I am always struck by how amazing Israel is...and everyone who visits has their "favorites." A few of mine are the falafel in Machane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, the candle shop in Safed, the view of the Machtesh (crater) in Mitzpeh Ramon, and sticking my toes in the Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv.
Yet for me, Israel is more than sights and food. Israel is about the people who live here, many of whom have come because it’s a beacon of light in the darkness. In the north, we visited the Carmeil Absorption Center, home to 140 young adults from the FSU and Ukraine who participate in the Jewish Agency’s Sela program. We met several young adults who escaped from their war-torn countries to make Aliyah. This program, supported by Jewish Federation helps them learn a new language and assimilate into Israeli society so they may begin a new life in their new homeland…our homeland.
I was riveted by the stories of these new immigrants; Vegislav and Oksana who left on foot for the airport with nothing more than the clothes on their backs; Renata, 18 years old, who left Donetsk and came with her younger sister, leaving their parents behind, because Renata’s sister needed medical care that was not available in the Ukraine. And many more – who if you saw them on the street look like any of our kids, our teens.
My own daughter, Sydney, recently taught ME that there is a mystical explanation for tikkun olam. It’s about collecting the light that is scattered around the world and pulling it back together so there is no longer any darkness. Through Federation and our partners, we are continuing to gather the light for those who need our help finding their way in the dark.