16 Jul Alumni Spotlight: Danya Gorel
After my Galilee Fellowship Livnot program in July of 2013, I did what all ex-chevre do right after the Livnot experience- fall into a deep depression and black hole of nostalgia wanting and yearning to go back. To go back to the place- to go back to the people- to go back to the community to relive the memories of a time when life felt a little more full, and life and thoughts seemed a little less cluttered.
Now, as a member of the Livnot alumni community, here I am again, two years later, back in the holy land of Israel. This past Shabbat, I had the pleasure of spending a meaningful weekend with my second family at Livnot in the mystical, magical mountains of Tzfat. Seeing the Livnot staff and chevre during Shabbat served as the highlight of my time back here in Israel thus far, and it reminded me why I am even here back in this country in the first place.
After graduating college in May of 2015 from the University of Texas at Austin, I decided to come back to Israel to Volunteer with the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). With the JDC, I am working as a multi-week fellow in southern Tel Aviv working with the refugee and asylum seekers from countries in northern africa. This refugees flee to Israel with very little and are given even less from the government as they struggle to find resources and jobs to provide for themselves and their families. The JDC has partnered with local nonprofits to help provide humanitarian aid for the children in need within these at-risk communities. As a fellow in Tel Aviv I currently work in kindergartens and an after school program to mentor and provide support these children. Though my work has been challenging with the JDC, it has provided me with a new set of tools and skills that I hope to activate in my future both as an educator and an advocate for social rights and freedoms.
Though my experiences with Livnot and my experiences with the JDC have been very different, both are connected through the fundamental pillars of community, volunteerism, social justice, and personal growth. As an individual, I have grown immensely from both programs and I look forward to further discovering how the two experiences overlap, intersect, and intertwine in the many weeks to come. Just recently, I brought a Livnot song into one of my kindergartens and the kids fell in love. For weeks I have been trying to catch their attention with different tunes during our song sessions but for the first time, I saw pure excitement, engagement, and learning occur when I began to teach them verses of O-E-O.
Like I said before, as a Livnot alum- I have been in a constant state of limbo trying to get back to the place, to the people, and to the community that I once knew and felt in Tzfat, Israel. Through the JDC multi-week fellowship and my reconnection with Livnot, I have discovered that the place, the people, and the community can be built anywhere at anytime. Though the special time spent in Tzfat can never be replaced it can be shared and through song, dance, nature, connections, and conversation, I have found the power within myself to build and be built in communities elsewhere, and for this, I am thankful to Livnot and to the JDC for all I have learned and experienced.