Blog  Opening Netzer Olami Veida in Israel

Opening Netzer Olami Veida in Israel

By Aaron Heft, NFTY Membership and Communication Vice President

As we started to descend from our eleven-hour plane ride, it was getting increasingly clearer to the passengers around me that this was my first trip to Israel. Perhaps it was because I looked out the window and loudly exclaimed: “what, skyscrapers? Highways? I thought we were landing in the desert!” After being in Israel for less than seventy-two hours, now more than ever I’m regretting not taking advantage of one of NFTY’s many Israel programs.

The NFTY delegation to Netzer Olami Veida includes NFTY Religious and Cultural Vice President Micah Friedman and Sh’nat Netzer participant Sammi Donchin.  Our first order of business in this new country was meeting NFTY alumni for shwarma and falafel at the world famous Moshiko’s in Jerusalem. NFTY alumni traveling on Taglit Birthright, working in Jerusalem, or those just visiting swarmed Ben Yehuda Street for a night of reunions and great food. That night made me remember one of the best aspects of NFTY friendships. I hadn’t seen some of the people that came out that night in years, yet as soon as we saw each other, we would give each other big hugs and start catching up as if it had only been a day since we had seen each other.

On Sunday, the Veida started and each of the delegations had arrived. Before we all introduced ourselves, I started to guess where everyone was from – I was wrong about almost everyone. There are 15 countries represented at the Veida – and even more accents.  Luckily, everyone in attendance at least understood English, and it is fun to hear the British, Australian, German, French, Russian, South African, Panamanian, Spanish, Israeli, Dutch, Swiss and Brazilian accents! Right away, our delegation led the opening ma’amad.  This was a new word for us… ma’amad.  After consulting the two madrichim from Netzer Germany, we found out that a ma’amad is a creative prayer experience performed in many Netzer snifim as a form of t’fillah.

We spent some time with Yair Zivan, the co-founder of Kol Voice Seminars – which is an organization that strives to spread awareness of current Israeli issues. As someone who doesn’t know much about current issues in Israel, this session challenged me. Yair discussed the wage inequality between the richest and poorest people that’s currently affecting Israeli workers. He told us anecdotally that he had to work three different full-time jobs just to be able to afford his house and food in Jerusalem. This seemed outrageous to me, how could a government allow this to happen to its people! Then he told us that the only country with a higher wage inequality is the United States, and this didn’t shock me as much. The United States is where I was born, but I feel a strong connection to Israel, and I consider it my home. Why, then, had I fallen short on keeping up with current issues in Israel? I should be keeping up with the place I call home, the place with which I have such a strong, almost inherent relationship. As Yair’s presentation came to a close I made a promise to myself that upon my return to Israel, I’d make sure I stay more up to date on what’s happening in the land of my people.

…and that was only the first day!

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