The picturesque views of the Arava and the fresh desert air provided the perfect backdrop for the Australasian Zionist Youth Council (AZYC) Closing Seminar, which brought together 108 gap year participants from six of the Zionist Youth movements from Australia and New Zealand.
As has now become a tradition, the seminar was hosted by the Australia-Arava Partnership and supported by the Zionist Federation of Australia’s Israel Office.
The three-day program provided a platform for the participants to review their year in Israel and to discuss their return home, their commitments to their movements and to the wider Jewish community. The group participated in a number of bonding activities, such as pita making, which was intertwined with serious discussions about the community and conversations about what their impact can be as madrichim of the movements in Australia and New Zealand. Speaking about this impact that participants can have on their return home, chair of the AZYC Noa Shaul said, “AZYC Closing Seminar is an opportunity for the movements to come together and understand that though the differences between them exist, the similarities are much stronger, and when united we can create a strong youth movement community.”
Tali Prawer, a participant from Hineni said, “book-ending the year with an AZYC seminar emphasizes the importance of Jewish community collaboration. I am looking forward to seeing what Shnat 2019 achieves together in the future.” Guy Dyskin, a participant from Betar, agreed with the idea of bringing the entire group back together, saying, “AZYC closing seminar is a great opportunity to reconnect with all of the Shnatties I have met throughout the year and summarise the complexity and the experiences of our gap year in Israel.”
One of the highlights of the seminar was the ceremony which marks the anniversary of the charge of the Australian Light Horse Brigade in Be’er Sheva 1917 at the Park of the Australian Soldier. Among other dignitaries and speakers at the event, the group was fortunate enough to have heard an address by former Australian Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan, who was in Israel with the joint ZFA and Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs political delegation. In addition, the group attended the formal Joint Commemoration at the Military Cemetery where representatives laid wreaths.
Speaking at the ceremony and paying tribute to the brave Australian soldiers and the connection of our two nations, Noa Shaul concluded, “today we recognised the ANZACs who started the fight for a different reality, and we recognise every single one of us here, with a big shout out to our youth movements, who continue to build the future of the State of Israel. And while we are building the future of Israel, we are also building the future of Australia and New Zealand.”
Summing up the seminar, Melanie Perch, Executive Officer of the AYZC remarked, “it was a pleasure to spend a few days with our wonderful community of friends in the Arava who welcomed us with open arms. The AZYC is proud to see the growth of our Shnatties over the year, and if this is the caliber of our future leaders, then the Youth Movements in Australia and New Zealand are in great hands.”