Young Zionist

FZY Israel Tour; Perspectives from the Chanichim

Read here the speeches written and delivered by a couple of the FZY chanichim at the FZY Maccabiah Event ceremony

Roni Altman; Tour 5

Eretz Zion, Yerushalayim. Those three words have been said and sung by Jews; young and old all over the world. Despite monotonously reciting them at practically every Jewish event ever, I never fully understood their importance before tour.

Israel is only one sixth of one percent of the total landmass of the Middle East. Israel has the most geniuses per capita. Around 70 unique communities are present in Israel. Statistics such as these are so easily overlooked, especially living abroad. it’s not until you tour Israel and see the high-tech city of Tel Aviv, see the multiculturalism in cities such as Haifa, see the mingling of old and new, all in a land so small, that these facts come alive.

Facts alone cannot capture the smell of spices sold at Machane Yehuda, the feeling of a warm, welcoming FZY Shabbat, or the passion felt by people of unparalleled diversity. As much as facts learned outside of Israel may help to begin to appreciate Israel until you arrive here, the connection so many people have to this land is almost incomprehensible.

When Israelis refer to Israel, they call it ‘ha’aretz,’ the land. Through exploring and working on the physical land, with Hashomer Hachadash, I understood the importance of caring for the land in Israel, as well as being connected spiritually to this country. Their message of ‘shomer achi,’ my brother’s keeper, inspired me to take action towards the issues I care about.

Connection is something I have learned a lot about so far on tour. Whereas visiting the Kotel helped reaffirm my own connection, exploring the Baha’i gardens and Druze hospitality helped me better understand other connections to Israel, as well as my own.

In truth, I am in the privileged position of having visited Israel many times, yet every time I come, I learn and experience Israel in different way. Often, many people already have a view or opinion about Israel, largely due to influence of family or friends. Yet, through the different talks and experiences unique to FZY and Young Judaea, I have not only been informed, but more importantly given space to allow me to form my own opinion about issues that concern Zionists everywhere, not just in Israel. When I return back to rainy old Manchester, other than leaving with a carry on full of duty free Toblerones, I will leave with a new sense of connection and comprehension of Israel. Many times, when I come to Israel I come on holiday, yet this time when I came with FZY, I came home.

Guy Rapacioli; Tour 2

A few days ago, our Madrichim asked us “what’s the most important thing about Judaism? What does being Jewish mean to you?” Despite some more outlandish suggestions such as “Chamantashen, Rabbi Slaznic and being able to prove everyone wrong”, it was overwhelmingly suggested that the most important things for us as Jews is the family and community, the food, the culture. Being on tour with FZY has allowed us to discover this culture in the very land where it cultivates. We’ve visited historic sites like the Kotel and the Old City in Jerusalem, and forced ourselves up Masada at 5am to experience the best sunrise you can ever hope to witness. And what’s more, we’ve done it all with smiles on our faces from start to finish, and a constant ruach that makes the FZY Tour experience so unique.

So, what gave us the motivation to do all of the amazing activities and once in a lifetime opportunities we’ve been offered, to crawl out of bed as early as 3:30 am to discover Israel? What strength did we gather to hike Masada? We’ve all been swept up by an amazing spirit and atmosphere that has lead us from one amazing experience to another. Of course, it wears off at times, like when our madrichim takes us on a sea-to-sea hike just to find the bus, or when you’re desperate to go to sleep but there’s a drum and base rave happening outside your door.

FZY Tour is a once in a lifetime experience for all of us that we’ve taken so much enjoyment from, and will cherish forever. What is Tour all about? We’ve all had fun times relaxing at free time and enjoying time with our Tour, but these are not the memories that will stick with us forever. So, what will we remember FZY Tour for? It will be remembered as one of the best summers we’ve had, for the chance to connect with the Jewish faith and Israeli culture, to experience some of the country’s most incredible sights and activities, and for the bond we’ve forged with our fellow chanichim.

I can’t not mention that we’ve visited one of the worst places in Israel, and I’m not talking about the boys’ apartment after a 5-night stay in Beit Ar-El hostel. I’m of course referring to the Gaza Strip, where we got a glimpse at a strip of land where everyday people live in horrible conditions, and terror rules. What has FZY taught me about this place, and the ongoing battle Israel fights every single day? One of FZY’s mottos is the idea of pluralism, the idea that everyone can coexist. There may never be peace in our time, but if each of us can be sure that we are spreading the message of pluralism as far as we each can, we’ll make the world that much brighter.

