This year, from May 26th to June 2nd, JLIC Yavneh was proud to partner with JNF-USA’s Alternative Break trip to Israel which offered an unforgettable and transformative experience for over 50 participants. The week was packed with a blend of meaningful volunteer work, cultural exploration, and educational sessions, creating a rich tapestry of experiences that connected participants deeply with the land and people of Israel.

From the moment the group arrived in Jerusalem, the trip was designed to foster a strong sense of community and purpose. The opening session set the tone, emphasizing the themes of service and learning that would guide the week. Participants had the unique opportunity to meet influential figures such as Avi Mayer, gaining insights into contemporary Israeli society and the challenges it faces.

A significant portion of the trip was dedicated to hands-on volunteer work. At Hasdei Naomi/Tachlit, participants packed food for those in need, embodying the Jewish value of Tzedakah (charity). This spirit of giving continued at the Wadi Attir Volunteer Project, where volunteers contributed to sustainable agricultural initiatives, learning about innovative environmental practices in the Negev desert.

“I was inspired to be able to take part in the truly transformative work JNF-USA is doing in the Negev. We saw first hand, and more importantly, we contributed to, so many amazing projects JNF-USA funds.”
– Zev Roberts, Yavneh, NY Regional Coordinator

One of the highlights was the agricultural volunteering with Hashomer Hachadash at Ein HaBsor. Here, participants worked alongside local farmers, protecting crops and learning about the agricultural challenges and triumphs in this region. They also had the opportunity to help fulfill the mitzvah of Orlah, further deepening their connection to Jewish agricultural laws and traditions. Visits to the Air Force base in Hatzerim and a Jeep tour at Sde Boker provided unique glimpses into Israel’s security and pioneering spirit.

Torah learning was an integral part of the trip, enriching the experience with spiritual depth and scholarly engagement. Each member of Yavneh’s student National Board brought a Sefer and led Chaburot on many of the bus rides, turning travel time into opportunities for Torah study. After Shacharit, students shared Halakha Yomi, often connecting the laws discussed to the day’s activities. Shabbat was particularly special, with students preparing and delivering Chaburot on various Torah topics between Kiddush and lunch.

Evenings were often spent in reflection and group debriefs, allowing participants to process their experiences and share personal insights. A memorable bonfire night with Miluimnikim (reserve duty soldiers) facilitated meaningful conversations about the realities of life in Israel, both in times of peace and conflict.

The itinerary also included poignant moments of remembrance and solidarity. A visit to the Nova Festival memorial site, followed by a memorial ceremony, underscored the importance of memory and collective responsibility.

“I think the most impactful part of the trip was the contrast between the positives and the negatives. On the same day that we walked through the Nova Festival Site and heard about the tragic deaths of heroes in Ofakim, we helped rebuild a community forced to abandon their homes because of the war, and also saw the beauty of Adi Negev, an oasis in the South that provides opportunities for people with mental or physical challenges to express themselves. The trip helped me recognize how resilient Israel has been through the complexities of the war and is empowering me every day to do whatever I can to fight for Am Yisrael, both in Israel and the US.
– Zachary Magerman, Bus Captain & Yavneh Shabbaton Chair

Cultural immersion was another cornerstone of the trip. The group visited various sites, including a tour of Ofakim post-October 7th, and participated in a special concert and BBQ dinner with soldiers and the Special in Uniform program. These experiences were interwoven with the spiritual rhythm of daily prayers and Shabbat observances, grounding the group in their shared faith.

JLIC Yavneh and JNF Israel Experience students packing boxes for the IDF.

One particularly impactful activity was food packaging to help small businesses. Participants packaged care packages for soldiers, which included items purchased from small businesses in the North. This initiative supported local entrepreneurs by buying their products for distribution, providing much-needed economic relief, and fostering community resilience. The care packages were then delivered to soldiers at an army base, adding a personal touch to the group’s efforts and strengthening their bond with the Israeli community.

JLIC Yavneh and JNF Israel Experience students enjoying their time packing boxes for the IDF.

The week concluded with a visit to Neot Kedumim, where participants planted trees, symbolizing growth and connection to the land. A final dinner with Emily Schrader provided a platform for wrapping up the trip, discussing key takeaways, and envisioning ways to bring the lessons learned back to their own communities.

Overall, JNF-USA’s Alternative Break trip to Israel with the partnership of JLIC Yavneh was more than just a journey through a country; it was a profound exploration of identity, community, and the enduring bond between the Jewish people and the land of Israel.

Reach out to any of our Directors to learn more about and to support JLIC and our programming.

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