Not just trees

January 7, 2019 by Michael Kuttner
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For sixty-six educators from Australia and one lone New Zealander currently touring Israel on a ten-day KKL-JNF educational seminar, it has been full of eye-opening encounters.

Cherel Sartori, Sue Meltzer and Jeannine Shainfeld

The aim of this seminar is for the educators to absorb the tools and knowledge they acquire in Israel through KKL-JNF-overseas education department led activities and apply them back in their own classrooms and communities.

A first-time visit for many and a return for some who have been here previously this action-packed tour has been both an educational bonanza and a wonderful exposure to Israel’s amazing accomplishments in a variety of fields.

Spanning a wide cross-section of Jewish and non-Jewish schools, teachers from varied backgrounds have traversed Israel from North to South learning about the incredibly varied mosaic that makes up Israeli society. This has included lectures and hands-on experiences at the Technion in Haifa, a visit to a Bedouin high school, workshops related to agriculture and ecological developments and meetings with educators and discussions in areas of mutual concern. In addition, visiting the natural wonders of the Hula Valley, experiencing the mystical delights of Safed and seeing the realities of Jerusalem all contributed to an action-packed and meaningful ten days.

J-Wire’s Israel Correspondent, Michael Kuttner, took the opportunity of a brief interlude in Jerusalem to talk with three participants who are representative of the wide range of backgrounds of those taking part in this seminar.

Jeannine Shainfeld, from Sydney who teaches mathematics at Reddam non-denominational school.

Cherel Sartori who teaches science at Mount Scopus College in Melbourne.

Sue Meltzer who is the Principal of New Zealand’s only Jewish school in Auckland.

All three were bubbling over with enthusiasm at what they had seen so far and expressed amazement at what Israel had achieved in the space of a short span of seventy years. What motivated them to take part in this KKL-JNF sponsored seminar was their desire to learn first hand of the accomplishments Israel had managed to achieve and then to be able to transmit this modern miracle back to their pupils and peers on their return “down under.”  The innovations they witnessed in a variety of areas relating to special education for children in need and the pace of infrastructure development amazed them.

Day 3

Seeing first hand how the media presentation of news about Israel back home bore no relationship to actual reality reinforced their desire to spread the truth about Israel back home. When asked how as teachers of science and mathematics they could accomplish this both Jeannine and Cherel came up with simple solutions.

As a science teacher, Cherel, intends to show how Israel’s prowess in becoming a leading nation of scientific innovations could be an example for Australia. She admitted that teaching in a world-renowned school such as Mount Scopus where Zionist and Jewish attachment is strong, made her task so much easier.

Jeannine came up with a brilliant answer. She intends to harness Kabbalah and its associated mathematical mysteries to capture the attention of her pupils.

Sue intends to do outreach to colleagues and educators in New Zealand where knowledge of things Jewish is generally rare and media disinformation about Israel is commonplace.

This short exposure to Israel has obviously made a great impact and hopefully should be followed by many more.

As Cherel succinctly summed up at the end of our meeting: “when you see what KKL-JNF is actually creating here you realize that blue boxes and trees are only a part of their activities these days.”

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