The situation in Israel is tense these days. Widespread demonstrations against the government’s judicial reform proposal combined with an escalation in the security situation has everyone in Israel on edge—so much so that it’s easy to lose sight of all that is beautiful in the State of Israel and all the things we can think of with pride.
Last week I had the privilege to be reminded of that beauty while I guided a group of five lay leaders (volunteer leaders) from the Federation’s Israel and Overseas Funding Committee on “Israel site visits.” These five lay leaders left their jobs, families and comfortable beds behind to come to Israel and witness first-hand the impact our Federation is making in the Jewish homeland. Throughout our week, we met with thirty different organizations currently funded or under consideration for funding by our Federation. During each site visit, our Federation’s lay leaders diligently assessed each organization to determine whether it met our Federation’s goal of helping to strengthen Israeli society, with an emphasis on making an impact in our Partnership2Gether region of Karmiel and Misgav. These volunteers’ commitment to making sure that our Federation dollars are being used in the most impactful and meaningful way was evident every day as they listened, took notes and asked questions to better understand the different organizations’ impact and the many different complex societal issues they were addressing.
The list of organizations with whom we met is too long for one email, so I’ll provide a sample of some that stood out:
- In Karmiel, we met with Nirim in the Neighborhoods and learned about how wilderness therapy can change the trajectory of the lives of youth needing extra support and get them back on a path where they can become contributing members to Israeli society.
- We met a farmer who, over the years, has lost over $1 million as a result of agricultural theft and learned how the organization Ha’Shomer Ha’Chadash is leveraging its thousands of agricultural volunteers to help farmers to secure against theft, all the while educating youth about the importance of our connection to the land.
- We met with students of Ethiopian origin who participate in the Ethiopian National Project’s SPACE program–a program which gives them the tools they need to succeed in school and in life.
- We met with Arik, a United Hatzalah volunteer medic, who warmly invited us into his home and told us story after story about how his volunteer work as a medic driving his Federation-funded “ambucycle” saves lives.
- We met with recent high school graduates from the Former Soviet Union who had the courage to make aliyah (immigration to Israel) on their own, and we learned about how the Jewish Agency’s Selah program is preparing them for a successful integration into Israeli society.
- We visited Ayalim’s student village in Karmiel and learned about how Ayalim is strengthening Israel’s social and geographic periphery by building student villages around the country, including in Karmiel, and by bringing student life and a volunteering spirit to the community.
- We visited Israel Elwyn’s Early Intervention Center for children with special needs and witnessed how they provide developmental intervention with love and care to babies and toddlers with developmental delays.
- We met with Arab and Jewish elementary school students studying together in Hebrew and Arabic at the Misgav Hand in Hand School, where shared society is an integral part of every school day.
- We met with the director of JDC’s Hanoch program which helps Haredi men to integrate into the workforce so that they can achieve their full potential by increasing their career prospects.
Our five days of site visits were exhausting and inspiring all at once, but I think I can speak on behalf of the entire group when I say that each one of us was impressed by the strength, resilience and innovativeness of Israel’s civil society. With your Federation support, these organizations will continue to strengthen Israeli society and ensure that Israel will continue to be a light unto the nations. What an immense privilege it is for all of us to be playing a role in making this possible!