Buzz gets back

December 13, 2017 by Hayley Hadassin
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Fourteen young adults with intellectual/cognitive disabilities as well as their buddies, group leaders, nurses and psychologist have returned home to Australia from their ten day Taglit-Birthright Israel trip of a lifetime.  

In the Old City in Jerusalem

Buzz, was the first ever Australian trip of its kind.

The excitement, support and experience have been heart-warming. Chanah Woolf, a participant on the trip, said: – “The Birthright trip to me means I was involved with a group of young people both with disability and without who accepted me as a whole including my disabilities, regardless in fact of my disabilities. And didn’t ignore or degrade me because of my differences in societal behaviour.”

Michael Horowitz and Lauren Kalisch

Each participant was paired with a buddy. Chanah said:- “The buddies we had both one on one and as a group have become friends if not family including those we only met recently and those we’ve known for a while. It’s great to see young people striving to make an impact on lives other than their own. I didn’t expect Israel to have such an impact on not only my life but the lives of my fellow travellers, the emotional connection to the holy land for me is strong it almost feels as if I left part of my Neshama there, and I can’t wait to get back to Israel.”

The group travelled throughout Israel from the North to the South, starting with a visit to Kfar Kedem, which was like passing through a time machine to the Galilee of antiquity. Donkeys were tied to posts as flocks of sheep went off to pasture and hens led their chicks down the lane and olives, figs, grapes and pomegranates ripened on the trees. The group hiked through Tel Dan National Park, went on jeep rides up north, visited Yad Vashem, participated in a Druze lunch in Pekin, and visited the Old City of Jerusalem as part of a highlight packed schedule.

One of the unexpected highlights of the trip was joining participant Anthony Flynn as he celebrated his Barmitzvah atop Masada. Anthony said: “We trekked all the way up Masada. It was then that we visited the synagogue at the top. And in the Synagogue there was someone writing the Torah… someone whispered to him and I was given a piece of paper which contained my Hebrew name, chosen only minutes earlier…From there we went next door and celebrated the Bar Mitzvah I had prepared and for the first time ever I sat down and read the Torah and prepared a speech based on the Parsha… And I gave my speech. It was amazing.”

Romi Adler, Chana Woolf and Aviva Lefkovits

The program, organised by the ZFA in partnership with Friendship Circle Sydney, Flying Fox and Access Inc. was in development for 18 months. Buzz gave participants a fantastic opportunity to explore the dynamic landscape of Israel. This was more than just an overseas trip, this had meaning, purpose and relevance to each and every member of the trip.

Dean Cohen, CEO of Flying Fox, was a Madrich (leader). He said: – “Buzz provided an experience for both people with a disability and people without a disability. Buddies and participants enjoyed an inclusive experience, as equals, where they were able to have fun and make friends in Israel. Birthright is an opportunity afforded to all young Jews around the world. Until now, people with a disability have been excluded from these opportunities. This trip provided a platform for people with a disability, alongside their peers, to connect to their history, homeland and culture.”

Mr John Gandel AC and Mrs Pauline Gandel of Gandel Philanthropy are the Principal Australian Supporters of Taglit and have been for six years. Having recognised the value and significance of the Buzz Special needs Taglit trip, their contribution as the Principal Australian Partner enabled the trip to take place.

“John Gandel AC and Pauline Gandel of Gandel Philanthropy are the proud and passionate Australian Partner of the Taglit Birthright program, having provided 720 young Jewish adults, a 10 day trip to Israel, inspiring them and giving them a stronger connection to the Jewish people, Jewish life and the State of Israel – all whilst having a great time. To be able to also provide this ‘ once in a lifetime’ opportunity to young adults with intellectual and or cognitive disabilities is a first and really shows their commitment to providing all young Jewish people with the same opportunities;” said Nicole Brittain, Grant Manager – Jewish and Israel Programs, Gandel Philanthropy.

Ginette Searle, ZFA Executive Director noted: – “This program is unique, not only by virtue of the nature of the group attending, but also in the level and calibre of young volunteers associated with it. The energy, effort and result have exceeded all our expectations. We will strive to make this bus a recurring opportunity. By strengthening the connections of the participants to their own Jewish identity, to Israel and to the community, it has been a brilliant example of our tangible and meaningful connection with Israel.”

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