Tending the blossoms of friendship in Yoav

It is always special to visit Israel, but even more so when you are welcomed with open arms. In June, I had the wonderful opportunity of being in Israel with Miriam Zager and Aaron Gorodzinsky to visit our Partnership2Gether community in Yoav. We were there to reimagine our partnership and to create new opportunities for stronger connections. 

The Yoav Regional Council is located in the southern district of Israel near Bet Guvrin and Kiryat Gat and not too far from Rehovot. It is made up of 14 moshavim and kibbutzim and is led by its first woman mayor, Matti Sarfatti Harcavi, who is not only warm, witty, articulate and charming, but is also a noted agronomist.

While in Yoav, we were treated like royalty and graciously hosted in the homes of P2G committee members who made us feel like family. The Partnership2Gether committee is unique in that both Israelis and Americans serve and together make recommendations for how to strengthen Israel-Diaspora relations. 

During our meetings, we learned that there is tremendous talent within the Yoav communities, including cheese and hummus makers, jewelry and ceramics artists, wood crafters and agriculture specialties such as wine growers, to name a few. In the future, we hope to experience these unique talents both in the Lehigh Valley and in Israel.

There was a general feeling that we are not reaching enough people in either community. The number increases yearly, but we would like to impact more people. Our work together was to assess the trends and challenges in both communities and to develop strategies for engaging people to connect including the next generation, sharing issues of security and resiliency, creating new educational opportunities and addressing assimilation and maintaining Jewish identity.

Many projects were identified and suggested for the next program year. We hope to have more collaborative efforts around Israel Memorial Day and Israel Independence Day, bring talent and expertise from Yoav to the Lehigh Valley and promote new encounters in Yoav with people travelling from the Lehigh Valley. We committed to again host teens from Yoav who will work at our JCC camp.

For the first time, four women from Yoav will travel this summer with a group of women from the Lehigh Valley on a Momentum trip (formerly known as the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project). The group will spend the night in home hospitality in Yoav before the Momentum tour begins.

We hope to see the partnership between the Lehigh Valley and Yoav blossom and reach many more people in the next program year.