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December 2, 2015 / 20 Kislev, 5776
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Youth Gain Attachment to Israel When They ‘See It as It is’

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A new study co-sponsored by the Jewish Agency shows that fears of Jewish youth turning against Israel by being exposed to the country are totally wrong and that their experience actually encourages them to volunteer in Israel.

“Repair the World” and The Jewish Agency released the conclusions of the study on Thursday and it shows that the more these young men and women learn about Israel, warts and all, the more they are motivated to engage in more Israel-based service.

“There’s no need for program providers and funders to present a rose-colored version of Israel to our young people,” said Dyonna Ginsburg, Director of Jewish Service Learning at the Jewish Agency.

“Quite the contrary, we should be looking for additional ways to present Israel as it really is. Immersive Jewish Service-learning (IJSL) participants have not been shying away from Israel based on their time there. They are clearly strengthening their connections to Israel, their heritage and the Jewish people.”

David Eisner, CEO of Repair the World, said, “The more people understand about their service, the more committed they will be to it. What’s more, we know that young people, particularly those from affiliated households, become more passionate when their service brings a connection to their own personal heritage. We hope these insights will spur collaboration among providers and funders in Israel to build content and positive experiences for those motivated to volunteer.”

The study found that volunteering in Israel often deepens versus distances a young Jew’s feelings for the country precisely because of its social complexity. Exposing young Jews to multifaceted issues underlying Israeli life, such as the divide between secular and ultra-Orthodox society, the security situation, the status of Arab-Israelis, and the growing income gap in Israeli society can, in fact, bolster their desire to serve and enroll in future opportunities.

An overwhelming 82 percent of the respondents reported that they have strengthened their commitment to social justice and at the same time, 92% said they felt more attached to Israel.

“I absolutely think it is important for North American Jews to come volunteer in Israel,” said a 27-year-old study respondent. “They will be exposed to elements that they certainly will not see on [other programs]. Understanding what issues are swept under the rug, and why, is very important to understanding Israel, and understanding Judaism.”

About the Author: Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu is a graduate in journalism and economics from The George Washington University. He has worked as a cub reporter in rural Virginia and as senior copy editor for major Canadian metropolitan dailies. Tzvi wrote for Arutz Sheva for several years before joining the Jewish Press.

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