Young Israeli envoys bring message of hope

Fed chief executive Karen Phillips explains Heathlands and The Fed to the Israeli ambassadors. Below, The youngsters outside the Jewish Telegraph office with editor Paul Harris and a colourful passer-by

A GROUP of modern, ultra-Orthodox young Israeli ambassadors visited Manchester this week.

The group of 30, aged between 16 and 18, are from Hafez Haim, Nahal Sorek Regional Council and spent time in Manchester and London.

The programme provides the students with practical skills from the world of diplomacy and society, volunteering, Zionism, leadership and social entrepreneurship with the hope of being the “face of the country”.

Specific training is also given in using social media.

Yitzhak Eldan, leader of Israel’s Young Ambassador School, told the Jewish Telegraph during a visit to The Fed’s Heathlands Village: “These are the future leaders of our country.

“A leader must know this fantastic feeling of contributing to the community, which is why we bring them to a place like this.

“Israel is, in many ways, a super power in volunteering and it is the spirit of an Israeli to volunteer wherever and whenever we can.

“We build bridges where there were none before, such as in London a few years when we engaged with the children’s charity Save The Children, which the Israeli embassy said would be ‘problematic’.

“I told them to let us build that bridge — and we did.” Mr Eldan recalled how the group met two ladies at Save the Children, who asked ‘Why are you only taking care of the Palestinians?’

He continued: “We told them how the Israeli youth are also suffering. We shared experiences from both sides and everyone began to cry.

“We invited Save The Children to visit Israel and they came. The aim is to create engagement with charities like this.”

While in Manchester, the group visited King David Schools, Crumpsall, Billinge Family Church in Wigan, Heaton Park Hebrew Congregation, Old Trafford football ground and Manchester Jewish Museum.

Mr Eldan added: “We take them out of their comfort zone as well.

“This year is the first time that we have had an entire group of modern, ultra-Orthodox teenagers. We met the Lord Mayor of Manchester, Councillor Carl Austin-Behan, who is openly gay. The value of tolerance came into effect.

“Every night we meet to summarise what we learned that day and it was wonderful to see these religious people discussing tolerance and accepting the other.”

Mr Eldan admitted that in Israel, the group has a perception that the “whole world is against us”.

He said: “Trips like this have helped them discover that actually, we have friends. We are not alone. They have learned that it is the vocal minority who are against them.”

The youngsters also visited the Jewish Telegraph, where they were told the history of the newspaper by editor Paul Harris.

They told staff their highlight had been meeting fellow Bnei Akiva members in Manchester, as well as residents in the dementia unit at Heathlands.

The teenagers, who will all join the Israeli army within the next year, revealed that they had sung the Hatikva while on a tour of Old Trafford with guide Joanne Lazarus.

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