tisdag 29 maj 2018

What would work be without amazing coworkers?

My coworkers are all really amazing people and my time here would not have been the same without them. I have done and experienced a lot together with them.

We went for dinner in Betlehem when Hanna was visiting from the Helsinki office, From left Vesa, Marko, Hanna, Sari-Johanna, Me, Kirsi and Sari
Sari-Johanna drove me and Hanna to the Dead sea for an after work dip


After Maria took us to the Sira school we took a hike to the monastery in Jericho (Marko in the picture)

When we visited Tel Aviv for work Sari-Johanna took us to meet Mira who is a rabbi in a reformed synagogue where we joined for Kabbalat Shabbat (Shabbat Friday prayer)

On Shavuot it is tradition to learn the Torah all night, me and Sari-Johanna accepted the challenge and visited at least 6 places where they were teaching everything from Kabbalah to conversion issues. At 5 am we met Sari at Jaffa gate and joined the thousands of Jews doing pilgrimage to the Kotel (Western Wall).

So you probably do not have a clue of who does what at the centre so I will make a short introduction of my coworkers.

Maria is my supervisor. She is a superwoman = effective at getting things done and an organised person. Maria is really competent and kind. She is in charge of the centre together with her husband Seppo. She has also been lecturing about childrens rights because that is her expertise. 

Rev. Seppo helping a lady from the Holocaust survivors group up to the house. This is THE picture I have of him as a person. He is considerate and at the same time he always has a joke in mind. Seppo is our reverend and also in charge of the Felm-center together with Maria. 
Without Maria and Seppo the centre would not be what it is today. They have worked hard and whole hearted to take care of the centre.

Vesa (on the left) is the regional director for Felm in Middle East and North Africa. I like his way of leadership he is strict if he needs to otherwise trusting and he is overall a calm person. Vesa is actually the only one whose work I have not had the chance to get to know yet. 

Sari is our own writer, she is in charge of the communication which she does really well. I feel that Sari has really found her speciality in what she does. You can probably find her writing down something or taking picctures. She is kind but firm.

Vesa and Sari will both return to Finland during the summer so there is a change on its way.



Kirsi is a really kind person. She is really good with children as she has been a teacher for the lower grades in Finland. She is usually laughing and one of her many good qualities is that she can laugh at herself. 


Marko is an active person that likes to make jokes. He is a teacher of history and he likes to talk about history and politics. His special quality is that he is always engaging with people anywhere he goes.
Many people we met have thought that Kirsi and Marko are my parents, so they "adopted" me during my stay. I have watched hockey at their place many times and they are taking home some dates to Finland for me when they go the next time. They are in charge of the child and youth work.

Sari-Johanna has lived in Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem for about 13 years. She has a deep knowledge in the region and she has gotten that knowledge from her work. Sari-Johanna is a deacon and does work counseling. She helps people from different backgrounds. She likes joking and often has a smile on her lips. 

These are all the workers from Finland. We also have local workers but I just realised I do not have pictures of them so I cannot introduce them with a picture. Our local workers all work at the Felm center. We have our accountant Josette that is a lovely lady who makes us coffee every morning at 10 am. Then we have Alex who is our maintenance guy and he really knows how to fix everything. Teresa is our lovely guard, she is always talking a lot and teaching me Hebrew. Alexi is our cleaner who has a lovely smile on his lips always when I meet him. Then there is Rami our gardener who has the most interesting stories about his life. Our team is a positive space to work in and sometimes I feel that we are always laughing at some joke.

fredag 25 maj 2018

My volunteer work

What do I actually do here? I am not on a vacation as the pictures sometimes seem. I work five days a week and 7 hours a day. I work as the Felm center management assistant. This includes doing office work, taking care of groups that gather at the center and I also get to know Felms work in the region. I have a lovely work team here and their work is so important.

The first hang out with my colleagues and their families
Most of the time I work from the centre. When I am doing office work I often get to take pauses to guide people around the centre. Some weeks we have up to a couple of hundred visitors and some weeks under one hundred. Yearly there is about 8500 visitors. The lower house that was planned by the architect Conrad Schick was built 1873, 1950 Felm started renting it and finally 1955 Felm bought the building. It was originally built as a clergy house for the church on the other side of the road. It worked as a school in the beginning. The school got so many children that they could not fit in the house and 1963 the upper house was built. Currently the lower house is under renovation and it will be ready in December, inshallah (Arabic for God willing).

