Israel Programs Reflections from my recent visit to Israel
By Adina Frydman, CEO Young Judaea Global
As I land from my maiden voyage to Israel as the CEO of Young Judaea Global, I feel exhilarated and proud. As 2D turned to 3D, from Zoom to panim el panim, face to face, what felt like the dream of the past 8 months now came into focus as a technicolor reality. I was acutely aware of how lucky I was to be able to make my pilgrimage to Israel while many are not able to do so, given the current restrictions. From that very first cab ride, my Hebrew came flooding back. There I was having a full-on conversation with my driver about the new government, the Delta variant rearing its head in Israel, and the extreme summer heat. I am convinced that cab rides make for the best Ulpan.
Here I share a few highlights:
Once I got through the necessary testing and brief, quarantine with family, I made my way to Kibbutz Keturah. I was immediately taken by the mountains of desert and rows of date palms. I met with haverim, members, of the kibbutz and learned just how intertwined Young Judaea and Kibbutz Keturah are, starting with the first Young Judaea garin, pod, that moved there in 1974, to today when all of our Israel groups integrate a visit to Keturah as part of their experience. But what I found the most inspiring was seeing how this kibbutz, one of only 30 remaining collective kibbutzim in Israel, has adapted over time to thrive. With the enduring spirit of chalutzim, pioneers, the kibbutz is involved in several entrepreneurial and profitable ventures. The core values of pluralism, Judaism, and social activism are infused into their daily living, just as they learned as youth in Young Judaea.
Over the next few days, I met with our Israel team and used the opportunity to thank them for their extraordinary work this past year. There is little respite for this team as they are currently running Amirim, Onward Israel trips, and Gesher, while preparing for the next shichva of Year Course and Israel Pro participants to arrive. From operations to logistics, finance, and programming, this team works together to ensure the excellence of our Israel experiences.
I then had the opportunity to meet several inspirational Young Judaea Haverim who are living in Israel. In addition to spending quality time with several board members, I met with Gil Troy, professor and writer, Alon Tal, member of the Knesset and environmental activist, and Danny Chamovitz, president of Ben Gurion University, each of whom is making a significant contribution to advancing Zionism and social activism today, and who attribute “everything they ever learned” to Young Judaea.
Finally, I joined our Gesher program, generously funded by Root One, for one of their final days in Jerusalem. For some of the teens it is their first time in Israel, for others, the next step in their Young Judaea journey. The group, despite coming out of a challenging year of quarantines and Zoom, emitted a positive energy and youthful enthusiasm that was contagious. These teens are growing up in an increasingly polarized society where the word “Zionist” is often heated and contested. Our team of mechanchim, educators, and madrichim, counselors, are there to hold and guide them through the growing experience of shaping their personal relationship with Israel and what it means to be a Zionist today.
As I boarded the plane to return to the United States, I reflected on my experiences that week, each proving Young Judaea’s unique imprint on Israel. Young Judaea’s history is inextricably linked with that of Israel’s, from a Kibbutz founded by Judaean’s in 1973, to the alumni that have made Israel their home and work tirelessly to achieve what some may call ‘aspirational Zionism’, and to the teens today who are exploring the country through a modern lens. I look forward to many future trips to see how we can further strengthen our alumni and participants’ connection with Israel.