Today, the Israel and Overseas Committee began our annual meeting in Israel to ensure that our funding is used with maximal impact and effectiveness. This is our largest group to go to Israel in a while and includes eight volunteers and four staff. Our Board of Directors chair-elect is here, Greg Yawitz. The morning started with Yaron Yavelberg giving us a fascinating history of the complexities of Yokneam and Megiddo, then off to the region we went. In Megiddo, we met with our partners in the region as well as old friends and new. Members of the Steering Committee, Alon Itach and Ram Dekel, were there to greet us. The Atlanta delegation joined us. The region shared a wonderful short video about their successes.

We then visited three programs. The first was an alternative high school. The teens were well-spoken (their English was better than my Hebrew). They appeared to be bonded to the counselor and to each other like only teens can be. They each expressed their pride in their accomplishments. Remarkable for a group you would expect to have issues with self-esteem.

The second group was elementary age children with emotional problems often precipitated by the loss of a parent. The group is past its capacity with a waiting list. We played a group trust exercise with them by helping to hoist a child into a tree. First, the children and then our own Fran Balk went up. Not the same tree that Emily Bornstein and Shira Berkowitz climbed from the sheer joy of a lovely spring day in Israel.

The third site was on a moshav where we were treated to Yemenite home-baked pastries. Sarah, the baker, volunteers five days a week in the community center and the kindergarten. We met several young people who had started on the moshav and were now very successful. They credited their success to programs like Sarah’s.

We had dinner together where a panel discussion was held with the topic of Jewish pluralism in Israel. It was very interesting to hear about the issue from the Israeli perspective. Time for a glass of wine at kibbutz!

-Sherry Shuman