Inspired Women Explore Partnership2Gether, Akko

Inspired Women Explore Partnership2Gether, Akko

Momentum participants together on a rooftop overlooking the Western Wall in Jerusalem this July. Photo provided by Momentum.

By Emily Luvera

Nine women from Austin explored Israel for eight days for a meaningful, introspective journey revolving around the power of Judaism in the home and inspiring women to live their best lives. As Judaism starts in the home, it is powerful for women to connect with Israel, Judaism, each other and ultimately the greater Jewish community. For its second time, Shalom Austin sponsored this trip in support of meaningful growth and connection within the Austin community.

Following a reflective and engaged MOMentum trip to Israel, the women of Shalom Austin extended their trip a day to tour Shalom Austin’s partner region with Partnership2Gether, the Western Galilee, specifically in the city of Akko. Nine women from Shalom Austin with their group leader, Arielle Levy, were joined by two Indianapolis, Indiana, community members for the opportunity to spend the day learning about some of the most exciting community services of Akko. Through Partnership2Gether, Akko is supported by a consortium of 14 communities across the United States and it added to the experience to travel with peers from across the United States to see collective impact together. Partnership2Gether is made possible by the Shalom Austin Annual Campaign.

The day began with an orientation and overview about the Western Galilee and the Partnership2Gether model. After getting a quick overview of the demographics of the region and some of the unique challenges of being on the Israel/Syrian border, the group headed to Western Galilee Medical Center for an informative presentation and tour about the people served by the hospital.

WGMC is unique in that it was one of the first hospitals to pioneer the model of an underground ward, which is now becoming standard across Israel, and in other parts of the world impacted by ongoing conflict. By having a secondary space to treat casualties during conflict, the staff of WGMC are able to keep services intact, even when directly struck by rocket fire. Recently, the hospital treated a number of Syrian patients injured in the Syrian civil war; maintaining their care and providing ongoing therapy until each patient was cleared to return to their home in Syria. The staff at WGMC are considered international experts in delivering medical care during wartime. WGMC brings in staff from around the world for ongoing training, and WGMC staff travel internationally to share their valuable expertise.

After touring the hospital, the group headed to Kivunim: New Directions. There, the group met with program participants from Kivunim’s The Wings Project, an independent living training program for young adults with a variety of disabilities, including autism and physical challenges. The young adults served by The Wings Project shared that often, people with disabilities are not given the chance to learn the same things that other Israeli young people are, and without the opportunities offered by this program they would not be able to live their fullest, most independent lives.

Staff and participants from The Wings Project program answered questions about their national service experiences, living in the dorms and graduating to independent apartments, and learning to navigate Israel’s mass transportation system to ride home on the weekends to see family.

Following an uplifting experience shopping in The Wings Project store, where participants make arts and crafts to sell, the group went to the Alto Dairy at Kibbutz Shamrat to share a meal with Arab and Israeli women who participated in the Women Leading a Dialogue project. Some of the women visited Austin in fall 2018 and stayed with local community members, while others were looking forward to an upcoming trip this November. The Alto Dairy was a delightful way to share food and fellowship with Israeli moms, and before long, everyone was sharing stories and pictures of their children.

The final Partnership2Gether stop of the day was visiting Yonie Skiba at Kibbutz Evron. Yonie recounted her harrowing and beautiful tale of walking from Ethiopia through Sudan on her path to emigrate to Israel. Following her story, she invited us to a model Ethiopian hut, recreated from her childhood memories, to sing, dance, and share coffee, tea and bread. Skiba was a gracious and engaging host, and participants left feeling like they gained new insight on the path of Jews leaving Ethopia and the challenges of immigration.

Overall, visiting the Western Galilee partnership region gave the women of MOMentum a new appreciation for the value of fundraising and participation with Partnership2Gether. Seeing the medical advances at WGMC, the social service supports in place with The Wings Project, and meeting women who will be journeying to Austin to share their experiences living in Arab-Jewish communities made all participants' reasons for giving come to life.

If you are interested in MOMentum or other overseas opportunities, contact Women’s Philanthropy and Missions Coordinator Arielle Levy at arielle.levy@shalomaustin.org.

If you are interested in learning more about Partnership2Gether, contact Family and Israel Engagement Coordinator Karin Lester at karin.lester@shalomaustin.org. ■

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