Shalom! I’m Eilat. As Director of the Israel Center of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation, I’ll be sharing stories of connection between Minneapolis and Israel, and helping you experience Israel — whether you’re on the shores of Lake Minnetonka or the beaches of Tel Aviv.
The director of the Twin Cities Jewish Community Government Affairs Program shares thoughts from his visit to Rehovot
How do you create a personal connection with not just Israel, but with Israelis? This was the challenge that the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) eagerly took on when they organized a week-long trip to Israel for 28 Minnesotans, including 6 state legislators, this past January.
While the JCRC knew that this group of mostly Christian first time visitors would embrace Israel as the “Holy Land,” be sympathetic to Israel’s security challenges, and come away impressed by Israel as the “Start-Up” nation which it is, it was critical for the success of the trip that this delegation of influential Minnesotans forge not just an attachment to the State of Israel, but to its people as well.
Fortunately, through the partnerships which the Minneapolis Jewish Federation has with the City of Rehovot, as well as the partnership that the Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul has with the people living in the Lake Kinneret Region, the JCRC knew that it had an inside path to a more personal Israel, which went beyond the headlines and well-travelled tourist destinations.
Working closely with both the Minneapolis and St. Paul Federations and the extremely professional and personable P2G counterparts in Israel, the JCRC made it a point to add substantial time to their itinerary to sit-down for delicious meals with some extraordinary Israelis, as well as share in the experience of visiting everywhere from the Golan Heights to the Weizmann Institute.
Our partners in Rehovot also hosted the delegates in small groups in a program entitled “Rehovot Shelli,” which translates to “My Rehovot.”
While visiting in people’s homes, places of work, or even while digging a car out of the deep mud of a lush vineyard, we exchanged deeply personal stories while hopefully forging lasting friendships with our Israeli hosts.
Ethan Roberts, J.D.
Director, Twin Cities Jewish Community Government Affairs Program
Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas
A Peek into Rehovot
Empowering women in our sister city
International Women’s Day is March 8, so it’s timely that I tell you about one of the ways Rehovot empowers women. But first, you’ll need to meet Aviva.
Aviva Halabi, a member of the Minneapolis/Rehovot P2G’s Steering Committee, serves as the Advisor to the Mayor on the Advancement of Women. With Aviva’s help, Rehovot recently responded to numerous requests from women who married and had children at a young age. They didn’t have time to study or learn a trade, and now, looking for work as their children get older, these women find themselves in low paying jobs with a bleak future.
The new program, called in English “A Second Chance for Higher Education,” was created in response to this problem by Aviva, along with the Adva Center. It allows women age 35 and up to earn their undergraduate degree, thus increasing employment opportunities and wages.
Fully supported by the mayor of Rehovot, this three year program allows flexibility for a good balance between studying, work and family life—and will influence Rehovot’s socioeconomic makeup for years to come.
Programs in Israel: Kibbutz Ketora
I once lived on this beautiful kibbutz—and now I get to help kids from Minneapolis experience its beauty.
While I am not the superstitious kind, every now and then, I will look on my past and the word basheret (meant to be) comes to mind. In fact, I can find many basheret stepping stones which have connected my past to my present in a very strong way.
At the age of 18, together with my friends from our Scouts youth movement, we began our army service. Our adopted kibbutz was Kibbutz Ketora. A beautiful and luscious hole in the ground, stuck in the scorching Arava desert in the middle of nowhere, none of us had ever heard of it… but we fell in love.
As 18 year olds, we hung out with North American teens who made their way to Ketora as a part of their Young Judaea Israel Experience. It was always a source of amusement for us to observe how these American Jewish teens were so passionate and excited about working the land of Israel while making sure they looked exceptionally good when laboring in this scorching (in case you missed this temperature reference the first time) socialist environment.
Often times this meant moussing hair at 4 am before picking dates in the dust saturated desert fields while wearing name brand hiking boots and clothes—very different from my friends and I. We considered a sweaty bandana to be a sophisticated accessory.
While none of my Tel Aviv neighbors had heard of Ketora, plenty of Minneapolis Jews were familiar with it because of the Young Judaea connection. Fast forward many (many) years, I find myself on the other side of the coin (still in the middle of nowhere ;)) providing information and scholarships to students going on Young Judaea who will be stopping over at my old home, Ketora.
Over the years, as this kibbutz has grown, it has opened its doors to host many other wonderful programs: from veterinarian programs to programs for environmental studies and volunteering. It is a small oasis, full of imagination and passion, providing a variety of programs— any one of which can instantly make you fall in love with this special little corner of the world.
Though Ketora is isolated and unbelievably hot in the summer, the multitude of colors that seem to ooze out of the surrounding mountains at sunset and sunrise are enough to forget the potential dehydration and enjoy this natural wonder and its amazing programs.
Ketora is just one of the spots in Israel our scholarship recipients can visit. Read more about programs in Israel and scholarships available through the Minneapolis Jewish Federation.
Israel in the Community
Save the Date:
Avi Avital and Itamar Doari in concert
Tuesday, March 8 | 7:30 pm @ Aria
Yom HaZikaron – An evening for remembering Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism. Tuesday May 10th | 7pm @ Sabes JCC
Yom HaAtzmaut – Join the Twin Cities Yom HaAtzmaut celebrating Israel’s 68th birthday. Sunday May 15th | 4pm @ Sabes JCC