One of the highlights of all of our experiences in Israel so far has to be the night out we spent in Ben Yehuda Street Jerusalem. For hours we ate great food, haggled with Israel shopkeepers and danced in the streets. Most importantly, at no point in the evening did we feel in any way unsafe. This encapsulates the spirit of Israel that we’ve all experienced. Yes, there are challenges every day, but life goes on. Life thrives.

FZY tour has been one of the best experiences we’ve all had, for countless reasons. For this we must thank our madrichim for planning all of our activities, looking out for us every step of the way, and pretending not to see when they spot us out of our bedrooms a few minutes after curfew. I’d like to finish with a motto they taught us, perhaps the one takeaway from this experience that will endure when all of the memories have faded. If you want it, it’s not a dream. Thank you for listening.

Pride 2017

peterOver the last few months, FZY have taken steps to improve inclusivity within the movement, and we are pleased to bring you this inspiring blog from Peter Strauss (Hadracha Bet and incoming Year Course participant), who shares words about his identity as we celebrate Pride this weekend. To everyone who will be attending the Pride parade, have a fabulous time – it’s a time to proudly celebrate our identities!

As I sit down to write this, I’m thinking about the recent dispute between Rabbi Dweck and parts of the Jewish community. While it is not my business to discuss why I do or why other people don’t support Rabbi Dweck, I do think that it has brought an issue to the immediate attention of the Jewish community. The issue of Homosexuality and Judaism coexisting and the issue of how Judaism deals with homosexuality.

When people ask me how long I know I’ve been Gay for it is a really difficult question to answer…. Yes, I came out as Gay to my friends in November 2014 aged 16 however, before I came out I had thought for some years that I might be. When I did come out to my friends, it felt like a secret that I had been carrying around for several years had finally emerged and a huge weight was lifted of my shoulders. However, I knew deep down that I still needed to tell the most important people in my life… my family.

For me there hadn’t been an issue telling my friends at school for the simple reason that not many of them were Jewish or had strong Jewish identities. Conversely, I was worried that my family wouldn’t have accepted my sexual orientation; there was this strange idea that the words Gay and Jewish could appear in the same sentence. I was completely wrong. When I eventually plucked up the courage to tell my family they couldn’t have taken it better. They were so pleased that I had told them.

With a little encouragement from my mother, I went to my first Friday night hosted by the Jewish Gay & Lesbian Group (JGLG). It was a mind-opening experience meeting people who like me described themselves with the words Gay and Jewish in the same sentence. However, reflecting on that first meeting a few days later I still felt that I had a real issue with describing myself as both Gay and Jewish. Having leyned the verse:

“הִוא תּוֹעֵבָה,:אִשָּׁה מִשְׁכְּבֵי תִשְׁכַּב לֹא זָכָר וְאֶת”

“Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination”

I still felt like I was toevah [an abomination] for me I couldn’t see a link between the Gay part of my identity and the Jewish part. Through JGLG I was introduced to a Rabbi, Daniel Lichman, who helped me through this identity crisis and whom I am eternally grateful to. For me this is when I first began realising there was a connection between the two identities. However, it still took me another year and a half of research and reading until I finally came out on Facebook and to my parent’s friends.

When I think of my Jewish identity and Zionist journey there are various components that make it up but by far the biggest component for me was when I went on Israel Tour in Summer of 2015 with FZY #Tour8Turtles4Ever, and this was when I fell in love with Israel. Yes, I’d been before with family and even gone to summer camp there but this was different. I was thrown in the deep end of all different Israeli cultures and found the experience beyond rewarding. The biggest thing I realised was the diversity in Israel, take the two biggest cities in Israel. Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Many people would say that the two cities are complete opposites… Tel Aviv the cultural capital of Israel with this amazing acceptance and vibrancy and then Jerusalem the religious capital of Israel steeped in history but with a much more closed of society. In general, the two cities have very different general stances towards the LGBTQ+ community. In Tel Aviv over 250,000 people attended the Gay Pride March making it one of the largest pride marches in the world. This compared to Jerusalem in 2015 where an Ultra-Orthodox Man stabbed seven people injuring six and killing one.

In September, I fly out to Israel to go on Year Course with FZY. I am really looking forward to this experience. We divide our time between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Many people would say that the two cities are complete opposites… Tel Aviv with this amazing acceptance and vibrancy and the Jerusalem steeped in history but with a much more closed of society.

