Connecting with Israel
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Connecting with Israel

Over the last two weeks, more than 500 Australians joined their Jewish brethren from around the world at the Maccabiah Games.

The AJN wishes a hearty mazal tov, not only to our 99 medallists, but to all of our athletes who did us proud. We also thank the tireless volunteers, without whose time and efforts the on-field success would not have been possible. A lot goes into preparation, training and logistics that we don’t see in the glossy photo spreads, but their work is no less important.

As we wrote in these pages a few weeks ago, the Games are about more than sport. They are an opportunity to build connections with other Jews from around the world and with the Land of Israel.

Many of our athletes and volunteers would have been to several games or may have visited Israel on other trips. For them, being back in Israel would have felt like a welcome return to a familiar place.

For those in Israel for the first time, landing at Ben-Gurion Airport would have been a whole new experience. Suddenly, the place they had learned about, heard about and read about would come alive.

Walking the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, standing in awe at the sight of the Kotel, being immersed in Israeli culture – nothing strengthens the bond of our people to our land, and in turn, our identity, quite like being there.

Which is why the announcement by the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) this week regarding the relaunch of the Israel GO program, in conjunction with UIA Australia, is so important.

Even before this year, a gap year would have already been a big financial ask for many families.

Now, as Australians tighten their belts amid record inflation and rising interest rates, an extended Israel trip may otherwise be out of reach.

But thanks to the generosity of UIA and private donors, many more young Jewish adults will have the opportunity to enjoy this unforgettable and life-changing experience.

And with the plethora of programs in Israel eligible for the funding, participants will able to connect with Israel in a way that is most relevant and meaningful to them.

It truly is, as ZFA president Jeremy Leibler says, a game-changer.

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