Mega Mifgash: UJIA and Maccabi GB bring 550 British and Israeli youth together in Galil
Two hundred Team Maccabi GB athletes have volunteered at UJIA-funded projects in northern Israel as part of a new programme by UJIA and Maccabi GB. The day before the 20th Maccabiah Games commenced, all the Juniors, aged 14-18, linked up with 350 Israeli children in the deprived Galil region to get to know them, learn more about the charitable work they benefit from and run sports activities.
The mifgash (encounter) happened across Carmiel Children’s Village, Youth Futures mentoring programme in Akko, The Equalizer football programme in Shfar’am and a summer camp in Shlomi, and involved running outdoor activities for 350 Israeli children from deprived backgrounds.
What the volunteers said
Grace Alexander, 16, ran a wheelbarrow race and other activities in Shfar’am, where UJIA funds The Equalizer football programme. “The highlight for me today was getting to know the kids. It was a challenge to get over the language barrier at first but we succeeded by using simple words in English and Arabic along with actions and hand gestures.”
Maddie Moryoussef, 17, from Manchester, was also at Shfar’am, and said, “I had a brilliant time at the final tournament. We were group 7 and called ourselves ‘The Strong 7’. It was so great to watch my group of kids win! We all felt so proud! I was on Israel Tour last year with Habonim – but it’s great to be back here again for something like this!”
Lior Tapnack, 17, “It’s been great to spend some time with the kids in Shfar’am who may not be as fortunate as we are. But having now spent time with them, it’s clear we are all the same and it’s amazing to see how football can unite us all.”
Jake Mincovitch, 16, from Leeds, who was at Carmiel Children’s Village, where UJIA is renovating dormitories, met young people who are not able to live with their families. He was part of the group running a water balloon toss station, water gun targeting and long jump. He said, “It was a really good experience to meet such great kids and was lots of fun.”
Lara Hugh, 15, from London, also ran activities at Carmiel, and commented, “It was really nice to interact with the kids here, even though there is a language barrier.”
UJIA chief executive Michael Wegier said, “This is one of the biggest youth volunteering encounters by British teenagers in Israel and I’m so proud that we managed to work with Maccabi GB to make it happen. Combined with the educational activities which made up the two-day programme, I feel we have given our athletes a really meaningful encounter with the Israel of today.”
Maccabi GB Chief Executive Martin Berliner said, “Following the great success of our joint educational venture with UJIA in Berlin at the 2015 European Maccabi Games we were excited to work together again to build another exceptional Informal programme for Team Maccabi GB at the 20th Maccabiah Games in Israel.
“Being in Israel has given us the chance to see first hand the wonderful work UJIA are doing across a broad number of vital initiatives and it’s been an honour and a privilege to bring hundreds of young British people to not only visit the projects but actively engage with young people of their own age but from very different backgrounds. It’s been a most humbling experience.
“Maccabi GB and UJIA are committed and will remain committed to educating and empowering the next generation of British Jewry to ensure our long term future both in the diaspora and Israel. This experience will live long in the memory for all concerned and I would like to thank Michael Weiger, Robin Moss and everyone at UJIA that have made this experience possible for Team Maccabi GB.”
A further 80 Team Maccabi GB athletes in the Open cohort, aged 18 to 35, also took part in a day of educational touring and activities, bringing the total of participants in the programme to 280.”