Margaret’s Volunteer Experience in Israel

Posted by: Margaret T.

American in Tel Aviv
I don’t drink Turkish coffee… I take tea my dear
I like my toast done on both sides
and you can hear it in my accent when I talk
I’m an American in Tel Aviv
Sang in the voice of Sting…of course!

Really?!?! What was I thinking…going to the Middle East all by myself as a solo traveler? Should I be scared, worried or doubtful of my choice? My mind circled with these thoughts weeks before leaving. As the days grew closer I was comforted by the consistent emails from the GoEco team guiding me step by step through the whole process. Okay…these people know what they are doing! I knew was in good hands, my doubts diminished and I felt confident that I had a great team by my side from the moment I clicked confirm I never felt alone in the process.

I am a pastry student at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. So I chose to volunteer at the Vegan Bakery Internship located in the heart of Tel Aviv. I needed to find an internship so I could learn more about my passion for vegan baking. There’s no better place than Tel Aviv!

The day I arrived, I was armed with all the information I needed to get from the airport to my hostel in Jerusalem. The hostel was filled with people of all ages from all corners of the world, many of them were speaking multiple languages. Wow, I’m really in Israel!

The next day was my introductory meeting with GoEco with other volunteers, my host Yan walked us through every step of the process, answering every question we had about the program. Our reward was an amazing tour of Jerusalem through the eyes of a local. We hit all the prime viewing spots at the optimal times to avoid the crowds. You will easily walk 8 miles by the end of the day, so be prepared to wear the most comfortable shoes you have.
Off to Tel Aviv!

My third day in Israel is when I finally made it to the Abraham Hostel in Tel Aviv, my home for the next 3 weeks. I stayed in an all female dorm with 5 other girls. Breakfast is free every morning, and located in a huge lounge area. This lounge area was so visually pleasing to look at everyday, I miss seeing it on a daily basis! Daily functions and tours are advertised throughout the hostel, so you will always have something to do and will never feel lonely. I haven’t stayed at a hostel before, but this hostel was so wonderful, I can’t wait to come back.

Volunteering at the bakery was from Sunday through Thursday, with Friday and Saturday off to observe Shabbat. I planned all my adventures on my off days with some expiring opportunities available to me after work in nearby towns so I was in heaven. Some of my weekend trips were to Petra/Wadi Rum, Masada/Dead Sea, Bethlehem/West Bank, and Caesarea. My schedule was filled daily, so I could take full advantage of my time here in Israel.

My work week at the bakery was very enjoyable because I didn’t have to wake at the break of dawn as I had expected. What a relief! Being able to wake up leisurely and eat breakfast was a highlight for me, especially after having horrible jet lag. Time seemed to fly by every day as I learned all about different recipes and why certain ingredients are used to substitute for eggs, milk, and butter.

The genius of Assaf, the main Chef at the Vegan Bakery, has recipes that are astounding! He is a creator. You can see his creative mind working through his expressive personality. His team Hili, and Dor, guided me daily with the production of the week. Learning new ways, using new ingredients, and methods that kept me wanting to learn more. Every day we ate a fresh homemade vegan lunch, served on a make shift table, as we sat around discussing various topics.

As my volunteer time came to a close, I felt so inspired and so confident that I couldn’t wait to go home and show off my newfound knowledge of vegan baking. You don’t have to be a pastry student, like me, or even have kitchen experience to volunteer here at the bakery. All you need is an adventurous spirit and good work ethic.

It was hard to leave Israel because I made so many friends and unforgettable memories, but I couldn’t wait to show my family and friends back home what a historically rich and culturally filled country Israel is! I am so very proud of myself for having the courage to experience one of the best adventures of my life.