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Courtney Smith at the Meshek Aviv farm in Even Yehuda on Jan. 9. Smith was one of the more than 1,000 participants since November on Mosaic United’s Shalom Corps missions in partnership with Birthright Onward Israel. Photo by Amelie Botbol.

Amelie Botbol
Courtney Smith at the Meshek Aviv farm in Even Yehuda on Jan. 9. Smith was one of the more than 1,000 participants since November on Mosaic United’s Shalom Corps missions in partnership with Birthright Onward Israel. Photo by Amelie Botbol. Amelie Botbol
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Volunteer missions a win-win for Diaspora Jews seeking connection and Israelis in need post-Oct. 7

Mosaic United and the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs invest $2 million in Birthright Israel’s volunteer missions to Israel.

Fatally shocked by the events of Oct. 7, the owner of the Meshek Aviv farm in Even Yehuda near Netanya died of a heart attack, leaving his grandchildren, who had no experience in agricultural work, with the task of taking care of the farm while 95% of the foreign workers returned to Thailand.

It was therefore no small gesture when on Tuesday, participants in a Mosaic United mission gathered at the farm to pick and package green onions and cilantro to boost the farm’s operations.

“These volunteers saved the farm. Without them, we would have closed,” Bernardo, an Israeli volunteer in charge of running daily activities at Meshek Aviv, told JNS.

Bernardo added, “Everything that we cultivate stays in Israel. We don’t export anything. These volunteers are helping feed the country.”

More than 1001 volunteers have landed in Israel since Nov. 11 from the US, Europe, South Africa, and South America as part of Mosaic United’s mission in partnership with Birthright Israel to help Jews around the world reconnect with Jewish values such as tikkun olam (repairing the world).

Mosaic United – Birthright Israel volunteers preparing green onions harvested from the field for packaging at Meshek Aviv in Even Yehuda. Photo by Amelie Botbol.

Founded in 2015, Mosaic United empowers and provides resources to organizations that work to strengthen the connection of young Jews to their Jewish identities and Israel. It is a strategic collaboration between Israel’s Ministry for Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism, Jewish organizations and communities, and global philanthropic foundations.

Mosaic United’s Shalom Corps and the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs invested $2 million in Birthright Israel’s volunteer missions to Israel and are expecting a total of 5,000 volunteers to land in the country in the coming months.

“Jews feel a tremendous increase of antisemitism in their countries,”  Maria Youssim, Director of Shalom Corps, founded to empower Diaspora Jews to connect to their Jewish values through volunteer missions and Jewish service learning, told JNS. “They feel unable to continue their lives as if nothing happened on Oct. 7. Many express the need to come and experience what is happening in the country with their own eyes and make a difference with their own hands. Frankly, they also feel safer in Israel.”

“So far, we’ve brought more than 1,100 volunteers to Israel. We have received 7,000 applications and already have trips scheduled through April,” she added.

Since 2020, Shalom Corps has supported thousands of volunteers in countries such as Ukraine, Morocco, Moldova, and Hungary, assisting those in need while participating in activities that connect them to Jewish values.

“On Oct. 7, we saw a need in Israel for assistance and we also felt the desire and eagerness of Diaspora Jews to help and stand with Israel. For us, it was a moral imperative to give them an outlet to do so,” Youssim said.

 Trips include activities such as farm work, food packing, visiting wounded soldiers in hospitals, and distributing food to soldiers and families in need. The groups also tour Hostage Square and the “Nova 6.29” exhibit at the Expo Tel Aviv.

Gabe Galper, a 19-year-old student at New York University, stressed how important it was for him to escape the university’s oppressive and divisive atmosphere through this trip.

“A lot of Jews who feel connected to Israel are currently very depressed in the U.S. They feel that they don’t have a community or the support of those around them. We’ve lost a large portion of our American friends since Oct. 7,” Galper told JNS. “It’s amazing to be out of the NYU bubble and feel like I am doing something meaningful, working on a farm after all the agricultural workers left.”

This trip was also an opportunity for Courtney Smith, 26, from San Diego, to experience Israel in a very difficult time and actively participate in helping the country before her official move. Smith is preparing to move to Israel in the coming months.

“It’s great to see the togetherness of the Jewish people. Even though we have been hurt, we are rebuilding ourselves. The sense of community is the glue that brings together the entire country,” Smith told JNS.

Avi Cohen-Scali, Director-General of the Ministry for Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism, commented, “In the midst of the most just war since the founding of our country, the Jews of the Diaspora are showing exceptional solidarity with the State of Israel.  Young Jews, who are connected in their hearts and souls to the citizens of Israel, are coming to assist through these civic efforts, and it is clear they are making a great contribution to our victory.”

This partnership is just the latest initiative of Shalom Corps.  Last month, Mosaic United announced grants to nine organizations through “RiseUp: Mobilize for Israel,” a series of mini-grants to fund the mobilization of volunteer-based projects for Israel.

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