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by Aaron Wahl

Today was a day filled with mitzvot as we visited several organizations that are funded in part by the Jewish Federation of St Louis.

We started our day at a senior center called Gil-Or that has about 60 elderly residents visit daily to enjoy lectures, arts and crafts, exercise and much more. We had a tour, heard from a couple of the residents, and learned about the organization from some employees.

After Gil Or we proceeded to a farm owned by Leket Israel, the national food bank. Leket Will rescue food from farms and restaurants around the country and distribute it to the needy. Today we went to their farm , as do many Israeli students and adult volunteers, and picked 2 tons of a vegetable called kohlrabi which will provide for 500 families.

We then packed up and went to Tel Yokneam, which is a large hill that overlooks farmland which people all through history lived on, to learn about the St Louis partnership with Yokneam. There we learned about the region and its significance in the Bible, as well as, the positive impact of the partnership’s work. Eliad from the the Jewish Agency sang us a song, Mindee from the Federation read a poem, and then Eliad blew the shofar. A huge and delicious Israeli lunch followed.

After lunch we visited a “clubhouse” in Yokneam called Bayit Cham which means Warm Home. This is just one such clubhouse allowing up to 15 kids aged 6-12, that are on welfare or at risk, to come after school for food, emotional support, and care. Around the country they have clubhouses that support ages 3-6, 6-12, and 12-16 year olds. This is just one part of Israel’s holistic approach to welfare and at risk families which include cooperative care for other siblings and parents and what is going on at the schools. Our Rubin group brought them birthday presents as we have for all 10 Rubin trips, participated in an arts and crafts activity which will be sent to the border patrol soldiers we visited yesterday, and then played a game. The intensity of going from one organization and site to the next can be exhausting but the smiles were abound and the energy was especially high during this visit.

We finished the afternoon visiting the Megiddo Council to learn about their BioSphere. This BioSphere is unique in that not only does it have designated open space that cannot be developed, its also has areas that can be developed but only with resident approvals by voting.

After four busy days our relationships are getting strong and our energy levels are actually growing. I think that is in large part because these last two days we were able to see first hand and experience what St Louis is doing to help this region in Israel.

We finished the evening by pairing up with each pair visiting a local host family’s home for a special dinner. After dinner we all met back at Kibbutz Dalia and enjoyed some quality bonding time. It is on to Jerusalem tomorrow!