JNFuture: The concept of vision, identity through history

JNFuture Arizona board members, from left, Penelope Karp Abad, Andy Becker, Talyah Sands, Jennifer Starrett, Stephanie Kelman visit Alexander Muss High School in Israel. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Starrett

JNFuture Arizona board members, from left, Penelope Karp Abad, Andy Becker, Talyah Sands, Jennifer Starrett, Stephanie Kelman visit Alexander Muss High School in Israel. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Starrett

Five JNFuture Arizona board members are currently in Israel on the Jewish National Fund Leadership Mission in Israel (JLIM). They will be sharing highlights from their trip on the JN Blog.

Day 1: Understanding the concept of vision

As this group of 27 leaders begins our JNF leadership mission in Israel (JLIM), we are asked to share a bit about our journey to JNF. While our backgrounds and stories may vary, one consistent theme that is shared is the vibrant and hopeful vision we see, as future JNF leaders in our own communities, nationally and in Israel.

Our first stop after an incredible lunch at the Dan Panorama Hotel in Tel Aviv is to Ben-Gurion House, the former residence of Israel’s first prime minister. The modest living space David Ben-Gurion and his family shared was proof that he wanted to live amongst his people. The one luxury he had was his massive book collection, and our tour guide spoke about the importance Ben-Gurion placed on knowledge and learning.

Books that ranged from history to yoga in multiple languages filled his second floor library, and when we had the privilege of hearing from Ben-Gurion’s grandson, he reiterated this by sharing that his Saba only gave him books as gifts and was always concerned about his education and grades. Next, we visited Independence Hall and further learned about Ben-Gurion’s vision for the state of Israel.

To end the day, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Goshen restaurant in Tel Aviv and spoke to Knesset member Erel Margalit, a leader in entrepreneurship and business helping to bring more than 70 technology companies to Israel and launching the country’s first four technological incubators.

Margalit’s passion and vision for not only the future of Israel but also the future relationships with world leaders was truly inspirational and motivating. He envisions working with organizations like JNF to bring technology and agriculture together and making Israel the forefront of innovation. By working with world leaders he hopes to not only improve trade and economic growth in the country but also believes that this will help build strong political relationships.

Many of us left the dinner feeling proud to represent JNF and continue the vision of past leaders like Ben-Gurion and looking towards our future paths as young leaders ourselves.

– Jennifer Starrett, marketing chair of JNFuture Arizona and marketing manager of Phoenix Jewish News

Day 2: Identity through history

We took a tour through historical sites that show the resistance our people faced in creating the State of Israel. We struggled ourselves throughout the day through the oppressive humidity and heat wave overcoming Israel this week. Before getting to the historical sites, we started off our day at Alexander Muss High School in Israel where five other Arizonans had been the week before through the Schwartz-Hammer Impact Fellowship. Feeling the power of their journey, we learned about the amazing center for Jewish learning co-directed by a familiar face, Rabbi Leor Sinai, who came to one of our first JNFuture events in Phoenix. The emphasis of this incredible experiential education program is solidifying students’ Jewish & Zionist identity through history (though students don’t have to be Jewish). Impressed by what our successors experienced, we looked toward the rest of the day with hopeful eyes.

Next, we took a look back at where we came from by visiting Atlit Internment Camp and walking through the boat ride and barrack shelter our ancestors had to experience in hopes of freedom in our homeland. Visiting Akko prison (after a yummy lunch at Alto Dairy) next was another eye-opening walk through the steps of those who fought for their freedom to give us our own.

Seeing all these historical venues coupled with where Israel is today through AMHSI and the Western Galilee small business programs we learned about brought an understanding of how far we’ve come as a people in building our homeland. There are still more ways we can work toward building strength as a people and a nation. JNF is clearly doing so with strategy and efficiency, expediting our progress toward a more complete Israel.

– Talyah Sands, JNFuture Arizona chair

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