Wednesday, June 24, 2009
It has been a week since our wonderful visitors from Arad spent time with us here in Atlantic/Cape May County, NJ.
For me personally, this was one of the best experiences of my professional career, on several levels: This trip confirmed the best that P2K offers—an exchange among equals, with each party having something profound to offer the other. In this case, the people, and the music—simply exceptional. It was fun, meaningful, inspiring, and motivating.
From our community’s perspective, Arad (and always, Tamar) is now a destination—real, worthy of a visit, with new friends who reside there. The attendance at the concert was standing-room-only, and all in attendance connected with Israel, felt good about Israel, and felt good about Federation and its leadership role in the community. With the difficult headlines and tough economy we all face these days, their visit was a break in the action, a chance to breathe and feel joyous.
Danny Neuman and Marina Glaser did an outstanding job, as did each and every individual in the group. Sivia, too. We thank them with all our hearts.
I know it was not easy, Shimon, to pull this off and get the support you needed both in Israel and here. But I wish to tell you it was worth every effort, and every effort is deeply appreciated. Please extend our deepest thanks to all involved on the Israel side.
We are in a difficult business, all of us. This experience reminded me of the potential in the Israel-Diaspora relationship, and this visit made me proud to be a part of it.
Here’s to all of our dear Arad/Tamar friends--old, new, and future.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
It is so surreal for me to be writing this at the end of my Otzma experience but I feel that a proper reflection is necessary in order to sum up all of my experiences. My time on Otzma has been incredible. I have enjoyed everything from my time in the Mercaz Klita (absorption center) in Nazareth Illit to my exceptional second home of Arad to the exciting internships in Jerusalem. Each experience has been unique and life changing. . I have been privileged to have many unique opportunities. Not only have I lived in Israel for ten months but I have lived in the periphery of the country for seven of those ten months. I was able to be integrated into Israeli culture and society.
Arad was the first place that Israel came alive for me. My arrival in Arad with my fellow Otzma participant, Ilene, was a surprise. Our plan to go to Arad twice a week and live in Ofakim changed when the war in Gaza or "Oferet Yitzuka", gave Ilene and I our wish of living and volunteering in Arad full time. We were so grateful for that opportunity. It was even more of a surprise to us that the Arad/Tamar/New Jersey Delaware Partnership was kind enough to invite the six Otzma participants who were supposed to be in Kiryat Malachi to come to Arad until the war was over and it was safe for them to return to their partnership city. It was a great feeling that I was part of a city and partnership that went out of its way to help others, during a scary and stressful time in Israel. I know my friends were very grateful that they had a place to be and I really attribute all this great work to Ofra and the rest of the office staff of the Arad/Tamar/New Jersey Delaware Partnership, who are just outstanding people.
As we began to settle in with the help of Ofra Nathan Bezalel, the P2K Living Bridge Coordinator in Arad, we began to learn about the amazing opportunities that awaited us. I was now living in a place that felt like home. I had my adoptive family living in the same city and accepting me as part of their family; I had friends my own age to hang out with, and I had a fulfilling and meaningful volunteer experience. I could not have asked for a better place to be. I volunteered at a day care, an elementary school teaching English to the kindergarten and 1st grade, Youth Futures (Potchim Atid), and helping out with things in the partnership offices. I think my greatest accomplishment in Arad I only noticed as I was leaving. After three months of hard work the kindergarteners I was working with were able to write their names in English. I was so proud of them and it was eye opening for me to see what an impact I had made on these students.
I think one of the nicest things about being in Arad was that I felt like I was included as part of the community and not just a stranger looking in. Ofra introduced Ilene and I to Ben and Haim, two guys from Arad, who in a short time became our great friends. Because of them we were able to travel and explore the area with people who have a car and know the interesting places to see in the area. . I made connections with people in Arad that will last a life time. I now know that if I ever want to come back to this wonderful country or make “Aliya” I have a city that I can call home. Even now as I am living in Jerusalem for the final part of Otzma I keep in touch with people from Arad and look forward to the weekends when I have the opportunity to go back and hang out with my friends. There are really is no words strong enough to express my thanks and appreciation to the P2K partnership,and the Arad staff, in particular, Ofra and all the other amazing people in Arad for all that they have done for me.
This last part of Otzma is an internship and I chose to intern in Jerusalem at the Chalav u’Dvash, Ivrit l’Ivrit program for young children at the Jewish Agency and at the Gan (kindergarten) of Beit Shmuel and Hebrew Union College. It has been a fun experience for me to live and work in Jerusalem especially since I have always wanted this experience. I am so grateful for this experience and especially for the people I have met through my volunteering and internships and the great connections that I have made.
Overall, Otzma has been an unbelievable experience that I am so incredibly grateful for having. I know how much has gone in to making sure that Otzma 23 is a success and I really appreciate everyone’s hard work and effort. I look forward to seeing this great program continuing in the future so that other young adults can have the same amazing life changing experience as I had.
