Hannah Turner: Israel Service Fellows

By: 
Maase Olam

Illinois native Hannah Turner is a staunch social activist. After graduating from Haverford College with a degree in Psychology, she faced a familiar dilemma for many educated 20-something Jews: Dive straight into her career in the US, or take time to explore the world, exercise her commitment to social change, and enrich her Jewish identity? After much deliberation and soul searching, she ultimately decided to spend 10 months of her life volunteering in Northern Israel, where she teaches English, debate, and Zumba to Arab and Druze youth.

"I am choosing to pursue community service work next year instead of starting my professional career (in Speech-Language Pathology) because I want to start my adult life with commitment to social justice. I worry that I could graduate, go directly to graduate school, and lose the part of myself that’s developed such deep concern for social justice issues in Israel/Palestine. I couldn’t bare the thought of ignoring that concern, and couldn’t imagine satisfying it without spending an extended period of time in Israel doing what I’d been talking about for the past several years. So this is my year to do all of that, to honor a deep concern I’ve developed for ethnic equality and democracy in Israel and to find a way to integrate that concern into my ‘adult’ life."

Hannah's pursuit of social justice in Israel has not been without disappointment. Though the English language debate club that she facilitates at an Arab high school in Akko has been deeply gratifying, her goal of expanding it to include Jewish participants has not materialized due to longstanding ethnoreligious divides between the two communities. Though she loves teaching in the Druze village of Julis, and feels like an important part of the Julis family, she does not see comparable relationships forming between Israel's general Druze population and the majority of Israel's Jews.

Hannah has decided to share the highs and lows of her experience as an educator in Israel's periphery via her blog, which you can check out here: http://akkorneroftheworld.wordpress.com/

Her post topics range from spelunking in the Negev to inherent segregation in the Israeli school system, from attempting to read a Hebrew translation of Dr. Seuss to the ethicality of touring economically depressed communities of Israel and the West Bank. Enjoy her refreshingly thoughtful, often critical, but ultimately hopeful assessment of life as a volunteer in the periphery.