by Omer Mor, the Tevel Fellowship Program
I was there. I was in Nepal on April 25th, and my life changed forever.
As a Tevel b’Tzedek fellow, I have lived in a small Nepali village named Bhwansa, working with a mixed group of Nepali, Israeli and American volunteers for the last 8 months. On Saturday, April 25th, the earthquake hit Nepal, and I stood witness to the devastation that changed the lives of so many. The moments after the quake were filled with shock, fear and doubt for my loved ones. Those moments have left a permanent mark on my soul, and I know my peers feel the same way.
Following the initial earthquake, many of our Nepali counterparts traveled back to their homes, to make sure their families were okay. Some returned to houses which were “only” cracked, but many found that their houses were completely destroyed. Life for them could not continue on as normal.
The earthquake also altered the land, so many Nepalis were overwhelmed by fear of another quake. Even I was on edge all the time, worried that the earth beneath my feet would again betray me, betray us. This fear that was realized just two weeks after the first quake, when a second quake hit Nepal.
In the days after the earthquakes struck, I was not able to associate them with myself. The disasters belonged only to my Nepalese friends. It was their tragedy. My first thoughts had always been to worry for my friends in Kathmandu and for their families, but when we came back to the neighborhood in Kathmandu that had been our home, the tragedy began to resonate with me as well.
And so, I stayed in Nepal to continue my community work.
Now I work with a different community, a different team, and in a different village. The context of what I do changed as well. I left behind everything I had been building over the past eight months, the community that I was working with, the thematic field I was working in, the connections that I had made, and the house that I was living in. In a way, I feel like my home is gone. I left it behind to go from village to village helping where and with whatever I can.
Right now we are all in a state of limbo, picking up the pieces of what was, while at the same time sorting things out for the future and preparing for the hard work ahead. I am doing whatever I can to make the lives of those around me, and in the communities that we work in, easier, and more livable. I want to do some good here before I go. The fact that I am here, and that I have the opportunity to do this, makes me very very happy.
As we began to adapt to our new lives after the earthquake, I reflect on the lesson I have learned– that life does this, it changes, sometimes in the blink of an eye. But life also goes on. Nepal will survive this. It will return to a new ‘normalcy’, a new routine. And so will I.