Thursday, July 11, 2019

Zionist spirit of Halutza pioneers is highlight of JNFuture Israel trip

 Photo: Joshua Robbin Marks
The new JNF-Halutza Medical Center serving the residents of Shlomit.

By Joshua Robbin Marks

The highlight of the action-packed JNFuture Ultimate Israel Experience tour this May was visiting the amazing communities of Halutza in the northwestern Negev. 

Seeing these modern-day Zionist pioneers flourishing right next to Gaza and Egypt was proof of the success of Jewish National Fund's Blueprint Negev initiative to improve the quality of life in southern Israel and attract new residents to the region.

The communities of Shlomit, Bnei Netzarim and Naveh were built for the Gush Katif residents evacuated from Gaza during the 2005 disengagement. These communities are rapidly developing to accommodate more families. We saw new homes, a synagogue, a community center under construction, greenhouses, crop fields, and solar farms. We also went on a tour of a new medical facility and took advantage of new trees recently planted to provide shade from the intense desert heat. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

From a Kenyan village to Israel and back: One woman's big science plans

The author and Kenneth Kiplang'at Chepkwony leader/mentor for AICAT Kenyan students. 

In Israel's south, at AICAT: The Arava International Center for Agricultural Training, students from around the world learn advanced agricultural practices they then take back to their home countries. Here's one student's inspiring story.

By Irene Chemtai Phungoh

My story starts in a pastoralist community in Kenya's arid West Pokot County where food, water, and energy insecurity have prevailed for a long time.
Sometime in the year 2006, the primary school I attended benefited from a water project courtesy of UNICEF and Danish pump manufacturer Grundfos. A solar-powered borehole drilled at the school brought relief to my school and the entire village.
Nearby sat a water collection tank, which would then become the heart of the school. At this point, we became partially relieved of the routine daily six-mile "water-searching missions."

One day on a hot weekend afternoon, as I washed clothes at the school tank, I was startled by the sight of large amounts of water falling from above. To some people, this would be just a tank’s overflow, but I was definitely challenged to do something about the excess precious liquid that was simply wasting away.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Shabbat on the Strip: Doing Vegas with dozens of young JNF leaders

Lisa Shakun, second from left, with other participants of JLIS 2019.

By Lisa Shakun 

Why would young professionals from all over the country come to Las Vegas and spend their time and hard-earned money sitting in a hotel board room instead of hanging out by the pool or partying in casinos? 

That question takes me back to the beginning of my Jewish National Fund journey. It started two years ago when I googled "young professional trip Israel." I had recently returned from Israel after traveling there on a women's trip through my synagogue, where I easily brought down the average age by 30 years. I don’t know exactly what it was, but I was connected to Israel, and I wanted to go back, but this time with my peers. One of the of the first Google results that appeared was for the JNF Young Professionals Tour, and without hesitation I signed up for the trip, booked a flight, and three months later I was on my way to Israel.

What I learned about life pruning pomegranate trees in Israel's desert

By Arielle Levy

I had the time of my life working on a farm in southern Israel along the border of Egypt pruning pomegranate trees. I contacted HaShomer HaChadash looking to volunteer on a farm so I could have a "pioneer" experience. I can't even express how much my week of manual labor far exceeded my expectations in the best possible way.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Back in Israel with JNF four years later, and awed by the progress

By Lauren Mescon

The words of my dear friend Vivian Grossman, "I always yearn to be back in Israel," could not be more true for me.

As I begin to put words on paper, thoughts fight for clarity amid the jumble of emotions that come with living as part of the diaspora but knowing the warmth and joy of being "home" in Israel, as I was during the JNF Mega Mission in February.

The author holds a newly inscribed Torah on its way
to a new home at Kibbutz Shalom.

My connection to the state began when my grandmother collected blue boxes in Savannah, Georgia. It must have seeped into my subconscious because when I was asked to be on the local JNF board in Atlanta in 2007, I said yes. 

And when I attended the Queen of Sheba Mission in 2008, going to Israel for only the second time, my life truly changed forever. I will never be at a Friday night Shabbat anywhere in the world without recalling the feeling I had being with Talia Tzour's family, blessed for Shabbat by her grandmother. I will never forget the feelings of love and camaraderie among the women and the people we met.

The more involved I become, the deeper my feelings and commitment grow.  From falling in love with the Be'er Sheva River Project, and permanently placing my beloved parents' names on a plaque there, to my current "affair" with the Arava, and my growing attraction to the Gaza Envelope, it just gets better and better.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

JDAIM: Meet two immigrants to Israel devoting themselves to those with special needs

During February, Jewish Disabilty Awareness Inclusion Month (JDAIM), and all year round, Jewish National Fund proudly supports efforts to make sure people with special needs and disabilities are fully included in Israeli society.

Beth Steinberg 

Photo: Jared Bernstein 
Beth Steinberg is one of the co-founders and directors of Shutaf Inclusion Programs in Jerusalem. Shutaf, which was founded with another olah from the US, Miriam Avraham, offers innovative and inclusive informal-education programs for children, teens, and young people, with and without disabilities. 

More than 300 participants of all abilities enjoy year-round activities including Camp Shutaf Passover and Camp Shutaf Summer day camps; Young Leadership Program for Teens and Young Adults; 21+ activities for older participants, ages 21-30; Inclusion Education; Parent and family gatherings. Shutaf is a place of complete acceptance and inclusion for all participants of all abilities, and from all cultural backgrounds. 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

JDAIM Dvar Torah: Ancient examples of including those with disabilities

During February, Jewish Disabilty Awareness Inclusion Month (JDAIM), and all year round, Jewish National Fund proudly supports efforts to make sure people with special needs and disabilities are fully included in Israeli society.

By Yossi Kahana

Jewish Disabilities Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month is a unified effort among Jewish organizations worldwide to raise awareness and foster inclusion of people with disabilities and those who love them. 

JDAIM is observed each February. But the truth is, while it brings the issues of disability inclusion to the forefront, inclusion is something we must focus on all year long. In our quest to include every member of our community, we would do well to pay attention to the following ancient examples of accommodation.

The Torah begins by telling us we are all created in God's image. If everyone is created in the image of God, we have the responsibility to make sure that every single person -- even those who differently abled -- has equal opportunity to participate and feel accepted.