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Meet three inspiring young women Zionists working to protect Israel
In honor of Tu BiShvat, which is January 21, we're profiling three amazing women who proudly serve the land and people of Israel through Hashomer Hachadash, which assists farmers and ranchers faced with challenges in protecting and securing their land.
My name is Esther, and I am 24 years old, married to Raz and living in a community in the northern region of Israel. I grew up most of my life in Manchester, England, in a Zionist home and as an active member of the Bnei Akiva youth movement.
I always had a deep connection to Israel, and felt as if it was a home away from home. After high school, I decided to take a gap year in a seminary based on a kibbutz in the north. I took part in a program to get the real "Israel experience."
I thoroughly enjoyed my gap year and bonded with many Israeli girls on the program, which opened my eyes to what I was looking for in terms of my future. I suddenly found it difficult to accept that I was supposed to go back to England and start university, while the Israeli girls on my program were about to get drafted and give two years of their lives defending our country.
After a lot of thought, I decided to listen to my heart and make aliyah in August 2013. I joined the program "Garin Tzabar" and lived on a kibbutz in the north with another group of new immigrants, pre-army, from all over the world. After three months of bureaucracy, mental and physical preparation, I drafted into the army and served for three years dealing with welfare-based conditions for soldiers in need. After finishing my service, I got released and starting working for Hashomer Hachadash, a Zionist non-political organization that aids farmers all over Israel who deal with never-ending acts of agricultural crime, and more importantly, guard over huge amounts of our beautiful land.
A few months after my release, I decided to move up north to study social work and be closer to Raz, who shortly after became my husband.
Tu BiShvat has always been a festival I celebrated, but it has definitely become more meaningful since living in Israel. Celebrating Tu BiShvat in Israel is another reminder of how lucky I am to live here, and how important it is to keep connected to my land. Working for Hashomer Hachadash has also made me understand the importance of actively building a connection to the land through physically working it and learning about my historic connection to it.
Shalom, my name is Isabelle. I am 20 years old and made aliyah from Brazil four months ago. When I made aliyah, I left my parents and one of my sisters behind. While I didn't grow up in a Jewish community, I always maintained a curiosity and interest in my Jewish identity, which I didn't feel I could fully explore and develop in Brazil. I therefore decided to take a bold step and leave my comfortable life and warm home to move to Israel, connect with and get to know the culture of the Jewish people from up close -- to live Judaism in the fullest sense of the word.
|Isabelle and her sister|
My older sister made the same journey to Israel eight years earlier and began to volunteer with Hashomer Hachadash as a student. When I came to Israel, she introduced me to the young leadership program at watch posts. I immediately fell in love with the idea of connecting to the land and safeguarding state lands through agricultural work. I also learned about the diverse Israeli society and culture from the experience of group living. I live with 12 girls 24/7 -- eating, sleeping, learning, working, guarding and developing and sharing experiences together.
With Tu BiShvat soon approaching, I am beginning to gain a better understanding of the organization's mission by doing work that emphasizes the connection to the land and an appreciation of the land we live in. I am learning to love and be thankful for what we have, not just in words but in deeds.
I am proud to plant my roots here in Israel, thanks to the very values I have gained from Hashomer Hachadash. I hope others will also come and plant their roots here together with us.
I am on the staff of Hashomer's pioneering-experience program, which was established three years ago to forge a unique connection between people and Israel through direct contact with the land. I work with groups and visitors from all over the world. By actively engaging with Israeli society, participants from overseas feel a sense of belonging and responsibility toward the land.