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Archive for : Israel

Repair Interview: Talia Niederman on Year Course and Women’s Rights in Israel

Young Judea’s Year Course program brings talented and committed high school graduates to Israel for a year of learning, volunteering and discovery. Talia Niederman, an 18-year old from New Jersey and a lifelong participant in Young Judea, recently got back from her gap year in Israel. Needless to say, she had a life-changing experience.

Although she’s super busy this summer working as a counselor for Young Judea’s Camp Tel Yehuda, Niederman took some time to tell Repair the World about her background with service, why she felt compelled to join Year Course, and how she and her fellow YC’ers created a program to help women in need.

What is your background with service and volunteering – is it something you’ve always been passionate about?
Yes, I’ve always thought it was important to incorporate some form of social action into my life. In high school I was very involved with Young Judaea and did a lot of volunteering and service through the movement.

How did you hear about Year Course and what inspired you to participate?
Well I’ve been involved with Young Judaea since I was 10. I think it was around 9th grade that I told my parents I was going on Year Course. They weren’t originally too crazy about the idea. Throughout my time in Young Judea I was always hearing about all the amazing things YCers were doing. Back in the States we would try and parallel them in whatever ways we could. I remember the first event I ever planned was making sock dolls for the Darfuri refugees (a group the Year Course two ahead of me worked with heavily). Hearing all the things I did about my predecessor, I would be crazy not to have gone on Year Course.

What types of programs did you work on while you were in Israel?
I volunteered in a four places over the course of the year. In our Jerusalem section I worked at an after school program for Ethiopian Jews. In Bat Yam I worked at a battered women’s shelter and the Tel Aviv Rape Crisis Center, and in Arad I volunteered at a foster home. Each of these was roughly three months.

What experience had the most personal impact for you?
The most impactful thing for me was Garin Kol L’Nashim. Six (which eventually turned to seven) of us created this Garin to combat various women’s issues in Israel. It was from the Garin that we got the inspiration to work at the Tel Aviv Rape Crisis Center and the battered women’s shelter. We also collected 400 toiletry items for a shelter for sex trafficked women, created two education kits for people in America, made t-shirts from which we donated the profit to the battered women’s shelter, and continuously kept a blog.

The Garin not only helped us to help the broader community, but it gave us a forum to discuss various women’s issues with each other. By the end of the year it was me and three others. The four of us really built a wonderful and proactive community together, for which I am extremely proud and grateful.

Find out more about Young Judea’s Year Course program and how you can get involved, here.

World Food Prize Goes to Israeli Water and Farming Innovator

Ed’s note: Somehow we missed last week’s inspiring article on The Jew & The Carrot blog about an 81-year old Israeli-American innovator who just won the World Food Prize for pioneering drip-irrigation and other water-saving farming techniques. But now that the story is on our radar screen, we want to share it with you! Here’s an excerpt:

“If there is such a thing as rock star status in the world of soil physics, then Daniel Hillel has attained it,” Eric Herschthal wrote in a 2010 article titled “The Man Who Made The Deserts Bloom” in The Jewish Week.

Now, two years later, Hillel, an 81-year-old American-born Israeli scientist has won this year’s World Food Prize for his water-saving agricultural methods used first in Israel, and then around the world. These methods, known as micro-irrigation and drip-irrigation have increased crop production on arid lands in 30 countries.

It was a fortuitous encounter with Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, that set Hillel on his remarkable path. According to Herschthal’s article, Ben-Gurion met Hillel when he and his wife Paula came to visit Sde Boker, a kibbutz in the Negevwith the mission of settling the desert that Hillel had helped establish in 1952.

Ben-Gurion, by then in his 60’s, became a member of the kibbutz and pitched in with the work. Hillel, then in his 20’s was assigned to supervise Ben-Gurion. “It’s funny but true — I was Ben-Gurion’s boss,” the scientist said. The prime minister, impressed with Hillel’s revolutionary irrigation methods, sent him on his first trip — to Burma in 1956 — to teach this technology to developing countries. Many such trips to countries all over the globe ensued.

Kenneth M. Quinn, President of the World Food Prize Foundation, said he was most impressed by the ability Hillel has to bring different peoples and countries together and to promote peace through his work. He has participated in missions to teach and promote water-use efficiency across the Middle East, Africa, Asia and South America under the auspices of organizations such as the World Bank, UN Food and Agriculture Organization and U.S. Agency for International Development.

“His nomination for the World Food Prize included seconding letters from Arab scientists and experts living and working in Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. He is a remarkable example of what one person can achieve by taking a leap and crossing cultural borders for the sake of the greater good,” wrote Quinn.

Read the rest of Hillel’s story on The Jew & The Carrot blog.

Just in Time for Clean Air Month: Israel’s Electric Cars

What type of car do you drive, or does your family drive? Imagine if instead of stopping every few hundred miles to fill up with petroleum-based gasoline, you could roll into an eco-friendly battery swapping station and in two minutes get a freshly charged electric battery and be on your way?

If that sounds cool, then file this under awesome: an eco-entrepreneur named Shai Agassi, just unveiled the world’s first nationwide electric car network in Israel. The notion of a modern-day electric car has been around for a long time. But until now it’s been held back by a lot of logistical problems, including having no way to “fill up” with a charged battery. Now, Agassi’s company, Better Place (as in “make the world a…”) aims to wean car drivers off of oil by opening dozens of car battery swapping stations across the country and make them as efficient and easy as filling up a car with gasoline.