For me being Gay and Jewish for a long time didn’t fit. But now having experienced and seen many different sides of Jewish life I’m beginning to find a way to put the two together. There will always be people who will say that I am toevah but there will also always be people who will say I am B’tzelem Elohim [made in the image of G-d] and as such will always be loved. I think that both have weighting in my life but thankfully I now feel more loved by the Jewish and LGBTQ+ community than I did but also able to use the two words to describe key parts of my identity.

Zionism Wins

An awesome story of Zionism.

Today, former Prisoner of Zion and current Knesset speaker, Yuli Edelstein, became the first Israeli to address the Russian parliament.

Donning a Kippah, he opened his speech in Hebrew;

“Thirty-three years ago, I was a prisoner, here in Moscow, by the authorities of the Soviet Union for the crime of teaching the Hebrew language.”

He continued speaking in Russian.

Edelstein visited the Archipova Synagogue where he and fellow Refuseniks (those who were not permitted to make Aliyah) used to covertly meet to study Zionism and Hebrew.

He also visited Butyarka prison, where he was held prior to being sent to the gulags. Here, Edelstein was once held in solitary refinement for losing his cool at a guard who found and broke his hidden Tephillin.

Edelstein also revisited the courtroom in which he was sentenced to three years of hard labour in the gulags.

Today, Edelstein addressed the Russian parliament in the same language that he was sent to the gulags for teaching. He was not allowed to express his Zionist identity, but today he stood as the speaker of the Knesset, the parliament of the Jewish State of Israel.

Zionism wins.

Credit: @yuliedelstein & @lahavharkov

One wall for all

FZY Shlicha, Dagan Livny, has penned some thoughts about recent events in Israel with regards to the creation of a permanent space for egalitarian prayer at the Kotel. Have a read and let us know your thoughts!

…And here they are, standing in front of it and breathing deeply, And here they are, looking at it with the sweet pain, Tears fall, and they look at each other bewildered, How can it be, how can it be that paratroopers are crying? How can it be that they’re touching the wall and are so moved? How can it be that from crying they switch to singing? Perhaps it’s because 19-year-old boys, who were born together with the establishment of the State, are carrying 2,000 years on their backs.”

These are the words from a song written by Haim Hefer shortly after paratroopers liberated the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem during the Six Day War.

50 years ago, this wall became a symbol of unity and togetherness. Following this week’s cabinet decision to suspend a government-approved plan to establish a pluralistic prayer pavilion at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, we are faced with genuine concern that the wall is no longer that symbol of unity and togetherness, rather it is becoming symbolic of the intolerance and rifts that shake up Israeli society.

This decision affects Jews from across the religious spectrum from around the world. The sense among many diaspora Jews is that their models of religious practice are not recognised by the country’s establishment and this is a source of growing anger and frustration, leading to alienation, particularly amongst the younger generation. Because of this decision, could we see a reduction in support of Israel from around the world?

So, the question beckons, what should WE do about it?

Firstly, we need to continue supporting Israel in whatever way we can. We need to keep Israel at the forefront of our minds, knowing that it is and always will be the Jewish homeland. Even if we are hurt by this decision, this is not the time to disconnect, but it provides an opportunity to try and influence. This relationship between a diaspora Jew and Israel is what Zionism is all about.

But at the same time, we need be critical and make sure that our voice is being heard to build the Israel that we so desire. It’s an opportunity to bring criticism from love and care – see it as a teacher correcting a mistake in your paper. After all, if it is something you care about, it is not a waste of time to criticise it.

This is not a political issue, but it is an issue that directly affects pluralism and Zionism, and that is why I feel as though it is incumbent upon us all to be critical about it. For inclusivity of all Jews, at the holiest Jewish site, we need to have a place for those who wish to pray in an egalitarian way at the Kotel, as we do for those who wish to pray segregated.

If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.” (Psalms 137:5).

So this is my message to you: do not forget about Jerusalem, but at the same time, make sure Jerusalem does not forget about you.

What do you think about this decision? Do you agree or disagree with what Dagan has written about?

50 Years On: Memories as a 6 Day War Volunteer

Barry Kester, former FZY member, shares his experience as a volunteer in the aftermath of the 6 day war. June 12th is the 50thanniversary since the first FZY arrival to Israel to volunteer.
To Barry, and all the other FZY Volunteers from 50 years ago, thank you!

