Aussie madrichim in the Arava

July 19, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Four Melbourne students have used their gap year in Israel to become madrichim to lead programs in the Arava.

Aussie madrichim enjoying their time in the Arava

Against all odds in this unpredictable year, both the Arava Summer camp joined a new English camp went ahead in July.

Prior to the global pandemic, the AAP sent madrichim from Australia to Israel to lead summer camps in the Arava. With international travel making that option impossible this year, the AAP reached out to Australians already in Israel to select the team.

The Zionist Federation of Australia’s (ZFA) Arava Australia Partnership (AAP) successfully recruited Ben Levin, Koby Paluch, Akiva Franks and Ariel Zelwer, all from Melbourne, to lead the camp programs.

The boys jumped at the opportunity to take a short break from their long-term Israel gap year experiences to take part in this once in a lifetime opportunity.

AAP coordinator Stacy Hayman said, “We were delighted to bring Australians to the Arava Summer camp again this year to provide them with a unique opportunity to experience the Arava, and to learn about its unique story via meaningful encounters with both children and parents. We are also proud to have assisted in the funding of an English camp to improve the English abilities of the Arava children.”

In recent years, there has been a growing understanding in the Arava that learning English grammar is not enough and that it should be reinforced with an emphasis on spoken English. There is no better way to do this via a summer camp where the students are encouraged to speak English in an informal environment with young Australian leaders.

“We were so excited to see the incredible impact these young Australians have had on more than 100 young campers. With strong leadership experience from Bnei Akiva, Diller Teen Fellows and Flying Fox, they actively engaged with the Arava campers at both the Summer Camp and English Camp, teaching them English and bringing the Ozzie spirit,” commented Moriah Ben David, ZFA’s Israel Office Director who visited the Arava and met up with the madrichim last weekend.The Aussie madrichim quickly settled into the Arava despite daily temperatures of over 40 degrees, meeting their fellow Israeli madrichim and attending camp planning sessions. During their free time the Aussies have enjoyed moshav life on Ein Yahav as well as additional activities, such as tours and workshops.

The annual Summer Camp Madrichim program has continued to enhance the people-to-people connection between Australia and the Arava, which is the key objective of the partnership.  P2G is the Jewish Agency’s global living bridge project aimed at connecting Israeli communities with diaspora communities. The Central Arava region was “adopted” by Australia as our partnership community in 1995.

“The experience has been phenomenal: from the moment we arrived the AAP staff and community have been so welcoming,” said Akiva Franks. “It has been great to use my informal leadership skills to teach English at the English camp and they are so eager to learn from us in an experiential and enjoyable way.  They were super excited to finally meet Australians in the Arava. More importantly, our presence and the relationships we have developed with the children of the Arava has provided a tangible Australian connection to the local youth as well as to the broader Arava community.”

Ben Levin concurred, “My week in the Arava was nothing like I have ever experienced in Israel before.  From date picking at sunrise, running fun sessions at camp with the children to an Israeli cooking workshop, it was amazing to meet and witness firsthand modern-day Zionists living their dream lives in this very remote part of Israel.”

Despite adverse world circumstances that prevent the AAP from running its face-to-face people to people programs this year, the AAP team have produced several virtual programs to keep the Arava and Australian communities connected. For more details on a  new Community Emergency Managers Training Course for professionals and lay-leaders contact Stacy Hayman on +61 3 9272 5531.

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