Discovering Sha’ar HaNegev

Birthright participants from San Diego gain knowledge about and build relationships with Federation’s Sister City, Sha’ar HaNegev.

The Jewish Federation of San Diego County is proud to partner with Taglit Birthright Israel in providing young people an opportunity to experience Israel. Each summer, we send young adults on local buses to Israel to learn first-hand the complexities that make up the Jewish State. They come away with a greater appreciation of the ancient and modern day country and a newfound connection to their Homeland. Thank you for your support of Federation in enabling young people to experience Israel.

It’s become a tradition when Americans visiting Israel on Birthright missions from San Diego spend time in Sha'ar HaNegev. Two such missions were scheduled to visit the region in summer 2018. Two days before the first group’s arrival, however, the visit was cancelled due to tensions in the region. We were obviously disappointed, yet encouraged by the fact that we knew this was one of many groups to come…

The second group indeed arrived to the region and visited Sha'ar HaNegev on a hot August day. The Americans began their visit at the SouthUp program. There, they met CEO Elad Yeori and Amit Yesodi-Hadas, Director of Business Development. Both Elad and Amit reported on the status of entrepreneurship and innovation in Sha’ar HaNegev, as well as the ideology behind the founding and operation of this start-up incubator. They described the various companies under the incubator’s umbrella and praised the fruitful collaboration that has developed with the San Diego Jewish Federation and with San Diego businesspeople. Through this visit, some 40 young San Diegans discovered that there are all sorts of ways to strike up a relationship with Israel and with Sha’ar HaNegev; indeed, friendships sometimes spark business relationships while business relationships can open doors to infinite possibilities!

After SouthUp, the group departed for a kibbutz to get a glimpse of kibbutz life. On the way, they stopped off at the Simchoni Forest to get an up-close look at just how near Sha’ar HaNegev is to the Gaza border and to understand exactly what’s been happening in recent months. We urged our visitors to adopt our positive way of looking at things – with the happenings they see all around them stimulating them to action, initiatives, creativity, and community spirit. Did we mention creativity? Well, the next stop was a visit to an artist’s workshop.

There the group met Livnat Kutz, who had the visitors split up into small groups to engage in different artistic activities: one group tried their hand at charcoal drawings led by Molly, an art instructor; another group painted and decorated the workshop in preparation for next year’s activities there; and a third group received a cloth patchwork in which each square had a word written in it – in both Hebrew and English. The Birthright group added their own decorations to each square to create a colorful 'dictionary' that will serve English teachers and students alike. Accompanying the visitors through the workshop activities were staffers from our Young Adult Center, who generated further opportunities for talking and getting acquainted: Mazi Ayalon, Gitit Chakim, Shir Taranto, and Nadav Tzabary.

The four-hour visit was filled with experiences and, happily, was completed just before the region’s newest outbreak of Hamas events. Through the combined efforts of the San Diego-Sha'ar HaNegev Partnership (P2G), the Jewish Agency, the Jewish Federation of San Diego, and all of the important projects taking place in Sha’ar HaNegev – the artists' workshop, Young Adult Center and SouthUp – connections between the communities of Sha’ar HaNegev and San Diego are growing stronger and closer!


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