Monday, June 8, 2009
I'd would love to hear your comments, thoughts and suggestions to make the Partnership more meaningful to you.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Last year, in honor of Israel's 60th celebration of independence, the Jewish Agency Partnership 2000 program joined the Geographical Tours "Desert Queen" annual Jeep Expedition to establish a new joint-venture - the 60X60 Desert Queen expedition created to bring together P2K volunteers and staff from Israel and abroad. The project was a huge success and as a result the Geographic Society and Jewish Agency decided to continue the undertaking and make this an annual event. I was lucky enough to be one of the participants in last year's expedition and found the experience to be both challenging and inspiring. The expedition is planned, guided and executed in full by women. The bonding of women from Israeli partnerships with the American women who joined the expedition was phenomenal and awe-inspiring. We came out of this experience stronger and prouder of being women and stronger and prouder than ever before of being Jewish, Israeli and part of the P2K relationship.
I am writing to you because I feel a strong personal connection to this program and want to make you aware of the power the desert Queen can have on building and strengthening bonds between the women and ultimately the partnerships on both sides of the ocean. I urge you to go into the Jewish Agency site at the link below and see the photos, comments and testimonials.
Also, in the English version of the Geographic Society Desert Queen site (link below) you will find letters written by last year's participants from Miami and Israel. I believe that when you look at these sites, read the comments and letters, you will understand why I feel it is so important to promote this project. Please discuss this with your committees - I am sure that every Federation and every partnership in Israel can find two or three women who will find this attractive.www.jewishagency.org/desertqueenhttp://www.malka-net.co.il/ePage.asp?PiD=0.10.385&id=387
Please feel free to contact me at any time for more information. I look forward to hearing from you.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Dear Arad/Tamar Partnership 2000 Federations,
As our time here in Arad is quickly coming to an end and we move on to the next part of Otzma we would like to sincerely thank you for making this opportunity possible for us. For the last three months we have been living and volunteering in Arad. We have volunteered in many different locations that the partnership helps fund. Some of the locations include Na’amat which is a city day care with a lot of children from the welfare department, Tzelti, the Ethiopian youth center, Beit Gilad the senior day center, Youth Futures, the public high school and Ye’elim-Ofrarim, one of the public elementary schools. We are enjoying our volunteering and the community so much and it is going to be incredibly hard for us to leave. We would like take this opportunity to share with you some of our personal experiences from being in Arad.
Aliza has been volunteering with the young children of Arad in both Na’amat and Ye’elim-Ofarim and has enjoyed very much being able to work with the children especially teaching the Kindergarteners at Ye’elim-Ofarim English. It gave Aliza great joy to see the Kindergarteners at Ye’elim-Ofarim learn English songs, letters and colors. The big project Aliza did with the Kindergarteners was teaching them how to write their names in English and that was a very big accomplishment for both her and the students. She feels very proud being able to leave Arad knowing that she really made a difference in the lives of these children. At Na’amat it has been wonderful for her to be able to help with these children who so desperately need the attention and love of another adult. She will truly miss both of these places and all the people she has met as a result of her volunteering.
During Ilene’s time in Arad she has volunteered across generation lines, spending time with teens at Tzelti, the Ethiopian Youth center while volunteering at Beit Gilad, Arad’s senior day center. Volunteering at Tzelti has been a meaningful experience for Ilene, learning more about the Ethiopian culture and partaking in an organization that invests in Arad’s youth for a better future. Ilene has especially enjoyed the bonds she has created with the teens through English activities, conversations, and partaking in the Tzelti band project. Beit Gilad is another volunteering experience that has really made Ilene’s time in Arad significant. There she has conducted English classes for eager seniors wanting to learn English, in order to talk to their grandchildren in the United States or to English speaking tourists in Arad. A highlight for Ilene was when everyone in the class was able to have a small conversation in English. In addition Ilene has taught Hannah, a resident, how to use the internet so she can contact her family around the world. Ilene’s life has truly been enriched by the people and experiences she has had volunteering in Arad, and she will greatly miss her home away from home.
We would also like to share with you the support and help that we have received from the Arad side of the partnership. They have helped us to make Arad more than just another part of the Otzma program but an extension of our home community. We each received adoptive families which have taken us in and helped us to make the adjustment easier. Ofra Nathan Bezalel, the living bridge coordinator, has become like a second mother to us helping us in times of need and giving us guidance throughout our Otzma experience. Our time in Arad is one that we will remember for our entire lives and we are very grateful to you for giving us the chance to have this life altering experience. We hope that others are able to have this same opportunity in the future.
