Monday, December 30, 2013

Caravan for Democracy mission: Day 1

Caravan for Democracy mission to Israel (December 29, 2013 - January 9, 2014): 
Twenty-five college student leaders of all faiths who have never visited Israel before were selected for this important 10-day educational experience. The trip includes touring; meeting political, cultural, and community leaders;  and exploring Israel's diverse democracy. Students who have served in a significant leadership positions in political, religious, athletic, cultural, and/or educational groups on campus were encouraged to apply. Participants will be posting their impressions of Israel here over the course of the next 10 days!

Day 1
By Nick Mogensen, Texas A&M University '15

Monday morning saw the group visiting a variety of fascinating sites in northern Israel with the first half of the day spent around the Sea of Galilee and the latter half in the Golan Heights.  Our first full day in Israel, it certainly exceeded all expectations anyone on the trip had brought prior to arriving.

Going through life in America, it can be tempting to compartmentalize life into a series of convenient archetypes and assumptions.  Even on days when we find ourselves grow by leaps and bounds through new life experiences, typically such occasions merit a solitary theme to intake and reflect upon.  That said, Monday was unique in that it marked the first in my life that I was profoundly struck in two greatly different ways in the same day.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Next up on Far East tour, bringing Israel to Vietnam

On Wednesday, the Arava International Trainee Center (AICAT) tour stopped in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where they signed a Memorandum of Understanding for student cooperation between AICAT and Nong Lam University, the largest university in South Vietnam. This will increase the student recruitment for 340 to over 500. This MOU is in step with the plans of Vietnam's Minister of Agriculture, who announced while the JNF/AICAT group was visiting, that the growth of agriculture is a priority.  He then detailed a plan for now through 2030, which includes technology advancements and economic farm growth. All of these priorities are directly in relationship to the goals AICAT.

In meetings with university president and the dean of the agricultural department, they expressed tremendous excitement about this M.O.U.

On Thursday, the team visited Hanoi, in North Vietnam. In their opinion, it was a world difference from South Vietnam. They met with president of Thai Nguyen University the largest university in Vietnam with almost 50,000 students. The most popular majors are agriculture and forestry.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

JNF brings Israel to Cambodia

Jewish National Fund CEO, Russell Robinson, and CFO, Mitchel Rosenzweig, are on a tour of Asia and the Far East this week on behalf of the Israeli government and the Arava International Trainee Center, or AICAT. Also on the tour are Channi Arnon, director of AICAT, and Eyal Blum, mayor of the Central Arava.  

AICAT is a 20-year-old agricultural training institute in the developing town of Sapir, Israel, where students throughout Asia and the Far East are sent by their home countries to study cutting-edge and often high-tech agricultural techniques.  

Robinson has been enthusiastically reporting from the road; after the jump are some of the exciting accounts of the the group's encounters and stories from Cambodia and of how they are changing the perception of Israel in the minds of the developing world.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Worst Storm in Decades

The snow, which started last week, reached 40-60 centimeters in Jerusalem and between 60 centimeters and one meter in the Golan. There were power outages in over twenty thousand households nationwide as of Saturday evening, including 8,000 in Jerusalem and its surroundings, and more than 1,000 in Safed. Some 80 villages around Jerusalem had been without power at the height of the storm, and some 30 were still disconnected on Saturday evening. At least three villages in the Golan Heights, which is better equipped to handle storms and snowfall, had been without electricity over the weekend, but were reconnected Saturday night. Haifa was hit with its first snowfall in 22 years, and Tel Aviv was battered by heavy rain and hail. Drivers stranded on Route 1 and Route 443 at the entrance to Jerusalem were being brought to emergency help centers established at the Jerusalem Convention Center, in Mevaseret Zion and at the Ofer military camp. Police said that by Friday morning they had assisted 1400 stranded motorists in the capital and in the highways leading to the city.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said Saturday that his municipality was still working “in a state of emergency,” grappling with a “storm of extraordinary proportions.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “once-in-a-century” storm, and said efficient coordination had averted the kind of loss of life that other countries had suffered in similar circumstances. Route 1 into and out of Jerusalem was still closed late Saturday night, even to public transport, as the authorities struggled to clear lanes blocked by dozens of abandoned vehicles. 