On the 20th May 1967 I was at Wembley Stadium cheering on my beloved Spurs as they defeated Chelsea in the F.A. Cup Final.   Had anyone told me on that day, that just a couple of weeks later I would be in Israel working on a kibbutz close to the Golan Heights, I would have thought them crazy.

Two days later however, all the euphoria of that victory was dissipated when Egypt committed what was a clear act of war by closing the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping.  Tension had been rising during the previous week as Egypt mobilized its troops and then moved into Sinai demanding that the U.N. peacekeepers be removed.  The blockade however, ratcheted up the tension considerably higher.

I was twenty-three when the crisis broke.  I was articled to a partner in a West End accountancy practice, and was due to take my finals in December of that year.  I was also very active in FZY and chairman of its Ilford group.

As the crisis heightened, FZY was called in to help with fund raising activities.  Every evening we would go from one shul to another helping to collect donations.  Sunday mornings we were out knocking on doors collecting more gifts.  No house with a mezzuzah on the door was safe from our attentions, nor did I ever leave a house without having received a donation.

There was an incredible atmosphere around at the time, for unlike today, as war became inevitable, the entire country was 100% behind Israel.  I had a “Support Israel” bumper sticker on my car and I remember to this day a garage attendant saying to me whilst he filled up my car, that he hoped we would really show those ***** a thing or two; that was how it was at that time.

On Monday morning 5th June war broke out.  As soon as I got to the office I asked my principal if I could go to the Zionist Federation offices in Lower Regent Street, to do whatever I could to help.  Luckily, my principal was Jewish, so he gladly gave his consent.   For those of you who may remember it, Rex House was an always chaotic place, but during that week, the chaos reached new heights.

The first thing I saw on my arrival was that outside, seemingly every Jewish cab driver in London was waiting ready to deliver messages, packages and people free of charge wherever they were needed.  Inside was bedlam.  Volunteers wanting to go to Israel and take over the jobs of the men and women now serving in the army, filled every bit of space in the building as they waited to be processed.

Fundraising was more urgent than ever and elsewhere blood donor centres were being set up.  All the while communiqués were coming in from Tel Aviv with war news.  I remember hearing the breaking news that the IDF had destroyed the Egyptian Air Force on the ground in the first few hours of the war.  BBC newsreaders initially did not believe it, but gradually it became quite clear that it really was true.  Then on the Wednesday came the news that the Old City of Jerusalem had been taken and there was not a dry eye in the whole of Rex House.  That was day also that the blockade was broken.

Later that day, together with about fifty fellow FZYniks I joined the ranks of the volunteers.  Once again I had to look to my principal’s goodwill and once again he came through for me.  The war ended on the Saturday and on the following Tuesday our FZY party was on an El Al plane to Tel Aviv. By the Friday, just ten days after it had been recaptured we were in Jerusalem, praying at the Western Wall.  I remember phoning home that evening  – no easy thing in those days – and the emotional call I had with my parents.

We were sent to Kibbutz HaGoshrim, a non – religious settlement in the north of Israel, some five miles beyond Kyriat Shemona in that spit of land between Lebanon and the Golan Heights.  We were fortunate in that the Kibbutz, as well as being an agricultural settlement also ran a guest house so we had decent accommodation and, joy of joys a swimming pool.  Our work routine was soon established.  Wake up was at 4:30am.  A quick wash, a mug of tea with some stale bread and then on to a tractor to work in the fields, picking fruit or cotton or building new paths around the Kibbutz.  At 8:00 it was back on the tractor to return to the dining hall for a proper breakfast followed by another stint of work until 11:30 when we would finish for the day and crash out round the pool.

The work was hard and not without its dangers. The fruit picking mostly involved placing rickety ladders against the acres and acres of apple trees and then reaching into the furthest branches of the tree to collect the fruit. None of us escaped from what became known as “flying ladders” as we tumbled to the ground, though thankfully no-one suffered anything more serious than a few bruises – and hurt pride.

Early one morning a group of us were in the cotton fields when we suddenly heard massive explosions from the nearby Golan Heights.  For one horrible moment, we thought fighting had broken out again but it turned out only to be the IDF destroying captured Syrian munitions, but it was a reminder that we were in a war zone.

Afternoons were filled with various leisure activities.  Courses in Ivrit were arranged as were soccer matches against volunteers from neighbouring kibbutzim.  I am still carrying the scars from one ferocious encounter with South Africans volunteers from Kibbutz Dan just up the road.  For the brave, the icy waters of the lake at nearby Horshat Tal was a refreshing alternative to the kibbutz pool.

