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From Israel to Ottawa and Back Again

A Young Man Reflects on His Eye-Opening Journey

By: Hadar Zafrir
Published: February 15th, 2012 in News » World

I live in a country where there is a Jewish majority. I am the third generation of Holocaust survivors, who went a long way to reach Israel, settle and raise a family. I grew up in a traditional home, kept Shabbat and celebrated Israeli holidays and found myself avoiding the hard and complicating question- what makes me a Jew? Besides my family and my country's past and history, what is important for me in my life as a Jew? Far away from home, at the other end of the world, after crossing lands and oceans, I found good people who are not afraid and dare to cope with these questions. Their answer is so simple and so true, they chose to be Jews, chose to keep the Jewish heritage, history and culture. With a lot of love and giving they nurture a wonderful community, united and solidified, attentive and caring, educating to help others and keeping a tight connection with Israel and the Galilee.

As part of the Partnership between CTC communities and the Galilee Panhandle for over a decade, there is an endeavor of connecting people, called "Living Bridge". During the last few years, the Partnership had decided to try and deepen the connections between the Canadians and Israelis beyond programs for elementary and high schools and focus on youngsters in their 20th. 2012 will be the third year of implementing the Social Action Mission (SAM), which is basically a mifgash between Canada and Israeli young adults, where they volunteer and implement a physical project for the benefit of community, in Canada as well as in Israel. Hadar Zafrir participated on the 2011 SAM, she is 26 studying at Tel Hai College Nutrition Sciences.

In Ottawa I met great Zionism, which I did not meet anywhere else in the world, including Israel. People I met told me "you are a Zionist because you are living in Israel, on the front line, you served in the army". True, yet on the other hand I was born into this reality and did not choose it. I live with it in peace and love it, although sometimes it is hard and challenging. But the people I met in Ottawa, who are working for the Jewish community and for Israel, do so out of their own choice. People, who love, give and care about Israel out of sense of belonging and mission.

I return to Israel after the visit in Ottawa, with some very important insights. First, the close connection between Israeli Jews and Diaspora Jews is two-sided and essential. Diaspora Jews serve as our spokespeople and supporters in the hostile world and we serve as a supportive crutch for the distant Jewish communities.

Second, I find great similarity between the small community where I grew up - Givat Yoav, a small moshav in Southern Golan Heights, and the Jewish community in Ottawa. In spite of the differences between the communities, one secular and the other religious, the common denominator is the community members' sense of identity and creating the feeling that one is not alone, the mutual help, support, listening, sharing - such important values that accompany us all our lives.

My connection with Ottawa is certainly not over. I am looking into the possibility of returning to Ottawa, live and feel the community at close range, volunteer there and learn for my Masters degree in one of the local universities. After graduating, I will return to Israel and maybe be able to implement, even a little, the manner of the supportive Ottawa community in my small community in Israel. I am grateful for the wonderful opportunity. For the wonderful teaching experience which will accompany me and guide me in my life. I would like to thank Jewish Federation of Canada-UIA, the CTC/ Galilee Panhandle P2G that initiates and implements such programs that contribute to building the country within and without. Personal thanks to the professionals: Jeff Bradshow, Sara Beutel, Gerda Jacobsson, for the invitation, caring and openness. Special thanks to Dan Sugar, who hosted us for ten days, took care of us, drove us, organized and coordinated. I am looking forward to our next Mifgash in Israel on May 2012.

Related articles: Jewish, Holocaust, Israel, Ottawa, Shabbat, CTC, Galilee Panhandle, Living Bridge, Social Action Mission, Canada
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