UK Jewish students visit Israel with JNF-UK to strengthen their connection to Israel

The initiative is part of a multi-year program of 18 Jewish middle schools in London, backed by JNF UK, to strengthen ties with Israel

JFS students visit KKL-JNF forests (photo credit: JNF UK)
JFS students visit KKL-JNF forests
(photo credit: JNF UK)
Against the background of the recent exposure of the cover-up of anti-Semitic incidents in the Labour party and the increasing calls in Britain to boycott Israel, 500 students from Jewish schools in London have spent the last three weeks in a special study tour. The goal: to strengthen ties with Israel and equip students with tools to deal with the wave of anti-Semitism and BDS.
Louie Perli, 14, in Israel for the first time, said: ‘Through the trip I learnt just how far back the history of this country goes. In the past I have been exposed to the fact that there is anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel in England, and now I feel that I am getting the tools to deal with it.’
The visit is part of a multi-year program of 18 Jewish schools in London to strengthen ties with Israel, initiated by the Jewish National Fund UK at a cost of £1.2 million (NIS 6 million).
The students volunteered in projects across the country, from renovating kindergartens and schools in the south to packing food baskets for the needy in Jerusalem and tending to KKL-JNF forests. In addition to visits to Masada and the Western Wall, during which some students broke into tears, they participated in ‘Master-Chef Israel’ workshops, in the best tradition of local reality television. They also hiked challenging routes in the Upper Galilee and helped with the cherry harvest. To top it all off, the students met with a leading Israeli hasbara (public diplomacy) expert who reviewed the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Moriah Dadon, who accompanied the students, said: ‘This trip provides the children with both values and fun. For some of them, this was their first time in Israel, and they only now began to feel part of the country and even expressed a willingness to join the army in the future.’ According to Dadon, ‘Visiting Israel will help them deal with antisemitism and anti-Israelism.’
One of the highlights came when students from Yavneh College visited the National Center in Jerusalem of Shalva — The Israel Association for the Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities. They were received by none other than Tal Kima, a percussionist in the Shalva Band, who has Down’s syndrome. He explained to them how much ‘fun it was for him to be famous after performing at the Eurovision Song Contest semi-final.’ He invited them to a performance of the Shalva Band in London in four months’ time. Then he played Shalva’s new song for them, ‘The Door Will Be Open.’
Tal Kima welcomes Yavne college's students (Credit: JNF-UK)Tal Kima welcomes Yavne college's students (Credit: JNF-UK)
Zara Daniels, 14, said, ‘This trip makes me understand where I come from, where my people came from. When I was at the Kotel, I was so very moved.’
Avishai Marcus, 18, a guide accompanying the Yavneh College students, said he would like ‘these children to appreciate Israel, and to love it. You have to understand that for most of them this is their first time in Israel.’
JNF UK’s Ruth Wilkinson said, ‘Connecting to Israel through volunteering is important. It’s true that they can learn about Israel in the classroom, but it’s not the same thing, and it’s a good opportunity for them to see things with their own eyes and to feel them in a tangible way.
‘This tour has instilled in the students a desire to learn more. In addition, I think that many of these young people will choose to do a whole year in Israel, because they understand the importance of this country for them.’
Wilkinson is JNF UK’s director of educational activities in programs to strengthen ties with Israel in schools.
Yonatan Galon, CEO of JNF UK, said: ‘This trip to Israel is part of our multi-year educational program to deepen the connection of Jewish students in Britain to Israel. We run the program in eighteen different schools in the UK. We teach the children about the country, and here they are given the opportunity to feel the country and connect to it directly. This is the aim of our work.’

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