Federation’s 2023 Community Journey cohort has returned from an epic trip to Israel that celebrated the country’s 75th birthday and reignited our collective commitment to the Jewish homeland. The 202 participants who made the journey were organized into five “tracks” (First Timers, Arts & Culture, Outdoors, Culinary, and Geo-Tech), providing unique ways for travelers to create their own adventure and see Israel in all her dimensions.

The tracks allowed participants to tailor their experience and to see the many ways we make a difference in Israel, beginning in Atlanta’s partnership region, Yokneam-Meggido. These two cities, located in the lower Galilee, reflect the triumphs and the ongoing complexities of life in Israel. Yokneam and Megiddo are home to modern high-tech manufacturing, agriculture, and a resettlement community for olim (immigrants) from Ethiopia.

The day ended with invitations for everyone to have dinner with host families in Yokneam-Megiddo. The warmth of this welcome has already generated friendships and plans for Israelis to visit Atlanta. 

Read on to learn how the tracks deepened participants’ experiences in Yokneam & Megiddo.

First Timers
For first-time visitors to Israel, the day in Yokneam was a memorable way to go off the tourist path and engage with people who have truly found a haven in Israel. Federation helps support both Ukrainian refugees and the Ethiopian community in Yokneam, providing aid and resources to improve their lives and overcome socio-economic barriers. Participants met with Simon Alfasi, Deputy Mayor of Yokneam, who has championed refugee resettlement. They heard Dege’s moving story about her journey from Ethiopia to Israel and learned Ethiopian dances. They engaged with Ukrainian war refugees to understand Federation’s response and support during this crisis. Lastly, they learned about Yokneam-Megiddo’s participation in the Lone Soldier Project, providing friendship, gifts, financial assistance, and social events for lone Soldiers from Atlanta and St. Louis who enlist in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) to help them feel at home in Israel.

Arts & Culture
Federation supports Moshav Elyakim in the Megiddo region through education, community development projects, and financial assistance to social service programs and organizations. The moshav was established in 1950 by Jewish immigrants who had fled Yemen. Over the years, it has grown into a vibrant community known for agricultural production and cultural diversity. Participants in this track learned about the Yemenite Jewish community through music and song, meeting inspiring teenagers from Elyakim who spoke about their community and their way of life, and finally painting a mural together with kids from the Moshav.

Participants in this track visited the region’s kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek – one of the few kibbutzim that have not undergone privatization and still follow the traditional socialist kibbutz model. They experienced the natural beauty of the kibbutz and explored the Palmach Cave — a hiding place for Jewish fighters during the Israeli War of Independence. They also learned about Tama, a company based in Mishmar Haemek that specializes in designing, developing, and manufacturing high-quality electronic systems. Tama is also a philanthropic company that is deeply committed to giving back to the community.

Federation supports the Ethiopian community in Yokneam by funding services like Hebrew classes, vocational training, and counseling. We have helped establish community centers and youth clubs that provide cultural and educational programs for the Ethiopian community, fostering greater social cohesion. Cooking together, the Culinary track visitors discovered the rich and fascinating story of Ethiopian aliyah while they learned about the unique flavors, ingredients, and techniques that define Ethiopian cuisine. Then they delivered food to families in Yokneam, opening a window on cultural exchange and addressing the issue of food insecurity.

Geo-Politics & Technology
Journey participants on this track visited Yokneam’s high-tech park, which is home to a wide range of startups and established firms specializing in biotechnology, electronics, software, and telecommunication. They saw presentations from developers whose innovations in medicine and energy will have a big impact on society. Federation supports emerging technology in Yokneam through an annual event where representatives from various nonprofit initiatives in Yokneam and Megiddo pitch their programs and services to a panel of potential investors—like Shark Tank, but for nonprofits. It was exciting for travelers to learn how much Atlanta supports the technological advances of Israel.

There are many ways you can support our work in the region through Atlanta Jewish Foundation. Click here to learn more.