navonel Glick, from the second
group of volunteers, discovered that during the day, there werent any activities
for the children at the drop in centers. Without the activities, the drop in centers
could not match life on the streets.
We are talking about children who on the one hand are little adults: they work
in the streets gathering money, they have drug problems, violence and experience
sexual abuse, says Ben, but yet they are still just children that want to be
loved and to be hugged. If you show them such affection, they reciprocate with
so much love that they have inside of them but that no one else wants.
After bonding and learning to work with several of the children who then ran
away and returned to the streets, Ili, Ben and Navonel, decided to do something
about it. Over the course of two months, they developed a Daily Activities
Program for the drop-in centers: informal education in the morning, activities
with Tevel b'Tzedek volunteers in the afternoons as well as courses run
by Nepali students trained by Tevel bTzedek. The work with the Nepali
students enables us to provide an emotional bond with the children for a
more extended period of time and also allows us to work with the local
community and to empower them, said Ben.
After two months of planning, the volunteers spent another two months
presenting their plan to Nepali organizations, searching for and interviewing
students with skills, experience and activism. During this time, the third,
and current Tevel b'Tzedek group arrived in Nepal. We discovered
that amongst the new group there were very motivated
volunteers that were interested in working with the street
children. They provided us with wonderful ideas and
helped improve the original program, said
Navonel. Currently, there are four volunteers
from the third group working in the drop-in
centers and implementing the program and
so far, they are successful, The children love
the activities, the volunteers and the students!
Ili exclaimed. Its amazing to think that just
four months ago when we worked in the
drop-in centers there was nothing there, and
just two months ago this was all just an idea
that we didnt know if we would be able to
practically produce, and now, it is fully in action
and we can see the dream becoming reality,
By implementing carefully thought out and
administered activities, the children started to enjoy their
time at the drop-in centers. Instead of running back to the
streets, they now prefer to stay.
Ben and Ili are now in Israel, where they are continuing their work with
Tevel b'Tzedek, while Navonel is in Kathmandu to help with the current
group. Though sad to abandon their project, Ben and Ili are impressed
with the new work being done, Its not easy to leave the children and the
program behind. This project is our baby, but we have had great luck with
the next group of volunteers; they are doing an amazing job. They have
great ideas and they are ensuring the continuation of the project so that
things dont fall between the cracks again and that our hard work doesnt
go to waste.
We are talking about children who on the one
hand are little adults: they work in the streets
gathering money, they have drug problems,
violence and experience sexual abuse, says
Ben, but yet they are still just children that want
to be loved and to be hugged.
The volunteers may be leaving but the children remain in their hearts.
Our dream is that Tevel b'Tzedek will continue the project, and that we
will return here in a few years to find the children already in the shelters,
with an education, with self confidence, and with a future in which the
streets are just places for them to pass through between work, their homes
and their families.
The Faith of an Atheist
In the golden temple of Patan in Kathmandu, prayer wheels surround the
square courtyard. I watch an old lady limp around the courtyard, turning the
heavy wheels one after the other with great strength and devotion. Despite
the obvious pain, she does not miss a single wheel. Behind her, an elderly
man spins the wheels with a look of boredom on his face. Behind the man,
a teenage boy spins them while chatting on his cell phone with a friend. And
after all of them, two little girls laugh with excitement while staring, enchanted
at the colors of the spinning wheels of the temple.
It occurrs to me that in every religious center temple, synagogue, church,
mosque believers are doing exactly the same actions as each other, but do
they do it out of blind faith or merely just out of habit? What they are feeling
at that moment? Are they feeling anything at all?
As a self-described atheist, the concept of faith has always intrigued me
people who are sure of something even though they have no proof to base it
on. I believe that each one of us has our own personal religion with rituals
that displays our own faith and feelings. These rituals dont necessarily always
coincide with our religion or institution. For example, I have often felt that
drinking my morning coffee, or washing the dishes, is a ritualistic act for me.
Nepal is a country in which religion is intertwined with ones daily life and
identity. The Tevel b'Tzedek house is a house that is Shabbat friendlyShabbat is observed in its public spaces (although there is a computer and
DVD room for non-religious volunteers) and it is Kosher-vegetarian. Here,
more than anywhere else before, I, the completely irreligious kibbutznik am
finding myself challenging my faith and I am trying to build my own personal
This is the first time that I have given religion and Judaism specifically much
thought. My Teudat Zehut says that I am Jewish but I have never related to
or felt connected to such a defining characteristic. However, since coming to
Nepal, I have been living in the same house as observant Jews. Ever so often,
I can hear Elisheva singing the morning prayers of Shacharit and I cant help
but notice the pounding of my heart and the tears that form in my eyes. As I
watch Michas face while he prays, he looks so complete and peaceful, and
I am filled with jealousy. In response to my emails home, my parents have
already expressed their puzzlement at trying to understand statements saying
that all week long I await the Shabbat and that even though it is not mandatory
for me to attend the Shabbat prayers, I havent missed a single one in the past
My daily life here in Nepal is filled with many intense emotions the culture
shock of the meeting of East and West, the differences between how I feel
inside and outside, my feelings about living life in a group after being by
myself for the past several years; and my work with the both adorable and
frightening street children. Welcoming the Shabbat forces me to take a break
from it all. I sing the prayers with the group and I feel as if I have a home and
belong to a community. I feel so complete that I cant help but wonder if
maybe this group that I am now involved in, and all of these places that I have
been visiting, are my own personnal introduction to this way of life and to
this sense of belonging to a warm and welcoming family.