Felm-center, Lower house on the left

Felm-center, Upper house

Felm-center, Upper house


Felm-center, at upper house garden

We have also had some "project days". During these days we have done some practical projects in the centre. Because of the long history of the centre there is a lot of things laying around and many former missionaries have left a lot of things when they went back to Finland. To make use of all the space we have, we cleaned up a room in the basement and also the shelter. It is nice to sometimes do some work where you can see the result directly.

Cleaning in the bomb shelter
We introduced a game night on Wednesdays before the youth group is coming so I have been playing floorball, football and basketball with our work team and the youth.

Kirsi snapped a good photo of me while we were playing

Kirsi concentrating on the basketball!

Bella the centre dog would like to join the ball games

A big part of my work is getting to know the groups that gather at the centre. The first week I got to join the Korean parish that gathers at the centre and after that their worship became the one I have visited almost every week.

Chanmi and me <3
We have also some special events at the centre. During the time I have spent here we have had a baptism, art exhibition and interfaith youth choir performance.

Church ready for the baptism

Chapel ready for the baptism

Font for baptism

Machase art exhibition was a part of the work that Machase does together with Holocaust surviviors
Art exhibition



Interfaith Encounter Association youth choir 

The youth playing ping-pong before singing

We also accept a lot of individual visitors as a part of the work we do. I have met a lot of interesting people that do important work. As visitors we have had e.g. Maria, a volunteer from Eappi, Father David Neuhaus, friends from the Anglican church, Immanuel church and many other. Ecumenical cooperation is important in Jerusalem, because Jerusalem is the city of a thousand churches. Many churches have grudges with each other, which is really sad. Because of this we attended an ecumenical Bible reading in the Ecco Homo church by Via Dolorosa. There the book of Acts was read in many different languages. Sari read in Amharic, Karri read in Finnish, I read in Swedish and Seppo read in Japanese. We were also invited to Opus Dei, which was an interesting visit. They have a beautiful place that is pretty close to ours and we are still hoping that they will join us for game night.

Me reading the Acts in Swedish at Ecce Homo

Visit at Opus Dei
Another part of my volunteership is the getting to know the work that Felm is doing in the area. We have some cooperation with schools in the area and I have had the opportunity to visit some schools. Once I was invited by Sari-Johanna to Dar Al-Kalima in Betlehem and once by Maria to Sira school in Jericho, where Maria has been teaching about children's rights.  I have learned many things during my short visits in these schools. I believe it is important to visit schools from different education systems to learn as a teacher and at the same time it is important for teacher to have people visiting so that they can learn from them. I think the schools that I have visited are really good. Both of them were located in the West Bank.

School visit

School visit

Our cooperation school

Marko with the kids at the school visit

Kirsi singing and showing the moves to the song

Lesson in measurements 

The Sira school is empowering children with learning disabilities

School visit

Seppo and kid high fiving after a game

Kirsi watching the teaching moment 

Marko joining the game

We got to dance some traditional dances with these lovely youth

The hospitality is something else here

Our team with the principal of Sira school

Visiting a kindergarden in Tel Aviv
I hope you have a better picture of what I am doing here. I the next post I will introduce my coworkers so you get to know what all of us are doing here. 

onsdag 16 maj 2018

From Yom Yerushalaim to US embassy moving to Jerusalem and from Naqba to Ramadan


On Saturday night the big row of events started with Finland winning Canada in ice hockey. Just kidding! The big event of that night was Israel winning the Eurovision. This was a big deal for the Israelis. I watched the Eurovision with some Israelis and they were sure that Israel would not win because of the antisemitism in Europe. When Israel won they told me that Israel wins every twenty years and this time it happened again. Jerusalem is not the biggest party city but there was a party around Jaffa street after their victory. 



The next day it was impossible to say if they were partying for the victory or because of Jerusalem day. Jerusalem day commemorates the Six-Day War Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem including the Old City. Many Zionist see this day as an important victory and because of that many of them also gathered in Jerusalem on this day. I actually met more Zionists the night before than I have met on the whole time I have spent here. During the day I got really mixed feelings. It was difficult to grasp what was happening in Jerusalem when I walked through the Old Town from Damascus Gate to Jaffa Gate. In the beginning I did not see anything out of the ordinary. I heard that there is supposed to be a man handing out Qurans at Via Dolorosa so I wanted to meet him. Instead I met this shopkeeper that was a really intelligent man. He talk about the conflict from many different views and in the end he said that people just want peace. He was a Palestinian but he made sure to point out that he did not hate the Israeli. If everyone would have the wisdom and love that this man had there would already be peace in this region. He also recommended for me to visit the Austrian Hospice and the Western Wall tunnels, which I decided to do. 

