Linda Friedman,Vice President of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico (Second from Left), and her partner, Jill Bulmash (Center) with Nitzana's Director David Palmach (Far Left) and two MIR participants, Gabriella and Rostislov (Far Right). Nitzana is a Jewish Agency supported eco-community in the Negev.
October 21, 2010 / 13 Cheshvan 5771
Nitzana recently welcomed two special visitors from New Mexico.
Linda Friedman,Vice President of the Jewish federation of New Mexico, and her partner, Jill Bulmash, made a special visit to their community's new program partner in the Negev on October 12, 2010, along with Keren Neiger, Jewish Agency's Community Relationship Manager for the Western Region.
Nitzana is model educational eco-community for sustainable living, environmentalism, immigration and absorption. Located 70 kilometers south of Beersheva, on the peace border between Israel and Egypt, the community hosts over 15,000 youth from Israel and around the world (including from Darfur) for programs that ran the gamut from sports and rehabilitation, science and technology and Hebrew language enrichment.
Linda and Jill began by meeting with Nitzana's Director David Palmach and were given an overview of the community's programs. They also met two MIR participants, Gabriella and Rostislov. Established in 2009, MIR (formerly Selah) is a 9 month program with the goal of integrating young students from the FSU who immigrate to Israel before their parents while helping to facilitate their desire to learn in Israel’s institutes of higher education. The program includes intensive Hebrew language study, science, math, and English.
Next stop was the community's centerpiece, an elaborate recycling center, complete with a recycling model that shows how materials are broken down for re-use. They also visited the water reclamation center, the solar park, the synagogue, among other sites.
"Just being at Nitzana was like being in an interactive, living classroom showing how sustainable and environmentally conscious living can be implemented into everyday life," said Linda. "This is really the embodiment of tikun olam, of repairing the world. Everything they are doing is guaranteeing that the future our world so that it will be a better and safer place to live."
Their arrival coincided with 250 Youth Futures trustees who were set to participate in a three-day training workshop. Youth Futures is a Jewish Agency program that helps under-privileged youth living along Israel's periphery to give them the tool's to help them succeed in the future.
They were also briefed on a new program that will be affiliated with Nitzana, a new Masa Israel program called 'Desert Sports Challenge in Israel,' a unique, five month international program for English speakers that combines hands on sports activities in the desert, Hebrew language study, and getting to know the land and culture of Israel.
Jill was particularly impressed with the range of different programs operating at Nitzana, and the village's ability to adapt and develop new programs. For example, the community offers a rehabilitation center for children recovering from critical illnesses, a special programs for obese youth, as well as programs specifically for Bedouin students from the surrounding area and refugees from Darfur.
"There is something magical about being in this beautiful place," said Jill. "The youth who come to the village are reinvigorated and renewed by being outside and active. This connection to the land and to nature reenergizes their bodies, their minds and their spirit."