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Dispatch from Israel Day 2

What Is a Partnership Region?

I realized that many of you may not know what I was referring to as a “Partnership Region” in my first dispatch. Since it is the purpose of my visit I thought I would explain it before moving on to sharing a little about my day. Many major cities in the United States are paired or partnered with cities or regional councils in Israel. The idea is that people who live in Las Vegas make a direct and lasting connection with people in a defined area in Israel. Ideally, we partner on everything from economics to culture to education and more. As I mentioned yesterday, our partnership region is Ramat Hanegev. It is made up of fifteen of the smaller communities in the desert south of Beer Sheva. One of the things I am beginning to think about is ways for Midbar Kodesh Temple to make connections with the partnership region. If you have some ideas or suggestions, let me know.

On to today’s activities. We started with a visit to the Mashabim Elementary School located at Kibbutz Meshabe Sadeh. It is the only secular public school in the region and kids from thirteen of the fifteen communities in the region send their kids, by bus – some over forty-five minutes each way. They have fifty to seventy-five kids per grade and go from first to eighth grade. It is interesting to see some of the different things they are doing in education. We even got to participate in their gardening.

From there we travelled to Nitzana a town just a couple of kilometers from the Egyptian border. It is close to one of the humanitarian crossings between Israel and Egypt. It is almost entirely funded by the Jewish Agency and is a model for education. We heard from Sela, an Israeli who is the director of the Bedouin Boarding school for leadership training. It is the only one of its kind in Israel. They have similar leadership schools for Israeli youth of all ethnicities, including one they are trying to start for Haredim, ultra-Orthodox students. One of the things they excel at is teaching about recycling. Surprisingly, Israel is years behind when it comes to recycling. Pictured below is one of their outdoor classrooms.

From Nitzana we travelled a couple kilometers to the border with Egypt to meet with a small unit of soldiers who were on patrol of the area. They are from one of Israel’s mixed combat units, Bardelai. Lt. Col Yuval, a woman and all of twenty-two years old, was in charge of the unit. Israel and Egypt have a peace treaty and were it only Egypt, the border would be pretty quiet. But just ten kilometers from the border sits Isis, El Qyada and other terrorists groups that even Egypt has to contend with. On the border in that area is a Jewish settlement called Kadesh Barnea. More about Kadesh Barnea in a minute.

For lunch we travelled back to Nitzana for lunch where we visited a food truck serving kosher food. How nice to pull up to a road side food truck and be able to order anything off the menu.

Now back to Kadesh Barnea. We returned to the spot where we met the soldiers to visit a farmer on the border. He grows mostly cherry tomatoes and strawberries and is now experimenting with pineapples. All of this is grown in the sand of the desert. As far as the eye can see are rows and rows of greenhouses that make up the farms of Kadesh Barnea. It is a true testament to the creativity, ingenuity and innovation of the Israeli society and the things that they have developed out of necessity living in the desert. They are growing tens of thousands of kilos of produce in sand with minimal, often brackish, water. The farmer we met with had been a white collar worker in an office in Tel Aviv. He gave it all up and moved down to the border with his wife and children to build a new life for himself and has not looked back for a moment.

Hope to write more on this adventure in Israel with Las Vegas colleagues.

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