My name is Samuel Kern. I am a 20 year-old German Jew doing volunteer work in Haifa, Israel through the Year of Jewish Service Program. For the past nine months I have worked with the Carmel Medical Center, and I highly recommend it.
I came here for several reasons. I didn’t want to go directly to the university and, although I was not quite sure what I wanted to learn after high school, I knew I wanted to become more engaged socially. Last but not least, I wanted to get to know Israel and Judaism in the most immersive way possible.
The work here is really enriching in different ways. Hearing heartbreaking stories from our patients, interacting with the children, learning how to deal with social problems and learning a lot about medicine are among my learning experiences in the past year.
While my main tasks in the hospital are cleaning beds, refilling equipment, being the errand boy for the nurses and doctors, and washing the patients, I have also found the staff is more than willing to show you interesting medical topics, to explain the different diseases and their treatments, and to let you take part in important medical tasks if you show interest and are reliable.
Life here is different than what I am used to. The people here are sometimes very direct and rough, but in a good way. They are helpful, honest and communicative. Also, although moving in with six strangers from different nations was strange in the beginning, I got used to it and gained a lot of positive experiences from this new situation.
Haifa itself is a nice city to live in. It is not too crowded, but still a lively city with festivals, a beautiful beach and lots of bars, and it’s a really good spot to travel from and see all of Israel. The countryside of Israel is marvellous because there are mountains, seas, the ocean, desert, forests and the dead sea, and you can reach everything in less than four hours.
Really, the most incredible part was for me is how different it is to be Jewish here. You feel directly connected and integrated in the society. It is normal to wear a kippa and to pray on the weekends. The Jewish people are so welcoming and supportive to me as a volunteer. They invited me several times, without knowing me, and I learned so much about Judaism itself in a way I never could learn it at home.
Finally, I must say that my time here was a “big enrichment.” I learned and experienced a lot, had many ups and downs and most important, I really got into Judaism in many ways.
If you want to come here you have to be open minded, to take risk and to enjoy difference.
If you do so, it will be a year you will always remember.