It is hot, dry and located on the other side of the world, but the Central Arava Region shares a close connection with Australia thanks to the Arava Australia Partnership (AAP) and the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA). Since 1995, Australia has partnered with the Central Arava Region through Partnership 2Gether (P2G), a program akin to a sister city relationship. Created by the Jewish Agency for Israel, P2G aims to connect a community in the Diaspora with a region in Israel through unique people-to-people activities including the Teacher Exchange Program.
“The Teacher Exchange Program has been a feature of the AAP since its inception. It has created wonderful relationships and has enabled the sharing of skills and professional knowledge between teachers in the Arava and the Jewish schools in Australia, bridging the distance between our two communities,” said Tamara Bruce, Chairperson of the AAP.
During December 2019/January 2020 school holidays, Australian teachers Julia Tritsch, Amelia Kalifa and Marilyn Kelmann were sponsored by the AAP to teach, volunteer and live in the Central Arava.
They spent three weeks teaching at the Shittim Primary and High School which is situated in the community of Sapir and hosts over 800 students from 6-18 years of age. During their time in the Arava, Julia, Amelia and Marilyn taught over 25 English lessons alongside local teachers, and carried out tasks such as preparing the children for their English tests, teaching basic conversation skills and creating resources to use in the school including posters, displays and games.
In addition to teaching, they also experienced all that the Arava has to offer including enjoying Moshav life, tours of the region, visits to agricultural farms, and most importantly encounters with the people from the Arava and their home hospitality.
Julia Tritsch, a primary school teacher from Emanuel School in Sydney thanked the AAP for the opportunity to take part in the program and to teach English in the Arava. She said, “I had the most amazing time there. The community was so welcoming and the teachers and students very keen to make us feel at home. The entire experience is one that I will not forget as it afforded me the opportunity to live in one of the most beautiful parts of Israel and to develop relationships with the wonderful people who live there.”
Marilyn Kelmann, a secondary teacher from Bialik College in Melbourne, was selected to teach English to year 12 students in the Arava and had the specific task of preparing them for their English oral exam, which will take place this March. She said, “I feel so lucky to have been part of this partnership and incredible experience. I am leaving with so many great memories, new friendships and a deeper understanding of how important the Arava is and a desire to strengthen this connection.”
Amelia Kalifa from Mount Scopus College in Melbourne said, “It was truly a once in a lifetime experience where I was privileged to match my passion for teaching Primary school students with my love for the Arava and Israel. I enjoyed every minute of the program and felt very valued and needed by the school and the students. I feel like we really made such a difference in such a short time.”
ZFA’s AAP National Coordinator Stacy Hayman summed it up by saying, “There is no text book or instruction manual that can create a personal connection to Israel as honestly, strongly or genuinely as simply being in Israel. The teachers managed to bring a little piece of Australia to the Arava and return
with the Arava in their hearts.”
2020 promises to be another big year for the AAP and ZFA who are currently recruiting 4 madrichim to work at a Summer Camp in Arava over June/July 2020. Applications for this highly subsided program close on 28/2/2020 and can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling +61 3 9272 5531.