{D4E74CB2-8DFE-4A92-9A54-8D2DFEE6D379} Jewish Agency Board of Governors Visits the Dead Sea
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Jewish Agency Board of Governors Visits the Dead Sea

By Larry Joseph

As the sun rises over some of the other hotels at the Dead Sea, you can’t help but appreciate the beauty of what would otherwise be one of the most desolate places on the earth. Certainly the lowest spot and 1300 feet below sea level, if it were not for this man made oasis, no one could survive. On the other side of the sea are the mountains of Jordan.

Today, we all participated in an all day tieul (trip) as part of the Jewish Agency for Israel Board of Governors (JAFI) meetings. We are at a retreat for three days and getting away from the hotel and meeting rooms was a wonderful respite. The entire board broke up into five groups to visit, understand and appreciate some of the great work that JAFI is doing here in the Negev part of Israel. Our bus went to Ayalim and Nitzana.

First of all, it is amazing that in less than two hours we drove across the desert starting on the border with Jordan and ending on the border with Egypt. Only the Dead Sea separates Israel from one Arab nation on the East and a three foot chain link fence with another Arab nation on the West. In neither case are there high concrete barriers, no tanks or troops. With the proper documents you could cross the borders to either country. Yes, it is a "cool" peace but when described by Israeli officials at both "ends" of the country, it is surprising at the very low level and constant contacts they all have. Yes, if and when we ever get there, given some time (many, many years) some normality might occur; if we all get that chance.

Ayalim Village is part of the Jewish Agency’s Youth Futures program. Situated in the middle of the Negev desert, we met with some of Israel’s most idealistic young people who not only believe that we must settle the periphery of the country, but are devoting their lives and energy to this endeavor. Part of the work they do is to help close the social-economic gaps of some of the more than 350,000 children at-risk in Israel. These residents and pioneers living at Ayalim, by bringing some of these children to live temporarily in this community; the residents are able to give comprehensive, high impact tailored intervention that will help to allow the children to take their place as independent and constructive members of society. If you want to feel good about the donations you give, visit Ayalim on your next trip to Israel.

Only a few miles to the West, right on the border with Egypt and also in the center of the Negev is Nitzana. One of five Youth Aliyah Villages sponsored by JAFI, children in two vastly different programs live and study in a beautiful desert environment. The Selah program is operated for children, primarily from the former Soviet Union to come to Israel to study, learn Hebrew and hopefully to make Aleyah. The program is designed for those who come without their parents. One of the success rates of this program is that 80% of the parents of Selah participants follow some years later and settle in Israel. The second program at Nitzana is Kedma. This program is designed for newly arrived Ethiopian children to be absorbed into Israel society also. Sometimes, I have wondered if it is worth it to attempt to settle these children in 21st century Israel when they have moved from a 17th century environment. Twin 16 year old girls who had arrived with their parents only four months ago gave me the reinforcement I needed to fully appreciate what a wonderful opportunity we were making for them and their future families. Again, you have to come to visit this remote village to appreciate where your money goes.

Another two hour trip back east again, traveling across the entire width of Israel at this point and we were back at the Dead Sea. The desert is not a particularly hospitable place, but these "halutzim" (pioneers) have made it so. The director of Nitzana had told us that there is enough water in the aquifer beneath the desert to provide the needs of one million people for 150 years. Even after all my trips to Israel, I am only beginning to understand the major push within Israel to settle this region. On the way, we went by other small "struggling" communities as well as the city of Dimona. By the way, off the road in the distance from Dimona we saw the 20 year old nuclear power plant that we don’t have.

Eileen and I have thoroughly enjoyed this short trip to Israel. We look forward to our return at the end of May for a five week stay. In the meantime, we are departing from here to vacation in London for a few days and then to Toronto for the twins' sixth birthday.As the sun rises over some of the other hotels at the Dead Sea, you can’t help but appreciate the beauty of what would otherwise be one of the most desolate places on the earth. Certainly the lowest spot and 1300 feet below sea level, if it were not for this man made oasis, no one could survive. On the other side of the sea are the mountains of Jordan.

Today, we all participated in an all day tieul (trip) as part of the Jewish Agency for Israel Board of Governors (JAFI) meetings. We are at a retreat for three days and getting away from the hotel and meeting rooms was a wonderful respite. The entire board broke up into five groups to visit, understand and appreciate some of the great work that JAFI is doing here in the Negev part of Israel. Our bus went to Ayalim and Nitzana.

First of all, it is amazing that in less than two hours we drove across the desert starting on the border with Jordan and ending on the border with Egypt. Only the Dead Sea separates Israel from one Arab nation on the East and a three foot chain link fence with another Arab nation on the West. In neither case are there high concrete barriers, no tanks or troops. With the proper documents you could cross the borders to either country. Yes, it is a "cool" peace but when described by Israeli officials at both "ends" of the country, it is surprising at the very low level and constant contacts they all have. Yes, if and when we ever get there, given some time (many, many years) some normality might occur; if we all get that chance.

Ayalim Village is part of the Jewish Agency’s Youth Futures program. Situated in the middle of the Negev desert, we met with some of Israel’s most idealistic young people who not only believe that we must settle the periphery of the country, but are devoting their lives and energy to this endeavor. Part of the work they do is to help close the social-economic gaps of some of the more than 350,000 children at-risk in Israel. These residents and pioneers living at Ayalim, by bringing some of these children to live temporarily in this community; the residents are able to give comprehensive, high impact tailored intervention that will help to allow the children to take their place as independent and constructive members of society. If you want to feel good about the donations you give, visit Ayalim on your next trip to Israel.

Only a few miles to the West, right on the border with Egypt and also in the center of the Negev is Nitzana. One of five Youth Aliyah Villages sponsored by JAFI, children in two vastly different programs live and study in a beautiful desert environment. The Selah program is operated for children, primarily from the former Soviet Union to come to Israel to study, learn Hebrew and hopefully to make Aleyah. The program is designed for those who come without their parents. One of the success rates of this program is that 80% of the parents of Selah participants follow some years later and settle in Israel. The second program at Nitzana is Kedma. This program is designed for newly arrived Ethiopian children to be absorbed into Israel society also. Sometimes, I have wondered if it is worth it to attempt to settle these children in 21st century Israel when they have moved from a 17th century environment. Twin 16 year old girls who had arrived with their parents only four months ago gave me the reinforcement I needed to fully appreciate what a wonderful opportunity we were making for them and their future families. Again, you have to come to visit this remote village to appreciate where your money goes.

Another two hour trip back east again, traveling across the entire width of Israel at this point and we were back at the Dead Sea. The desert is not a particularly hospitable place, but these "halutzim" (pioneers) have made it so. The director of Nitzana had told us that there is enough water in the aquifer beneath the desert to provide the needs of one million people for 150 years. Even after all my trips to Israel, I am only beginning to understand the major push within Israel to settle this region. On the way, we went by other small "struggling" communities as well as the city of Dimona. By the way, off the road in the distance from Dimona we saw the 20 year old nuclear power plant that we don’t have.

Eileen and I have thoroughly enjoyed this short trip to Israel. We look forward to our return at the end of May for a five week stay. In the meantime, we are departing from here to vacation in London for a few days and then to Toronto for the twins' sixth birthday.

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