Another example of the good fortune that befell our group is that amongst us were a few who were employed at Marks and Spencer’s head office in Baker Street and every couple of weeks they would each receive a large box of St. Michael foodstuffs which of course they shared around and provided a welcome break from the rather unimaginative kibbutz diet.

The kibbutz set aside one hut for us to use as our own communal meeting place.  Our group included people of all degrees of religious observance but we all agreed it would be nice to have a Friday evening service.  On that first Friday night, we gathered in our hut and began the service.  Suddenly, I was aware that we were being joined by some of the Kibbutzniks who were peering through the windows or standing by the open door, visibly moved by the sight of Shabbat candles and the sound of Sabbath songs that they probably had neither seen nor heard in years.

Another memory of that time is the music.  Within days of it ending, an LP was produced of songs of the Six Day War and it was constantly being played around the kibbutz.  One song in particular came to define that period, Naomi Shemer’s Yerushalayim shel Zahav.  Morning, noon and night, it seemed you could never go more than five minutes without hearing that haunting refrain.  The strange thing is, no matter how many times you heard it, it never seemed too much; even today, if my I-Pod is on shuffle, and that song comes up, I have to stop what I am doing and the memories come flooding back.

Because the war itself was mercifully short, before long the men and women who had been called up began returning home.  Whilst there was still plenty for us to do, the government decided that we should see as much of Israel as possible.

We were taken in an army jeep on to the Golan Heights.  There we saw captured Syrian tanks and the gun emplacements overlooking HaGoshrim.  We saw at once that they could probably have done enormous harm just by hurling rocks down on the kibbutz from that dominant position.

Then we went on a long trip to the south.  We stopped at Ein Gedi and bathed in the Dead Sea and then in the morning, before dawn, climbed the snake path to the summit of Masada where we witnessed the most glorious sunrise breaking over the fabled ruins.  From there we were taken through Beer Sheva and via the Negev to Eilat which was just a small village at that time. Other trips took us to the Galilee and of course in our free time we all explored Jerusalem and Haifa and Tel Aviv.

Suddenly it was October and it was time to return home after what were the most amazing three months of my life.  The nervous tension in the days before the war; the very real concern that Israel could be annihilated; the unbelievable excitement and relief as we learned of the recapture of the Old City and Israel’s subsequent victory. The tremendous camaraderie of like-minded young people working on the kibbutz, delighted at being able to do our bit for the country that we all cared about so deeply.

There is one other memory.  On a bus returning  to the kibbutz from Haifa where I had been visiting a cousin, I spoke to a young Israeli.  I will never forget his words.

“Surely now, after this massive defeat the Arabs will have to accept us. They have to, don’t they?”

______________________

This post has been republished with Barry’s permission and its original can be found here (hyperlink to https://hakolsheli.com/)

Mental Health Awareness Week 2017

Reese GoldingThis week marks Mental Health Awareness Week #MHAW17, which is an opportunity to have an open conversation about Mental Health in a helpful and healthy way. Here, Reese Golding from Hadracha Bet shares some of her (inspirational) thoughts:

Many of the choices we make in life are the kind that will define who we are as people. In today’s modern Western culture, we often tend to seek approval from those around us, rather than looking inwards for validation. Why, may I ask? A question asked so often, yet never answered.

There are times when you may reach a point in your life where (for a seemingly inexplicable reason) you choose to neglect your needs. Whoever made self-care a taboo subject? As someone who has battled some incredibly difficult fights – and continuing to do so today – I have learnt so much. I have learnt that sometimes it’s important to admit when you’re not okay, and that asking for help is not something to ever be ashamed of. I have learnt that nothing should ever take priority over your own wellbeing, whether this is mental, physical or emotional. I have learnt that waking up in the morning without regret of this decision is a beautiful feeling; a feeling I wish everyone could experience.

I’ll admit that none of this was easy to practice, nor was it first-hand knowledge, but it is all something you teach yourself. Your mind has to stay positive and keep working and pushing forwards: the better days will come.

I spent so long shutting myself away from the world, from my family and my friends, and it never made me stronger. What really gave me the courage to brave another day, time after time, was admitting that I needed help, and teaching myself to look for light even in the darkest moments. From this I was able to develop an understanding of the way our thoughts are processed (or, mine, at least.)

We all fight so much, but nothing is more important than the way we treat ourselves. We are valued, we are powerful and we are wise. More than any of this though, we are united.