The Damascus Gate during Yom Yerushalaim 


The Austrian Hospice is THE sanctuary in the Old City (probably the garden at Al Aqsa can be as well sometimes but I have decided not to visit the area without an invitation). When the Via Dolorosa makes the first turn you go right and ring the bell at the door. There you enter this beautiful area with an old building that has a built in garden terrace with a café. It is amazing to see that there are these big trees growing there. Why do we not plant trees on the top of skyscrapers? It was also possible to go up to the roof where there was a lovely view of the area. 

Garden at Austrian Hospice

Here you can sit and drink coffee-Austrian Hospice

Trees on the roof terrace

The rooftop view

The rooftop view

The rooftop view and a Jewish group celebrating Yom Yerushalaim


I continued from the Austrian Hospice to the Western Wall and at this point the Yom Yerushalaim celebrations were starting to show more. Before this there was, unusually so, some Jewish groups of young men that walked along Via Dolorosa singing, but when I arrived at the Western Wall it was like Shabbat celebrations, many were dancing and singing. At the same time it differed from Shabbat because they had Israeli flags and sang songs about Israel and Jerusalem. I decided to visit the womens prayer place at the Western Wall tunnels. When I arrived there I ended up getting lost in the tunnels to some celebration site and the workers that were preparing it did not give notice to me. After wandering a while I found the spot deepest in where the tunnel continued, but the guard told me not to go further into the tunnel, where the tours probably go. If you cannot make it to a tour I really recommend that you at least go to the prayer site.

On my way to the Western Wall (Muslim Quarter)

Western Wall area

Western Wall

Western Wall tunnels


When leaving the Western Wall I realised that I was walking the same way as most of the Jews that were celebrating Yom Yerushalaim. I stopped at the shop of this nice Arab man and drank some coffee. Usually Arabs are pretty talkative and happy for their guests, but this day it was different. The atmosphere was really sad and angry. The man tried to small talk to me but everytime a Jew walked by his face fell. He told me that these people are bad people and I could sense his and his friends sadness and disappointment over the Jerusalem Day. I walked a bit further and was invited to a juice bar (they are really common in the Old Town). They asked me to sit down for a moment and I joined them. I got some juice and a date for free and they were really kind. I was invited to visit them anytime that I am in the Old Town. Also with them I could feel the negative feelings that this day brought up.

A traditional local juice bar


Continuing out of the Old Town the Yom Yerushalaim party began for real. There were people dancing to the Eurovision song and other music outside the Jaffa gate. When arriving to the New Gate area it was already crazy. There was several hundred Israelis dancing with the flags, most of them young boys. They were standing on trucks and dancing in circles. 

Near Jaffa Gate

When I accidentally ended up in the middle of the Flag Dance



These signs are seen in many places in Jerusalem at the moment



Yom Yerushalaim

Yom Yerushalaim


Yom Yerushalaim

Yom Yerushalaim

Yom Yerushalaim


Yom Yerushalaim, Jaffa street

Yom Yerushalaim


Yom Yerushalaim


I decided to watch the celebrations from a distance but I still went eating at Hillel café by Jaffa street. From the sad feelings I had when I was in the Old Town with the Palestinians, my feelings had suddenly changed to joy and confusion. Is it possible not to feel joy for a party that was so joyful? Children with their moms were dancing by and youth were enjoying their day. At the same time I was conflicted by the political issues of the holiday...

Many times life here is a mess of different feelings when hearing the stories and opinions of different people. Still this was the first time I felt it this strong. The struggle within me did not even end there. The next day it was time for the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem. This was a day that was not noticeable in the areas I visited. During my day at work there might have been an extra helicopter flying in the sky. After work I went on an extempore trip to Kalia beach at the dead sea. In the evening I realised how much had actually happened during the day. Many killed and wounded in Gaza, the big ceremony for opening the US Embassy and other things all over the region. Living so close to all this is really hard. I might have needed the trip to the Dead Sea to relax but when I came back to Jerusalem I asked myself; How can I just take a trip to the Dead Sea when not far from me people are dying?

Kalia beach

Kalia beach


The day after it was Nakba Day, which is the day of remembrance of all those who had to relocate after the Israeli declaration of independence. The day went by calmly for me. Again it was not obvious in my workday that there was a remembrance day. In the evening it was possible to see it by the Damascus Gate, because it was closed by the Israeli soldiers. In Tel Aviv Nakba Day was filled with demonstrations against the violence in Gaza. Arabs and Jews having these demonstrations together. Over all I would say that this Nakba people were thinking about those who died in Gaza.

Soon the Ramadan begins and there will be a lot of people when all the Muslims that are capable go praying to Al Aqsa.