In Beit Shemesh there is great awareness of the need to find a common language and shared activity for all sectors of the people. In an effort to find a common language, local resident Carmi and Tamar Weissman created the Ecological Connection program.
The Ecological Connection program of the Seviva Israel NPO connects Jewish students of all kinds from around 13 cities and communities in Israel and the Diaspora, by means of environmental, Zionist and Jewish studies and action. The Ecological Connection program operates at some 30 schools in Israel and the world, in cooperation with the Jewish Agency's Partnership 2Gether.
The program started in Beit Shemesh this year, at Ahavat Israel Ulpana, together with the partner Academic Torah School girls in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Efrat Dayan, the science teacher at Ahavat Israel Ulpana, headed the program together with the Seviva Israel instructor team and 7th grade girls, last year, who continued with the program into 8th grade. At the Academic Torah School the program was led by the assistant principal Rivka Sartzi, with 7th grade which will go up to 8th grade in January. As part of the program the students studied the dynamics of ecological systems, measured their ecological footprint, learned how to communicate in an appropriate and safe way online, in the Seviva Israel ecocampus, built portable habitats and started to learn about environmental Jewish sources. The students devised joint projects, such as exchanging recycled friendship wristbands.
On Rosh Hashanah Eve, over 50 students from both schools met with Partnership 2Gether director Gideon Vennor, Partnership 2Gether Beit Shemesh-Mateh Yehuda-Washington-South Africa education and youth coordinator Sonia Shurhavetsky, and Seviva Israel director Carmi Weissman, via a videoconference session for the students held at the Eshkol Payis center in Beit Shemesh and at the Israeli Center in Johannesburg. The videoconference was very exciting for the girls from Beit Shemesh and Johannesburg. The students told each other about their communities and schools. They presented the environmental tasks and the workshops they took on the program.
In the second part of the videoconference the girls taught each other about the various Rosh Hashanah customs in their communities. The students learned together about the meaning of blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah and they sang Next Year in Jerusalem together.
At the end of the videoconference each of the girls from Ahavat Israel Ulpana personally thanked the girls who sent them a friendship wristband, and it was a bonding and moving event for all the participants. The students are eagerly looking forward to continuing with the program work, and their relationship, into the second year of the Ecological Connection program, which will focus on topics relating to Judaism and the environment.
Thanks to the students and wonderful educational staff members of Ahavat Israel Ulpana and the Academic Torah School who joined in with the Ecological Connection initiative so charmingly.
Thanks to Partnership 2Gether director Gideon Vennor, Partnership 2Gether education and youth coordinator Sonia Shurhavetzky, director of the Israeli Center in South Africa Shimon Samila and Eli Rudolf, national coordinator for Partnership 2Gether in South Africa for their cooperation which spawned the success of the Ecological Connection in Beit Shemesh and South Africa this year.