Jewish tradition teaches us that we must instill in our children the lesson of giving to our community and those around us in need. It’s a very basic part of what it means to be Jewish and an important part of a helping create a strong Jewish identity for your kids. In today’s world of instant gratification and quick fixes, it’s hard to really shock our kids into being passionate about what they have and what they can give. It’s rare to find the opportunity in the daily hustle and bustle to take the time as a family to show our appreciation. That’s why I like to combine my family vacation with an extra component of educational travel for kids, in particular the lesson of Tikun Olam – the Jewish acts of kindness designed to repair and protect our world.
Where better to start your Tikun Olam than in Israel! It will give you the chance to discover Israel through completely different eyes as you and your family explore this multi cultural hotspot, through unique and challenging volunteer programs. Contribute to both environmental and social causes, as you get deeper into the true Israeli way of life.
Desert Days Ecological Village – Arava
Judaism teaches us to care for the world around us. Maybe your kids can relate to helping people. But maybe they can relate better to caring for the environment which is no less important. Earn extra points with Mother Nature by taking time in your next family vacation to stay at the Desert Days Ecological Village. Almost 100% self-sustainable, this eco village is built from entirely biodegradable and natural materials. Rinat and Yair founded the village on the premise of providing a safe place for people to truly experience the benefits and wonders of eco-living, especially in the magical setting of the Arava. Working with volunteers from all over the globe, the Desert Days team has perfected their own construction method using mostly mud and straw. Get down and dirty into eco living with a mud workshop and soak in all of the palpable energy that is radiating through the desert. While the Eco-Village does offer a volunteer programs with a minimum 2 week commitment, you can still gain the benefits of teaching your kids about ways to care for the environment and have a special experience sleeping in a unique place by simply staying at the Eco-Village as a guest.
Jaffa Institute – Tel Aviv
The Jaffa Institute is a private organization that was founded in 1982 with the ethos to bring more opportunities and family assistance to the disadvantaged children and families of Jaffa. While there are many projects in place, there are two in particular that benefit greatly from the volunteering community.
Food Distribution Center – This will require a commitment for at least a few hours which can be a great way to use some of the free time you have on your Israel tour where you will create food packages for needy families and holocaust survivors. If you are able to organize your own transportation, this can be combined with food delivery as well.
After School Center - Children come to the center to enjoy a hot meal and fun activities. Filled with great energy, lots of laughter and good vibes, the center is a safe haven for kids in the community where they can develop a sense of trust and companionship that they might not otherwise experience. If your family has a special skill, this is the place to share it! Pre-plan an afternoon of sports classes, arts & crafts or whatever ever weird and wonderful things your family has to offer!
One Day Social Volunteering – Israel Wide
This is the perfect program for the traveling family that would like to take a small time-out from their adventures to explore new communities and give back to some of Israel’s most needy neighborhoods. With diverse volunteer programs throughout Israel you can find yourself packaging food parcels; renovating an apartment for a needy family; repainting a pre-school in a lower socioeconomic community or even assisting a baking workshop for people with special needs. The possibilities are endless and the organization is constantly coming up with new and imaginative ways we can all get involved in the greater Tikun Olam project!
Lasova – Israel Wide
The Lasova organization operates by implementing six primary projects that work throughout Israel in order to ensure that every person will meet his or her basic needs. From soup Kitchens; monthly food allowances; homeless shelters; after school programs for at-risk youth and more, this organization is opening doors and creating opportunities Israel wide! Give your family the chance to discover the importance of community work while developing a deeper understanding and gratitude for the things we have that should not be taken for granted. Join the team and get a unique insight into different Israeli communities that you wont find on the tourist track.
Keren Kayemeth Leyisrael - Jewish National Fund – Israel Wide
Many of us, or our checkbooks rather, recognize organization KKL – JNF from their huge fundraising campaigns abroad. Use your next trip to Israel as a catalyst to not only see for yourself, but also take part in the amazing work that they do. For those with kids 16+ this is a great opportunity to roll up your sleeves and get out your green thumb! Take part in any one of the green Zionist initiatives that the organization runs throughout Israel and do your part to keep Israel’s environment flourishing.
Summing things up,
Make sure your family uses their next Israel vacation to gain more than just another photo album! Use the lesson of Tikun Olam to guide your family into a selfless yet enriching adventure that will open their eyes to new people, experiences, and sights that will ensure a stronger, more memorable connection to Israel and to their Jewish identity. Whether you are planting trees, sipping tea in eco-huts, handing out meals in a soup kitchen or giving kids the best sports class of their life… every thing your family unit can give will be a lesson in the important Jewish concept of Tikun Olam.