I hum along to the tunes, though I am not yet ready to read or sing the words
myself. I am in the process of searching for my own personal religion, but
there still remains a lot for me to learn and think about. What I can say is that
by observing and slowly taking part, I have seen a new part of me emerge.
I have learned to view myself in new ways that I hadnt previously. What I
can say is that once a week, when Shabbat begins, everything stops, and
whatever pain and confusion exists in me, it hurts less and I am simply happy.
"Many Israeli backpackers talk about their traveling experiences in an
aggressive manner, as if the places they travel to are targets to conquer instead
of spaces to experience and to learn from. And it is great to see the way that
Tevel b'Tzedek is helping people reassess their use of both such language
and action says Shira, a 24-years old Jewish American backpacker currently
volunteering with Tevel b'Tzedek.
Tevel b'Tzedek attempts to provide Israeli backpackers with a different way
of traveling and experiencing Nepal. The organization hosts events in which
learning and exploring different aspects of Nepal's society, religion and culture
are the focal points. In those events, backpackers are also exposed to themes
relating to Judaism and Social Justice, and are encouraged to engage in more
ecologically friendly forms of tourism.
And for those who are interested, Tevel b'Tzedek also provides an outlet to
I came to the Tevel BTzedek house for a Passover event says Noga, 23,
of Kibbutz Ketura, Israel. I had just finished a trek here in Nepal and was
affected by the villages I saw along the way, and was looking for a volunteer
opportunity. When I met the people at the house and learned more about the
organization, it immediately felt like this was the right thing. I was able to
go with Effie (a friend I met traveling) to the village with the volunteers from
the group and start working together with them she says. Effie, 22, had a
similar experience: We spent the last month getting absorbed in the village
life, teaching English at the primary school while being treated as equals
within the Tevel b'Tzedek community.
The group experience is an essential part of what the backpackers find unique
in the encounter with Tevel bTzedek: There is such a warm and welcoming
feeling in the house, and after traveling alone I needed to feel part of a
community again. That is what is so special about this place, the sense of
community being created, Shira says and than add: but theres another great
thing here the volunteers in the group actually talk to the locals and work
with them, they dont just look at them without seeing them, but they become
a part of the local community.
Amit, 27, of Jerusalem, prefer to emphasize the educational aspect of his
encounter with Tevel bTzedek: I heard that they [Tevel bTzedek] are
offering backpackers the chance to come on a trip to the Bagmati. Now Ive
been in Kathmandu for a month and couldnt ignore the stench from the river,
so I thought it could be interesting to see what the deal is" he says. "So, we
went to see the transformation of the river from right outside the city where
it is clean to the increasing filth further downstream. We opened up a discussion
on ways to help and ways to travel more ecologically, and I feel I learned a
lot and I have a lot to think about.
The four backpackers all agree that there is often a negative perception of the
Israeli traveler. Tevel bTzedek feels that it is important to understand and
acknowledge this, and to find ways to help change it. By offering new
perspectives and encouraging culturally respectful and ecologically responsible
ways of backpacking, Tevel b'Tzedek hopes to help create a more gentle,
considerate and benevolent image of Israeli travelers.
Written By: Tamar Priel
The Village Project
The Balaju Project
The third group of Tevel bTzedek has started a new project in the
remote village of Suspa, in the Dolaka district (northwest of Kathmandu).
The organization is currently running several empowerment programs for the
women and children of the village, and has helped develop the agriculture of
Suspa by introducing new crops to provide the villagers with a more balanced
and vitamin-filled diet. Two volunteers have been teaching English in nearby
schools, participated in teacher training workshops, started a library, provided
English activities outside of school, and are now teaching English to the adult
women of Suspa. During the remaining six weeks they hope to engage the
high school age children of the village to develop their Nepali writing skills
and to publish a village newsletter.
Tevel bTzedeks volunteers have been working in a school in the
Balaju community for over a year. Balaju is a poor slum neighborhood
located in the north of Kathmandu. The school has five small classrooms,
which about two hundred students squeeze into, along with the schools six
teachers. The majority of the students are working children. They work in
the mornings selling goods in the streets, carrying heavy loads, or serving
low-level roles in the citys public transportation network. In the afternoon,
they go to school. Tevel bTzedek ensures that the school has clean drinking
water, and also supplies a lunch program to offer the children much needed
nourishment. The volunteers teach English and Geography and run creative
and educational enrichment activities with the students. In addition to that,
they also work with the teachers, exchanging different teaching methods
The Israeli Activity
The four months in Nepal provide the young volunteers of Tevel
bTzedek with a powerful practical and learning experience, but one of the
long term goals of Tevel bTzedek is to encourage the volunteers to use their
new found awareness and drive once they are back home.
