Yahel in Haifa | Boston Onward Israel
This summer, Yahel was proud to be chosen to run a Haifa-based service learning program as part of the newly launched Onward Israel
initiative. Seventeen New England college students and recent graduates joined us for this six-week program. The participants lived and worked in the Hadar neighborhood in Haifa, one of the most fascinating areas in this mixed city. The program was a collaboration of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston
, the Jewish Agency for Israel
, Repair the World
and several local partners in Haifa.
Participants were immersed in Hadar, where they lived in rented apartments on Nordau Street. Service work included the creation of a beautiful art installation in a pedestrian walkway recently restored by a group of Hadar-based activists in collaboration with artist Diana Gilon
. In addition to this group project, participants volunteered in summer camps, youth centers that work primarily with at-risk youth, an elderly day center and a center dedicated to working with teenage girls. These varied placements allowed participants to interact with a diversity of populations in Haifa – immigrants from Russian-speaking countries, the Arab-Israeli population, the Ethiopian-Israeli community and more.
Participants on the Onward Israel program had a unique opportunity to delve into the real complexities of Israeli society. In addition to the experience of volunteering and learning in Haifa, the group also participated in a seminar in the Negev where they visited Bedouin villages, toured Ben-Gurion’s house and grave in Sde Boker, went on a moonlit hike and much more. The group also participated in a three-day seminar focusing on Jewish Peoplehood with the Jewish Agency and took day trips to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and within Haifa.
It is hard to capture the richness of this experience, and best to hear it straight from the participants’ mouths. Be sure to read this ‘not to miss’ reflection piece
from Boston Onward Israel participant Donna Vatnick!
"Overall, I came home understanding the skeleton of the issues in Israel. Except now I have a million more questions. I developed a strong connection with the State in 2009...and became infatuated by it. But now, it's safe to say that the lust has evaporated and love has taken its place."
- Donna Vatnick
Circles of Connection | Camp Tawonga
This summer, we once again welcomed to Israel a group of 11th and 12th graders from Camp Tawonga
, a Jewish camp based in Yosemite, California. The group was based in Yavneh where they collaborated with ‘Garin Gai’, the Friends by Nature youth group, and the local municipality. The core of the four-week service learning program was a wonderful project at a local cultural center for the Ethiopian-Israeli community. Together with local teens and adults, the group constructed raised agricultural beds that allow elderly Ethiopians to cultivate vegetables and herbs. The group stayed at the nearby Kanot youth village and also had the unique experience of spending a traditional Ethiopian Shabbat with host families.
The growing connection between Yahel, Friends by Nature and Camp Tawonga is a wonderful example of the many opportunities that can blossom from such connections. As our partnerships with grassroots organizations, schools and camps continue from year to year, the connections deepen. This summer, in addition to the service learning program we ran in Israel, four Ethiopian-Israeli teens from Gedera and Yavneh traveled to the US to attend Camp Tawonga as part of their Noar program. To add to this circle, we are thrilled to have a Tawonga staff member join our long-term Yahel Social Change Program. He will work with some of the same teens who came to the US. More pictures of the Tawonga service learning program can be found here
. We look forward to seeing what other new programs and partnerships will develop as Yahel continues to foster connections across age groups, oceans and cultures.