The Jerusalem fire fighters – sent us these statistics – from Thursday morning when the storm began they had: 5,000 calls to the fire station. They went on 2 calls due to floods, 37 gas leaks, 24 elevator rescues, 10 fires in homes, 10 rescue operations, 18 calls to assist people and 3 calls due to collapsed walls. Haifa firefighters joined their brothers in Safed where all of the roads are closed to help with the rescue operations.
And now for a great story -  Chaviva and Yosef Rosenbaum live in Har Nof in Jerusalem. Right before Shabbat Yosef’s grandparents, Bubby and Grandpa, decided to go from Rehavia (were their power went out) to spend the shabbos with their grandchildren in Har Nof. They got in a cab and at a certain point the cab driver said he wouldn’t go any farther and told them to get out… Grandpa and Bubby left the cab and stood on the sidewalk wondering what they would do, when all of a sudden a LARGE fire truck pulled up and the fire fighter asked them if he can help them – they told them they were trying to get to Har Nof and he said he had room for one of them in the fire truck… Bubby told him to take Grandpa since he can’t walk and that she would start walking towards the building. Chaviva and Yosef looked out of the window waiting for them to arrive when they see a fire truck pull up and Grandpa come out… Grandpa was trying to pay the fire fighter for the lift with the fire fighter saying "no no" and just like in a movie two seconds later Bubby comes driving up with another wonderful person who stopped for her.  These men and woman are just incredible and the work they do saves lives…

Monday, December 9, 2013

Chanukkah Camp - Green Horizons

Over Chanukkah, Green Horizons scouts from across Israel participated in four-day hikes all over the Negev! This outdoor Chanukkah adventure enabled participants to connect to the land of Israel on a deep level while building their outdoor skills and cementing their friendships. Enjoy a taste of this adventure of a lifetime!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Giving Tuesday - Your Dollars are Matched!!

Giving Tuesday is a movement that is meant to be a balance to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  After two days of splurging on the best deals shoppers can find, they are encouraged to reflect on what is truly meaningful and give back!  

Thousands of charities, families, businesses and individuals have joined together to transform the way people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season. Join the movement and find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to also participate in acts of giving. Tell everyone you can about what you are doing and why it matters. 

Why JNF?

JNF enhances the quality of life of all of Israel’s residents, by:
• Greening the desert with millions of trees
• Bolstering Israel’s water supply
• Creating new communities in the Negev for generations of Israelis to call home
• Building thousands of parks
• Educating both young and old about the importance of Zionism and Israel today

Today ONLY, your gift to Jewish National Fund will be matched by the generous contribution of The Gene and Marlene Epstein Humanitarian Fund, so make your gifts today and let your voice be heard in Israel!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Forging new bonds: The Queen of Sheba Mission

Queen of Sheba Mission 2013 Final from Giraffe Sheba on Vimeo.

How does one capture all the experiences they had on a Mission trip with KKL-JNF in just one page?

Let me begin by saying that this was my first Mission and really my first experience as an adult with KKL-JNF.

I came across the Queen of Sheba Mission accidently when I was searching the web for something to do in Israel out side of a normal tour or hanging with friends on the beach.

Sometimes, things are just meant to be. The Queen of Sheba Mission was exactly inside the dates I needed to take my vacation time. Weird right? LOL

I really had no idea what I was getting into, other than; I was going to spend nine days with a group of ladies I didn’t know. How bad could it be? It was Israel. We’re all Jewish. I’m sure there will be good food. I was sold!

I’m not exactly sure the exact hour that it happened, but all of a sudden, I turned around and I was travelling with my family. The connections I made with these women were beyond explanation. You have to trust me on this. I know what it is to have connections with people. I have spent the last 15 years serving in the Military, so I understand how strong bonds are formed, but this was so unique.

I have to be honest. I was so jealous of these women. For 15 years, I have dedicated my life to people and countries not my own and yet, here stood before me these amazing women. Selflessly, giving of themselves for the State of Israel. I was beyond inspired. I knew I had to be apart of it, but I was so frustrated in trying to figure out where or what project to be apart of.

It was in the Negev that so many pieces of “the puzzle of life” came together for me. It wasn’t my first time there. My Fathers side of the family came to Israel after the Shoah. I have a strong connection with Israel, despite being raised in the west, but it was like I was seeing Israel through different eyes.

Visiting the communities being developed throughout the south. Meeting the people dedicating their lives to populating that beautiful landscape. Feeling with all your senses the dream of David Ben Gurion and so many others come to life is something words cannot to justice to.

That’s when I knew that I had found a new piece to my puzzle, but I still couldn’t quite connect it yet to see the whole picture. I needed time to think, to reflex, and to put everything into perspective. I had to ask myself what about Israel changed for me this time? I’ve traveled all over Israel throughout the years, but something was different. Something was new and yet, for the moment it felt out of reach.

It took sometime, but I realized what had changed. It was the realization that there was so much left to do in Israel. All these years I had thought the work was done. The dreams and visions of those before me had accomplished their task and now Israel was there for me to enjoy, but I was so wrong.

I knew then and there that I had found what I was searching for. I had been searching for a way to use 15 years of military experience for the State of Israel. It was in the Negev that I realized that security is not only defined in military terms or through military means. This may seem like common sense to you, but it was like a revelation for me. This new revelation that I could help in the development and population of the south to secure Israel’s border was life changing. I felt empowered to do something, to dedicate my time and my life to the development of the Negev. I know this is a very general statement and I may not have all the answers right now, but that’s ok, because at least I know where it all begins.

Thank you KKL-JNF and my Queen’s of Sheba for your inspiration to dream big, take action and get stuff done.

Michal B.