KKL-JNF Educators Study Tour 2018

From January 2-11, 2018, The KKL-JNF Overseas Education and Community Division led a group of 64 Jewish and non-Jewish Australian educators on a fascinating Israel journey, designed to create a collaborative relationship between the educational systems in Australia and Israel. Beyond an unforgettable Israel experience, the participants also gained new educational tools and materials that will help them strengthen the connection between Australian youth and the State of Israel. 

Over the course of the 10 day Study Tour, the participants were exposed to the unique nature, culture, history, and heritage of Israel through visits to educational, environmental, and community development projects spearheaded by KKL-JNF and supported by JNF Australia. They had the opportunity to connect with the diverse people of Israel in meaningful encounters and discussion groups with community leaders, local educators, and students. 

Click on the day-by-day itinerary below to see pictures and learn more about this trip:

  • Day 1: Australian Educators Mission Comes to Israel

    “We are working to strengthen Diaspora Jews’ relationship with Israel.”
    Hani Desa, Director of the Overseas Department of KKL-JNF’s Education Division)

    The first day of the journey began outdoors at the Rosh Tzipor Birwatching Center in Tel Aviv’s HaYarkon Park, followed by a visit to Lavi Field and Forest Center, which offers educational activities related to nature, the environment and Zionism. In a moving opening ceremony, each participant planted a tree in honor of their school.

    The delegates continued to the Jordan River Village for children suffering from serious illness and physical disabilities, where they toured the multi-sensory science garden supported by JNF Australia and participated in educational activities designed to strengthen the link between Diaspora youth and Israel.

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    Photo by: Yoav Devir

  • Day 2: Between Ancient Times to the Modern Era

    “This visit connected us to Israel’s history. We get to see the amazing work Israelis are doing in all the fields and their love for their country.”
    (Garron Forman, Sydney)

    On the second day of their trip, the participants delved into the history, nature, and culture of Northern Israel. They began  with an eye-opening encounter with members of Kibbutz Misgav Am, who shared stories about life near the Lebanese border. In the ancient city of Katzrin, the group stepped back in time 2,000 years to experience Jewish life in the Talmudic period through archaeology, costume, and hands-on workshops.

    The group enjoyed a geopolitical jeep tour of the Golan Heights, including visits to historic battle sites and breathtaking panoramic views of the region. They continued to Hula Lake Park, where they learned about KKL-JNF’s role in transforming the malaria-ridden swamp lands into an internationally renowned bird-watching site.

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    Photo by: Yoav Devir

  • Day 3: From Jewish Mysticism to Israeli Education

    “This tour has also opened my eyes up to what KKL-JNF has accomplished here, and it turns out that it’s about much more than just trees.”
    (Annette Wester, Melbourne)

    The third day of the trip began in the mystical city of Tzfat, one of Israel’s four ancient holy cities and the capital of the Upper Galilee. They met with local Kabbalistic artists, who shared their personal journeys and the spiritual secrets hidden within their paintings.

    They met with educators and community leaders in the diverse Misgav regional council, who presented educational coexistence projects, including a bilingual school that teaches in both Arabic and Hebrew. At Oranim College, a teacher’s training institute devoted to building a just society through education, the participants split up into discussion groups to brainstorm how to strengthen Jewish identity in their students back home.

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    Photo by: Yoav Devir

  • Day 5: In the Footsteps of the Liberators of Jerusalem

    “We teach our students about the Six-Day war at school, but standing here we can really feel history.”
    (Debbi Benn, Perth)

    The educators spent the weekend experiencing the intersection of the ancient and modern in the Holy City of Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish nation. They explored sacred heritage sites, such as the Western Wall, the Jewish Quarter, and the City of David, alongside the diverse Nahlaot neighborhood, the bustling Mahaneh Yehudah market, and the historic sites of Yemin Moshe.

    Following an unforgettable Jerusalem Sabbath experience, the group participated in a special event at Ammunition Hill marking the 70 years since the establishment of the state and 50 years since the reunification of Jerusalem in the Six Day War. They heard moving stories of courage and determination and paid their respects to the heroic soldiers who fell in the battle for Jerusalem.

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    Photo by: Yoav Devir

  • Day 6: From Jerusalem to Sderot

    “It is not easy to understand the complexity of life in the Middle East, but within this enormous challenge, a fascinating country has emerged.”
    (Danny Atar, KKL-JNF World Chairman)

    The second week began at the National Institutions Building, where the group discussed the role of international Zionist institutions in the development of Israel throughout history. In an emotional visit to Yad Vashem, they remembered those murdered in the horrors of the Holocaust and discussed how to convey the lessons of this dark time to the next generation.

