5 Ways to be a Pioneer in Israel (Without Getting Your Hands Dirty)
Updated: Apr 28
Pioneering the land in Israel used to mean that you needed to roll up your sleeves, grab a rake and dig in (literally).
But that was so 1930.
Welcome to 2021, where you can roll up your sleeves and dig in, without ever touching a speck of soil.
One of the leading organizations that are doing on-the-ground pioneering work is the Jewish National Fund (#JNF_USA). You may know the name from their famous plant-a-tree campaign that started in 1928, but what you may not know is that they are also developing state-of-the-art initiatives to create sustainable solutions for Israel's growing and complex communities. Their projects include water sustainability, developing agriculture technology that includes training people from around the world, community building in underdeveloped areas, services for people with special needs and disabilities, creating a culinary revolution in Northern Israel and so much more.
Israel may be developed, but she still needs people from all over the world to come partner with her to make sure that she can be a place of true light and safety for everyone. You can still be a pioneer in the land of Israel, but now you have technology on your side to create even more profound change.
Here are five ways you can contribute to, and effect change in, Israel without getting your hands dirty (unless you want to!):
1) Calling all designers!
The first project is going to blow your mind.
#JNF_USA is building an epic $350 million dollar educational campus in the desert that that will create jobs and more sustainable opportunities for a still underdeveloped community.
This transformative hub of education is going to a meeting point of dialogue, leadership training, and action, to create a more unified, more equal, more inclusive, and more sustainable Israel. It will host the Alexander Muss high school and create housing and employment for thousands of people.
The best part? They want you to help design it. If you ever wanted to be part of building Israel, now is your chance. You can submit your design HERE for a chance to leave your mark.
2) Be inscribed
There is a scribe that sits on top of Masada writing Torah scrolls for communities in Israel and you can be in it. Judaism has a very special tradition when it comes to writing a Torah scroll. All Torah scrolls are handwritten by a scribe and it's considered an honor to take part in the writing, by dedicating even just one letter to someone you love.
It's a special opportunity to create a legacy for any occasion or celebration and build your connection with Israel.
"I had a parsha (weekly Torah portion) inscribed in honor of the birth of my grandchild. My daughter and son-in-law were so excited about the fact they now have a strong connection with Masada, Judaism, and the land of Israel."
3) Help a farmer out
In a world that is excited by big cities and the digital world, agriculture has become a not-so-sexy career prospect for people. In Israel, farmers are struggling economically because building the land has become less of a group effort and much more like a lonely endeavor. Because of the emerging loss of farms, JNF partnered with an incredible initiative called Hashomer Hachadash, which pairs up volunteers of all ages, with farmers and ranchers to help safeguard their land from potential violators.
This has already had a powerful impact on agriculture and farmers in Israel. For Naaman Dag, a farmer in Lachish, it was life-changing, "I looked back and I saw people pushing me forward, suddenly I wasn't alone. After so many years of struggle against people who wanted to bother me, you feel like there's a current that takes you out of the whirlpool that you are stuck in and you see there is hope."
If you are already in Israel or plan to come soon, and you do want to get your hands dirty, you can also download the app called SunDo, to get paired up with local farmers for a day, a few hours, a week, or longer to help them in the fields. They need your support!
"We have to constantly walk the land, guard the land and help each other build the land. If it's just the job of a farmer living in the north and not my job in Tel Aviv, that's where the system starts to break apart." - Jesse Rosenblit
4) Plant a tree (because it's a classic!)
Planting trees might be how you know #JNF_USA and the campaign is still live almost 100 years later because you can never plant too many trees! JNF started planting trees in 1928 and in the first seven years managed to plant 1.7 million trees (amazing, right?). They are now up to 240,000,000 trees.
Trees are incredible. They are vital to the environmental health of any place and therefore to us! Among other things, trees provide us with half of our oxygen needs (if you're breathing right now, you can go thank the closest tree), they absorb carbon dioxide from our driving habits, keep us cool physically and mentally (they help decrease stress), provide shelter for animals and wildlife (who are also crucial to the health of the environment), they soak up water to prevent flooding and can even absorb soil contaminants to keep the ground healthier!
Trees are a pretty big deal, so if you plant one, you are also a pretty big deal. You can sign up online to have someone plant a tree in Israel on your behalf, or you can come yourself and directly contribute to the health and sustainability of Israel
5) Go the extra mile (without breaking a sweat)
If you're not down to run a marathon, swim through mud, or climb Mount Everest, you can find a fundraiser project that is close to your heart - without breaking a sweat.
You can help build a baseball field for Project Baseball to help new olim (immigrants) integrate with their peers, or provide horse therapy for kids with injuries and disabilities, like the little girl who never uttered a word until she began speaking to her horse. You can Adopt-A-Firefighter to ensure that Israeli firefighters have the proper equipment they need to keep Israel, and themselves, safe or you can support the 21,000 square foot indoor playground that JNF built for Sderot residents to keep them active and safe.
There is no shortage of life-changing initiatives that you can get involved with.
Whatever touches your heart is a good place to start.
Israel is waiting for you to pioneer with her.
For her future, and for yours.