Educators from New Zealand and Australia Learn about Israel with KKL-JNF

Sunday, January 05, 2020

“It’s important to us to deepen our understanding of our Jewish pupils’ background.”

The KKL-JNF Overseas Education and Community Division’s third seminar for Australian teachers is now underway, with the participation of seventy-five school principals, teachers and other educators from twenty-seven different schools. For most of the participants, this is their first visit to Israel.

They will spend ten days here, during which they will tour and study the country from the Golan Heights to the Arava. They will familiarize themselves with Israel’s landscapes, culture and people, visit educational institutions, attend lectures and discussion groups, and meet up with Israeli teachers and students. At the same time, they will learn about KKL-JNF’s activities for the greater benefit of the country, including numerous projects in which JNF Australia is an active partner.

“Our aim is to acquaint our fellow educators with the real Israel as seen through the eyes of KKL-JNF and as experienced by their own feet as they explore the country from north to south,” explained Director of KKL-JNF's Overseas Education and Community Division Hani Dassa at the seminar’s opening ceremony. “This seminar is the high point of our shared activity, and together we shall continue to strengthen the young generation’s Jewish identity,” she affirmed.
The opening ceremony was held at the Shuni Field and Forest Center in Binyamina’s Jabotinsky Park, a historic site that has flourished since Roman times. After serving as a base for pioneering settlement, today it is used by the community and its young people for camping and as a venue for educational activities with youngsters from both Israel and abroad who seek to strengthen their sense of identification with Israel and its landscapes, learn about local history and explore the area.

“Israel is a miracle,” KKL-JNF Education Envoy to Australia Yigal Nisell told the teachers. “The state was founded upon a vision, and I have no doubt that in the days to come you will see a great many new and inspiring sights that have developed out of this vision and helped the state to move forward to international achievements.”

Among the many delegates who had never visited Israel before were Dee and Dave Pitcairn of Sydney. Dave is principal of Reddam House’s high school, while Dee is principal of the primary school.

“It’s very exciting to visit Israel,” said Dee. “It’s important to us to deepen our understanding of our Jewish pupils’ background.” “Learning about Israel’s history is fascinating,” added Dave. The school’s rabbi, Rabbi Mendel Kastel OAM, was likewise among the participants. “To understand what Israel is, one has to observe it at first hand, feel it and meet its people,” he said.

Although KKL-JNF is active in a numerous different spheres, from settlement, agriculture and water-related issues to education and social development, for many people it is still synonymous with tree-planting, connection to the land and leaving an ecological imprint. Representatives of each of the educational institutions were given the opportunity to plant a tree with their own hands in honor of their school.

Sagit Shahar, who teaches Hebrew at Melbourne’s Leibler Yavneh College, had not visited Israel for many years. “Since I arrived in the country I haven’t stopped shedding tears of emotion,” she said. “After this trip we shall be able to tell our students about what’s happening now in Israel and bring renewed energies into the classroom.”

After the trees had been planted, the delegates made their way to Jordan River Village to observe its activities for the benefit of children suffering from serious illnesses or physical disabilities. JNF Australia has supported the creation of a multi-sensory science garden at the village in order to help children there to experience nature and learn through their senses about the world around them.

Jordan River Village Director Yakir Sternin led the delegates on a tour and told them about the special camp that enables children of all religions to enjoy recreational activities amidst natural surroundings. “We always try to see the child behind the illness,” he explained. “The small successes they experience here teach these youngsters to believe in themselves.”

For Braham Morris, Assistant Principal of Melbourne’s Heatherwood School for children with special needs, the visit to Jordan River Village was of particular interest. “This place gives these children the chance to do what every other child does,” he said. Although he had visited Israel several times in the past, he remarked that “an educational trip with KKL-JNF teaches you things you didn’t know about the country. Also, when travelling with other teachers, the experience is entirely different and enables one to make new contacts and initiate new collaborations.”

At the village the teachers took part in educational activities using content kits designed by KKL-JNF’s Overseas Education Division to strengthen Diaspora students’ links with Israel. Games and quizzes relating to a huge map of Israel helped the visiting educators to learn about the country and the route they would be following. The day ended in Tzfat, where the visitors toasted the New Year with great excitement, hope and a desire for further contact with Israel in the future.