Aliza Gases- Middlesex County/Monmouth County
Ilene Bloom- Delaware
Friday, March 13, 2009
Whether this is your first visit to Israel or have visited many times before, our experience has shown that participation in Kefiada will surely be a wonderful and memorable summer.
Kefiada provides American Jewish young adults the opportunity to have a real impact on Israeli society through their daily interaction with the campers and their families while exploring the beauty, complexity and vitality of their Partnership 2000 region and Israel.
Participation in Kefiada is based upon acceptance by the applicant’s local United Jewish Federation and final acceptance by the Jewish Agency for Israel.
What is Kefiada?
Kefiada is an English speaking day camp in Israel in your Partnership 2000 region. The campers are from the local Israeli region and you are the counselors from the partnered community abroad.
Kefiada assists Israeli children to master Basic English language skills in a camp setting while enjoying creative and fun camp activities. Very similar to the kinds of camp experiences in which you participated in the USA, but this time the campers’ mother tongue is Hebrew.
English and the skills you can help teach will be essential to these children as they begin to compete and interact in today’s world. In addition, Kefiada is one of the best People-to-People programs, strengthening the “living bridge” between you and Israel.
What is Partnership 2000?
The Jewish Agency’s Israel Department together with the United Jewish Communities and Keren Hayesod launched Partnership 2000 in 1995. This innovative program links Jews in Israel and the Diaspora in an effort to promote Jewish continuity and develop Israel’s priority areas – the Negev, Galilee and Central Israel.
Partnership 2000 offers Diaspora communities an opportunity for direct involvement in developing Israel’s peripheries. The Negev and Galilee hold more than two-thirds of Israel’s land reserves, yet only house 17% of the population.
To date, 43 regions have been matched with over 550 Diaspora communities. Nearly every region combines urban centers with neighboring rural areas. The principle categories for intervention are immigrant absorption, population growth, job creation and human needs. People-to-People involvement is the heart of Partnership 2000.
How many American volunteers will be sent to the region in Israel this summer?
Depending upon the budget, 4-20 American volunteers are sent to each region in Israel.
How old are the Israeli campers?
The campers are usually in grades 4-7.
Am I the only counselor in the group?
In most camps, an Israeli co-counselor (Madatzim) who has been trained to work with Kefiada will work along side of you. Madatzim are usually 18 years old, graduates of high school and awaiting entry into the Israeli army.
Am I in charge of the camp?
No. Kefiada volunteers are group counselors who are responsible for the well being and activities of a group of approximately 15 Israeli campers. Every Kefiada is sponsored by the local Community Center or Regional Council in Israel as well as Partnership 2000. The camp itself is directed by the local Kefiada Camp Director who is assisted by both the Jewish Agency’s Partnership 2000 local staff as well as the local Community Center and/or Regional Council staff.
In addition, many of the communities have a local Gesher L’Kesher (Living Bridge) coordinator who is responsible for the well-being and extra-curricular activities of the American volunteers in the region.
What does a typical day at Kefiada look like?
(this will vary from region to region)
7:30 a.m. Arrival to Camp
8:00 a.m. Camp Day Begins
Camp schedules are based on theme days such as food day, water day, American day, animal day, etc. During the day the activities that you develop are related to the theme including vocabulary words, songs, games, snacks, art and crafts projects, trips, drama, story telling, etc.
1:00 p.m. Camp Day Ends
Lunch followed by a summary meeting which often includes reviewing the next day’s theme and activities.
4:00 p.m. Free Evening.
During some afternoons and evenings during the summer, the P2K Living Bridge coordinator will plan trips, hikes and site seeing, visits with local Government officials, and interesting experiences. Participation in these activities is required of all Kefiada volunteers.
Where do I live during Kefiada?
Volunteers will live with either an Israeli host family in their local region where in most cases there will be at least one member of the family who speaks English, or, in some regions apartments are rented for the Kefiada volunteers in the region (either in the city, on a kibbutz or in an absorption center.) In this case, Kefiada volunteers will also have an adopted Israeli family in the local region.
These kinds of housing opportunities afford volunteers the unique experiences of living in Israel in an authentic environment, getting to know the people and contributing first hand to strengthening the ties that bind Israel and North America.
What kind of qualifications do I need?
First, Kefiada volunteers are Jewish young adults between the ages of 19-25 who have completed at least one year of college and who come from or study in one of the Partnership 2000 communities hosting Kefiada this summer in Israel (but not exclusively.)
It is helpful if Kefiada volunteers are qualified, trained counselors who have experience working with children in camp settings and/or youth movements. In addition, have exhibited leadership skills, creativity and flexibility.
What training is provided?
All Kefiada volunteers participate in training seminars, sometimes both in North America and Israel. This is MANDATORY for all Kefiada volunteers.
There will be a mandatory seminar from a Thursday –Saturday night (after Shabbat) in Jerusalem for all Partnership 2000 Kefiada volunteers.
