After discovering GoEco through a local organization, I decided to partake in an internship abroad. After reviewing the projects, I decided that volunteering in Israel at the Mountain Eco Lodge would give me the experience I was looking for. I was embarking on an opportunity to discover a new country with its local population, its customs, religion and lifestyle. I turned to Israel, a unique country with its numerous and diverse landscapes, particular mode of life and rich history filled with cultural and religious significance.
Nimrod is located on the opposite side of a mountain that juxtaposes the Syrian border slope. Located just 60 kilometers from Damascus, the area is highly recommended by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On August 21, 2013, it came to light on the world stage that Syria was using chemical weapons in the country’s civil war. Barack Obama began to prepare for an attack on Syria as a response to the use of these weapons on their own people; however, Israel became aware that an American intervention may cause local repercussions. An attack from America could result in retaliation from Syrian President Bashar al- Assad or his ally Hezbollah which would be executed by targeting the Jewish state and the historic allay of Washington. At the end of August, General Hassan Firouzabadi, Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, stated that military action against Syria would leave Israel “at the edge of the flames.” Tel Aviv began to distribute gas masks to residents, and the Golan Heights deployed its missile shield, thus protecting them from possible attack. In a period of extreme tension, it was recommended that my internship should be cancelled however feeling confident in GoEco and being taken good care of so far, I decided to still go ahead with volunteering in Israel.
My early days were very upsetting for me. Between the impact of bombs for a few exercises in the Golan Heights and the many well-armed soldiers present in Israel, the adjustment period to this new culture was difficult. Now, in hindsight, I do not regret taking the plunge and doing the internship in this tense time at all. I realized that above all, it was the journalists who gave me a feeling of anxiety and fear by exaggerating the situation. The country is very well equipped in case of attack and the inhabitants of the Golan Heights live completely normal lives. Certainly this is not a usual situation for us Westerners, but in Israel, it is a part of everyday life and in no way interferes with day to day activities or people’s happiness. Moreover, the project boasted a stunning and exotic landscape; the Mountain Eco Lodge was a rich green gem nestled on the south slope of Mount Hermon.
The Hebrew calendar is completely different (Sunday being the first day of the week, for example) and I was lucky enough to volunteer during the month of September, the most festive of the year. I had the opportunity to participate in many festivals with the family I lived with. Between Rosh Hashanah (New Year), Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah, I discovered a new religion, rich with its customs, food, and songs. My only regret is that my boss was very busy with tourists present in eco -lodges for the “Sukkot” holiday. As the festive season is not only the time when Israeli’s have their vacation but also a popular time for tourist to visit from abroad, the eco -lodges are generally booked throughout the month of September.
This experience for me was a culmination of a great school year. My studies prior to the internship gave me plenty of knowledge that I could use and implement into my volunteer program. Having the opportunity to put into practice what I had studied in the theoretical course was a great experience for me. Fulfilling my internship abroad showed me both positive and negative points. For example, I think if I work later in France it will be interesting to see how a worker organizes their French site. What is the quality of his work? How is that there? The methods used in Israel are far from those practiced in France, particularly in regard to safety issues.
I couldn’t help but notice the speed of execution and enjoyment of all the workers in my group as we created things from our own hands. It is true that it was not easy to get the dead wood. There were a lot of crooked boards, broken boards, boards with screws in them that had to be removed, and odd pieces, all that were in constant need of resizing and reworking before we could use them. Every drop was used with spare and unused wood being cut for fire. A phenomenal amount of time was lost in this kind of cutting but Guy was adamant about the reuse of timber. Guy uses his own hands and recycled materials as opposed to installing industrial products and we, the volunteers, quickly saw the benefits of his way of working. Moreover, the will and the work performed by Guy is unbelievable. This is a man who knows a lot. On his own, he manages the maintenance and construction of the whole eco- lodge. It is because of Guys wealth of knowledge that I was able to learn about insulation, carpentry, plumbing and electricity.
I am so pleased to have had my internship in Israel. The course was a discovery for me architecturally, culturally and linguistically. During my weekends, I visited Jerusalem and the Old City, the Yad Vashem Museum, the Museum of Art in Tel Aviv, Masada in the Judean desert, Bethlehem, and the Dead Sea. I even met two famous architects, Moshe Safdi and Preston Scott Cohen. My fear with respect to the political situation was very strong at the beginning of my stay but I quickly adapted to the Israeli way of life. It was a very rewarding experience and I would particularly like to thank Guy and his wife Lilach for their availability and welcoming receptions. I am also grateful to the association Jeunesse et Reconstruction including Fouad Bousnina. I want to give a big “thank you” to the GoEco team and especially my monitor Yan for his kindness and constant presence.
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