Dear Dr. Schorr,
I wanted to share the amazing experience I had recently attending the KKL/JNF (Jewish National Fund) USA World Educator's Conference in Israel
. Prior to the trip, I had seen the organization through the eyes of their environmental mission and of course tree planting, but what I found once there was just how many KKL/JNF USA programs are really human-centered.
We visited Nahal HaShofet
where we learned about a joint project with JNF and LOTEM
that built an accessible path for the handicap that allowed for an authentic outdoor experience for those who are visually impaired, wheelchair bound or those who have other physical difficulties. A trip to the Kibbutz Harduf
exposed us to the only rehabilitation center of its kind where adults and teens with mental diagnoses such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, etc. can rebuild their lives.
Exploring Acre (Akko)
gave us some amazing historical content dating back to the crusader knights and we also visited a JNF visitor center where they promote the Western Galilee. We went to KKL/JNF overlook sites at Mount Adir
(Lebanon border), Mount Bental
(Syrian border) and the Black Arrow Memorial
(Gaza Strip). Being at these borders made me appreciate Israel's modern history and resilience of its people.
Seeing the Hula Valley
was so exciting! I have been teaching our students about it for the past few years and to be able to experience it was amazing! It is a breathtaking area where over 500 million birds pass through on their migration to and from Europe and Africa. We participated in educational workshops that connected the senses of man and the work of KKL/JNF. The session on therapeutic photographer was especially profound in helping our students answer questions.
We visited the KKL-JNF's Center of Excellence in Nazareth
. This center is providing support in the form of technical education for under-served teens. In just their first year, they saw gains of over 10% in graduation rate. It was a remarkable place. We also visited the Alexander Muss High School
and learned of plans for a second campus in Be'er Sheva.
A trip to Be'er Sheva Park
illuminated all that KKL and JNF are doing to provide infrastructure and incentive for areas such as the Negev to become attractive areas for people to settle. The visit to the indoor playground built by JNF-USA in Sderot
was a sobering reminder of the trauma the children there continue to experience. The playground provides a safe space where children can be children away from the Gaza launched missiles.
Emotional visits to Yad Vashem
and Ammunition Hill
allowed us to learn life stories and the memories of the millions that perished in the Holocaust and the courage and determination of those who fought at those bunkers during the Six Day War. Being at the Kotel
(Western Wall) on Friday evening was a joyous experience. Having the opportunity to visit the Holy Sites of Jerusalem was at times overwhelming, as it has been a life-long dream to be in this holiest of places.
I met and learned from so many wonderful educators from around the country and I know that we will stay connected after this trip. I look forward to discussing the ways to involve others in some of the projects that I was exposed to there.
Sorry for the long email, but my enthusiasm cannot be bound! This trip was truly inspiring and transformational!
P.S. No breakfast can ever compare to the daily spread of an Israeli breakfast! Oh the fresh food!!!