The Upper Galilee region of Israel usually makes the mainstream news only when there’s unrest on the borders with Lebanon or Syria – or when rockets are falling.
Indeed, only days after lay leaders and professionals from six Canadian Jewish communities and five municipalities from the Upper Galilee met in Winnipeg for P2G (Partnership 2Gether) meetings in early May, our Israeli partners were dealing with rocket attacks from Iranian forces on the Syrian border.
Some of the rockets were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defence system, and there were no Israeli casualties.
But it was a chilling reminder that the enhanced security measures, increased training and resources for search and rescue teams, and bomb shelter upgrades that the Israeli mayors had talked about at our meetings are more important than ever.
“The rules of the game have changed,” says Mayor Giora Saltz of Galil Elyon. “Now we have Russia and Iran as major players… What happened in (the Second Lebanon War) in 2006 is not relevant any more.”
That’s why our partners in Galil Elyon, Metulla, Kiryat Shmona, Mevo’ot HaHermon and Yesod HaMa’ala are working to improve local facilities and infrastructure to help residents during the critical days immediately after a strike, before the Israel Defense Forces can completely mobilize.
Rocket attacks and security threats make headlines, but nothing can stop Israelis from going on with their lives. That’s where P2G comes in.
The Jewish Federations of Ottawa, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Atlantic Canada work with our Israeli partners on projects and programs that strengthen Israeli society and promote unity and Jewish identity.
The heart of the partnership will always be the people-to-people connections that form the living bridge – Gesher Hai – between Canadians and Israelis.
At time of writing, two Ottawa teachers are attending a P2G educators’ conference in Israel with Canadian and Israeli colleagues. Bethany Goldstein, a teacher at the Ottawa Jewish Community School (OJCS), and Sue Potechin, principal of Temple Israel Religious School (TIRS), are sharing best practices and deepening friendships with their Gesher Hai partner schools.
OJCS shares a long-time partnership with Hanadiv School in Metulla. And because Potechin attended the educators’ conference in 2016, TIRS has now partnered with the Einat HaGalil democratic school at Kibbutz Amir.
The Jewish Federation of Ottawa and the Ottawa P2G Committee help arrange and fund other opportunities for Ottawa groups visiting Israel to spend time in our partnership region.
Ottawa participants in March of the Living spent the last day of the Israel leg of their trip at Kibbutz Amir. The Ottawa contingent of the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project made its second visit to the region in the spring.
A group of special needs adults from Tamir Ottawa made a big impression during their May visit. They exercised at the hydrotherapy pool in Mevo’ot HaHermon, sang with a choir in Metulla, and performed with the music class at the Renanim School for children with special needs in Kiryat Shmona.
“It was an absolute privilege and pleasure to spend time with this amazing group of people,” says Meytal Novidomski, the P2G coordinator in the Upper Galilee.
Federation is planning a mission for 15 young adults, who will work with a group of Israeli young adults from our region on a social action project. And two teenage girls from Kfar Giladi will be visiting Ottawa in August to attend an Ottawa Senators Summer Hockey Camp, visit Camp B’nai Brith, and make new friends here.
P2G stands for partnership on so many levels. The Ottawa community should be proud that the partnerships we’ve created are deep and lasting.