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Southern New England Consortium (SNEC) - Afula~Gilboa: Living Bridges in the Jewish Future

How do we make peoplehood tangible in our 21st century world? We’re doing it. The impressive achievements of the first ten years of our partnership demonstrate our collective force when we partner in common purpose.

Since 1994, when leaders from our community stepped forward to become part of the Jewish Agency’s Partnership 2000 (P2K), our commitment and involvement have become a powerful catalyst for change in Afula-Gilboa and in Southern New England.

Today, we are one of 550 global communities in 44 partnerships with Israel. Sharing ideas, strengths, challenges and models of success, our P2K partnerships have become the paradigm for successfully partnering the Jewish world.

What Will You Make of It?

1994  The 13 communities of the Southern New England Consortium (SNEC) unite with Afula and the Gilboa Region. Our partnership begins.

1996  Our first project, the Economic Development Unit, begins operating. • Launch of Coexistence and Academic Forum for New Immigrants projects.

1997  Founding of first young leadership group in Afula-Gilboa.

1998  Launch of our Young Emissaries program, which enables Israeli high school graduates to defer their army service for a year to volunteer in their partnered American Jewish community. Two emissaries come to Westport, Connecticut, for a year of service.

2000-2001  Dozens of solidarity missions visit Afula-Gilboa, which was struck by terrorism several times.

2001  Teachers’ Exchange project is launched.

2002-2003  Our SNEC communities rally to raise money for urgent security needs in the region; we send close to $2 million in Emergency Campaign funds to Afula-Gilboa.

2004  Opening of the Teen Information and Guidance Center (Hafuch Al Hafuch) in Afula. • The first Bible/Koran Quiz event takes place. Selected Israeli Arab and Jewish children study the shared texts together, learning about the similarities and differences in each other’s traditions and value systems. Jewish and Arab study partners then compete against other pairs in the regional quiz.

2005  Our P2K leadership undergoes dramatic changes; lay leaders take their place at the helm and prepare to lead the partnership into its second decade.

2006  The Jewish Agency for Israel honors the Afula-Gilboa/Southern New England Consortium with the Partnership 2000 Award of Excellence in the category of Youth and Young Leadership for Shinshinim— Young Emissary Program.

A Decade of Connection

Our partnership was established in 1994 when our 13 communities in Southern New England united to partner with Afula and the Gilboa Region.

Afula—an urban center providing key services for the Jezreel Valley—is only eight miles from Jenin and a frequent target for terrorists. A decade ago, Afula struggled to absorb immigrants from Ethiopia and the Soviet Union, and today, 30 percent of its 42,000 residents are olim. Afula is one of Israel’s most strategic and demographically challenged areas. The Gilboa region—made up of kibbutzim, moshavim, and Jewish and Arab-Israeli villages—shares 11 miles across the Seam Line with the Palestinian Authority, and forty percent of its 23,000 residents are Arab-Israelis. In the 1990s, the main industry—flower greenhouses—collapsed, causing widespread unemployment.

A Decade of Mutual Impact

Our visionary partnership has contributed greatly to the educational, economic and social development of the area.

We have focused on four parallel tracks to address economic development; foster coexistence among Israeli Jews and Arabs; advance integration through education; and build the next generation of young leadership. We have made a measurable impact in each area. Our Teen Guidance and Information Center in Afula offers personal counseling and hosts activities and workshops that promote tolerance. Our partnership has initiated joint activities between Israeli Arabs and Jews from an early age to provide positive interactions. One example is the region’s unique Bible/Koran Quiz—using religion as a bridge, rather than a divider.

Our flagship Young Emissaries program is the ultimate two-way living bridge.

Young Israeli emissaries come into our communities and share their Israeli culture while absorbing the collective American perspective of Jewish identity. Their creativity and energy adds an incredible dimension to our schools and communities; from schoolchildren to our elderly, they are bringing Israel into our daily lives. As the number of alumni grows (now nearly 100), so do their circles of influence on all of our respective communities.

Through this program and many others, we have built living bridges between our communities and Afula-Gilboa through scores of reciprocal visits of teachers, principals, families, students and volunteers—strengthening our communities and connecting our next generation.

“The relationship that begins through P2K between the Israeli and American younger generation continues independently throughout their adult lives. P2K serves as the main starting point and impetus for this strong, positive, and ongoing relationship.”  Dr. Yehudit Antonelli, head of the pediatric emergency room in Afula’s Emek Medical Center and chair of the Afula-Gilboa Steering Committee.

“The big change I’ve made since I’ve been here is with my Jewish identity—something I never even spent time thinking about growing up. I never even thought about myself as a Jewish person, but as an Israeli. It’s funny how you send your kids to Israel to become more Jewish and that’s exactly what happened to me coming here.”  Zohar, Young Emissary 2006

Together, taking our partnership to the next level

What an extraordinary impact we’ve had so far. And it’s really just the beginning. Our efforts in Afula and Gilboa are improving relations among diverse ethnic groups; creating community leaders and fostering professional exchanges; promoting excellence in education and technology; attracting development and creating places where families want to live and work.

At the same time, we are innovating to connect our next generation to Israel in new ways; creating enduring connections that will shape the future of Southern New England. A decade ago, our communities boldly grasped this opportunity to make a dramatic difference as one people. Now we’re ready to take this partnership to the next level.

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Thursday 24 April, 2014 (c) All rights reserved to the Jewish Agency יום חמישי כ"ד ניסן תשע"ד