Israel beckons

January 29, 2013 by Joshua Cole
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More than 360 Australian young adults aged 18-30 will be on long-term Israel programs facilitated by the ZFA and supported by MASA Israel Journey during the 2013 calendar year, breaking the previous record of 345 in 2011. This is a 20 percent increase from 2012.

Israel beckons

Israel beckons

“I always wanted to be in Israel for a long period of time, to get to know my heritage and my roots much better and also to have personal growth,” said Alan Stein, from Melbourne, on Betar’s shnat program. “It will be great to be back in Australia (next year) and to pass to Australian Betarim all of the things that I will learn in Israel.”

A large number of teenagers, madrichim and family members gathered at the Melbourne, Sydney and Perth airports on 27 January for ceremonies to farewell shnat participants from Australasian Zionist Youth Council (AZYC) youth movements. In all, 140 participants from across Australia from Betar, B’nei Akiva, Habonim Dror, Hashomer Hatzair, Hineni and Netzer plan to arrive in Israel by 1 February.

Off we go

Off we go

ZFA President Philip Chester addressed the Melbourne shnat farewell: “The ZFA is involved to try to get you thinking about when you come back to Australia because you’re going to be leaders here not only in your movements but also in the community itself. You’re going to learn a lot, and you’re going to have fun. You’re going to come back with a lot of knowledge, experience, spirit and ruach – all of the things to make our community a better place.”

Gap-year programs AUJS Aviv and Israel by Choice (IBC) have a combined 50 percent increase in participation compared with 2012. There are 88 young Aussie adults on other programs.

“I’m going to Israel because I love the country and I want to spend a long amount of time there and embrace the culture and Judasim,” said Jessica Steinberg, 18, from Melbourne, who starts AUJS Aviv this week. ” I went to (Mount) Scopus (Memorial College) since I was a baby, and I’ve heard about Israel my whole life. It’s amazing to see it when you’ve heard about it for all of those years.”

As long-term Israel programs begin, 235 young adults recently completed short-term organised Israel programs over the 2012-13 Australian summer season: three buses of 40 young adults each on AUJS Taglit-Birthright Israel, two buses of 40 young adults each on Chabad on Campus Taglit-Birthright Israel, and 35 on AUJS Academy. Taglit-Birthright is the free 10-day tour of Israel for young adults aged 18-26 who haven’t been on an organised program to Israel, and Academy is a six-week program and tour.

Philip Chester, president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, said: “Last Sunday (27 January 2013) marked the International Day for Commemorating the Holocaust and Israel’s National Day for Countering Anti-Semitism.

Under the banner of ‘Hate Stops Here’, an initiative of the World Zionist Organisation, Jewish communities from around the world rallied simultaneously to mark the day, including in Australia.

Quite fittingly, the date coincided with the departure of these 140 Australian Zionist youth, who have headed off for their gap Shnat year in Israel with Zionist Youth Movements from around the country.

We are living in a time where the lines between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are often dangerously blurred. This usually manifests itself in an image of Israel that is removed from the reality of Israel’s vibrant society. It is significant that the Shnat participants are departing on UN Holocaust Commemoration Day and Israel’s National Day for Countering Anti-Semitism. There is no more powerful response to the anti-Zionists and anti-Semites in our midst than the large numbers of proud Australian Jews making a significant commitment to engaging and immersing themselves with Israel on experiential programs. “

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