The company calls their ingenious system, “Drive, Switch, Go,” and it has the potential to be BIG. By 2017, Agassi expects 50 per cent of all new car sales in Israel to be electric. Of course, Israel is a small country (you’ve heard it before – it’s about the size of New Jersey), which makes it an ideal place to pilot a national network of electric cars. But if Better Place’s system works in Israel, there could eventually be electric car networks in every major city around the world. Imagine it: a future filled with emission-free cars. Pretty amazing, right?

With May being officially named “Clean Air Month,” Better Place’s unveiling couldn’t have happened at a better time. Find out more about Agassi’s world-changing idea by watching the videos below. First up: a quick rundown of how Better Place’s “Drive, Switch, Go” system works. Then a longer video of Agassi’s TED talk:

How are you celebrating Clean Air Month? Let us know below for by tweeting @repairtheworld.

Work for Social and Environmental Justice with Tevel b’Tzedek

Israelis have a thing for Nepal. Each year, thousands of young Israelis strap on their backpacks and travel the world, with many ending up in Kathmandu. It’s no surprise then, that the state’s capital city regularly hosts one of the world’s largest annual seders, often feeding more than 1,500 travelers. (That is a LOT a lot of matzah!)

Now, Repair the World grantee-partner Tevel b’Tzedek (The Earth- In Justice) offers another way to have a meaningful Jewish experience in Nepal. This February, Israelis and Jews from around the world can join Tevel b’Tzedek on a 4-month adventure promoting environmental justice and human rights and working to ease poverty in Nepal.

The Israel-based nonprofit launched in 2007 with the mission to “create a community of Israeli and Diaspora Jews engaging in the urgent issues of global poverty, marginalization and environmental devastation from a place of deep commitment to the Jewish people and its ethical and spiritual traditions.” Since then, more than 250 people have participated in the volunteer fellowship in Nepal and Haiti (where they also run service programs.)

The Nepal program combines both Jewish study and volunteering including:

  • Working with local communities on youth education, agriculture, women’s empowerment, and health
  • Learning about social and environmental justice, Judaism, economics, globalization and the history and culture of Nepal.
  • Studying Nepali language.
  • Volunteering both in Kathmandu and outside in more rural areas.

Check out the Tevel b’Tzedek experience in participants’ own words by watching the video below and checking out their personal blogs. Then, apply for the 4-month program here.

Help Turkey Recover from the Earthquake

Yesterday, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Turkey, killing hundreds of people and wounding thousands more. The quake also damaged scores of homes and knocked out power across the southeastern part of the country.

Turkey is known as a seismically active country, sitting atop two major fault lines. And yet, this is shaping up to be the worst earthquake the country has seen since 1999. It’s also the latest in a series of high-profile and highly-destructive natural disasters that have struck over the last few years.

Each new disaster that hits headlines is a reminder of how fragile life can be. It’s also a reminder of how interconnected and dependent we are with and on each other. Right now, a rescue mission is underway with Turkish relief teams searching for survivors under the rubble while there is still a chance of finding people alive. According to an article in the JTA, Turkey has, for now, rejected all offers of international aid. But there are still ways to help:

The following organizations and relief funds are accepting donations on behalf of victims, which will be distributed in the coming weeks.

Want more info? Check out Do Something’s post, 11 facts about earthquakes.

Recycling in Israel is On the Rise

According to a recent article in JTA, recycling of plastic bottles is on the rise in Israel – thanks to a public awareness campaign, and an increase of collection bins spread throughout the country.

Recycling, of course, is not the cure-all for environmental issues. Wherever possible it’s best to not consume something new or unnecessary (ahem, plastic water bottles) in the first place. Still, it’s an important first step to raising people’s consciousness about environmental responsibility.

Work to increase recycling in:

    • Your home. Recycling at home is easy with a bit of planning. Find out what types of recyclables (glass, paper, tin, plastic) are collected in your neighborhood and purchase or make bins to make sorting super easy. If you happen to live in San Francisco or Toronto, your local government collects food and yard waste to be composted too, so be sure to set aside your food scraps!
    • Your neighborhood. Contact your local representatives to let them know you support increased recycling facilities in your hometown. Or write an op-ed for a local newspaper to help garner support for better neighborhood recycling. Best yet, teach one person how to sort their recyclables. It’s not always as intuitive as it seems!
    • Your school. It can be difficult to convince a high school or college administration to take on recycling. Up your chances of success by holding an awareness campaign amongst the students to raise support. Find out how here.
    • Your office. Like school, the office can be a tough sell for recycling. Before proposing that your coworkers start sorting bottles and cans, find out what type of recycling pick up (via your building or a private company) is available to your office. You’ll have a better chance of convincing your boss to go green if you’ve done a bit of the legwork.


Check out more ideas on how to raise awareness about recycling in your neighborhood here.

Help Close Israel’s Achievement Gap with Masa’s Teaching Fellows Program

Hey college grads – have you ever thought about teaching English in another country? Now Masa Israel Journey and the Israeli Ministry of Education are joining forces to create the Israel Teaching Fellows program.

Outstanding college graduates aged 21-30 are invited to apply to teach English in underprivileged communities across Israel, during a 10-month service program starting in August, 2011. Like many developed countries, Israel struggles with educational inequity and underperformance of some students, especially in low-income and under-served communities. Volunteering with the Israel Teaching Fellows program will allow participants to play an important roll in students lives and share with them valuable English language skills to help them on their academic and professional journeys.
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