I must have been to the Tel Baruch Beach in Tel Aviv thousands of times. But today, I had the time of my life. I started volunteering for Min el Bahar.
Min el Bahar (From the Sea) is a program which provides Palestinians from the occupied territories a fun day at the beach. Accompanied by two wonderful nuns, a bus transports them from one of the despicable roadblocks in the occupied West Bank to Tel Aviv where a group of volunteers (me included) greets them and, together we have a wonderful day at and in the Mediterranean.
Today on my first day, I served as a volunteer life guard, and my tasks included coaxing them to take their very first footsteps into the sea. It was so good to see and feel the sea via their eyes.They had never been to sea before; they were born in the wrong place and on the wrong side of history.
3 girls pointed to a few high slippery rocks which were off limits. They asked me if we could sneak away and take some pictures from the rocks. I agreed and we stole off. The nuns and lifeguards all called us back, but we took some pictures anyway and ran back, laughing. All 3 girls thanked me effusively for the rest of the day, often smiling at me. When they got on the bus, I got a few winks!
I saw one girl who was trying very hard to swim and kept swallowing the ocean! I gave her a short lesson (knees straight, hands cupped, breath properly) and she then swam at least 500 meters on her own. A real “batal” (champion in Arabic)!
Over the past decade, I have read almost all of of Hans Fallada’s books, one of which, “Alone in Berlin (Everyone Dies Alone) ” describes the heroism of people trapped in the tyranny of a fanatic political regime. Fallada has inspired me to think about what can be done under a regime of oppression.
Unlike Fallada’s characters, I am not a hero. But today, I did not feel like an oppressor. I felt I was doing what I can, at grass root level, to create contact at a human level. I will never forget today.
They saw the sea, and I felt free.