Thousands of instructors and trainees attended the Aharai! Youth Program's 25th annual multi-day journey to Jerusalem on Thursday. This year's journey marked a special occasion because the event was capped off with a special announcement - the movement would be expanding to welcome the Arab and haredi sectors.
Aharai! Youth Program engages Israel's youth from the social and geographic periphery in activities to help launch youth from across Israel into successful futures through educational programs both in the classroom and in nature-based settings.
Amir Strugo, the CEO of the organization, was joined by Bank Leumi volunteers in this exciting journey. Bank Leumi is one of the sponsors of the program.
"During the past year, we worked to establish an infrastructure that enabled us to enter into activity in all parts of Israeli society. I am happy to announce today our two new initiatives: the first, the establishment of an organization of young Arabs from Aharai!" Strogo said.
"For 100 ultra-Orthodox yeshivas. Everyone has a place in Achrai!, and everyone will have the opportunity to successfully integrate into Israeli society," he added.
Hanan Friedman, CEO of Leumi, was also in attendance and added his remarks. "Everyone who walked with the amazing campers and guides after me! In the journeys, I understand that with all the difficulties - our youth with excellent values is the one who guarantees our future here in Israel," he said.
The two noted that expanding inclusion into the haredi and Arab sectors acts as evidence of Israelis' desire to coexist and live in peace, side by side.
The Jerusalem ceremony was attended by organizational leadership like Bank Leumi CEO Hanan Friedman, Defense Ministry Director General, Major General Eyal Zamir, and others such as organization chairman Gadi Lasin.
How did the organization come to life?
“Aharai!” is an expression in Hebrew that translates to “after me” or “follow me,” dating back to Israel's earliest days. According to the organization's website, this phrase dates back to Israel's historical emphasis on leading by example – "only when you take the lead can you call on others to follow."
It was established in 1997 during a period of unrest when Israel faced conflicts from forces both internal and external. This came shortly after the nation was further divided by the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.