Last week, over 80 young Jewish Australians departed Melbourne and Sydney to spend a year in Israel on various Australasian Zionist Youth Council (AZYC) gap year programs. The AZYC, together with the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA), hosted farewell ceremonies at the airports for participants from Netzer, Habonim Dror, Hashomer Hatzair and Betar. They were joined at the airport by participants from Bnei Akiva, who began their program a week earlier . For the first time ever, there is also a participant from Tzofim, the Israeli scouts, who joined a Shnat Sherut program with Tzofim in Israel. The group were given a rousing send-off which including singing, dancing and emotional renditions of Advance Australia Fair and Hatikvah, a scene that was also replicated upon their arrival in Israel.
ZFA Israel Office Director Moriah Ben David, welcomed the group when they arrived in Israel. She said, “I am so excited for this group to start such an important year in Israel. It was a real closing of the circle for me to finally welcome Shnatties to Israel after farewelling other groups from Australia as a shlicha a few years ago. I look forward to watching their journey here in their home away from home.”
Ginette Searle, CEO of the ZFA added, “Each year we send off a large contingent of young adults on gap year programs, but it is no less remarkable to have the privilege to watch them make their way through their various youth movements before embarking on this year of a lifetime. I look forward to hearing of their experiences throughout the year, and in particular, to seeing them when they return as future leaders after an incredible year away.”
The “shnat” year in Israel kicks off with a three-day AZYC opening seminar. The group spent their first day in Tel Aviv – exploring the landmarks on a scavenger hunt and the tastes at lunch at Shuk Ha’Carmel. The Seminar itself took place in Mayan Harod, where they intertwined practical seminar sessions with bonding activities, overlooking the picturesque valleys and mountains in the area.
Included in their opening seminar activities was a talk by a psychologist about maintaining positive mental health over their gap year, and a session exploring the various ideologies of the movements. Throughout these sessions it was obvious that there is a lot more that unites the Zionist youth movements than divides them. Despite their differences, they all focus on education, leadership training, Jewish learning and community service. Shnat programs provide the participants with tools to be passionate leaders in the Jewish and wider community upon their return.
The program included a gala welcome dinner where participants were treated to an address by Australia’s Ambassador to Israel, Chris Cannan.
Rachelle Braverman, head of the AZYC said, “these young adults are about to embark on an exciting year of adventure, discovery and personal growth. They will spend the year exploring, learning and discovering more about the country, their movements and themselves, and we look forward to witnessing the contributions they will make in various communities in Israel and upon their return home.”
Aside from the Shnatties, this year a large number of Australian participants have arrived in Israel to participate in a variety of long-term Israel programs including Israel By Choice (IBC), Aardvark Israel and Ohrsom Gap Year. Through its Israel Programs department and Masa Israel Journey, the ZFA offers hundreds of long-term Israel program options to young adults aged 18-30. For further information please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.