Jewish teens visit Israel to fight BDS back home

Unique program aims to strengthen teens' connection to Israel, explain the unique challenges Israelis face every day.

Arutz Sheva Staff,

Chloe Jesner on the right with Shalva student (in the middle)
Chloe Jesner on the right with Shalva student (in the middle)

A group of 100 Jewish teens aged 13-14 arrived in Israel from the UK for a unique three-week program.

The trip, program aims to show the teens – most of whom are on their first visit to Israel – the scale of Israel’s PR challenges and deepen their connection to the central ethos of the State and its citizens.

The goal is to provide them with tools that will solidify not only their Jewish identity and their connection to Israel but also equip them with the intellectual means to challenge and contradict anti-Israel prejudice using reason and facts.

As part of the program, the teens toured the central sites of Jewish and Zionist heritage and history, met Israeli teens of the same age, volunteered to work in agricultural fields along the Judea and Samaria border, and visited a center for children with disabilities.

Other activities included baking challahs with bereaved mothers, visiting the Independence Museum, walking in the city of David, and visits to Masada and Ammunition Hill. Finally, the group met an Israeli advocacy expert who explained to them the main challenges Israel faces.

The teens also visited HaShomer HaChadash – a JNF UK-supported grassroots organization which sprang up to counter the frequent arson, vandalism and theft faced by farmers on Israel’s periphery. HaShomer HaChadash has expanded since its inception to also offer leadership training and educational courses. The teens spent the day picking grapes and learning about the importance of protecting, working on and connecting with the land.

Andrew Davis, who led the group, explained that the decision to bring such young teens to take part in a study tour in Israel was not a coincidence.

"We believe it is important to start the tours of Israel at a young age while the Jewish identity and the beliefs of the children are still crystallizing," Davis explained.

The tour deepened the teens' connection to Israel and exposed them to projects such as a peace center where Jewish and Arab children with disabilities receive treatment thanks to the support of world Jewry.

"These experiences will provide the children with the tools needed to deal with the negative way in which Israel is frequently portrayed in the British media and with the racism of the boycott and anti-Israel movements on campuses," said Davis, deputy director of the Yavneh Jewish school in London.

"The visit to Israel has given me opportunities to experience Israel differently from the British media which generally views Israel negatively," said Brendan Chapper 14, who participated in the program, "I feel the visit has strengthened my Jewish identity."

Chloe Jesner 13, lost her uncle Yoni Jesner, in 2002 in a Tel Aviv bombing during the second intifada, when he was studying at Yeshivat Har Etzion.

"The program helped me connect to Israel and better deal with the way Israel is presented in Britain," said Chloe, who participated in the program.

The main partner in this program is JNF UK, the oldest Jewish philanthropic organization in Britain that supports the State of Israel.

"The aim of the program is to strengthen the connection of the young Jewish generation in Britain with Israel and with Israelis," said Yonatan Galon, CEO of JNF UK.

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