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Dear Yahel Community,
The situation in Israel - and in the Diaspora - continues to be incredibly challenging, complicated, and heartbreaking. We had a serious scare Saturday night with the attack from the Islamic Replublic of Iran. I am glad we have such a great air defense system and allies, and hope that the situation will not escalate from here. 
One thing has remained clear to me throughout these past 6+ months - it is incredible how much service is helping so many of us get through it all. Service is proving to be a way to build resilience both for communities and the volunteers themselves- and action often translates into hope. I am glad that we are growing the ways in which we can facilitate meaningful volunteering during this time in Israel. 
One aspect of service is also using our voice. I am really proud of the article I co-wrote with Yahel Social Change Fellowship alumnus Benji Bernstein. In it, we discuss the importance of fostering deeper connections between the Diaspora and Israel during these challenging times, particularly amongst young adults. We write about the importance of nuanced engagment and support for grassroots initiatives in Israel, with the ultimate goal being to turn young Diaspora Jews from spectators to active partners in shaping Israel's future. I invite you to read the article, and share and comment to increase its reach.

Jordyn Cummings, one of Yahel's Social Change Fellows in Rishon LeZion, is also using her voice. Jordyn wrote a beautiful article about the fellows' recent visit to Ofakim. The piece shares how powerful it was for her, and all the fellows, to see first-hand the resilience of one of the most adversely impacted Israeli communities on October 7th.

Multiplying our Impact through Partnerships
We continue to feel a deep responsibility in this crucial moment in Israel's history to help promote responsibile and effective volunteering experiences. To that effect, this month we were thrilled to have partnered with Partnership2Gether Hadera-Eiron-SE Consortium, tailoring a solidarity volunteer trip for 24 participants from Southeastern North America and the Czech Republic - to connect to their partnership communities and participate in meaningful volunteer projects. From agricultural farming, to renovating a community center, to food packaging in Ofakim, participants made real change and connected with their partnership Israel communities. 
One participant shared: “I feel that our presence there was as meaningful to those we interacted with as it was to us. This was exactly the kind of experience I was hoping for.”  
The positive feedback we received from the trip participants was incredibly encouraging and motivates us to do all we can to continue to increase our impact.

Another example of the work we are doing right now is the meaningful service learning experience we led for North American Jewish educators from the Jewish Education Project. 
In collaboration with "Bedouin Women for Themselves" and their founder, Amal Abu Alkom, we prepared 100 food packages for families in unrecognized Bedouin villages. Throughout the day, we engaged in meaningful dialogues with the women, gaining firsthand insights into the Bedouin communities' experiences, especially the impacts of October 7th and the following months, along with the community's social activism efforts. Our hosts extended a generous invitation to an Iftar meal, creating a space for us to come together in breaking the Ramadan fast. 

Creating Change in Challenging Times
Yahel's Social Change Fellows have adapted to the “new normal” and are working hard to, despite the ongoing challenges, make change at their various volunteer placements. In Haifa, fellows are engaged with students in elementary and high school. They are working with youth and community centers, and assisting local NGOs. In Rishon, fellows are working in elementary and middle schools, and afternoon day centers. They are working with youth centers, an elderly day center, and individuals with special needs.
It is clear the fellows are making meaningful relationships in the communities in which they live - it is encouraging to see the power of community change work, especially during difficult times. 
The learning aspect of the fellowship is also fully underway - with the accelerated Hebrew course now complete, the fellows are studying Arabic. The fellows also just completed a three-session course about the connection between Judaism and social justice with linguist, author and teacher Dr. Jeremy Benstein. This week, the fellows embarked on a 3-day learning seminar in the Negev.

As our fellowship continues, we are also continuing to expand our impact. In the coming weeks, we will be hosting several groups for service-learning days, including several Honeymoon Israel groups. We have several new opportunities and collaborations coming up in the coming months.
As we look forward towards the summer, we are preparing for the second cohort of Yahel Together - our new 6-week volunteering program in partnership with Masa, and the second cohot of Olim Shalav - our new community building program for new immigrants to Israel.
I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of what we are doing at Yahel. I am honored to be working with our staff, board and funders to be able to answer the moment through service. As Passover approaches – I want to wish you a meaningful and peaceful holiday. May our prayers for freedom be answered, may all captives return home safely and may we work together towards the rebuilding of our communities together.
With gratitude for your partnership,
Dana and the Yahel Israel Team

Please help us spead the word about all of Yahel's programs; there is something for everyone!
Four different ways to create change with Yahel: