2018 mission - travel log by Shany Azoulay

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Shany giantchairMy name is Shany Azoulay and this summer I am travelling around Eastern Europe for the Dutch Jewish Humanitarian Fund (JHF). On my trip I will visit projects for the JHF and will be meeting people who can tell me about the Jewish communities in their cities. I will travel to: Belgrade, Riga, Tartu, Budapest, Krakow, Prague, Kiev and Odessa.


Read my travel log below, or view my video log.


Serbia, Belgrade


First day - June 13

In the early morning (7 am) I am driving together with my mom to the airport of Amsterdam. After a stressful night of packing and planning, I am really excited to get on the flight to Belgrade. It will be the first time I will visit the east of Europe and I can’t wait to see all the differences with the West of Europe. After some struggling with my check in and getting through the whole security circus, I am ready to hop on a plane. Belgrade here I come!


When I arrive in Belgrade the founder of Haver Serbia named Sonja Viliėlé picks me up from the airport with her sweet little puppy Noah, who greets me with a lot of kisses. Sonja drives me to the city centre of Belgrade, where we go for a lunch together with her colleague Mila.


While we are having lunch a thunderstorm is starting so they can’t show me the city. Instead of that, they take me to their office. The office is in the city centre, so it is ideal for throwing events for the Jewish community in Belgrade.


classLuckily the thunderstorm stops around 6 o’clock, because we have to go to the Midrasha (event) that Haver Servia is organizing in the synagogue for all the Jewish people in town and people that are interested in Judaism. It’s a special Midrasha, because they only throw it once in half a year in the synagogue. To get to the praying place of the synagogue you have to get down the stairs. Approximately thirty people are sitting in front of a rabbi in the Synagogue of Belgrade who explains about when products are Kosher. A lot of the people don’t know much about it and are listening attentively. They ask questions and want to know where they can buy kosher products.


After the gathering, everyone moves to the attic of the synagogue, where they can chill and laugh with each other. I talk a lot with the people about the Jewish community in Belgrade. They tell me that the community is small, but close. They all know eachother well (Everyone knows everyone). A lot of them were first chanichim (children) in the community where they would go to weekly gatherings for their own age groups and they learned about Judaism. While they grew older, they turned into madrichim (mentors) and counselors for the activities.


You can see from the way how they act with each other and hear about how they talk to each other that they know each other really well. They know exactly what is going on in each other’s life. Later that night Sonja tells me how proud she is about that. She knows for sure she can count on every single one of them.


Second Day – June 14

The day I can finally see the city. While I walk around I hope that it’s not going to thunderstorm again. I first walk to a big building that has to be a school for Jewish children. It’s a big, but not really striking building. I continue my walk through the city centre all the way to the park, where there is an amazing view over the skyline of Belgrade.

At 2 pm I meet with Sonja and Lara, a woman from the Jewish community in Berlin, for lunch. We talk a lot about the differences between the communities in Belgrade, Berlin and Amsterdam. Where the community in Belgrade is small and close, the community in Berlin is big and the people are struggling with each other. Lara tells for example, that 60 percent of the community in Berlin is Russian and they are trying to change the community. The rest of the community is having a hard time with that.


After lunch, I am meeting with Dushan who I met at the Midrasha the evening before. He tells me about his a drone with a camera and suggests to film some nice footage together for the vlog post. I always wanted to try to film and fly with a drone, so of course I say yes. Dushan shows me how it works and I can fly over the whole city. It Is really nice and cool to see the city from that perspective.


Unfortunately, we can’t fly for a long time, because it starts to thunderstorm again. We are running through the rain back to the office, where we can see what the footage looks like and pick the nicest movies in my vlog about Belgrade. Are you curious what it looks like? Have a look!


challahWhile Dushan and I are watching all the footages that we have shot, a lot of people are walking into the office of Haver Servia, because it is time for the second Midrasha that week. We are going to make galle (special bread that you normally bake for Shabbat). It is a lot of fun to make them and see the whole process about how to bake them. They even make some special ones with apple and raisins inside. Of course, they taste amazing. It couldn’t go wrong with so many jews together.


After the Midrasha a couple of people want to show me what Belgrade looks like by night. After a small city tour we end up in a street that is full of lanterns and terraces that are filled with people. Around them there are a lot of mariachi bands playing music. We sit down at one of the nice terraces of a bar and they let me try the local drink Rakia, what tastes really sweet, but strong. Every time they drink a zip, they cheer with each other and wish each other a long life. And because of that there is one Serbian word that I will never forget and that I will end this post with: ziveli!




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