From January 29 through February 14, Federation Program Director Stacy Kamisar was in Israel to experience the true living bridge we have created between our community and our partner region of Afula-Gilboa. Stacy spent her days visiting the different beneficiary organizations we support. Follow her visit with Ethiopian olim in Beit Alfa Absorption Center, to Emek Medical Center, where our Federation helped establish the Katz Family Breast Health Initiative, and to the Beit Singer animal-therapy zoo for at-risk children. Don’t miss her feedback as she shares her experiences interviewing and training the new shinshinim who will join the SNEC region next fall as our 2018-19 Israeli Emissaries. Best of all, share her joy as she reunites with all of our former emissaries, who gathered on February 8th to celebrate 20 years of SNEC emissary life. Join Stacy on her journey and see how this living bridge with Israel is strengthened each year with our commitment to this beautiful region – the heart of the Jezre'el Valley.

February 15, 2018

I'm back in Connecticut, sitting at my desk, trying to absorb the adventure of the past two weeks. I return enriched, energized and filled with a new-found love for this beautiful region in Israel and the inspirational people I met who are making an impact on the lives of so many. Before my trip, I would refer to Afula as a "resource-scarce" area. Now I know I was doing this region a terrible disservice. Yes, there is need in...

February 12, 2018

This morning, it all came together when we met with Shani Cabra Gerbak, the volunteer director of Makom B’Emek (Home in the Valley), which promotes LGBTQ awareness. And, the icing on the cake, Shani was the very first Israeli Young Emissary who served in the WWWN community in 1999. For Shani, her work with Home in the Valley is a natural outgrowth of the the skills she developed during her shlichut - her emissary year.

”My...

February 11, 2018

Each story we heard at Emunah Sarah Herzog Children’s Center was more heartbreaking than the one before.... A family of seven children from Ukraine, whose father forced them to sleep in a dilapidated minivan; siblings beaten regularly by a father while the mother turned a blind eye; a young child whose father refused to acknowledge his existence, even after the death of the mother. Yet, for each terrible tale was a heartening...

February 9, 2018

We made a quick stop to the local community center in Afula, where Daniel, a leader in the Bnei HaMoshavim Youth Movement, took us on a tour of the music studio in the basement. In Israel, youth movements play a large role in Israeli society, and the kids gather together by age groups, led by older teens, to plan activities that include leadership training, community service, hiking and just having some fun. At this particular...

February 8, 2018

“We are all just girls.” These words repeated in my head over and over when I left the Israeli Arab village of Mukeble, where, from a short distance, you can see the town of Jenin, which lies just over the Green Line. I was there to meet with a group of 6th-, 7th- and 8th-grade girls who are pioneers building the first Arab girls basketball team in their village.

”These are Halutzik girls,” said Sivan, who works...

February 7, 2018

At Beit Singer, a hamster, a rabbit or even a chinchilla can make a world of difference for a child suffering from abuse. Here at this residential facility for children ages 8-18 who are unable to live with their families, the goal is to create a warm home in the heart of the valley where children are able to thrive amongst the supporting care of this incredible team. Almost 80 percent of the children living at Beit Singer hav...

February 5, 2018

The warm embrace we have felt from day one continued with our arrival at the Beit Alfa Absorption Center, which was marked with the Buna Coffee Ceremony, the traditional way Ethiopians welcome guests to their home. Back in Ethiopian Jewish villages, where there are no televisions or radios for entertainment, Buna plays a special role, encouraging villagers to gather and share gossip and news of the day. As we sipped our hot co...

February 5, 2018

It was another inspirational morning, with a visit to the Afula branch of the Haifa Rape Crisis Center. After a Tu B’shevat snack of dates and nuts, we got down to business. From their small meetinghouse in Afula,  our friends Shani and Sarai, along with their Year Course Volunteer Sara, shared how the organization works to support survivors of sexual violence. Together with their nine professionals and cadre of volunteers, th...

February 3, 2018

After decades of purchasing JNF Tree Certificates, I finally had the chance to truly celebrate the holiday with my own hands. Sharon and I planted a tree on the kibbutz, as part of a kibbutz tradition. Each Tu B’Shevat, the kibbutz families gather to plant trees and celebrate the holiday together, with crafts for the kids who were more than thrilled to dig in the mud and get their hands dirty. We painted a sign for our “Americ...

February 2, 2018

‘We put light in the darkness so the darkness goes away.”   When I heard  our friends from Tarbut in Afula utter that line, it all clicked.  Tarbut, another organization our Federation supports, is an innovative social enterprise aimed at renewing arts and culture, particularly in resource-scarce areas.  It’s an arts collective of sorts, a kind of arts “kibbutz” whose members opt to live communally and bring their talents to t...

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