Sailing across the Kinneret on self-made rafts

July 7, 2015 by Hayley Hadassin
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When 240 young Australians participating in Israel gap year programs hit the beach at the Sea of Galilee on a hot summer day,  something big was sure to happen.

Heading for the water

Heading for the water

The Zionist Federation of Australia brought together our gap year students from across Israel for Rafsodia – a two-day experience in which teams of up to 25 people build rafts (rafsodot) from scratch and sail them across the Kinneret. Participants from youth movement programs and IBC took time out from their general programming to work together and partake in this annual highlight.

Ready to go

Ready to go

In 40 degree heat on the banks of the lake, they built their crafts from bamboo, rope and huge tin cans, painted sails and then set off for the opposite shore. The exercise teaches much about team work and planning, and one team learned the hard way that building a raft (that requires 25 people to move it) in-between trees was logistically impractical when it can’t be lifted out. A little axe and some pruning saw their hard work (finally) hit the water.

Raft builders

Raft builders

Byron Robertson, 18 from Ormond in Melbourne said: – “We have been building a raft out of bamboo and metal tin cans, the weathers perfect, there’s a slight breeze… It’s nice to be doing something with the group and have this shared experience. It’s nice to be back with some old friends that I haven’t seen in a while. It’s also nice that we are all doing the same activity. It makes the effort of building it a little lighter.”

For some participants being in Israel is a completely new experience and for others being with so many Jewish kids their own age is also a new experience. For Jackie Zipman, 18 a Melbourne participant of Hashomer Hatzair’s shnat program, it’s even more – “I didn’t go to a Jewish school. I have a lot of non-Jewish friends but coming on Shnat I now have Jewish friends… I didn’t really practice much Judaism back at home and now that I’m on Shnat I do so many more things.” Jackie is participating in the shnat program and says that Rafsodia is “All about mental motivation. It’s hard to be in 40 degree weather in the sun and not go to the corner (air-conditioned) shop and get an ice-cream. It’s mental motivation”

Gap year participants

Gap year participants

The various youth movements used their artistic licence to decorate and set their sails to the wind. From political messaging to bright celebration the strong wind carried them across the shore.

Joanna Zeiger-Guerra, 26, Haifa was the ZFA coordinator for the program on the day. She remarked that Rafsodia was an incredible initiative, saying: – “Sometimes it takes different kinds of experiences to bring kids together in different ways. I think having this shared goal, this objective that they are doing together is a really powerful bonding thing. It’s an amazing encounter between the youth movements and IBC and it should be a memorable experience. ”

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