A year after returning from Kathmandu, Lior Messing still uses the Nepali
which she has learned. She leads the empowerment group for female foreign
workers from Nepal in Israel, many of whom are experiencing humiliation and
exploitation at the hands of their employers.
Another past participant is working at the prestigious Heschel Center for
Environmental Learning and Leadership, while another is leading a group of
Ethiopians in the Galil.
Tevel bTzedek continues to provide ongoing support for the past participants
once they are back in Israel. The organization has been conducting study days
and seminars, while the past participants have remained in touch and involved
each other in different social-activist events. There is a monthly past participants
newsletter currently being published and a lot more is in the planning process.
The Tevel bTezdek experience has inspired the volunteers with ideas, energy
and motivation to initiate new projects around Israel and the world. Tevel
bTzedek is currently working to create a fund to enable the past participants
to develop these projects.
The Student Project
Tevel bTzedek volunteers are currently seeking Nepali students
to collaborate with in order to create a local student network with a
greater degree of social awareness, who would be interested in participating
in study and discussion groups about activism, social awareness and
Following this process, the Tevel bTzedek volunteers will be able to involve
the students in the organizations work in Kathmandu.
One of the principles of Tevel bTzedek is to strengthen its local authorities
to enable ongoing self sustainable development for the countrys social
problems. The organization is currently working with twenty students, some
of which have been hired by Tevel bTzedek to work on the Street Children
project. Through their work together, the volunteers have discovered that
these students are filled with motivation, desire to learn and the ability to
influence and to change the face of Nepal.
The Balkhu Project
Balkhu is a poverty-stricken slum located on the banks of the
Bishnumati river in Kathmandu. The Balkhu slum was settled a little
over one year ago, when people started pouring in from remote villages in
search of a better future. Most of them now find themselves working in
menial labor jobs, such as porters or garbage collectors. The slum houses
around 380 families close to 1,800 people who live in huts constructed
from bamboo and other discarded materials (rice sacks, cardboard boxes,
etc.). They lack basic infrastructure and provisions such as clean drinking
water, electricity, and toilet systems.
In attempting to offer the Balkhu inhabitants a basic level of health and
living conditions, Tevel bTzedek is providing the community with a 12,000liter container for water storage. In addition, focusing on the communitys
750-large population of children (under 18), Tevel bTzedek is now in the
process of working with other non-profit groups and local hospitals to
provide basic health care and medical services for Balkhus children. Tevel
bTzedek hopes to be able to offer more advanced levels of health services
to the communitys children in the future, and to eventually be able to offer
all of Balkhus adult population similar access to basic healthcare.
The I-Care Project
Tevel bTzedek volunteers have been working with the Pegasus School,
a top ranked high school located in the Bodnath area of Kathmandu, since
During the previous Tevel bTzedek session, volunteers designed and
implemented a curriculum called iCare, a program crafted to raise social
awareness and encourage activism among the student body.
In the present session, Tevel bTzedek volunteers are working with iCare
graduates to continue their process in two ways. The graduates are using the
same iCare curriculum that they studied and are now teaching it to younger
Pegasus students. In addition, volunteers connect Pegasus iCare graduates
with appropriate volunteering opportunities, such as helping children with
special needs and developing recreational activities with working children, so
that they can apply and develop their social activism and knowledge.
This type of project, in which the students become the teachers, reflects a
core value of our work that of sustainability and its one that that we try
to incorporate in all of our projects here in Nepal, reflects Danielle, one of
the Tevel bTzedeks volunteers involved with the Pegasus School.
Tevel bTzedek feels that working with the Pegasus students offers an opportunity
to create a dialogue with the sector of Nepali society that may go on to be the
leaders of the country and shape the future face of Nepal.
Tevel b’Tzedek is generously funded by:
Charles and Lynn Shusterman Foundation
Rochlin Family Foundation
The Pears Foundation
Wolfensohn Family Foundation
UJA-Federation of New York
Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation
Alan B. Slifka Foundation
Lester and Edna Shapiro Family Foundation
Moshe Tov Kreps
Tamara Edel Gottstein
Jonathan and Gail Schorsch
Board of Directors:
Tamara Edel Gottstein
Batya Cohen Kallus
Our work would not be possible without
the ongoing assistance of our supporters
worldwide. Tevel b’Tzedek invites you
to consider becoming a partner in our
Tikkun Olam activities.
$1000=Sustains the Balaju feeding project for
working children in impoverished elementary
school for 6 months
$5000=Sponsors 1 participant in Nepal for 4months study/service internship program
$10,000= Sponsors daily rehabilitation
program for 40 street children for 6 months
$25,000= Ensures the continuation of
womans and community empowerment in
the Suspa village and a mobile health post in
Balkhu for 1-year
Contributions can be sent to:
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
c/o William Recant
711 3rd Avenue 10th Floor
New York, NY
* Please specify that the funds be designated to Tevel
b’Tzedek on a note alongside the check
Thank you and Namaste from the entire Tevel b’Tzedek team!
If you are interested in volunteering opportunities with Tevel b’Tzedek
or hearing more about our activities, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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