“Shalom Israel” as Aussie gap year participants get ready to farewell Israel

November 8, 2016 by Hayley Hadassin
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It is nearing the end of the year; a time for many to finalise, organise and work towards deadlines. 


Shnatties on seminar in the desert of the Arava

For the 2016 Shnat participants, their gap year is also coming to a close, so they came together in the Arava for their final seminar.

It was an incredible opportunity for the 110 youth movement shnatties from; Bnei Akiva, Betar, Habonim Dror, Netzer, Hashomer Hatzair and Hineni to unite, to reflect, reminisce and reinforce their individual and collective experiences and most importantly to emphasize the importance of community.

The Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) together with the Australasian Zionist Youth Council (AZYC) and the Australia Arava Partnership (AAP) organised the seminar, which enabled each of these individuals from their respective movements with their differing ideologies to learn how to celebrate their differences and how to focus on their similarities. They focused on team building skills and how to take ownership of their Jewish community at home.


Tamar Shifroni catching the sunset in the Arava

The setting was magical in its’ own right and it is now the third year that the closing ceremony has been held in Shirat Haarava on Moshav Tsofar in the beautiful and tranquil Arava. Rebecca Heffelbaum, deputy chair of the AZYC said: – “It is fitting that the seminar is located in the stunning Arava as this region encapsulates the communal values that we strive for and it is a pleasure to return each year and reinforce our strong and continuing partnership with one another.”

The participants took part in a series of informal discussions, tasted flavours of the Arava during an agricultural tour and cooked their own breakfast of shakshuka and pita on an outdoor bonfire, which was a highlight for all.

They also had the chance to hear first-hand from Elad Seker, commander of the search and rescue unit in the Arava. He spoke about the desert rescue operations he oversees in the Arava and how his skills are frequently called upon to lead in humanitarian crises in places like Fukushima, Philippines, and South Sudan.


Shnat participants in a cooking workshop in the Arava

Emma Freilich on Hineni Shnat said: – “The beauty of the Arava establishes a very relaxed atmosphere which encourages communal conversation and activities. Overall the seminar was a great experience.”

The Hineni shnat group is now being hosted in the Arava for a month by the AAP. They will partake in meaningful volunteer work in agriculture and in the school. Their presence at the school adds a positive element to the daily atmosphere and provides additional educational value to the students with many of the students encouraged to learn English.

Orit Elkayam Cohen, Director of Partnership 2Gether Arava Australia said; “The sikkum was an incredible success on all fronts.  The usually quiet desert was filled with the noise and ruach of shnatties who immersed themselves in the activities. They experienced first-hand how the once barren and desolate Arava, the dream of a group of young people has become a reality today.  They came away inspired to make their own dreams come true.”

The shnat programs focus on education, leadership training, Jewish learning, community service, touring, hiking and personal development. The programs give the participants skills to be educated, competent and passionate leaders in the Jewish and wider community and to inspire their own dreams to become a reality.
Masa Israel Journey is the umbrella organisation for all long-term Israel programs and it is not too late to consider programs for 2017. Contact israelprograms@zfa.com.au for more details

For more information on the Arava, please contact the Australia Arava Partnership arava@zfa.com.au

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