Dear icnext Families and Friends,
We are reaching out to ask for your support in funding a project that icnext is sponsoring. For the past 11 years, icnext has included a visit to Jisr az-Zarqa in its Israel Mission. Jisr az-Zarqa is an underprivileged Arab village on the Mediterranean coast. Surrounded by some of the wealthiest areas in Israel, it is poverty stricken and in a state of despair. Formerly secluded from the rest of the country, only recently has the village started to increase its tourism.
During our Israel Mission visit to Jisr az-Zarqa, teens from the village interact with the teens of icnext. The visits start with an icebreaker, followed by the local teens leading a tour of the village, culminating in a joint activity on the beach.
This interaction with icnext inspired the village’s leadership to create a new opportunity for the teens in Jisr az-Zarqa. Based on the pride and enthusiasm with which the Jisr teens introduced their village to icnext, the village leadership thought to expand this into a teen program which would provide these local teens with tools necessary to become village tour guides.
Because icnext’s visit was the inspiration for this project, we feel compelled to assist their initiative. We decided that it was time to give back and try to make a difference for the teens in the community there.
With your help, we will be able to fund a workshop to help the teens of Jisr az-Zarqa acquire the skills necessary to become tour guides for their village. Our hope is to promote leadership and experience in social tourism among the village’s youth, while also giving the village an amazing set of tour guides to continue to advance the tourism industry in Jisr az-Zarqa.
We hope that you will consider donating to help us achieve our goal and improve the lives of teens in Israel. To make an online donation, please click here. You will be able to indicate the amount you want to donate.
Thank you for your consideration,
Alexa Plotkin and Rylan Polster
icnext Cohort 7
About icnext: icnext is a unique experience including a yearlong educational program, a trip to Israel, and a second-year fellowship opportunity. This program sets to educate a dedicated group of Cleveland’s Jewish 10th and 11th graders to become the next generation of Israel advocates. During the 2 years of involvement, participants attend seminars, take part in an exchange program with teens from Beit Shean/Emek HaMayanot, and enjoy a 10-day fact-finding trip to Israel.
About Jisr az-Zarqa: Jisr az-Zarqa is a poverty-stricken village in Israel sandwiched between Caesarea and Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael, two of the wealthiest places in Israel. Although it is lined with beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea, the city itself is in a state of disrepair. The streets are lined with run-down buildings that are not characteristic of the more modern cities in Israel. Until recently, Jisr az-Zarqa was relatively secluded from the rest of Israel, not receiving tourists or, really, visitors of any kind.
For the past 11 years, the icnext trip to Israel has included a visit to Jisr az-Zarqa.
During those visits, icnext participants engaged with local kids in an attempt to forge new connections between Jewish and Arab teens.
Participants of both groups join together for educational and fun activities. These activities, as described by Lucy Keller, an icnext alumna from eight years ago, can include anything from sitting around the beach, to playing soccer, to eating food. “I had the best time of my life,” she said as she reminisced about her experience.
In the past five years, there has been an attempt to bring tourists to Jisr az-Zarqa and its Mediterranean coastline. This effort is centered around the only hotel in the village, Juha’s Guesthouse. Genevieve Begue, who works in the guesthouse as well as volunteers her time working with the village youth, developed the Made in Jisr Young Leaders project. The project’s goal is to empower the village youth with leadership and communication skills. Recently, as a result of the meeting between Jisr az-Zarqa and icnext teens, the project is also focusing on inspiring the village teens to be tour guides for the guest house visitors.
As a result of icnext’s repeated visits in the village, we felt that it was necessary to give back to the community that has generously hosted us over the years. We wish to do so by kick starting a new program in the village that joins the community center of Jisr az-Zarqa and the teen program. The new program would bring the committed teenagers to a twelve-hour workshop to develop the new skill of accompanying guiding tours of their city, and ultimately leading tours on their own. The goal is to promote leadership and experience in social tourism, essential skills in any environment, among the village’s youth.