This summer, a diverse group of eleven young Angelenos experienced Israel as they never had before. Through a partnership between the Ayalim Association and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, they helped build communities in the desert and formed relationships with Israel – as a place and as a people. The experience enabled deep connections as participants delighted in the friendships that emerged and gained a better understanding of Israel’s political and social challenges.
“From the first day, our group already functioned like a little family,” said Doreen Grosvirt-Dramen. “Though we did not know each other prior to this trip, we quickly and easily felt comfortable around one another. This allowed us to hit the ground running and dive head first into what would be an incredible and meaningful month.”
Upon arrival at Ashalim, the village where the group was based for the program’s duration, they were “greeted by a hole in the center of the student village filled with rocks and debris,” Doreen explained. “One of the students, whom we dubbed ‘Shimon the Builder,’ explained to us that we would be cleaning out the rocks and debris, then putting on multiple layers of cement and latex to create a swimming pool for the students. We skeptically glanced at one another – none of us had this kind of building experience, and on that first day it was hard to imagine what the final product would look like. But in true Ayalim fashion, we rolled up our sleeves and began to work.”
“It wasn’t just all fun and games,” Sivan Farnoush admitted, in reflecting on the trip. “Waking up early in the morning to start mixing concrete, laying the concrete for the pool, adding latex to seal the pool was pretty demanding. I don’t know how many people can say that they volunteered in Israel and built a pool in the Negev, but I can and I’m proud of that. I helped build that pool, which is like a magnet for the community. It brings people together and that makes me happy. Seeing my hard work bring joy to people gives me a feeling of accomplishment.”
For many participants, their travels throughout Israel brought a fresh perspective on its geography, history and politics. “Visiting the north was a very important part of the trip because it really exemplified to us how crucial this territory is to Israel’s existence,” Elan Adivi said.
Doreen added, “It was and is hard to grasp that the people of Sderot have adapted their lives to the hard reality of constant rocket attacks – we come and visit and then occasionally remember this reality, while they live and breathe it every day.”
“It is one thing hearing about Israel and the issues that it faces with its borders,” Shirley Azizi reflected. “But, when you visit the city closest to a border, there is a true sense of pride and utmost respect for the people who stay, and who refuse to move away or do anything other than their daily routine.”
“On this trip, I feel as if I have seen Israel the way a Sabra would throughout their life, going on these amazing hikes and being one with the land,” Shirley said. “When you walk the land and take in all the beauty that this land has to offer, you understand why we fight so hard to hold on to it.”
This is the 3rd blog post in a three-part series. This summer, our Federation sent eleven young adults from our community for a hands-on experience in the Negev in conjunction with our partner the Ayalim Association. Together, we are renewing Israel’s pioneering spirit and strengthening existing communities through the establishment of student and entrepreneur social justice villages. Read our initial blog post on this Summer’s Ayalim trip, which featured their thoughts before the program began. Click here to read the 2nd blog post, which contained their experiences mid-way through the program.
For more information on this program, visit www.JewishLA.org/Ayalim or contact Ayalim@JewishLA.org.