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“Shalom Israel” as Aussie gap year participants arrive in Israel

“Shalom Israel” as Aussie gap year participants arrive in Israel

07 February 2014

Youth movement participants organised by the AZYC from Bnei Akiva, Betar, Habonim Dror, Hashomer Hatzair, Hineni and Netzer have completed their Opening Seminar in Israel

After a long flight Shnat participants arrived in Israel for the 6 day AZYC Opening Seminar. This is a unique opportunity for all the youth movements to join together as they prepare for the year long journey ahead.

The first day was spent travelling around Tel Aviv ‘Amazing Race’ style, which allowed everyone to experience a little bit of Tel Aviv and interact with Israeli’s whilst practicing their Hebrew.

The opening dinner was a welcome to all Shnat participants and included prominent guest speakers; His Excellency Australian Ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Spokesperson for the Foreign Media Mark Regev and JNF-KKL’s Education Director Dovi Paritsky.

Their days are filled with activities and varied experiences designed to challenge, encourage and help set the framework for the year ahead. There has been an introduction to Zionist thinkers, Tiyuls (hikes) near Beit Shemesh and Neve Ilan. The days aren’t all about experiencing Israel, although no introduction would be complete without a visit to the Kotel, which was a first for many or walking through Machane Yehuda market before Shabbat or dining in one of the many restaurants on Ben Yehuda Street. It is also about setting goals for the year, a time to discuss and appreciate different ideologies and diversity, debate topics relevant to Israel, examine the mindset of being a Shnat participant and how to make the most of the year.

The shnat programs focus on education, leadership training, Jewish learning, community service, touring, hiking and more. The programs give the participants skills to be educated, competent and passionate leaders in the Jewish and wider community.

Yigal Sela is the Israel Office Director for the ZFA. He was part of the Opening Seminar with the AZYC and says: – “For a long time the ZFA has worked to bring all the movements together and show them that they have a lot of common ground. This seminar is an expression of that goal and so it was very moving and satisfying to hear a Habonim boy get up just before Havdala at the end of the Shabbat and say that the Shabbat we had just spent together was the most meaningful and spiritual Shabbat he had ever experienced.”

From here the group heads out to their respective movement seminars.

Reuben Bolaffi, Chairperson of the AZYC and currently in Israel with the movements says: – “The 120 Shnat participants are embarking on an amazing journey in Israel, exploring the country, their movement and themselves. We are looking forward to seeing how they develop throughout the year and integrate within Israeli society”.

120 participants departed on youth movement shnat programs, 56 on AUJS Aviv and 67 on Israel By Choice.

To date there are 353 people heading to Israel this year on long term Israel programs in 2014, supported by grants and scholarships from the Masa program. A record number of 21-30 year olds are participating in a wide range of programs, including study abroad, career internships and special interest programs.

For further information on different programs available check out the Israel programs website