Recent months have been tumultuous here in Israel. In addition to the ever-evolving Covid-19 situation, we faced hostilities between Israel and Gaza and inter-community violence in mixed cities across the country. Our fellows in Lod, who lived and worked alongside the people and organizations who were directly impacted by the clashes, were particularly affected. During times like these, we are reminded of the importance of our partnership model — by working in collaboration with local organizations we are able to support ongoing community needs in ways that are truly helpful, even when circumstances change. We are inspired by our partners who are carrying on their hard work and finding avenues to move on towards the future. We feel blessed and privileged to continue supporting their work, and to have a summer full of our own exciting Yahel activity.
Last month, as we were getting ready to say goodbye to our 2020-2021 fellows in Rishon Lezion and Lod, we happily welcomed 14 college students to our Social Justice and Community Service internship program in Haifa. Simultaneously, we hosted 150 Onward Israel participants from various programs for educational seminars in the north of Israel. It is so wonderful to be able to run summer programs again after having to cancel all programming in the summer of 2020 due to Covid-19!
Moreover, this week we held our first online welcome session with the incoming 2021-22 Yahel Fellowship cohort. This will be the first fellowship cohort with groups in Rishon Lezion, Lod AND Haifa! That moment, when a new cohort meets all together for the very first time, is always special. Knowing that the smiling unfamiliar faces will soon become friends and true partners to our joint mission on the ground, fills us with enthusiasm and hope.
We also have an academic study of Yahel alumni and a fundraising campaign with a special twist coming up, and many more exciting things to look forward to this summer and beyond.
We hope you enjoy reading a few brief updates from the past few months at Yahel.
Dana and the Yahel team
Wishing our 2020-21 Fellowship cohort farewell
In June, we wished our Yahel Social Change Fellows of 2020-21 farewell. We are so proud of the work that this incredible group of people has done this year along with our partner organizations in Lod and Rishon Letzion. This year’s cohort faced unprecedented challenges due to ongoing COVID-19, rockets fired from Gaza, and inter-community violence in Lod. These challenges encouraged them to work harder and connect further to residents in their cities.
In addition to their collaboration and support of close to 50 different community programs and projects, fellows ended the year with a series of incredible community events, all initiated, planned, and run through their very own wisdom and resourcefulness. Events included two English Carnivals, an Around the World Festival, Trivia Night and more. Moreover, fellows came together and fundraised $36,000 to support Potchim Atid-Youth Futures, an organization providing mentorship for at-risk children, to hire a culturally competent mental health professional in one of the neighborhoods in Lod that suffered most from the recent inter-community violence. We are inspired by the initiative, energy, and effort of our Yahel fellows and thank them deeply for their many important contributions.
While it is always sad to say goodbye, we have no doubt that this group of people is off to do amazing things in the years to come. Kol Hakavod and welcome to The Yahel Alumni Community!
Community events led by fellows, closing ceremonies and final goodbyes in Lod and Rishon Lezion
Yahel social justice and community service internship program in haifa
Also in June, Yahel welcomed 14 Social Justice and Community Service interns in Haifa. This is the sixth cohort Yahel is hosting through our longstanding partnership with Onward Israel.Interns spend two months living, learning, and interning in the city, gaining hands-on experience working in community organizations and various nonprofits.Internships are centered around the themes of shared society, women and gender, and immigration and absorption. In addition to their work, participants meet local leaders and activists who work within these fields in Haifa, and also have the opportunity to explore social change on a broader scale throughout the country.
SJ&CS interns arriving in Haifa and visiting Jerusalem.
in collaboration with onward israel
This month Yahel hosted two multi-day seminars for 150 Onward Israel participants from a wide range of internship programs based in Tel Aviv, Bat Yam, Herzlia, and Jerusalem. The seminars offered an opportunity for young adults from outside of Israel to explore Jewish themes of social change and meet Israeli social entrepreneurs and community activistswhile enjoying a relaxing, fun weekend in the north of Israel. Participants, all college students, come from multiple fields of study such as computer science, finance, law, arts and politics. Through Yahel seminars, they had the opportunity to witness a different side of Israel and learn about social change.
Huge thanks to toZohar Avigdori from theDror Israel Educators Kibbutzmovement for a fabulous workshop on Activism and Contemporary Zionism! And to Horizons for the Future, the wonderful Druze community organization in the Galilee, for once again graciously hosting our participants in their villages to learn about the Druze minority in Israel, its special heritage and important role in society.
Onward participants in the north of Israel building rafts on the Jordan river and crocheting lace with the Druze women of Hurfesh village.
What type of work do you do in your placement?
I work at Hand in Hand preschool - a bilingual school for Jewish and Arab children - helping with various tasks. I’m there to love and play with the kids and I read books to them in English. I help the day go by a little bit smoother and do tasks that the teachers could use help with.
Why did you choose to participate inthe Social Justice and Community Service Internship Program in Haifa?
My sister participated in the Yahel Social Change Fellowship this year and I was inspired by the work she was doing. When I saw that there was a Yahel Onward program it stood out to me. Social justice and community service are topics that are very important to me. It provided me a unique opportunity to see this place in a different way compared to my previous programs in Israel.
What is something new you learned about Israel or Israeli society?
Something that has stood out to me, specifically because of my placement, is how segregated Jews and Arabs lives are and how Jewish and Arab families who live in the same building send their kids to different schools and never interact with each other. Working in the placement that I do, I see how pressing of an issue it is. Even downtown I walk three blocks and it is like I’m in a different town.
Describe a meaningful experience or encounter from the internship so far
Before every meal at Yad b’Yad all of the kids sing a gratitude song. First, they sing it in Arabic and then in Hebrew. After the song, every kid eats the same meal. They have assigned seating at the tables to ensure that they are integrated and I think that is pretty radical. It is beautiful how it's not weird, it’s just their ritual.
What do you think you will take back home with you from the program?
This internship has taught me a lot about how integrated education can be such a powerful tool in bringing communities together in a positive way. Education is really the only way we can solve problems, especially here in Israel. I learned a lot about shared society and the role education plays in bringing two groups together that I don't think are actually very different.
Talia teaching and playing with the kids at the Hand in Hand preschool in Haifa
Upcoming Yahel Alumni Study
Over the past three years, Yahel has had the privilege to partner with social psychologist Dr. Ella Ben Hagai from Fullerton University who is conducting research on how non-Israelis come to understand Israel. This summer Dr. Ben Hagai will expand this collaboration and launch a comprehensive alumni study to map the professional development of Yahel alumniover the past 11 years and the impact of their Yahel experience on their opinions and actions long-term.Yahel Alumni - please stay tuned for Dr. Ben Hagai’s study!
Stay Tuned — yahel fundraising campaign
featuring local crafts
For our annual fundraising campaign this year, we have decided to feature local arts and crafts from a few of our favorite partner organizations. This will be a special opportunity to showcase and support the work of wonderful and talented individuals and organizations whom our volunteers have learned from and worked with over the years. The campaign will launch at the end of August and run through Rosh Hashana-Jewish New Year. We invite our friends and community to support the work of Yahel and the work of these organizations and entrepreneurs through the upcoming campaign.
Bamboola dolls made by Eritrean asylum seekers and a challah cover with Ethiopian embroidery - along with other crafts will be offered to donors as part of the upcoming campaign.
Want to learn firsthand about our volunteers' experiences on the ground?
Want to explore the impact of Yahel alumni in their home communities?