How do I apply?
The first step in applying is to thoroughly read and familiarize yourself with the information in the registration pack.
· Contact your local federation representative (either home federation or school federation) for specific information about your Partnership 2000 Kefiada.
· If you’re not sure how to connect to your local federation, or want further information please contact the director at your Partnership 2000 office in Israel:
Email: email@example.com .il
Third, the following forms must be submitted:
· Registration form fully completed (three copies)
· Photographs (2 with name written on the back and stapled to registration form)
· Photocopy of the passport personal details page
· Medical Form (mandatory!)
· Additional letters from doctors/specialists if required
· 2 recommendation letters filled in by non-family members
All correspondence regarding registration should be directed to your Jewish Federation Kefiada coordinator or Racheli Ben-Lulu at JAFI.
· All forms must be filled in accurately with the maximum of information provided. If you do not have all the information, please note what is missing and send it as the information is received.
· Please note that completion of the registration and medical forms does not necessarily mean acceptance to Kefiada.
· Applicants are obliged to attend all interviews and orientation meetings both in the USA and Israel.
· Orientation dates will be given to you at a later date by your federation.
· The JAFI Israel Department in Israel has the right to send you home at any stage during the program if your behavior is deemed unacceptable.
We reserve the right without prior notice to decline any application or cancel any booking.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Last week, Ofra, Workit, Ilene and I all met with a group of people visiting Arad on an Energy Experts Seminar through the American Jewish Committee. We met the group at the Inbar hotel and spoke to them about the partnership, Arad and ourselves during dinner. Ofra started the evening by giving an overview of the partnership and all that the partnership does. She also explained who Workit, Ilene and I are and how we are connected to the partnership. When Ofra was finished Workit spoke about herself and the work she does in the Ethiopian community of Arad through the Ethiopian youth center, Tzelty. The group was very interested in her aliah story and about the different culture that she comes from. Ilene and I spoke about Otzma and the role that we play with the partnership as part of our program. We also spoke about the different places that we are volunteering and the way that we are making connections in Arad. Once we all spoke we opened it up for questions from the group. The group had many questions and it was very satisfying to be able to be the ones to answer their questions. When we left the group after dinner it was a feeling of success in that we were really able to inform this group about the partnership and the different types of activities that it is a part of in order to bridge the gap between American Jews and Israelis.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Since the cease-fire, many participants in my program, including myself, have moved back to their partnership cities. This week I will be participating in a seminar focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We will be spending time in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and most importantly Sderot. In Sderot we will be spending time speaking with citizens about their experiences and looking at the aftermath in Gaza and Sderot.
In addition to spending time learning more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I have been spending a lot of time volunteering in Arad. As soon as I arrived in Arad I felt at home. I have been volunteering three mornings per week at the high school helping to prepare the students for the English Begrut (the exams that Israeli high school students have to pass in order to graduate). The teachers there are so welcoming. The 12th grade English teacher, Bela, even gives me a goody bag each week. In addition to the friendly staff, I have really enjoyed helping the students gain confidence speaking English while getting to know about their lives in Arad. Another volunteering placement that I have really enjoyed is Biet Giladi, Arad’s senior day center. There, the elderly come together for two meals a day and an abundance of activities such as exercise class, singing, gardening, and bingo. I have been teaching conversational English and computer skills to a group of eager members and enjoying card games over coffee and tea. The most rewarding part of volunteering at Biet Giladi is the warm people with whom I get to share a little bit of their day while practicing my Hebrew and hearing the many stories that compose their lives. It is a really amazing to be a part of an organization that provides friendship and a community for many senior citizens of Arad, who, without this program, would be spending most days alone.
While I have spent most of my time in Arad volunteering with amazing organizations, one of my highlights thus far was when my alma mata, the University of Delaware, made a trip to Arad during UD’s annual Hillel taglit-birthright trip. We spent the morning catching up while beautifying the outside of the new young adult center/partnership offices for the upcoming dedication ceremony. We sanded the fence, trimmed the bushes, cleared the weeds, and planted a small flower garden. We all enjoyed helping out our sister city while Ofra Nathan Bezalel, the Living bridge Coordinator, talked about the connection between Delaware and Arad. She discussed potential opportunities for students to participate in Living bridge programs between Arad and Delaware. If you are interested in learning about these opportunities, you can check out http://www.shalomdelaware.org/section.aspx?id=59, or for more information on OTZMA go to www.otzma.org. Overall, it was a great experience for me to show Arad to some friends from home and share how meaningful my time volunteering with OTZMA has been.
As the month of January comes to an end and I look back on my experiences thus far, I know that OTZMA has already given an experience that I will be forever grateful for. As the program continues, I look forward to strengthening my relationships within Arad because I know that as much as I can give to Arad, I am receiving so much more in return.