Every year, tenth grade students from the Carmel School in Perth in Western Australia embark on a Shorashim (‘roots’) journey in Israel. For three weeks, they travel throughout the country, getting to know new places and meeting special people. The visit to Merhav Am is always one of the high points of this meaningful journey. Friends of JNF Western Australia have partnered with this flourishing Negev community, which made the guests feel at home, a befitting welcome for family coming from faraway. For 15 year-old Donna Levin, this was her first visit to Israel. “I really love this country,” she said. “There’s a wonderful feeling here that everyone is connected to each other. During the visit to Merhav Am, I felt that I was totally a part of the community. I am very proud to see the Australian involvement in developing this village.”The young people arrived in Merhav Am at the end of their last week in Israel, after having traveled the country’s length and breadth, from north to south. Jacob Cherney, a student in the delegation, described the visit to Merhav Am as “the icing on the cake of the whole trip,” and he explained why: “We saw how a small community can become connected, especially when it’s in a faraway location and a desolate surroundings. I visited Israel a number of times in the past, but this time, when I came with the group from my school, it was different. I feel more mature and more connected to Israel thanks to this roots journey.”The strong partnership between Merhav Am and the Perth Jewish community is creating a green oasis in the heart of the desert. Among the community projects created with the assistance of JNF Western Australia are a playground with equipment for all ages, a manicured garden around the community center, a sports room in the community building, a well-kept courtyard for the children’s quarters, and a smart fence with security cameras to protect local residents. The annual visit of the Carmel School 10th graders to Merhav Am as part of the school’s Shorashim program is an important aspect of the partnership to create a thriving community and strengthen the Negev.About 500 people live in Merhav Am, including approximately 350 children, and the community continues to expand, grow and develop. “It’s amazing to look back and to see the long road we’ve come on together,” said Allison Speiser, a resident of Merhav Am who greeted the young people from Perth. “The joint projects truly help push us forward”, she said.Read more, see photos of JNF WA’s partnership with Merhav Am.