Special KKL-JNF Educators Seminar: Hundreds of Educators from All Over the World Tour and Study in Israel

Article courtesy of Channel 7

Hundreds of educators from Jewish schools all over the world arrived this week for eight days of experiences and study in Israel. Shlomo Ben Haim, Manager of the Diaspora Zionist Identity Empowerment Department within the Education and Community Division in KKL-JNF: “They will be returning to their home countries totally different people”

KKL-JNF’s Educators Seminar has over recent years become a rapidly-growing tradition with this year marking a record number of participants.

250 educators from 22 countries and 27 schools. This year there are 14 teachers from Ukraine and two from Thessaloniki, Greece. The educators are divided into six groups: Canada, USA, South Africa, Latin America, Russian speakers and East Europe (Romania, Hungary, Sweden, Greece). The groups include kindergarten teachers, teachers of various subjects, elementary and high school teachers and school principals.

צילום: יואב לין, ארכיון הצילומים של קק"לPhoto: Yoav Lin, KKL-JNF Photo Archive

The educators come for an eight-day stay in Israel, during which they tour KKL-JNF sites and heritage and archaeology sites all over the country, they learn about Israel, ecology and sustainability, they meet peer teachers and return to their countries with a deeper familiarity with Israel and also with an acquaintance with the KKL-JNF activities.

Shlomo Ben Haim, Manager of the Diaspora Zionist Identity Empowerment Department in the KKL-JNF Education and Community Division, told Channel 7: “The goal in these seminars is to familiarize the educators with the land and with KKL-JNF’s activity - to strengthen Zionism and also the bond with KKL-JNF. But above all that, we aim to turn the participants into KKL-JNF ambassadors in their schools and to deliver the various activities of KKL-JNF to their communities.

As an example, Ben Haim says “We also welcome non-Jewish educators, for example from South Africa - a country whose public perception of Israel is usually unfavorable. Here they meet the Zionist narrative and the history of the People if Israel in this land, they learn about afforestation, about the environment, water technology, the war against the climate crisis and about agriculture. Through all of these, their perception of Israel changes”.

צילום: יואב לין, ארכיון הצילומים של קק"לPhoto: Yoav Lin, KKL-JNF Photo Archive

KKL-JNF stresses that the seminar is the climax event of the Organization’s joint work year-round with the educators in the diaspora and that through this work the Jewish and Zionist identity of the next generation is reinforced. Through this work the values of heritage and love of the environment aree instilled in the youngsters and all this is done through the KKL-JNF lens and through feet on the ground in tours crisscrossing the entire country.

Part of the seminar is dedicated to meeting local educators. They all learn one from the other about the teaching methods in the various places around the world and how to apply what they have received here at the seminar in their own classrooms.

We caught up with Alegra, a teacher from Thessaloniki, Greece, for a conversation just as she was arriving for a tour of Rosh Pina. Alegra studied in Israel in 1983 as part of the training seminar for diaspora teachers. She currently teaches Judaism, history and Hebrew in the Jewish Community school in Thessaloniki.

Straight from her first day she was moved when she planted a tree - “a fantastic experience” - and said that “the seminar is very interesting, we learn a lot”.

Alegra told that she is most looking forward to meeting educators from other countries to form ties, to build a joint curriculum about KKL-JNF.

“I will be telling my students about many things I have seen here”, asserts Alegra. She notes the change that has taken place in Israel in the years since she completed her studies in Israel. “I see a tremendous change, plenty of green. I look forward to many more experiences and to picking up more tools later on”.

We also spoke with Androshenko Natala, who arrived from Ukraine for the seminar. Natala says this is not her first time, “I have participated in the KKL-JNF International Education Seminar. It presents an in-depth view of Israel and that is the most intensely-Zionist seminar. I am filled with pride as a Jew and as a Zionist for all the work and effort being made”.

She notes that the things she learned in the previous seminars are helpful for her in her school. “The educational content from the Diaspora Zionist Empowerment Department make their way into our school and we use it in our geography, ecology and nature studies, in history and tradition classes. This content undoubtedly bringss our students closer to Israel, to Zionism and to the KKL-JNF. The seminars provide us with the best knowledge, they bring the best lecturers and tour guides. Besides, we meet educators and principals from Jewish schools from all over the world and we are able to have conversations and learn from one another”.

צילום: יואב לין, ארכיון הצילומים של קק"לPhoto: Yoav Lin, KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Ben Haim shared his own sentiments upon the opening of the seminar: “A sense of satisfaction. Half a year’s worth of work coordinating the groups, organizing the accommodation, arranging the tours, and seeing the smiles and the light in the eyes, and a feeling that in another eight days they will be going back completely transformed”.

The Diaspora Zionist Identity Empowerment Department operates along two main axes: the first is in the diaspora - through emissaries and education representatives who engage in educational work within the schools, the youth movements, communities, synagogues and so forth. The Department sends young counselors who conduct a great deal of activities with the students and cadets in the youth movements and in the communities during the week of TU Bishvat, the National Month and the summer camps.

The Department also develops educational content and kits for exciting activities in various languages and on topics related to the land, to the KKL-JNF, and to the importance of protecting the environment. We also train teaching emissaries and of course the educators, to function as “proxy agents” for disseminating Zionism and the values of the KKL-JNF. The second level is the Department’s activity for all the youth groups arriving in Israel from abroad for tours, activities, excursions all over the country and hospitality in the KKL-JNF Education and Community Division’s five Field Centers.

The Department works in close cooperation with Zionist organizations and institutions in Israel and worldwide on a variety of events, activities, excursions and more. The multifaceted work in the diaspora is intended to strengthen Jewish identity, the love of Israel and the bond with the Jewish People’s heritage.

Released on July 13, 2023