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“Lehitraot” as Aussie gap year participants leave for Israel

“Lehitraot” as Aussie gap year participants leave for Israel

Youth movement participants organised by the AZYC from Bnei Akiva, Betar, Habonim Dror, Hashomer Hatzair,

Hineni and Netzer in flight

It was an emotional afternoon on the Australia Day public holiday 27th January

Shlichim, Madrichim, family and friends came to send-off the participants from Bnei Akiva, Betar, Habonim Dror, Hashomer Hatzair, Hineni and Netzer, with over 600 people at Sydney and Melbourne International Airports present to farewell the Shnatties (Australasian Zionist Youth Council program participants) as they departed for their respective programs.

Shlichim, Madrichim, family and friends came to send-off the participants from Bnei Akiva, Betar, Habonim Dror, Hashomer Hatzair, Hineni and Netzer coordinated by the AZYC.

They were farewelled amid chanting, singing, cheering, flag waving and emotional renditions of Advance Australia Fair and Hatikva.

In Melbourne, ZFA President Philip Chester addressed the group, reiterating the ZFA’s commitment to Zionist youth movements and wishing them a wonderful, fulfilling year and looking forward to seeing them assume positions of leadership in the community on their return. He said: – “The ZFA is involved because we believe in Israel and as many people experiencing this special place as possible and we believe in you, because when you come back to Australia you’re going to be leaders not only in your movements but also in the community itself. You’re going to learn a lot, and you’re going to have fun. You’re going to come back with a lot of knowledge, experience, spirit and ruach – all of the things to make our community a better place.”

The Shnat participants from all the youth movements will kick off their year with an intensive 5 day “Opening Seminar”, presented by the Australian Zionist Youth Council in conjunction with the ZFA.

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.

Colin Picker, Eli Picker, Lois Cohen, Zachary Picker

For many this is a tradition with their parents having gone decades before. Habonim Shnattie: – Zachary Picker, 19, Randwick says “Both my parents went on Shnat when they were my age and I thought it would be a really fun and exciting experience. They (his parents) would be upset if I didn’t go. I’m most excited about the food and the smells of Israel.”

Guy Sussman 18, Maroubra said: – “Both my parents went on Shnat. It feels like my whole up bringing has been leading to this and it’s crazy that it’s actually happening!”

Lily Edelstein and Mikaela Higgins (Lily’s Madricha) 

For some like Netzer Shnattie Lily Edelstein, 18, Haberfield it is about the experience

Lily says “I’m really excited and really nervous, well not that nervous just overwhelmed. It’s huge having everyone here and knowing that you’re not going to see them for a year… I’m hoping that I’m going to meet a lot of new people and I used to speak Hebrew so I’d like to pick that up again.”

This departure marks the start of Australian gap year programs heading to Israel. 120 participants on youth movement shnat programs, 56 on AUJS Aviv and 67 on Israel By Choice will be starting their programs in the coming week.  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.