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 1995, 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 Greater Washington, South Africa, and Beit Shemesh-Yehuda Plains.
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?
1995 The first Joint Steering Committee meets in Beit Shemesh. Our partnership is born!
1996 Launch of the Student Leadership scholarship program, which provides some 20 students with funding for their academic studies in exchange for community volunteer work. • In Beit Shemesh, a street is named after Virginia in tribute to the young partnership.
1997 Ambassadors for Tolerance program is launched: 30 Israeli youth meet with their counterparts from the partnership communities of Greater Washington and South Africa. Over time, the program becomes the flagship project of our partnership.
1998 12 Washington-area students lead the Kefiyada summer camp in Beit Shemesh-Yehuda Plains, helping youngsters gain basic English skills in a safe, fun environment.
1999 The first delegation of Israeli counselors travels to South Africa to work in summer camps. • The Journey in the Footsteps of the Holocaust program brings together youth from Israel and South Africa for the first joint trip to Poland and Israel.
2000 As part of the training program for Israeli vintners, the first delegation travels to South Africa for a professional visit.
2001 16 educators from South Africa visit the region.
2002 900 Ethiopian olim celebrate a Passover seder in Beit Shemesh, thanks to funding from Greater Washington. • As a result of the security situation, the Greater Washington community donates an intensive care ambulance, a bulletproof bus and bulletproof vehicles for patrolling the region.
2003 A delegation of educators from Beit Shemesh-Yehuda Plains visits South Africa. • On Front Stage launches, providing youth an opportunity to attend high-quality cultural performances and, in return, to volunteer in the community. Some 2,500 local high school students participate.
2004 The Ethnic Aroma Festival takes place in South Africa led by 12 ethnic cooks from Beit Shemesh-Yehuda Plains.
2005 A delegation of Israeli vintners travels to Greater Washington to assess the potential for expanding export opportunities. • The B’Tzavta youth program sponsors the first joint visit to Israel and Greater Washington with the participation of youth from the three communities.
2006 The Preschool Educators program brings together some 100 teachers from the three communities. • As part of the effort to encourage bicycle tourism in the region, a delegation of cyclists travels to the famous ARGUS race in South Africa.
A Decade of Connection
Our unique partnership—the only one uniting three continents—began more than a decade ago as one of the first P2K partnerships.
This historic, indeed Biblical area of Israel is between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Over the past decade, the population of Beit Shemesh has grown 400 percent and now numbers 80,000. This rapid growth, fueled by the government’s plan to create a large municipal area in the Yehuda Plains, has dramatically changed the character of the city as the veteran population has welcomed waves of new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, North America, England, France and Ethiopia. It has also has created significant educational and employment challenges.
A Decade of Mutual Impact
Our original projects targeted the region’s sociodemographic challenges, growth and economy.
Together, our communities developed a four-pronged agenda: education; social welfare; living bridge connections; and economic development. One of our partnership’s most exciting projects is Derekh HaYayin—the Wine Route. In order to enhance and attract tourism to the region, two groups of wine growers were sent to South Africa to study the establishment of a wine route, and funding came from the overall P2K budget. Today, the Wine Route’s 27 wineries attract tens of thousands of visitors each year, and produce 600,000 bottles of quality wine sold in Israel and abroad. It has literally helped transform the region.
Through Partnership 2000, we have provided the resources to improve education for newcomers and veteran residents alike.
We provide access to special educational opportunities to help the successful integration of olim (new immigrants). We support early childhood programming for children with special needs and counseling for at-risk teens. Educators from our communities share materials and techniques. Our teens participate in living bridge programs—such as B’Tzavta and Ambassadors for Tolerance—connecting to their peers in the most profound way, creating new leadership for our communities.
We have built living bridges among Greater Washington, South Africa and Beit Shemesh-Yehuda Plains through scores of reciprocal visits of educators, artists, wine growers, community workers, lay leaders, families, students and volunteers—strengthening all of our communities.
“Through Partnership 2000, Israelis understand the common concern of Jews on both sides of the ocean for the future of the Jewish people and the joint responsibility for the State of Israel and the community in Beit Shemesh. I feel that the big advantage of the Partnership is the feeling of togetherness between the communities.” Ilan Geal Dor, Chairman of the Education, Social Welfare and Community Committee
“Last summer, as one of the 12 teens from the Greater Washington area participating in the B’Tzavta program, I traveled to South Africa and Israel and met with teens from both countries. I am so grateful to you for having provided me with such an amazing opportunity. Partnership 2000 has inspired my interest in Jewish life around the world. At first glance, one may think that you only link communities, when truly, you touch the hearts of individuals everywhere.” Adina Fradkin, High School Junior, Washington, DC
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 the Beit Shemesh-Yehuda Plains region are uniting our youth and fostering professional exchanges. We’re attracting development, promoting regional cooperation and creating places where families want to live and work. Together, we’re developing Israel’s future leaders and involved citizens.
But the transformative power of this partnership extends to our communities as well. We are creating innovative ways to connect our next generation to Israel, forging enduring connections that will shape the future of Greater Washington and South Africa. A decade ago, our communities boldly grasped this opportunity to make a dramatic difference as one people. Now we’re ready to take our partnership to the next level.