Bond between Edmonton and northern Galilee students deepens
October 16, 2012 | Rebeca Kuropatwa - Prairies Correspondent
EDMONTON – Nine Grade 10 students from Emek Ha’Hula Regional School in the northern Galilee were recently in Edmonton, along with two of their teachers, for a 10-day visit.
They were there under the Partnership Together (P2G) program, a major linking of the Edmonton Jewish community with northern Israel.
Edmonton Talmud Torah (elementary and junior high school) is twinned with two schools from the Galilee panhandle (an elementary school called Lev HaEmek and a junior high and high school called Emek Ha’Hula Regional School in the northern Galilee).
Ivan Steiner, a retired university professor of emergency and family medicine, is the Edmonton P2G chair and the national partnership’s coast-to-coast Gesher Chai chair.
“In the past a lot of the connections with Israel, like in my parents’ generation and even today, would involve the Diaspora collecting money and giving it to Israel for Israel to do with it what it saw fit,” said Steiner. “It was just a relationship of donor and recipient.
“The concept behind this program was to start developing a new breed of leadership in both the Diaspora and in Israel, leaders who know one another and who have an understanding of each others’ circumstances.
“For this, a reciprocal visit was needed. Our local Talmud Torah Grade 9 students went in May to Israel where they spent about four or five days billeted with a family in the panhandle doing programming together.
“Just a day after Yom Kippur this year, we had a group of Israeli students here in Edmonton doing the same thing. This was the reciprocal visit for them, with the Israelis being billeted with the same kids’ families who they were matched with in Israel. They were all billeted in the same neighbourhood, so they could easily walk to get together.
“We took the Israeli students and teachers on a two-day bus trip to Jasper. We talked about the size of Canada being the size of Europe, that you can put 5,000 Israels into Canada, and that Jasper Park is half the size of Israel.
“We had a workshop towards the end of the trip, asking the Israelis what they learned from the mission and what Jewish peoplehood means to them. It was interesting to hear them talk about how, even on this short trip, they gained a better understanding of Jewish life in Canada and how different it is from life in Israel.
“They got a sense of what Jewish peoplehood is all about, which was a big part of the trip’s goal. They also gained skills in English speaking and public speaking.... It was a great educational experience for them, period.
“The main reason we do this is – the key to this whole thing – is to develop a new brand of leadership that reflects the true spirit of partnership.”
Funding for P2G comes from the Jewish Federations of Canada.