JNF Wire: The Next Generation Finds its Place in Emek Hamaayanot
December 17, 2015
Adam H. Brill, Director of Communications
The Next Generation Finds its Place in Emek Hamaayanot
On a bright Friday morning during Chanukah, a group of 30 people gathered in Emek Hamaayanot for what might have seemed a typical “young adult program” comprised of good food, socializing, and “TED-style” presentations. But the program, the people, and the venue were anything but typical.
The event was organized by Yael Barkan, the director of the Young Adult division of the Emek Hamaayanot Regional Council, in partnership with Jewish National Fund’s (JNF) Go North initiative. With the support of JNF, the Regional Council, and local partners, Barkan is working to attract a dynamic new population to the area and encourage the region’s best and brightest to consider making the valley their permanent home.
“There is a buzz happening here in the Valley,” says Barkan. “Finally, young people from the different communities throughout this area are realizing that they are not alone in this peripheral region. Meetings such as this one make them feel like they have partners and tools for actualizing their dreams and ideas right here.”
The recenlty opened Idan Technology Center is at the center of the buzz Barkan speaks of, and where the event took place.
Developed by the Gevasol Group, an Israeli company specializing in fluid and motion control products, the Center serves as a hub for technological innovation and education in the region. Half of the building is a functioning factory operated by Gevasol, and the other half contains labs with drafting tables and tools, cozy “brainstorming” rooms, and a fully equipped auditorium. Young adults and families can participate in cutting-edge courses and workshops on topics ranging from industrial electronics to cyber tech. The Center also offers open workshop days, where young innovators can develop projects, consult with mentors, and collaborate with peers. The onsite Gevasol manufacturing facility provides both an open classroom and a potential avenue for employment.
Participants in the event included young families, students, and some recently discharged soldiers. Barkan explains that most young people leave the area after their service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and not many see any reason to come back: “In the older, agricultural communities in the region, young adults struggle to find their voice. They are attracted to the values and quality of life here, but don’t feel like they can make an impact. We want people to see that there is an opportunity for revitalizing these communities while preserving what is special about them.”
Amir, a veteran member of Kibbutz Ein Hanatziv, agrees to the need to show young people an alternative. One of the oldest in attendance, he came to the event in hopes of picking up information to convey to the next generation of his kibbutz. “Young people don’t want the same kind of kibbutz that once was, and justifiably so,” says Amir. “They want independence, they want to make a difference. We [the founders] are still trying to figure out what direction to take as a kibbutz, and they are eager to go, but, we have to give them opportunities.”
As the presentations revealed, there is no shortage of options for young adults in the Valley. Presenters included Barkan, Regional Council Head Yoram Karin, Gevasol founder Gidon Yedid, and several young community leaders. Each told their personal story as a way to invite participants to “find their own place” in the region. They also described some of the frameworks in which participants can get involved, including cultural events, community-based action teams, a community leadership training course, Idan Center workshops, and a Young Adult forum, which is comprised of 40 members from local communities. The 40 young leaders are responsible for galvanizing a range of events and activities related to topics concerning young adults aged 22-35, such as culture, higher education, employment, technology, and more. JNF’s support has given the project backbone, and helps young leaders forge connections, tap into resources, and imagine the future.
One successful initiative that grew out of the forum is the annual Building and Renovations Fair. “The fair grew out of our desire to help people save money and to promote businesses in the region,” explains Anat, one of the young women who initiated the project. The first fair in February 2015 brought over 30 businesses and building professionals — from architects to mezuza artists — to Emek Hamaayanot. Several hundred residents took advantage of the rare opportunity to utilize their expertise without needing to travel for hours. “People need to feel like things are available here; it’s hard to live in the periphery. The fair gives everyone a sense of how the valley is growing, and how they are part of something new and exciting,” Anat said.
Inspired by the creative energy of the Idan Center and the optimistic presentations, one young participant from a nearby kibbutz is ready for more: “I really didn’t realize there were other people my age and in my field here. I look forward to getting more involved!”
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