“If an expert says it can’t be done, get another expert.” – David Ben Gurion
Mitzvah Corps Israel spent most of this past week in the south of Israel, talking about what it means to have vision and dreams, but to then go beyond that point and make them happen, to really create something. Standing in Sde Boker at the grave of David Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, we looked out on the Negev desert at this dry, empty place that nobody believed could bloom. But Ben Gurion had a vision; he believed in what the desert could become and in his 60s, he changed his entire life to make it happen. We visited a number of communities this week here in the desert who have taken dreams and aspirations and are making them into realities.
We met Yossi who, after 20+ years in the Israeli Defense Force, moved his family from the bustling metropolis of Tel Aviv to the dry, rural Negev desert to follow his dream of owning and operating his own farm, creating something from the land. He and his wife work the farm alone, as they have not yet reached a point where they can afford to hire workers. In an hour and a half, our group was able to help Yossi with work that would have been back-breaking labor for at least three days had he done it alone.
We met Amal, a Bedouin woman who is working to change the role and perception of women in her community. Through strengthening the connection between generations of women and tapping into skills they have developed through their standard cultural practices, they have created a nonprofit that is working with women to make a place for them in Bedouin society. These women create handmade jewelry and home decor from recycled materials that they then sell. Amal told us that when she thinks of a Bedouin woman, she thinks of strength, of courage, of a drive to learn and improve and better herself. Amal believes that Bedouin women can be more than they have traditionally valued as in their society and is slowly working to close the gap between reality and potential.
As we process these experiences this week, our Mitzvah Corps community is thinking about the importance of big ideas and vision, but also about the follow through and what it takes to actually make change. David Ben Gurion said, “In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.” This Shabbat, we hope to continue to find this balance and harmony of dreams and action and to recharge our optimism to believe in miracles.
Mitzvah Corps Israel 2016 Program Director