UIA was delighted to commemorate the milestone of Israel’s 75th anniversary by joining with more than 750 Keren Hayesod-UIA supporters from around the globe for a Homeland celebration.
Over 80 Australians joined groups from across the Jewish world at three pivotal events, namely Keren Hayesod’s Annual World Conference, Women’s Mifgash and Young Leadership Kesher Seminar. There were also participants from Canada, France, Argentina and a number of other South American and European countries.
More than 50 Australian supporters participated in UIA’s Yom Ha’atzmaut and Major Donors’ Missions, which gave participants access to unique experiences and speakers. That incorporated culture, history, security, innovation, creativity and cuisine, and, most importantly, seeing UIA’s lifesaving work firsthand.
Mission highlights included a Keren Hayesod-UIA Yom Ha’atzmaut picnic at Havat Ronit, together with other Missions from around the world, and unprecedented access to a Hezbollah tunnel on the northern border. There was also a visit to the Tel Nof Air Force base and access to an array of aircraft and equipment.
Participants saw and felt the impact that Keren Hayesod-UIA-supported projects are making on Israelis’ lives and society. Visiting Kiryat Gat, Jerusalem and Ra’anana Absorption Centres, ¬¬a first home for many new olim (immigrants), was eye-opening. Participants were also moved when meeting olim from Russia, Ukraine and Ethiopia who had recently made aliyah with their support. It was heart-warming to witness the revolutionary Youth Futures program, which helps empower over 12,000 at-risk children and their families. Additionally, participants visited the Hadassah Neurim and Ramat Hadassah Youth Villages, which help disadvantaged youth cope with integration difficulties, as well as Net@ Ramle, which provides technological training to high school students on Israel’s periphery.
Between sightseeing and taking in the tastes and textures of the Holy Land, participants heard from high-calibre speakers who gave professional and personal insights into politics, security and culture. They included Avi Melamed, a former senior official on Arab affairs, Tal Schneider, political correspondent for the Times of Israel and human rights lawyer, Gadi Ezra. Amit Segal, chief political correspondent and commentator for Channel 12 News and Ohad Hemo, the leading Palestinian Affairs reporter in Israel provided their expertise, while B. G. (Res.) Gal Hirsch and Col (Ret.) Kobi Marom gave overviews of Israel’s security on the northern borders.
There was also a tour of the Gaza Strip border and the city of Sderot, where the region’s population live under constant threat of rocket fire, as well as a visit to the seam line in Jerusalem with the architect of Israel’s security barrier with the West Bank, Dani Tirza.
Experiencing the National Days in Israel evoked a spectrum of emotions, from the sadness of Yom HaZikaron to immense joy at the Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrations. Participants had the chance to visit Yad Vashem and Mount Herzl, experience Kabbalat Shabbat at the Kotel, see the Tower of David’s night spectacular King David Show, visit the new excavations at the Western Wall tunnels, enjoy authentic Druze hospitality and explore the city of Safed.
Melbourne participant Sam Parasol OAM said the Mission was a “wonderful, never-to-be forgotten experience”. The preparation by UIA personnel – from the guides and speakers, to the food and every detail was excellent. Kol Hakavod to all. I would highly recommend future Missions.”
Another Melbourne participant, Helen White, said: “Our outstanding shlichim, guides and speakers have given us great insight into the life and challenges that Israel faces. I will treasure the memories.”
Sydneysider Glynis Bass said: “Each day was filled with unbelievable adventures. We were inspired and filled with positivity and hope.”
UIA CEO Yair Miller OAM said that a UIA mission is one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences that one can have in Israel. “I am always amazed when our local Israeli madrichim tell us they have never themselves experienced many of the things we are able to provide to our participants. We are so proud of the lifesaving work we do in Israel each and every day and using these experiences to connect our donors to their Homeland and our beneficiaries is one of the unique privileges of my role.”
UIA is looking forward to its upcoming Medical Mission (10-19 October) and October Mission (12-19 October). Information about these can be found at uiaaustralia.org.au/missions