Zionism in Action Kiryat Moriah: a Link in the Chain Between Israel and the Diaspora

In Mandatory times the site was an Arab teachers’ seminary. Now, overlooking the panoramic site of Jerusalem’s Old City and the vast land of the Judaean desert, Kiryat Moriah is a center for overseas Jewish youth.

Reuven Agmon, director general of the world Zionist Organization Youth and Hechalutz Department, speaks of Kiryat Moriah in terms of so many students, buildings, courses–and, of course budget. But beyond the dry facts and figures, there is a lot of pride in this complex of buildings that serves as a link in the strong chain between Israel and the diaspora.

More than 10,000 Jewish youth from innumerable countries will pass through the gates of Kiryat Moriah this year with the purpose of learning more about Zionism and Judaism. Kiryat Moriah (the city of Moriah, in the name of the Temple Mount), was founded three-and-a-half years ago. The initial contribution came from Leah and Yitzhak Safer of South Africa in the memory of their two children who were killed in an auto accident.

The kiryah serves as the central educational institution of the Youth and Hechalutz Department. The center can provide services for some 1000 persons which include 317 beds for an overnight stay. Future plans call for the expansion of facilities eventually to accommodate up to 800 in dormitories. The center includes 12 fully equipped classrooms, a library, reading room and a cafeteria. There is also a synagogue, a lounge, two dining rooms, a kitchen and an infirmary.

FOUR MAJOR INSTITUTIONS

The center includes four major institutions:

The institute for training young leaders from abroad offers two courses each year, one for North American students and the other for those from Latin America, South Africa and Australia. During the first half of the year, the students have classes in Hebrew, Judaism, Zionism and leadership; and in the latter half they work on kibbutzim and moshavim.

The Schlichim Training Institute has 120 students who annually receive a half year course designed to prepare to serve as WZO emissaries. Courses include information on Jewish communities, Jewish studies and language.

In a short seminar, youth from abroad and from Israel receive three to four days of instruction on the principles of Zionism. Two such seminars are held every week during eight months in the year.

The Johannesburg King David High School course, offered to students from that South African Jewish school who are sent here for a period of three to six months annually.

The center is operating this year on an operation budget of IL 5 million. But Agmon and the Youth and Hechalutz Department will spend another $8 million to subsidize groups from abroad. This sum is actually marginal: the cost of travel per person for a 44-day stay in the center (including flight) for an American youngsters is $1350 to $1400 and the Department subsidizes $100 of this. The students who come for the center’s various programs eat together and live together in the same dormitories, and thus they get to learn features of Israeli life: social integration in Israel from personal experience.

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