Guest Voice: Jillian Glickman, Birthright Israel Alumnus
The opportunity to go "home" and create a connection with the state of Israel at no cost is likely the most meaningful gift any young Jewish person will receive. Along with learning about the State and meeting other young Jews, this gift also helps to foster a sense of community, and helps participants recognize the importance of philanthropy in the Jewish world.
On the final Taglit Birthright Israel-CIE trip of the summer, we were given a unique opportunity to contribute to an area of Israel that is often overlooked. Bat Yam, which is located just ten minutes outside of Tel Aviv, it is a community of new immigrants, mostly Ethiopian, and is one of the most impoverished communities in Israel with 70 per cent of residents living below the poverty line.
It is the youth in this area that are the most vulnerable; while trying to assimilate and fit into a new country, these kids are also faced with the same problems other teens encounter like exposure to drugs and alcohol and peer pressure. What's more is that these are social problems that they would likely not come across in their home countries.
In an effort to give back, our trip was able to have a small but hopefully significant impact on the youth in Bat Yam. In just two hours, we worked to paint and help makeover a popular youth centre. The short time spent will surely be one of our most memorable experiences.
One of the trip participants, Elie Silver, said "I found it extremely rewarding to contribute to such a great cause. It was amazing to see how just two hours of work could accomplish so much and make a difference in the lives of others."
Alyssa Cloth, another participant felt the same way.
"It was great to see how everyone on the trip got involved. We all realized the importance of giving back to the Jewish community." For us, having the opportunity to
help others, even in just a small way, was truly gratifying.
Throughout our time in Israel, we saw some extraordinary things – Shabbat at the Kotel and our trip to Masada will surely be unforgettable – but I am certain that the small gift that we were able to give to the youth in Bat Yam will remain at the forefront of our memories for years to come.
I think we all hope that our contribution will mean as much to the recipients as it did to us. One thing is for sure, they will always know that it was a group of "Canucks" that painted the centre - it's hard to miss the Canadian Flag on the wall.