Crossing the Street, Entering a New World
What happens when you combine one TESOL program with a trip to remember to the south of Tel Aviv? 3 reasons to explore a place unlike anything else!
By TESOL student Blake Steinnecker
Have you ever had those moments when you feel uncomfortable with a new place in a big city? Hearing an unfamiliar language, getting lost on a street you don’t know, seeing a stranger looking in your direction. Uncomfortableness can be frightening, but it doesn’t hurt; it’s educational!
Masters students in the MA TESOL program at Tel Aviv University did just this with their recent trip to the Neve Sha’anan neighborhood in the south of Tel Aviv. Here are their top three reasons to get lost in this new place!
1. The People!
With large communities of Asian and African immigrants and asylum seekers, the neighborhood of Neve Sha’anan in South Tel Aviv has become a hub for diversity in Israel. Right next to a large volunteer-run library with books in more than 15 languages is a playground with children from Arab, African, and Southeast Asian roots all speaking in Hebrew. While this neighborhood has a checkered past and present, you cannot ignore the sounds of laughter in the playground and the smiling face of a stranger who is kind enough to let a group of 13 students use his families private restroom.
2. The Food!
After spending only a few moments on Neve Sha’anan Street, the variety of smells coming from the local Eritrean, Sudanese, Filippino, Nepali, and Thai restaurants were enough for our group to lose three members! We found one student in the largest authentic Asian supermarket in Tel Aviv and two more in front of a restaurant with a sign offering food from five different countries. Not only is food a connection between these local communities in Neve Sha’anan, but it brings all types of people together, regardless of background. This was certainly true for our group!
3. The Hidden Gems!
As you continue walking south down Neve Sha'anan street, eventually you will arrive at one of the largest bus stations in the world, Tahana Merkazit (Central Bus Station). While three out of the eight floors are used as bus terminals, the other parts of this building represent the socioeconomic diversity of the surrounding communities. With a little help from a few strangers, our group was able to see synagogues, art galleries, a theater company, Asian food markets, a free health clinic, a night club and one of the world’s largest collections of Yiddish books.
Getting lost in any new area can be uncomfortable. However, it can also be essential for creating experiences that are unique, authentic, and challenge our ideas of what it means to embrace diversity. While our group spent only a limited amount of time in the Neve Sha’anan neighborhood, the questions and discussions afterwards will last a lifetime. So, get out there! Try something different. And, if you are ever in the south of Tel Aviv, perhaps you will get lost in a bus station trying to find a collection of 60,000 Yiddish books. Because, at the end of the day, if we want to experience something out of the ordinary, we have to step outside of our comfort zone every once in a while!