Home > Israel, Ulla Hadar > San Diego teens travel and volunteer in Israel

San Diego teens travel and volunteer in Israel

San Diego teen trip members at San Diego-Ibim Student Village in Sha'ar Hanegev region of Israel

By Ulla Hadar

Ulla Hadar

SHA’AR HANEGEV, Israel–A group of 23 teen led by shlicha Shoshi Bogoch have for the last two weeks travelled in Israel from the north to the south as part of the Community Teen Trip sponsored b y the Jewish Federation of San Diego County.

Open to  Jewish teens of all backgrounds in the 10th to 12th grades, the trip
is designed to give youngsters an opportunity to feel the heart of Israel, explore historic places, meet Israeli teens and more, according to Bogoch, an Israeli citizen who now coordinates Israel programs at the Jewish Federation of San Diego.

Through traveling, learning and living the Israeli way of life, the Jewish
Federation Community Teen Trip to Israel creates a meaningful, life-changing experience and an unbreakable bond with Israel, the shlicha (Israeli emissary) said.

The group spent a couple of days in the company of Sha’ar Hanegev youth, enjoying home hospitality with the youngsters of Kibbutz Bror Hayil. A tour of the area included visits to the borderline of Israel and the Gaza strip, to the Sha’ar Hanegev  educational campus, and to the San Diego Ibim Student Village where a small ceremony memorializing San Diegan Marla Bennett was held. Marla Bennett,  killed in a terrorist action at the cafeteria of Hebrew University in Jerusalem 8 years ago,  has a permanent memorial in her honor at the village.

“The community teen trip has existed for the last ten years but in the last two have undergone dramatic changes,” Bogoch said.  “The Israel Center (at the Jewish Federation of San Diego)  and the former shaliach Eyal Dagan started the new concept that I now execute. The teen group includes students mostly from the public schools, covering all San Diego.

“Students at this age would not have the possibility otherwise to visit Israel, and would not have had the change of knowing one another, as one Jewish person to another,” Bogoch said. 

To organize the trip, Bogoch said that she “travelled throughout the entire area of San Diego, visiting the different temples and public schools, in an effort to publish this program. We succeeded in getting 23 teens together as a group.

“It is important to emphasize that the Federation supports this program and sees the importance of sending each teen who desires to Israel. The cost of the trip is $3,500 and the Federation supports the trip with an amount of $1,000 dollars. There are possibilities to receive additional scholarships to further reduce the price.

“Leading up to the trip Five seminars were  held, with the main subject being  social activism. Furthermore different activities were held in
an effort to strengthen the youth as a group. These youngsters are receiving a gift, the ability to identify themselves as Jews in the future. Enabling them to feel connected and involved has been much stronger than visits to historic places and sites.

“One of the first places we visited in Israel was a factory in Tiberias. The workgroup are grown ups suffering from different mental diseases and other physical difficulties.  The San Diegan teen group worked together with these people for a couple of hours, talking to them and experiencing the simple work of putting filters together, that these people do every day hour after hour, day in day out. The teens enjoyed themselves immensely and at the end of the day had a party where they all danced together.

“This experience made them understand that you can give and you can make a difference. My goal is that this group will continue with the contacts made in Israel and in between them and that they will work as ambassadors for Israel in the community of San Diego.”

Carlos and Meegan, two of the teen participants, had these comments:

M: “My awareness to this program came from my grandfather. It has always been very important to him that his family members will travel to Israel.”

C:”I always felt I had a responsibility to go to Israel. Most of the people I know in my community had already been here. I did not realize how great it was until I arrived here. Just the feeling of being surrounded by people just like you and who accept you for who you are. The feeling of community on a larger scale, and the country has affected me in a positive way throughout the entire trip. ”

M: “It feels a bit weird to be part of the majority, I have always been connected to a Jewish community in San Diego but there we are always a minority.  When meeting new people in San Diego, you don’t have this understanding of being Jewish, most assume that you are Christian or something else. In Israel you feel connected as Jewish. It is the natural situation and no one has to pretend, to be Jewish is a normal existence, a normal identity.”

C: “The work experience we had with the disabled in the factory was a fantastic time, feeling that we did something for another person, not only for you yourself.  It was an act to help others, and it put much more meaning behind it. These workers do the same simple work every day, week and month. Our showing up helped them a lot, put smiles on their faces, it was just great. Another work experience we had was a day of picking tomatoes for the poor that have no money. This concept of helping makes one feel good, and made a very big impact of this trip.”

M: “The big part of doing community work here was understanding how different people live, like apart from the Jewish community we saw how Druse and Bedouin minorities live inside Israel, and it is interesting also to experience the life of the people in a kibbutz.”

Hadar is Sha’ar Hanegev bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

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