By Blake Yospa, Masa Israel Teaching Fellows, Rishion LeZion alumnus
In winter 2014, I finally got the chance to visit Israel after being selected for a Birthright trip. I extended my stay in Israel with my friend who was on Masa Israel Teaching Fellows in Netanya.
While in Netanya, I joined my friend while she taught at her local school. I fell in love with the program, the kids, the opportunity to volunteer, teach and live in Israel. The minute I got home after my Birthright adventure, I signed up for the MITF and by summer 2014, I was on my way to Rishon LeZion, Israel.
I was placed in a low socioeconomic school (Vitkin School) located in a suburb of Rishon called Ramat Eliyahu. Initially, I was placed in a school with one teaching partner. But that all changed three weeks into the program, as two of the teaching fellows needed new schools to call home. Fortunately for us, our school had a great relationship with our program directors and we were selected to receive one of the free agent Teaching Fellows: Rachel.
Rachel and I pose with their students at the Vitkin School
Before joining our school, Rachel and I hadn’t conversed much since the start of the program. Throughout the school year, we worked well together. I was like the Robin to her Batman. Rachel is a teacher by trade. She spent time as an early childhood educator, teaching in Ohio before coming to Israel. I, having no background in teaching, let her take the reigns on all of the projects, lesson planning, and curriculum. We had a blast together, dressing up as Thing 1 and Thing 2 for Purim. We put on a spectacular English Day for our students. By the end of the year our working relationship had become so strong.
However, our solid relationship inside the classroom never translated into a social relationship outside of school. I made numerous attempts to take her to lunch, join her at the beach, take her to the library, etc. I even went out of my way to get her and her housemates, a kum kum (electric kettle) for Hanukkah!
She either didn’t want to pick up on- or she was blind to all the desperate signals I tried to send her way.
She was so lovable, quirky, and offbeat; gorgeous and gentle. I just couldn’t get her out of my head. With two weeks left before we headed home to our respective states, Rachel approached me and told me she accepted a job teaching fourth grade in DC. I then felt compelled to tell her exactly how I felt about her. Knowing I wouldn’t put our work/school life in jeopardy, because school was over at the time, I had to devise a way to get her alone and reveal how I felt about her.
Rachel and I (Thing 1 and Thing 2) celebrate Purim with their students at Vitkin School
I came up with a master plan: I still needed to buy gifts for my family and she had a great sense of style. I asked her if she’d mind accompanying me to pick out a gift for my sister because they had similar tastes. Rachel agreed to join me and I was so excited at the thought of finally getting some face time with Rachel outside of the work place.
After shopping for about half-an-hour, I psyched myself up and told myself, “now is the time to tell her how I feel.” I then asked her “Is there anything you wish you could have done here in Israel that you haven’t done yet?”
She replied, “No, I don’t think so.” She then asked me to answer my own question.
After a couple minutes of silence, I finally said, “I’ve done everything I wanted to do but I haven’t said everything I wanted to say.”
Rachel looked at me, “Blake, what is it? You’re scaring me.”
I said, “Rachel, I like you. I’ve always liked you.”
She called me a liar as we walked about four blocks, but she had the biggest smile on her face. I knew she felt something for me, too. We continued to shop for a bit and then went our separate ways.
She was the last person I saw before I left Israel and it was a grueling 24 days before I was able to see her again.
Me and Rachel in Annapolis, Maryland
She now lives in a cozy townhouse by Union Station in DC with her bestie Brent. I visit her quite frequently (like every weekend). I think it was fate that firstly brought her into my school and that secondly brought her to DC for work.
She means more to me than anyone else in this world. I’m so thankful for Masa Israel Teaching Fellows for many things, but I’m most thankful that it allowed me to meet Rachel.
Blake and Rachel are still together and living in the DC area. Rachel Teaches fourth grade at a KIPP DC public charter school. Blake is a Business Operations Associate at AEROTEK INC.