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(photo credit: Jamie Romm)
Hadassah's Young Judaea study center, Beit Ar-El, was formally opened Tuesday in Jerusalem's Baka neighborhood, a move that Hadassah hopes will be permanent.
Hadassah National President Nancy Falchuk said that the goal for the rehousing program is to provide today's youth with a truly unforgettable experience of life in Jerusalem.
"Uniting our Young Judaea projects in Baka will create a neighborhood with increased cultural, social and educational opportunities, as well as a fresh infusion of youthful spirit in the city of Jerusalem," Falchuk said.
According to Falchuk, Hadassah's goal in building the center is part of it plans to place its three Jerusalem-based Young Judaea programs: Young Judaea Year Course, Merkaz Hamagshimim-Hadassah and Hadassah-WUJS (World Union of Jewish Students) in a single, central neighborhood.
Recently, Hadassah sold its former building in Givat Masua that was being primarily used as a hostel.
The decision to leave Givat Masua in July came on the heels of financial cutbacks within the organization, based both on the global financial crisis and the Bernard Madoff scandal, which cost the Hadassah movement - Young Judaea's sole financial sponsor - some $90 million in losses, though Hadassah has said in the past this decision was made well before the Madoff scandal began.
Falchuk said that if the facility were available for purchase before they moved to Givat Masua, then it would have been an obvious first choice.
"Just look at it," Falchuk said. "It's beautiful here; it's what Israel is all about. We really do look forward to using the building for the years to come as it just feels like home."
The new location in Baka, a five-building complex on Rehov Gad, is closer to the center of town than Young Judaea's two previous youth hostel locations. The first was at Beit Riklis on Mount Scopus, before the Judaean youth hostel in Givat Masua was built in 2003.
The proximity of the three projects, the Young Judaea Year Course, Merkaz Hamagshimim-Hadassah and Hadassah-WUJS, will enable the groups to better pool educational and cultural resources such as libraries, public areas and speakers, and to share facilities, according to Hadassah.
"The main objectives of the unified rehousing program are to provide a lively and popular cultural environment that will help young people strengthen their emotional connection to Jerusalem and encourage increased participation in future Young Judaea initiatives," Falchuk said.
Many of the students said that while they loved the former Judaean youth hostel, they "ate their words" upon moving to Baka as the proximity to Rehov Emek Refaim and downtown Jerusalem is a huge "plus."
As part of the opening ceremonies, a discussion was held with the Young Judaea students led by the center's assistant director, Dr. Avi Rose.
He showed them a clip from the controversial Turkish television show Ayrilik, which portrayed IDF soldiers brutally killing innocent Palestinians, a scene that made many of the students cringe and put their hands in front of their faces.
Following the discussion, the program moved to another building, where a formal ribbon-cutting was held, with Hadassah and Young Judaea participants speaking about the new facility.
Falchuk said that they finally found the perfect place for their programming.
"I can think of no better home for Young Judaea than here at Beit Ar-El," Falchuk said.