Robots for international competitions. Gardens and greenhouses to explore scientific questions. Archaeological digs for elementary school students.
These and many other innovative initiatives are generating much-deserved excitement in our Partnership 2Gether (P2G) region in the Upper Galilee.
The aim of these educational and social initiatives is not just to give young people in the north of Israel the best training for the future, but to find ways for them to create that future without leaving the north.
“So many bright young people graduate from programs here, and then move to the ‘State of Tel Aviv,’” says Itzik Turgeman of the Rashi Foundation, which works with youth in peripheral regions of Israel. “The key is to create opportunities so they can stay in this region.”
The Jewish federations of Montreal and Toronto each have their own partnership regions. Ottawa is one of six federations in the Coast-to-Coast Partnership, which also includes Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg and Atlantic Canada.
Part of the money we raise in our Jewish Federation of Ottawa Annual Campaign goes towards projects and programs in the Upper Galilee, which includes the cities of Kiryat Shmona and Metulla, as well as dozens of moshavim (agricultural communities) and kibbutzim.
P2G chairs from Canada meet twice a year – in Canada in the spring and in Israel in the fall – with mayors, lay leaders and professionals from our partnership region.
There’s no shortage of excitement when we visit P2G initiatives in Israel. In Yesud HaMa’ala, a moshav of 540 families in the Hula Valley, for example, elementary school students design and build their own gardens.
“I couldn’t have anticipated such amazing results – the work ethic and the dedication are remarkable,” says Amit Sheam, the young computer science teacher who came up with the idea.
The kids aren’t just nurturing the flowers and vegetables, they’re studying such issues as which plants attract butterflies, which have medicinal properties, and how to grow heirloom plants. And the community is raising money for a greenhouse where more agricultural experiments can be conducted.
The ruins of an ancient synagogue lay a few hundred metres from the school, so students can literally get their hands dirty, digging for artifacts.
At Emek HaHula Regional High School in Kibbutz Kfar Blum, students participate in national and international robotics competitions, including the annual FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) International Robotics Competition near Tel Aviv.
The team’s unprecedented third-place finish this year was the culmination of two months of intensive work by more than 35 students and six teachers, who prefer to be called “mentors.” Besides scientific and technological skills, the students learn teamwork, problem-solving and even fundraising – they had to raise almost $16,000 CAD of the $34,000 budget.
P2G’s benefits to the region go far beyond funding, school twinning and student exchange programs. The process has encouraged our Israeli partners to work together on projects that benefit the entire region, rather than fighting for pet projects limited to one specific area. And the mayors have a united front when they meet with their counterparts from elsewhere in the north.
The Ottawa contingent of the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project will be spending a day in our P2G region in November. On your next trip to Israel, consider heading north to visit P2G projects and see what you have helped to build.