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Jun 9, 2024

Onward Israel Hosted at Shabbaton in Federation’s Partner City of Yerucham

“Being in Israel now could not feel more right,” said Alon Labock, one of 26 college students in the Onward Israel summer internship program who participated last weekend in a Shabbaton in Federation’s partner city of Yerucham. “Seeing how the people here balance their day during a time of war has been very inspiring,” he noted. The group, consisting of students from Miami and Los Angeles, spent Shabbat becoming acquainted with the residents of Yerucham, its history and multifaceted culture.

“During Shabbat, we were welcomed with open arms by the amazing community of Yerucham,” offered fellow Onward Israel participant Tal Assaf. “They took extra special care of us from the moment we arrived.”

Activities began Friday with an introduction to the town’s history with Naomi Lev, a member of the Miami-Yerucham Partnership Steering Committee. Afterward, they designed and painted Moroccan tiles at Federation partner Studio Zuak, which endeavors to connect Moroccan traditions to modern day culture, and joined in a drum circle for a session of team building with Avihai Hazut, another Miami-Yerucham Partnership Steering Committee member.

At a musical Kabbalat Shabbat, students and locals brought in the Sabbath together. The next day, group members were hosted for lunch by families who shared their stories of making Israel and Yerucham their home. “Shabbat in Yerucham was a very special experience,” said Labock. “I got to meet a family where every member of the family is an officer in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Their love for the land and Zionism was truly fascinating and reflected a lot of my ideology,” he relayed. “I plan to enlist in the IDF after graduating and work in Israel after the army, so understanding how the people work here is very important to me.”

For Tamar Deletis, another Onward Israel participant, it was very powerful hearing how residents’ lives have changed since October 7. “Being able to connect directly with people from the city helped create a sense of home,” she said. “And being in Israel right now has been unlike any other trip I had here,” continued Deletis. “I would say this trip is even more meaningful from the spiritual and emotional aspects.”

Assaf was equally impacted by the experience. “Knowing I’m going back to Miami after being part of Onward Israel makes me think a lot about my future and what I want it to look like,” she shared. “I want to be surrounded by a welcoming community where I feel like I belong. Most of all, it left me with the desire to come back and join the Israeli army.”

Through her Onward Israel experience, Deletis hopes to deepen her understanding of her relationship with Israel and gain a clearer perspective of her living there in the future. “I also hope to bring back more of my culture to Miami,” she stated, “and help others connect with the beauty and the importance of Israel.”

Onward Israel is a department of Taglit-Birthright Israel and is supported by Federation, our overseas partner The Jewish Agency for Israel, the Beacon and Shapira Foundations and other philanthropists. The highly subsidized eight-week program allows college students to work in a professional internship and live in Tel Aviv, while immersing themselves in daily Israeli life and culture and strengthening their personal connection to the country.

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