As we enter 2021 we are following the many dramatic and troubling events occurring worldwide. We are hopeful and confident that the hundreds of talented and committed individuals who make up the Yahel Alumni community are each finding their unique way to be a vehicle of change and assist in bringing about the stability our world currently needs.
In the midst of all this and as we embark on Yahel’s second decade, we are excited to share that we are rethinking our organizational identity — essentially asking ourselves who we are and what Yahel is all about. What sort of impact do we want to have on the field of service in Israel as we move into our second decade? How would we like to see our alumni leading social change in their own communities? These and many other questions are currently being discussed by our staff, board, participants and alumni. We are looking forward to seeing this unfold in existing and new Yahel programming!
While looking toward the future, we continue to gain tremendous inspiration from our present Yahel Social Change Fellows, who are meeting acute and ongoing needs daily.As Israel has recently entered a third nation-wide lockdown, their contribution is even more apparent. Check out some stories and photos below.
We join our partners, supporters and friends in the shared hope for a healthy, stable and sane 2021.
—Dana and the Yahel team
Yahel fellows in Lod and Rishon Lezion — meeting essential needs
Yahel Fellows are harnessing their creativity and resilience to adapt activities, lesson plans and working styles to the ever-changing health guidelines in Israel, creating continued engagement with community members of all ages and backgrounds throughout this tumultuous year.
Fellows are volunteering outdoors and online, in small groups or individually. Placements include programs for children with special needs and at-risk youth, remote assistance to non-profits and virtual English tutoring with schools and other educational programs. Fellows also show up on immediate notice when necessary assisting in community gardens, food package deliveries and meeting other essential community needs.
In Rishon Lezion many Yahel placements this year are through the West Rishon Welfare Department, as their services are considered essential and continue to operate during lockdowns. In the photos above Yahel fellows are volunteering with kids at a Moadonit - an afterschool program for children who's families are unable to provide care after school hours (left and center), and at a preschool providing care for younger children from similar backgrounds (right).
In Lod, Yahel Fellows are working in multiple setting with individuals with special needs. In the photos above fellows are volunteering with a theatre group for mentally challenged adults (left) and working with non-verbal students with the help of Kyle the lizard at the Educational Agricultural Farm (right).
In November, Yahel Fellows spent three days in the north of Israel exploring the many different models and interpretations of community that exist in one small region. Fellows learned about the kibbutz model: in its original format based on agriculture at the Kinneret Courtyard and Dgania, as well as its contemporary format at Kibbutz Mishol, an urban educators kibbutz in Nof Hagalil-Nazereth Ilit.
Fellows also visited Hannaton, a religious pluralistic community where members of all streams of Judaism share a synagogue, mikveh, holidays and other religious ceremonies and institutions.
Yahel fellows on the North Community Seminar: At the entrance to the only pluralistic mikveh in Israel, in Hannaton (left) And at the Kinneret Courtyard, the site a historic training farm for future kibbutz members in the early 20th century (right).
Simply put, when I thought about how to combine my strong Jewish identity, commitment to furthering social change, and intellectual interest in the Middle East, I knew I had to apply to Yahel!
What is something new you learned about Israel or Israeli society?
I love language learning, and I love listening to how Arabic and Hebrew words permeate conversations in the other language. I had never in my life said b'seder in Arabic class, but I hear it every day at the Arabic-language high school where I teach English!
Describe a meaningful moment from the fellowship so far.
I asked my English students to describe the customs of a holiday that they do not celebrate, and one talked about Christmas. I mentioned that I would love to visit some Christian sites in Nazareth while I am here. His immediate response: "Come! I'll take you!"
In one sentence describe your vision for social change work.
I think social change requires simultaneous work on a few levels, which requires all of us to contribute where we best can: people-to-people trust-building and consciousness-raising; direct action/activism; advocacy; philanthropy; and political/policy change.
Who is an inspiring social change role model for you?
My Lod city coordinator Tamara Roitman is an inspiring social change role model for me -- she's somehow managing to pursue change through education, political organizing, and coordination of our dozens of placements all at once! A true superwoman!
Want to learn firsthand about our volunteers' experiences on the ground?
Want to explore the impact of Yahel alumni in their home communities?