The mental health community has always been supportive of ‘people like me’, but this is not the only help I have received. Being a part of FZY gave me a sense of community and togetherness when all else seemed lost. During a particularly dark phase of my life, I made a lot of mistakes that led people to doubt my strength and not trust me to keep myself safe. Being doubted and told I wasn’t “trying hard enough” almost broke me. Nonetheless, it was FZY that gave me the push I needed to prove everyone wrong.

The movement team offered me a deal in order for me to take part in Israel Tour 2015: as long as I was honest and let them help me, they would let me go. The amount of support I received after this was incredible. I had daily conversations with my leaders to ensure that I was safe and taking proper care of myself (i.e. eating, not hurting myself and sleeping), I spoke numerous times to the office team who called to check in on me, and even after Israel tour, I stayed in contact with many of these people.

Between the time I arrived home from tour and the time that I sit here writing, I have entered recovery. I have made countless changes in my life and though I continue to fight my own thoughts every single day, I’m doing far better now than ever before. This is because I have finally found what I am good at, and that is raising awareness for the things that matter; things such as mental illness and the stigma attached to it.

Earlier this year, I took part in Veida, where each of us were given the opportunity to have our voices heard. This was an incredible experience for me, as I worked closely with the movement team in writing a motion to suggest the idea of mental health training for all leaders and FZY workers to be mandated, rather than optional. This may have only been a change on a small scale, but it was a change that could save someone’s life.

Try and put it into perspective the way I did, if there is a vulnerable child/young person in need of some kind of help, and they are reaching out, there has to be someone there who will take their hand and guide them towards a safe environment and better mindset. I made a change where it matters, and that is something that will stick with me for the rest of my life. I’m proud of that, and I’m proud of who I am.

I am not a problem, I am a person with problems, but every problem has a solution. Find your solution in the same place I did, in a kehila kedosha like FZY.

To chat about your Mental Health, contact Jami on 0208 458 2223 or speak to one of their Heads Up workers at Head Room Cafe.

Yom Hazikaron 5777

Today on Yom HaZikaron, we mourn the loss of 23,544 Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror. In this post, we share with you some thoughts from both a British and an Israeli perspective living in the UK.

Noah Levy: Mazkir

Noah LevyI’ve always found that for British people, particularly the youth, connecting with Yom HaZikaron is somewhat challenging, so as an educator you’re perplexed as to the most meaningful way to educate on the topic. But despite what Mandela says about education being the most powerful weapon, sometimes, emotion is.

On Tour 2015, at Mt. Hertzl, we saw a girl in uniform, younger than me, lying over her siblings gravestone and wailing. This reduced almost our whole group to tears because for that moment, they felt the pain of that girl. They felt what it was like for every Israeli to have a story about a bereaved friend or relative. This moment where I saw our British chanichim embracing our Israeli chanichim proved that at times like this emotion is what creates understanding.

We will never truly understand this Israeli reality, but as British people living in the diaspora, we can listen, and we can mourn. So today, try and reach out to one of your Israeli madrichim, or chanichim, or any Israeli you may have met on whatever programme, and talk with them, try to feel what they are feeling, and that is how we, as Zionists can connect and understand Yom HaZikaron.

Mor Sofer: Northern Shaliach

Mor SoferThey are all only faces and names. Thousands of them.

Every year, in Israel, at this time, I’m trying to memorise as many names as I can. Trying to insert into my mind, some names that might be forgotten in the future. But I will not let it happen. They will never be forgotten. Names that I will be able to keep alive, and tell people that I will meet, that because of them, we have Medinat Israel. Names that need to be remembered, even though they are dead.

When you’re far from home – only then – you realize: there are too many names to remember. You ask yourself questions: How can I remember them, when the local media does not remind me? How can I give their respect, when pubs and restaurants are opened all around? How can I remember them, when there’s no 2 minutes siren to smash my routine at 11:00am exactly? Israel has a unique atmosphere at this day, but I’m trying to adapt it today – as much as I can.

When I was in high school, I used to go in the morning of every Yom HaZikaron to our school’s ceremony. Mentioning tens of names of people, that remained at the same age – forever. Those people, graduated from my high school, joined the IDF or other Israeli forces, and died while defending our tiny Jewish country. At this ceremony, lots of names were mentioned. I’ve never met these people, and I will never meet, but their names – are all based strongly in my head.

