Tiferet is the newest realization of the Hannaton Educational Center’s mission. A six-month
study and service program for post-army Israelis, Tiferet kicks off this month on Kibbutz Hannaton.
Or, 26, grew up in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv. She was gracious enough to make herself available for an interview so we could learn a little more about her, her motivation for being involved in this program, and her plans for the program participants.
Q. What were you doing prior to coming to Hannaton?
A. A former member of the Scouts youth movement, I decided to do a year of volunteer service with the Scouts in the town of Ariel before I went to the army. Once in the army, I work
ed in the Education Department as a commander. After the army, I travelled for a bit and eventually began working, including time on a farm picking fruit in Ein Zivan in the Golan, together with Muslims from the area.
Q. How did you get to Hannaton and to Tiferet
A. I worked and studied in a number of different frameworks that led me here. I really loved farming – the adrenaline of the physical labor and the connection to the land. After a year abroad in the Far East, I started my studies in Mathematics and Education at Hebrew University, but I continued to work. I was responsible for counselors for a non-profit offering programming to at-risk youth. The belief of this particular organization is that community initiatives are a tool for youth to develop a sense of self-worth and capability. I also returned to Ein Zivan and coordinated a program there for young people to farm and live together.
Q. How did you like farming?
A. I loved it. Being in wide open spaces, with other students, getting up before dawn and watching the sun come up … then, at the end of the day learning a text or passage that opens your mind…I wanted it to continue forever. It was over too quickly. I knew I would come back to it one day.
So, at the end of my third year of studies, I coordinated a group of students in the south, on a Reform kibbutz called Yahel. There, I was exposed for the very first time to an open, Jewish community, one that accepts the secular person and welcomes him.
So it was natural, of course, to come to Hannaton to begin a new project here that takes this one step further – agricultural work in the morning and building communal and Jewish identity in the afternoons and evening. I felt welcome from the first day here on Hannaton and the community has been amazing since.
Q. Tell us about Tiferet and what makes it unique?
A. Tiferet is for 20 – 25 year olds, who want to do “preferential” work that is supported with government stipends, in this case, farming in the Jezreel Valley. But the program is about much more than farming. The Tiferet program adds value through two evenings of study with knowledgeable members of the kibbutz, as well as lecturers from around the country, all experts in areas that will enrich our participants’ lives – Zionist thought, Jewish texts, poetry and more.
Q. Is there really a demand for such programs from post-army Israelis?
A. While it’s true that many Israelis are looking to either have fun or take a year after the army to travel and find themselves in other cultures, there are many young people who want to further explore their Jewish identity and Israeli heritage and are looking for a program that teaches values and offers intentional community. Those types of programs are few and far between here in Israel. So what we’re doing here in Tiferet does indeed fill a demand.
We want to use agriculture – and the Hannaton community – as a tool for creating committed, driven members of Israeli society. Through work and study, as well by understanding the place in which they work, our participants gain tools to help them build and nurture open, tolerant and welcoming communities; whether those are work communities, neighborhoods, or organizations. The skills they will acquire here will also enable them to engage in meaningful study well into their futures.
Q. What will they be learning here at Hannaton?
A. The main focus of the text study will be about agriculture in Israel, multi-culturalism in Israeli society, pluralistic Jewish identity, and security in the state of Israel. The goal of the learning is to expose the group to content that is relevant to them at this stage of their lives and to enable them to make decisions for the next step in their lives: travel, university studies, settling down, and career; addressing questions that come up for them as they move towards greater independence.
Q. What do you mean when you talk about “community”?
A. One of our goals in the program, in fact, is to understand what community means and to build a community amongst ourselves. Of course, the Kibbutz Hannaton community itself plays a huge role. The interface with the Hannaton community is both formal, with host families, and informal, on Shabbat and holidays and when the participants take part in community activities. Being integrated into a living, thriving community is not just educational for the group, it’s inspiring, and enables Tiferet participants to see how rich and meaningful living in community can be.
Q. What makes Tiferet different from other similar programs?
A. There are three components that distinguish Tiferet from other programs. First, the emphasis on learning. We see learning as central – not peripheral – to the program. We want to challenge these young people, to force them to face ideas and opinions they have never considered or simply rejected and to open them to new ideas – in Zionism, Judaism, philosophy.
The second component that makes Tiferet special is the meeting between different kinds of people with the Jewish spectrum, from secular, to Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox.
Finally, Tiferet truly offers intentional community. We are not just teaching about how to create community, but actually doing it – creating a small community within a larger community that serves as a living example.