    The delegates traveled to the communities of the Gaza border region, where they visited educational and ecological projects and heard from inspiring individuals who have learned to live with the threat of rocket attacks. In a joint dinner with teachers from Shaar HaNegev High School, the educators had meaningful, open discussion about the the differences and similarities between the educational systems of the two countries.

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    Photo by: Yoav Devir

  • Day 7: Education Blooms in the Negev

    “It is amazing to think that the pupils who are so close to Gaza can live lives that are so full of vitality and love and enjoy the whole experience, just like the children in Australia do.” 
    (Lindi Bloch, Australia)

    The group spent the day learning about security, education, and ecology in the diverse communities of the Western Negev. They heard firsthand about life under fire on tours of kibbutzim located in close proximity to the Gaza border. At the nearby Water Museum and Nir Am Reservoir, they learned about the essential role water plays in the settlement of the Negev Desert, and the advanced ways in which KKL-JNF is helping them face these challenges. On a fascinating visit to a battery of the Iron Dome system, the educators welcomed the opportunity to speak to IDF soldiers.

    The delegation learned about the impressive education system in the Shaar HaNegev Regional Council, where they led an activity for kindergarten students, spoke with children from the Hosen Empowerment Center about how they cope with life challenges, and met with student leaders who gave a presentation about the environment.

    The group enjoyed eye-opening discussion groups with Bedouin educators and students at the Desert Stars Institute for Young Bedouins, which provides its participants with life skills, leadership training, and academic learning.

    At the ANZAC Memorial Center in Beersheba, they learned about the role played by ANZAC soldiers in the conquest of the city in WWI. The day concluded with an introduction to KKL-JNF’s latest educational tools and activities designed to convey eco-Zionist and social values to students abroad.

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    Photo by: Yoav Devir

  • Day 8: A Pioneering Spirit in the Arava

    “It’s amazing to see how the pioneering settlers of this region have succeeded, thanks to their determination and their shared goal of bringing life to the desert.”
    (Rob De Marco, Bialik College, Melbourne)

    In the harsh conditions of the Arava, the educators experienced how Israel’s resourcefulness and pioneering spirit has made the desert bloom, in the form of agricultural success and thriving communities.

    At the Vidor Center and R&D facilities, the group learned about the agricultural challenges facing the region and the creative solutions and technologies employed to overcome them. They tasted desert-grown tomatoes and peppers at Ein Yahav and  cooked a hand-picked meal at the Bein Hashitin Farm, which runs Zionist educational programs for youth.

    They met the husband-and-wife founders of Lotan’s Way, a program that uses wilderness therapy methods to empower and support youth at risk. In encounters with students from developing countries at the Arava International Center for Agricultural Training, the educators heard firsthand how Israel’s resourcefulness is inspiring people around the world. They finished off the day with a lively evening of folk dancing and singing.

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    Photo by: Yoav Devir

  • Day 9: Australian Educators Formulate their Visions

    “As educators who touch the lives of the next generation of Jewish leaders, you have great influence, and this is why your vision is so important.”
    (Malca Barkay, Diaspora Content Director at the Overseas Department)

    The delegation began their day at the Ben Hashitin Pre-Military Academy, which encourages young leaders to connect with themselves, each other, the desert, and the people and State of Israel.

    At the desert fortress of Masada, they learned about the dramatic story behind this site, which serves as a symbol of freedom in Israeli society. After a quick visit to the Dead Sea, they traveled to the center of the country, where they concluded the day with an educational workshop about vision. They learned about KKL-JNF’s program designed to teach young Diaspora Jews about vision, dreams, and realizing Zionist values and also formulated and shared their own personal and professional visions.

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    Photo by: Yoav Devir

  • Day 10: Australian Educators’ Inspirational Journey in Israel Comes to an End

    “This was an inspirational journey, which will certainly have an impact on the way we teach our students about Israel.”
    (Debbie Conn, Australia)

    On the final day of their journey, the group delved into three subjects that characterize KKL-JNF’s work: education, ecology, and Zionism. They began their day at the Safari School in Ramat Gan, which helps children with learning disabilities through working with animals and encouraging social responsibility and the protection of nature. The delegates participated in a joint activity with the students and enjoyed a tour of the Safari.

    At the Alexander Muss High School in Hod Hasharon, they heard about the international program that brings students from around the world together to strengthen their Jewish identity and connection with Israel and participated in demonstration lessons on various subjects.

    The group finished their trip at Independence Hall, the historic building where the State of Israel was declared in 1948. In an emotional closing ceremony, they shared their experiences from the Study Tour and committed to donating 30 trees to be planted in the Jerusalem Forest in honor of their journey.

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    Photo by: Yoav Devir