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2013 Ayalim Participants Anticipate Israel

This Summer, our Federation sent ten young adults for a hands-on experience in the Negev, where they are renewing the Zionist ideal. In conjunction with our partner the Ayalim Association, we are renewing Israel’s pioneering spirit and strengthening existing communities through the establishment of student and entrepreneur social justice villages. We caught up with a few of this year’s participants before the program, which began July 15th and runs through August 12th, to get their thoughts on what they are looking forward to most. We will post additional blogs and pictures in the weeks ahead – stay tuned!

Leigh Evans: There are so many reasons to be excited for Ayalim: going back to Israel, traveling the country, being re-immersed in Judaism … But a couple of things really caught my attention when I looked through the itinerary. I’m really excited for the building component of the trip. As a college student, I didn’t have much time during the year to devote to community service, at least not as much as I would’ve liked. During high school I worked in a variety of organizations so I really missed the involvement. Especially the act of building – it’s the most hands-on you can get. We’ll get to physically see the product of the strength and energy we exert, which I think is very powerful. Most of all, I’m excited to learn from and grow with the people I meet. And it doesn’t hurt that we’ll be in a place as amazing as Israel.

Zachary Fisher:  I’m not sure if I am excited or nervous to meet the group and go fly halfway around the world. Oh wait, I’m sure, I am excited! I’m looking forward to living with Israelis and actually see this beautiful, magnificent, and majestic country through their eyes rather than through a window on a bus. With this trip being 3 times longer than my Birthright Israel trip it makes me happy; yet also I feel that this still will not be enough time. Having experienced the mainstream tourist sites I am much more excited to go and see these student villages and how we will be helping to maintain and expand them. Most important, and saving the best for last, I am so excited to meet all the people who will make the biggest impact on this trip.

Sivan Farnoush: Since I finished my Taglit-Birthright program last summer, I’ve always had the urge to go back to Israel.  Being in Israel feels like home, even though I am a few thousand miles away from my home in Los Angeles. I cannot wait to go hiking and explore the many beautiful places in Israel.  I am looking forward to learning about Operation Pillar of Defense, which is on the second day of the trip! I am also looking forward to meeting my group members on the trip and sharing once in a lifetime experiences, and seeing what the Ayalim Student Villages are like and the young adults living in the villages. What I want the most is to learn about the history of Israel from the people who are living there.  I want to be immersed in the rich Hebrew culture of Israel. 

Doreen Grosvirt-Dramen: Having just passed the five year mark from my last visit to Israel, I had been determined to somehow get back there.  So when I first heard about this Ayalim trip through the Los Angeles Jewish Federation, I knew that this was the ideal trip for me.  I just don’t do “relaxing” vacations – I need a purpose, a goal, something meaningful to fill up my time.  Ayalim embodies how I want to contribute to the State of Israel.  The program centers on working the land, strengthening communities, and making the country flourish.  I am looking forward to the intensive hands-on volunteering that characterizes the program, allowing me to be part of creating and strengthening communities in areas of the country that sorely need it. I firmly believe that Israel’s future depends on reinvigorating these Zionist ideals of physically working the land and strengthening communities. With all four of my grandparents, and both my parents, having been part of the kibbutz movement in Israel, I see the Ayalim program as our generation’s equivalent of that movement – and it is a movement that I look forward to being a part of.  To know that I am making a difference, that I am part of something so much larger than myself, is priceless and I am very excited about what this month will bring. 

Shirley Azizi:  I am looking forward to seeing Israel through the eyes of the original settlers who were the forefathers of the Zionist movement. I am interested in viewing something from a different perspective or angle; I have had the opportunity to see Israel as a tourist, a 
Jew coming to see their home for the first time, as a person wearing the IDF clothing all throughout Israel and its many military bases, and now through the vision of people who gave way to Israel being the Jewish state. I am eagerly awaiting the start of this program, I can’t wait to start building in the Negev and be part of something that will always be standing, B’Ezrat Hashem. I eagerly await visiting some of the oldest areas throughout Israel like Akko, and visiting the Druzim. I can’t wait for the jeep tour through the Negev because that is such a rare opportunity and sounds pretty cool. I am also looking forward to the yam le yam experience where we hike from one side of Israel to the other in roughly two days. I can’t wait to meet all the people who will be coming to Israel to participate in the program as well as meeting young people who are currently living in the student villages and are part of the Ayalim program.

Justin Damavandi: I have stayed in Israel for almost ten days now visiting family in Ashkelon, Holon, and Netanya. For the most part I have been doing tourist related activities by enjoying the beach, food, and night scene in Tel Aviv. What strikes me the most is the diversity of this country. I have met Jews who immigrated to Israel from all over the world, from Morocco and Tunisia to Australia and South Africa. The social atmosphere is very pleasant and familial. There is a strong sense of community. I noticed that two strangers can start up a conversation like they have known each other for years, which you would not see in Los Angeles. People here are more open minded and are not afraid to speak their minds when they have to. Overall, the experience has been great and laidback. I hope that Ayalim will enrich my understanding of Israel and teach me the importance of why we should care about this country from a spiritual and secular perspective. I cannot wait to help and give back to this country that has done so much for Jews and the rest of humanity!  
Robyn Korine: I am feeling both excitement and trepidation leading up to my Ayalim trip.  I have been looking forward to getting back to Israel for so long now, and I am so excited to finally be giving back and participating in something that is a help to the homeland. As I catch up on Israeli politics, I become eager to learn more about the economy, social issues and the Palestinian peace crises. All in all, I am looking forward to an interesting adventure. I have a feeling that the group of people on this trip will be passionate and caring I hope to have an amazing and eye opening experience with them.

Elan Adivi: The start of the program is just a day away. I have already been in Israel a week and with each day spent my eagerness to begin my Ayalim adventure grows greater and greater. Along with all of this built up excitement, I also have a few anticipating thoughts and specifics, which I am most looking forward to.  First of all, I really hope to get a deep appreciation and understanding for the purpose of the student village program. Furthermore, I would like to connect with the inhabitants and other volunteers to ensure that I leave something more than just the footprint of a “passerby.” Aside from the volunteer aspect of the trip, I am also looking forward to many of the excursions planned for us in order to receive the full experience of Israel, from its historical treasures to present-day life. One experience in particular is the sea-to-sea hike. What I am most looking forward to are the “building days.” There is nothing more rewarding or fulfilling than getting your hands dirty while breaking a sweat under the blistering Summer sun in an effort to further improve the lives of those less fortunate than us in a land so dear to our hearts. This is why I chose to be a part of Ayalim, so yala, let the journey begin!

For more information on this program, visit www.JewishLA.org/Ayalim.


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