Few years later, when I graduated, it was my turn to wear these uniforms. I joined the IDF. When you are a soldier, everything feels different. Now it is your responsibility to make sure that the state of Israel, the only Jewish state in the world is safe. For 3 years, I returned as a graduate to my school in my uniform. The same uniform that the fallen, whose names are mentioned every year again and again, used to wear before they lost their lives.

4 years ago, I finished my army service. My friends fought in Gaza recently, some of them came back wounded, and others lost friends, soldiers and commanders there. I remember their names and faces. Because they fought and died for me to sit today and write these words.

This is the second year in a row that I’m not in Israel at this time of the year. Yom HaZikaron is the most powerful day in my year. This day reminds me why I’m here, in the Jewish community of United Kingdom, meeting Zionist youth who care about Jewish continuity and the future of the state of Israel – our Israel. This day reminds me why I’m doing the things that I’m doing. At this day, I remember them all and thank them for letting us the freedom to live in our homeland.

Thanks to them we can sing, proudly, this phrase from the Israeli anthem.

“Lihiyot Am Chofshi Be Artzenu” – To be a free people in our land.

Two of our Own!

Written by the FZY movement team 2016-17

This week the National Union of Students (NUS) gathered for their annual National Conference. Policy debates and elections, we’ll leave all that analysis to the journos, (shout out to Ed), as we want to share with you a few thoughts about why FZY should be immensely proud this week. Two of our Bogrim from ‘FZY families’ are at the absolute core of campus activism for Jewish students, and are making progressive and meaningful changes every day but most significantly, they are WINNING!

izzyLet’s firstly look at the star of the week, Bogeret Izzy Lenga. An FZY girl through and through, here’s one to make uncle Paul schlep nachas! Izzy’s FZY journey started on Ofek 2008, she did Kesher 2009, sat on the Tzedaka Va’ad, Tour 2010, Hadracha 2011, led several camps thereafter, sat on the Mazkirut, and last summer she was Rakezet of Kesher! Since Izzy has returned from Year Course (2012-13), she took a lead in campus activism, and she’s not stopped campaigning for a variety of different causes, notably combating anti-Semitism. Izzy embodies the perfect Year Course graduate, a passionate advocate, with immense care for the wellbeing of others and always looking at how she can better the experiences for the Jewish community. This year, Izzy has won awards from UJIA and UJS recognising her outstanding work, and she was ranked #6 in the Jewish News ‘Thirty under 30’. But this week, her previous achievements were made to look tiny, as she was elected Vice President of NUS, a body representing 7,000,000 students! She ran an incredible campaign, and has made a clear statement that the right support will be given to every student who needs assistance – no one will be left behind. Izzy has said how very proud she is of the fact that FZY gave her the ability to develop her identity, and she is where she is today largely because of her FZY journey.

nggThe second Boger we want to talk about is Josh Nagli. Josh’s FZY journey is similar to Izzy’s, it started on Ofek 2008, Kesher 2009, sat on the Tzedaka Va’ad, Tour 2010, and Hadracha 2011. Nowadays however, rather than spotting him around the FZY Bayit, you’ll see him being quoted in the news! Josh is one of the most modest and humble people we’ve ever known, and he will quietly and confidently go about his job to improve Jewish student experiences. In his role as Campaigns Director of UJS, he takes the needs of Jewish students and campaigns for them to the very highest level of student politics. At conference he supported Jewish students to help pass policy to tackle anti-Semitism. But conference is not just a 3 day thing, over the past few months Josh has been working hard to ensure Jewish students’ issues continue to remain on the national agenda. Josh received recognition for coming just outside of the ‘Thirty under 30’, although we all know he should be right up in the top 10, perhaps in his nomination they forgot to mention his role in steering FZY’s Got Talent 2009! Despite all of his successes, Josh tells us time and time again that he wished he did Year Course, so if you want to ensure you don’t make the same mistake as him, contact Emma Nagli (the proud big sister) at emman@fzy.org.il

Izzy and Josh, everyone at FZY are so proud of everything you’ve done and will continue to do which better represents Jewish needs and improves Jewish experiences. You’ve both come a long way since sitting on the Tzedaka Va’ad together and raising money for EBF (EBBM). May you both go from strength to strength.

Shkoyach!

FZY Summer Educational Programming

Noah LevyFZY Mazkir, Noah Levy, contributed to Reshet’s quarterly newsletter, and is also featured on their webpage. Reshet (meaning ‘network’ in Hebrew) is a small unit established by UJIA and the Jewish Leadership Council, enabling organisations and professionals in the field to enrich, inspire and further enhance young people’s lives. Noah wrote about how FZY are maintaining tradition through innovative new summer options! Here is what he had to say – have a read and share!

