Getting together in the Arava

November 18, 2019 by Emily Gian
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It is not often that the stars align. So when many staff members, professionals and volunteers, of the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) and Arava Australia Partnership (AAP)  were in Israel at the same time to organise something special making the Israeli desert come alive.

Hillie Bloch, Mel Perch, Sigal Gafin, Tamara Bruce, Efrat Shaham, Ginette Searle, Orit Elkayam Cohen, Stacy Hayman, Inbar Greenshtain, Raz Lahovizer Peter Rabin and Jack Smorgon
Seated: Dganit Gamliel and Adi Nir Levy and children from the Arava.

Earlier this month, the Arava Australia Partnership (AAP) hosted a delegation which included ZFA Staff members, CEO Ginette Searle, CFO Sigal Gafin, AZYC Executive Officer Mel Perch, ZFA Israel Office Director Moriah Ben-David and AAP Coordinator Stacy Hayman. They were joined by AAP Chairperson Tamara Bruce and Jack Smorgon, who is the Chair of the JAFI Partnerships and Activism committee as well as a long-standing leader in the AAP.

The AAP is a part of JAFI’s Partnership2Gether program (P2G) which connects Israeli communities with Jewish communities worldwide to create an ever-growing network of support and friendship. Strengthening the relationship between Israeli Jews and Diaspora Jews not only makes for a stronger Israel but also creates stronger local communities and makes a powerful impact on Jewish identity.

Our Australian community is paired with the Central Arava region, and the AAP actively promotes people-to-people relationships through cultural, social and educational programs. The objective of this mission was to explore future possibilities for even greater collaboration between the AAP and the ZFA and to create a joint plan to reflect the changing environment, challenges and opportunities in both partnering communities.

The group participated in a 1-day strategic planning workshop, visited key projects that the AAP sponsor, enjoyed a Shabbat experience, toured the beautiful Arava region and most importantly, connected with the wonderful people in the Arava – the very essence of the P2G project.

Getting together

The ZFA attendees were exposed to the pioneering endeavours and achievements of the Arava community, and they were warmly hosted by P2G Regional Director Orit Elkayam-Cohen, AAP Partnership Director Hillie Bloch, AAP Reciprocal Relations Co-ordinator Inbar Greenshtain and dedicated AAP volunteers from the Arava.

Chairperson of the AAP, Tamara Bruce said, “It was a pleasure for the AAP to host our ZFA partners in the Arava last weekend. Visiting our projects enabled the ZFA professionals to witness first-hand the impact of our efforts in the Arava, and the strong relationships we have built over the years. We were privileged to have the opportunity to honour Jack Smorgon for his long-standing support of the partnership in a tree-planting ceremony at the Acacia School.”

Bruce concluded, “the conference has generated many ideas and much enthusiasm for further collaboration.”

ZFA CEO Ginette Searle echoed those sentiments saying “having the opportunity to meet our partners in the Arava and to visit and experience what is taking place at various partnership projects was not only interesting and enjoyable but very important. Working together in a full-day partnership strategic seminar, we not only developed creative ideas for the future but further strengthened the people-to-people bonds that underpin our partnership.”

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