by Robin B. Zeiger
It is a year after our Aliyah and I am still fascinated by some of the differences between life in Israel and life in America. Now that I am privileged to work part-time for the Jewish Agency, I recently participated in a Yom Gebush (literally Day of Integration) organized for many of the employees. My group included the employees of all the partnerships in Israel.
In America I have participated in many staff parties and workshops, including the obligatory Christmas/Chanukah parties. Some were fun. Some were just okay. And some were just plain boring. This is the very first time I have participated in such an unusual day for the staff. I am told that many agencies and places of employment in Israel organize a Yom Gebush yearly for their employees. In fact, my husband, a physician at Icholov Hospital in Tel Aviv accompanied his department on a Yom Gebush that including hiking and a meal at a dude ranch.
My Yom Gebush included two wonderful meals (one at a dude ranch) and a trip to an artist's colony. But perhaps most importantly we participated in activities aimed at working together. We traveled to a forest, where we were divided into small groups. Each group participated in five outdoor activities with an emphasis on team work. I was particularly impressed when we were asked to stand in a circle and hold a taut rope. A daring young woman used our shoulders to travel on top of the circle like a tight-rope walker.
The most impressive activity came last. We were treated to an outdoor musical "concert". A two-man group called SAMBA introduced to this unique genre of Brazilian music and dance that has African roots. It is considered to be one of the most popular of Brazilian cultural expressions.
As a psychologist, I am always looking at process and deeper meaning. What was most fascinating to me was the way in which the leader interacted with the audience. He taught us about Samba and how it works. But most importantly somehow he gradually involved everyone in the production. First he taught us all how to clap and capture the unique Sambian beat. He then introduced us gradually to a collection of unique instruments that included drums, tambourines, agogo, ganza, and cuica. With each new instrument, he welcomed a new group of unsuspecting participants onto the stage to play along. Throughout the production, he used a lot of humor and positive reinforcement. By the end of the exercise, 90% of the audience was "on-stage" and the rest of the folks were clapping along. I, too got swept up in the instruments, even though I didn't understand all the Hebrew. After all, music is a universal language.
Now for my interpretation of meaning. The Yom Gebush was clearly designed with the goal of promoting camaraderie and team-work amongst a large and diverse staff. Many of us work with partnerships. We work at building connections and bridges from the Disapora to Israel and back. Thus, it is crucial we understand the power of collaboration and team-work. This exercise demonstrated the power of a collection of people (and instruments). Each of the folks and each of the instruments were very different. Yet, with a modicum of work, we learned to "play" together and create a beautiful beat.
Israel is a small country that recognizes the power of the individual. Yet, perhaps most importantly, we are also a country that values team-work and partnership. We care for one another, fight with and for one another, and approach all of life with a passion. We recognize that we need each other to survive. It is no wonder Yom Gebush is an important part of our work ethic. Come "play" with us and we can create a beautiful beat.