FZY is a thriving and impactful youth movement with a proud 107-year history. Our summer educational programmes have been the backbone of not only our continuity but our identity too.

As an innovator, FZY is still providing a high level of quality educational programming, and we are consistently evaluating ourselves to further improve. We strive to deliver educational programmes that provide enriching, thought provoking or engaging experiences. So here are two brand new opportunities that FZY is introducing to the British Jewish community this summer:

  • Netina’. We will be the first British Jewish youth movement to take a group of madrichim (leaders) to Africa to run a three-week summer camp for the community in Tamale, Ghana. With Tzedek, we are building not only a social action project but a programme that will educate our madrichim on Israel’s role in the developing world and Israel’s historic role in empowering African Jewry, rooted in Jewish principles.
  • Diller Teens Fellows’. This is an international Jewish leadership fellowship with 32 communities worldwide, which we are incredibly excited to introduce to the UK Jewish community and Europe as a whole. In this new intensive programme, participants will meaningfully explore their connection to Israel and Judaism through a global network of leaders, who together will shape the future of the Jewish people.

These programmes are a clear representation of our commitment to trying something new; bringing to life new educational experiences, and replacing expired models.

For our programmes to continue to succeed, we are consistently refining them to uphold the highest educational quality by continuing to focus on contemporary themes and issues. We do this by adhering to the robust educational curriculum we have built, to ensure we meet the concise educational aim of each age group within our movement and for each programme that we offer.

This year, ‘Kesher’ our Summer Camp for Years 9 and 10, has the educational theme of ‘Me, Myselfie and I – #nofilter’. This theme will enable us to look at ourselves from different perspectives, address Judaism from alternative angles and explore our Zionist identities with no filters.

In addition, our educational curriculum is greatly influencing Israel Tour, bringing a new and refreshing outlook through an array of additions to the educational construct. One example is our ‘Conflict Seminar’ – a day trip delving deep into Israeli perspectives on the conflict, with help from our friends at Yachad and StandWithUs.

FZY has a unique model of pluralism, which is a way to educate all of our members to understand perspectives outside of their norm, whether that is religious, political, or cultural. Through education of alternative perspectives we build a cohesive federation, and through our consistent refinement of our programmes and an adherence to a modernised educational curriculum, we are doing just that.

FZY is building a community of educated, passionate and understanding Zionist Jews, and for that, we are immensely proud.

Purim & International Women’s Day

By Noah Levy, FZY Mazkir 2016/17Noah Levy

Yesterday, across the world we commemorated International Women’s Day, and on Motzei Shabbat, we welcome in the festival of Purim. Both International Women’s Day and Purim look at the oppressed, becoming empowered, to thrive. International Women’s Day seeks to bridge gender inequality for a more inclusive society, through empowering women to breach societal norms. It was first observed in 1908 by 15,000 women marching through NYC to demand shorter hours, better pay and voting rights (for more information, check out the website – https://www.internationalwomensday.com/). But actually, the principles of IWD can be seen far before this, just read the Torah! There are plenty of examples of heroism and activism from female Jewish leaders such as Miriam and Sarah, and of course Queen Esther in the Purim story, who all proudly stood for the liberation of the oppressed.

 

You all know the story, Queen Vashti was banished by King Achashverosh because she didn’t want to ‘dance’ for him at the banquet. So King Achashverosh seeks a new Queen, enter Esther. Even though Vashti is dislike by many of the commentators for a variety of reasons, her act of refusing to obey the decree of her husband, the King, is something to be admired and learnt from. So, Queen Esther enters the story, the cousin of Mordechai a leading Jewish figure. Esther keeps her Jewish identity pretty quiet, until Haman (boo) signed a decree to eradicate the Jewish people. This is when Queen Esther took a stand, led the rebellion and in doing so, she essentially saved the Jewish people.

 

The message of International Women’s Day is important, we should look up to, follow, and become the leaders who seek to create a more inclusive and equal society, something I see of our members, every day. As Jewish people, we should be proud that some of the earliest documentations of women standing up against oppression, and standing up for their religion is recited in synagogues around the world, on a day that many view as the holiest Jewish festival. So when you’re hearing the Megilla on Motzei Shabbat and on Sunday morning, don’t just BOO Haman, but let’s also cheer, and celebrate our Jewish Queens.

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