World Education Conference 2018

From July 18-25, 2018, teachers and educators from Israel and around the world participated in the annual KKL-JNF World Education Conference, which celebrated 70 years since the establishment of the State of Israel and 117 years of KKL-JNF activities. Over the course of their 8-day long journey, some 250 principals, teachers, and informal educators from 18 countries, including USA, Latin America, South Africa, Russia, Hungary, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Morocco, and Israel, explored Zionist heritage and the history of the people of Israel through the lens of KKL-JNF’s work.

The conference aimed to strengthen the bond between Diaspora communities and Israel, while providing educators with pedagogical tools that will help them promote Jewish identity and connection to Israel among their students back home. Exploring different aspects of the theme, “Tradition and Innovation,” the participants met with Israeli entrepreneurs and pioneers in the fields of education and technology, took part in enriching workshops and lectures, and visited KKL-JNF’s educational and ecological projects throughout the country.

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

  • Day 1: Past and Future

    “The Education Conference is an opportunity to connect with teachers and educators from around the world, and of course, to strengthen our connection to Israel.”
    (Violetta Varga, Hungary)

    The first day of the trip began with a journey back to the early days of the State of Israel. The group visited the historical KKL-JNF House in Tel Aviv, the place from which KKL-JNF administered the purchase of lands, followed by a tour of the Hall of Independence, where Ben Gurion announced the establishment of the State.

    The educators from France then saw how a garbage dump was transformed into a green lung at Ariel Sharon Park, and the American educators met with students and teachers from the Alexander Muss American High School in Hod HaSharon. The school gives students from around the world the opportunity to strengthen their Jewish identity while living and learning in Israel.

    The group gathered for an opening ceremony at the Ilanot Forest, where they experienced the intersection between nature and technology. They continued north to the KKL House for Excellence in the Galilee, an innovative educational institution that cultivates academic and leadership skills among youth in Israel’s peripheral regions. While there, the teachers participated in an engaging KKL-JNF activity about Israel’s unique contributions to the world in the fields of agriculture, medicine, technology, and more. The first day concluded with a colorful dance workshop that told the story of Israel’s diverse pioneers from across the globe through music, movement, and costume.

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    Photo by: Yoav Devir

  • Day 2: Communicating Israel to Students

    “I want to bring the scents, sights, and experiences of Israel to the children.”
    (Tali Barhai, Miami, Florida)

    The second day of the conference began with professional workshops designed to help the educators develop new tools to strengthen their students’ Jewish identity and connection to Israel and promote tolerance between different groups. They explored many different topics together, including educational entrepreneurship, leadership and vision, and the role of tradition in education.

    The group continued to the mystical city of Tzfat, one of Israel’s four ancient holy cities and the capital of the Upper Galilee. They experienced the otherworldly spirituality of the city by wandering its alleyways and meeting with local Kabbalistic artists.

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    Photo by: Yoav Devir

  • Day 3: From History to Innovation

    “Forming a connection with Israel is an important challenge we’re dealing with, and the visit certainly connects us to the history of our nation.”
    (Miri Volchegorsky, Florida)

    The third day of the conference was devoted to exploring the unique intersection between Israel’s ancient history and its modern spirit of innovation. At Kfar Kedem, one group participated in hands-on activities that gave them a taste of daily life in biblical times, while another group toured the Second Temple era archaeological site of Beit She’arim.

    The group sprung forward to modern times at the Taglit – Birthright Israel Innovation Center in Tel Aviv, which showcases the contribution of Israeli innovation to the world in the fields of agriculture, medicine, defense and more. The American educators finished the day with a moving ceremony at the 9/11 Living Memorial in the Jerusalem mountains.

    The participants spent Saturday touring both the old and new neighborhoods of the complex city of Jerusalem independently. On Saturday night, the eve of Tisha B’Av, they heard two lectures on Jewish identity.

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    Photo by: Yoav Devir

  • Day 4: United in Jerusalem

    “I feel that an extraordinary unity has formed among the educators from the different countries.”
    (Peggie Siksik, Paris, France)

    The day 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 learned about the darkest period of human history and how to transmit the messages of the Holocaust to the next generation.

    The group then toured the Old City of Jerusalem, including a visit to the Western Wall, which was especially moving as it was Tisha B’Av, the Jewish day of mourning for the destruction of the Temples. They ended the day with an inspiring encounter with representatives of an organization that integrates special needs soldiers into the IDF, including three soldiers.

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    Photo by: Yoav Devir

  • Day 5: Ecology, Heritage & Development in the Negev

    “Planting a tree is the most significant way of connecting to the land of Israel.”
    (Federico Kremenchuzky, Argentina)

    The educators headed down south to explore the unique landscapes, history, and educational and ecological initiatives of the Negev desert. They began with a tree-planing ceremony at KKL-JNF’s Field and Forest Center in Yatir Forest, which offers outdoor educational experiences that aim to connect participants with the desert.

    The group then toured to the archaeological site of the Talmudic city of Susya, while members of the American delegation toured Wadi Attir, a collaborative farm that combines traditional Bedouin agriculture with innovative technologies. The American educators continued to the Beer Sheva Riva Park, a once-polluted area that has been transformed into a beautiful urban green lung.

    The group came together for an adventurous jeep ride through the breathtaking landscapes of the Judean Desert, and finished the day with an entertaining evening performance that blended rock music, biblical texts, and stand-up comedy.

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    Photo by: Yoav Devir

  • Day 6: Heroism on Masada

    “We exchange opinions, ideas and telephone numbers, and in the future we will build partnerships from the friendships that were formed here.”
    (Reuven Haccoun, Switzerland)

    The group started the day climbing the desert fortress of Masada, which serves as a symbol of freedom in Israeli society. They heard the site’s story from actors dressed as historical figures, and met a traditional scribe writing a Torah scroll in the ancient synagogue.

    The educators learned about the decline of the Dead Sea through a lecture and photography exhibition, and then participated in KKL-JNF educational activities about Israeli nature and innovation. The day came to a close with a gala evening featuring live music at a Bedouin-style guest center, in celebration of 70 years since the establishment of the State of Israel and 117 years of KKL-JNF.

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    Photo by: Yoav Devir

  • Day 7: Unforgettable Experiences

    “This is not an international conference, because we all belong to the same nation.”
    (Tehila Freidman, Social Activist, Israel)

    The final day of the conference began with a leadership workshop that addressed fostering excellence, creativity, vision, determination, teamwork, dealing with changes, and identifying the potential in every human being. Following a variety of engaging educational activities and some emotional goodbyes, the educators went home with unforgettable experiences, new friends, and many new educational tools that they will use to strengthen the bond between Israel and Diaspora Jewry.

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    Photo by: Yoav Devir