KFAR BLUM, Israel – Things are looking UP for the Galilee Panhandle. As in Galil-UP, a new leadership program supported by the Jewish Federation of Ottawa and the five other Canadian Jewish communities that make up the Coast-to-Coast Partnership.
Through Partnership 2Gether (P2G), Ottawa joins Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg and Atlantic Canada to partner with five communities in the Upper Galilee region of Israel.
The Canadian and Israeli partners work together on programs for youth and education, capacity building projects that strengthen the region’s self-sufficiency and Gesher Chai (Living Bridge) programs that include school twinnings and student exchanges.
One of the most exciting projects that Federation President and CEO Andrea Freedman and I encountered at our meetings last month was the Galil-UP leadership program.
Each of our five Israeli partner communities has chosen five young professionals to participate in Galil-UP. The 25 participants include a farmer, an economic consultant, the CEO of a mall, a librarian and a head of security.
Since March, they have participated in leadership seminars, and worked together on projects designed to enrich the region and attract new residents.
One of the projects, called To the Galil, aims to attract professionals to settle in the region. Another, Galil App, is a platform that collects and publicizes information about a range of cultural and sports activities throughout the region.
Buy Local – Buy Galil aims to get more consumers and businesses to support local agriculture and independent local ventures. For example, many businesses in the region bring in outside caterers for events, without exploring local options that benefit from the region’s rich and diverse agricultural offerings.
“It’s mind-blowing for me that in my neighbourhood, there are other professionals just like me, looking for better tools to do our work,” said one of the participants.
“Why should we leave this up to chance when we can create better opportunities?”
Another exciting project supported by the Partnership is the new teaching kitchen at Emek HaHula High School, which is serving students of all ages and abilities from throughout the region.
Almost 140 students who are on the autism spectrum, or have been diagnosed with learning disabilities, are participating in vocational studies in the kitchen. They learn life skills and teamwork, as well as knowledge of cooking and nutrition that will allow them to lead independent lives in their own homes.
Thirty at-risk youth who have dropped out of regular high school programs are studying in the Cooking Up Dreams program, which puts them on the path to future careers as chefs.
Another 45 students from three area high schools are studying the Art of Baking and Cooking, which offers five bagrut (high school matriculation) credits. And outside school hours, the kitchen will offer cooking and pastry classes to children, youth and adults from throughout the Upper Galilee.
Meanwhile, Grade 4 to 6 students at HaNadiv School in Metulla – which is twinned with the Ottawa Jewish Community School – are building their own supermarket as part of an innovative STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) pilot project.
They’ve even used a 3D printer to make their own currency, called the “Shekeldiv.”
Nine elementary schools in the region are participating in the pilot project, including the Einat HaGalil Democratic School, which is twinned with Temple Israel Religious School.
Students learn through hands-on, interactive projects that emphasize creative thinking and multidisciplinary learning.
For example, students at Nachshonei HaHula in Yesod HaMa’ala are learning biology, botany, zoology and other subjects as they work to restore a swampy pond to a healthier ecosystem.
The emphasis on science education in Israeli schools often comes at the expense of the arts and humanities, however. Sigal and Lior Perelman have established a program called Derech Ruach (through the spirit) which is running at four universities. The organizers want to expand it to the Upper Galilee, in partnership with Tel Hai College.
Our P2G joint steering committee has approved conditional funding to start Derech Ruach for 30 students in the Upper Galilee in the fall of 2019.
Haifa University gives eight entrance credits to graduates of the program. Although about half the students go on to study sciences, they relish the opportunity to challenge their minds in different ways.
“The world is becoming more technological, but that can be frightening,” says Sigal, who teaches in the Jewish History department at the University of Haifa.
“We need more humans – we need people who can write and communicate, and deal with ‘meta’ issues.”