Has your email been filled with a host of solicitations from worthy organizations and causes? For friends of Israel, here are three that have touched me personally and where your support will have a significant impact on the next generation.
Tavor Leadership Academy. Shanti House. Green Olive Tours. All are Israel-based, home-grown, founded and run by amazing entrepreneurial people who walk their talk. All three believe in the ability of the next generation to step forward to lead this amazing country to a new era while upholding our responsibility to help and support them.
On a sweltering October morning Amichai Chikli, husband, father of two, former commander of IDF Egoz Special Forces unit, holder of a graduate degree, kibbutznik and Tavor founder/CEO invited me to accompany a small group of Tavor Leadership Academy students on an all day field exercise. This group was part of the 140-member incoming mechina selected from over 1700 applicants, who deferred entry to IDF military service for this one-year leadership academy field school.
These 18 year-olds hailed from throughout Israel, plus one member in my group had moved to Israel from Singapore just weeks before joining Tavor. Observing this group who had already been out in the field for the first full day and night of a 3-day exercise, with only the gear on their backs, learning navigation skills from IDF veteran Tamir Alkana, working in small teams, was quite the impressive experience. They not only welcomed me but asked serious questions and engaged in provocative conversations regarding their own journeys and mine as well.
Israel is home to a wide range of post-high school and pre-military service programs, many categorized as mechinot. A year of service or a year of challenging team-building, critical thinking and studying Jewish connection to Israel have become increasingly popular. You can find many worthy of your support, today I’m highlighting Tavor.
Perhaps on the other end of the Israeli youth spectrum are the people who find the only safe home they have ever known at Shanti House. It’s easy for friends of Israel to paint the country with a broad brush glossing over the very serious challenges this society of widely varying subcultures confronts as well. Just as Tavor Leadership Academy was founded to serve disconnected youth of Upper Nazereth, Shanti House steps in to help at-risk young people find true safety, security and connection.
I first became aware of Shanti House from a young friend who is now living in Mitzpe Ramon. Having survived and overcome abuse at home, she told me how far she had come in the past few years with the help of Shanti House. Founded in 1984 by abuse survivor Mariuma Ben Yosef, Shanti House exists to help children who find themselves living on the streets, recover from their emotional wounds, find a safe home and begin the healing process.
Here is a great way to touch the lives of young Israelis by helping Shanti House build it’s first Jerusalem location. A matching fund has been set up in conjunction with the Jerusalem Foundation, Jerusalem Municipality and Ministry of Welfare if you contribute this month.
Lastly I can wholeheartedly recommend investing in peace, co-existence, greater understanding and a better life for the next generation by supporting Green Olive Tours. Native of Scotland Fred Schlomka founded a new concept for visitors seeking safe, informative and thought-provoking tours of Israel and Palestinian areas not on your typical Federation itinerary, calling the company Green Olive Tours rooted in the fruit of the land.
I selected the guided day tour of Nablus last month which was particularly relevant due to my political activism over several years in Boulder, Colorado. As a leader of the local Jewish community I helped organize the opposition to a proposed sister-city application to create a relationship between the City of Boulder and City of Nablus, a historically Arab/Palestinian city located in the heart of the ‘West Bank’. We contended that organizers were hiding a political agenda by selecting Nablus, and were planning to highlight the negative aspects of living under Israel military governance (occupation).
So I decided to see for myself and joined a Green Olive Tour guided by native of east Jerusalem Anas Mashni, who was not only remarkably well informed, personable and a tremendous guide, but was also an intrepid driver of our tour van through the narrow streets, and Israeli military checkpoints.
It’s quite a different experience to join non-Jewish first time visitors to Israel, who arrive free of the long held historical perspective of someone like myself, while taking in the whole picture as narrated by an Arab/Palestinian native. I saw first-hand the Palestinian refugee camp in the heart of Nablus, now home to it’s 3rd generation of refugees! There is nothing positive or hopeful for young people who grow up unrooted, disconnected from the home of their grandparents. Also on the tour were the roads built especially to keep Israeli settlements in a separate sphere of existence to the people living in neighboring Arab cities.
Friends of Israel cannot continue wearing the blinders to the plight of Palestinian refugees somehow ignoring their humanity. In this small country contrasts are around nearly every bend in the road. If you want to take it in yourself, I can recommend this small yet direct way to support next generation hands-on experiences looking beyond occupation. Next time take a Green Olives Tour.
As the decade comes to an end, a new opportunity arises to take a fresh look and new commitment to our role, helping young people in this amazing part of the world. It’s worthy of your support. Peace. Shalom. Salaam.