Tuesday, September 1, 2015

This is what it looks like when 200 immigrants land in Israel to start over

Photo: Mimi Banks
A message to new olim arriving 
at Ben Gurion Airport: "You made it!" 
By Leslie Katz

Happy September! For many, the High Holy Days are a time for forging new beginnings. All this month, to mark the start of the new year, we'll feature stories of #JNF #NewBeginnings here on the Jewish National Fund blog, and on JNF's Facebook and Instagram pages.

You'll read about Rahma, a severely disabled little girl abandoned by her parents at birth and living at Aleh Negev. A couple who regularly visited her at the facility for special-needs residents just adopted her and brought her to her new home. 

You'll learn more about life in Halutza, a Negev desert community populated by Jewish settlers evacuated from Gaza during Israel's 2005 disengagement. Where there was once only sand, these pioneers have built a thriving world of houses, schools, solar fields and farms -- in the span of just 10 years

And what could possibly represent a new beginning more than packing up and moving to a new country? In the photo gallery below, you'll see what it looks like when a planeload of North American immigrants disembark at Ben Gurion Airport and experience their first few moments as Israeli citizens. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

A second trip and a new view: Seeing Israel through a JNF lens

Photo: Robert Kerzner
The author rings a chime in Aleh Negev's sensory garden, created to stimulate the senses of the facility's disabled residents.

By Lauren Katz

I was a sophomore in college when I visited Israel for the first time on a Birthright trip. As I’m sure most Birthright alumni will tell you, the trip was a wonderful experience. It’s surreal to finally see places you’ve heard about your entire life -- Masada, Yad Vashem, Ben Yehuda Street.

I remember the excitement I felt as we approached the Western Wall. There was plenty of nervous giggling as our group walked toward it holding hands with our eyes closed. Once we reached a ledge in front of the Wall, our group leader told us to open our eyes. Then, silence. There it was. The Wall we pray toward. The Wall I have a painting of in my living room. The Wall I made out of sugar cubes for an art project at Jewish day school. In that short 10-day trip, I immensely deepened the connection I felt to a place thousands of miles away.

Five years later, I returned to Israel for a second trip, this time on a Jewish National Fund mission for digital-media professionals who traveled there to learn more about JNF projects and hopefully bring greater awareness to them. I experienced the same sense of belonging I did on my first visit, but the itinerary was completely different. Birthright -- which seeks to strengthen young people’s Jewish identity and solidarity with Israel -- is like I-80, the quickest, most-traveled route across the U.S. The digital-media mission is Route 50, the road less traveled but full of must-see sights, with less congestion and more inside, on-the-ground views into the daily lives of Israelis.

Friday, August 28, 2015

In the JNF Kitchen: Uri's lamb stew with pomegranate

Rosh Hashanah always comes either early or late. For a late-summer Rosh Hashanah, we're bringing you a succulent recipe from Chef Uri Arnon, who owns the restaurant Arnold's, voted one of Israel's 10 best kosher gourmet restaurants!

Chef Uri opened Arnold's, located on Moshav Nativ Hashayarato shatter the myth of "kosher or delicious."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Off the beaten path in the Western Galilee, Israel's Napa Valley, in photos

Photo: Grant Legan
Meeting the clans behind the Western Galilee's family-owned businesses and experiencing their homey hospitality is a treat. Pictured at Hefer Ranch, a site for camping, horseback riding, and outdoor team-building activities, are Eyal Hefer and wife Edna (left and third from left), their son Or, and Rachaeli, who works the horse stables.     

As part of our #JNF #SummerLovin series featuring lesser-known Israeli seasonal gems, we visit the beautiful Western Galilee in July.   

By Lauren Katz 

If you haven’t visited the Western Galilee, add it to the top of your list. If you have been there, well, you know it’s worth a second (or eighth) visit. Located in the north of Israel, the culturally diverse area has an incredible amount to offer -- from picturesque wineries to richly historic cities like Akko and breathtaking views in almost every direction. The warmth and openness of the people working and living throughout the region immediately make you feel welcome. 

Below are just a handful of the highlights. For lots more, visit the site for Western Galilee Now, a nonprofit organization that aims to connect visitors with the amazing opportunities in the area. Its website features a detailed map of what to see, as well as an updated list of events. And be sure to take a virtual trip to some of the region's treasures in our photo gallery at the bottom of this post (hover over any image to spend more time on it). 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Special-needs IDF soldiers pay emotional visit to site of Holocaust masscre

A select group of IDF soldiers with special needs were chosen to travel to Poland on a delegation to revisit history. 

By Ariana Goldsmith

I am sitting on the bus looking out the window on the way to Treblinka, one of the many death camps we visited this week, along with Auschwitz, Birkenau, Maidanek, and others. Today is the second-to-last day of a very crazy and intense week. Tomorrow night, our special group, called Hashachar and consisting of 21 people with special needs and 11 chaperones, will board the plane back to Israel, our homeland. I don't think I have ever been more proud to be a religious Jew living in Israel and to be serving in the army in a role very different than the standard fighting positions or desk jobs.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Deep gratitude for outings that bring domestic-violence victims into nature

Photo: Haifa Women's Crisis Shelter

Earlier this month, we shared the story of a program called Mother Nature, operated by our partner LOTEM - Making Nature Accessible, that makes it possible for women and children who've been victims of domestic abuse to enjoy healing outings in nature. Below, we share an emotional testimony to the uniqueness and importance of this program, which has recently been threatened due to funding cuts. While a generous anonymous JNF donor stepped in to help the program survive, it still is in need of help, as each outing costs $2,500 and LOTEM's goal is to take residents of different shelters out four times per year. Learn more here


We just returned from a fantastic nature outing that your wonderful guide Tali led. The outing succeeded to engage the children and mothers of the shelter who are all ages, colors, and background! 

The children splashed their feet in the Ami Spring and on the Emek HaShalom Ecological Farm, they drew water from the well, pressed grapes and made mosaic artwork. Despite the heat that we were nervous about, the activities were in the shade and there was such a pleasant atmosphere. The mothers and children enjoyed it very much. 

In the JNF Kitchen: Hagit's super-easy banana ice cream

Photo: Anne Taillandier

This #RecipeOfTheWeek, like last week's, comes from the kitchen of Hagit Lidror, a chef who specializes in healthy vegetarian cuisine and teaches cooking classes at her home in Israel's Western Galilee. She's a member of JNF partner organization Western Galilee Now, a consortium of small businesses in the region. 

Here's how Hagit makes a healthy, one-ingredient ice cream. Have you made a JNF #RecipeOfTheWeek? Send a photo of your creation to teddyherzl18@gmail.com or tweet it to @JNFUSA with the hashtag #JNFfoodie. We might share it!