The International Rafsodia - Crossing the Kinneret on a Raft

Wednesday, July 19, 2017 3:33 PM

"We did not know that we were capable of doing such a thing."

750 youth movement members from Israel and abroad gathered by Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) for a two-day raft building challenge, a challenging group bonding activity that culminated in a colorful raft flotilla, creating a special connection with Israel and between the teenagers.

Arts and Rafts

To accomplish the raft building challenge, the young participants received a private beach on the shores of the Kinneret, a lot of new friends (750 in all) from all over Israel and around the world, and raft-building equipment. They brought with them a lot of energy, good vibes and a willingness to work hard. The outcome: a colorful three-hour raft race, and a special bond that was formed through the teens’ shared endeavor and the spark in their eyes.
Roee Marciano from KKL-JNF Education Division’s MAOF program told us: “When I saw the spark in these kids’ eyes, and how, despite the difficult conditions of working outdoors, they were so focused on their work, were fully engaged and assumed a lot of responsibility, I realized that the Jewish People and the people of Israel can be proud of this wonderful generation of young adults.”
KKL-JNF’s international Rafsodia extravaganza took place on July 12-13, 2017, at Yossi Beach on the Kinneret. The hundreds of Israeli young adults included participants aged 16-18 from the MAOF program’s leadership group, new immigrants from the FSU in KKL-JNF’s ATSIL educational program in Dimona, Ashkelon and Ashdod in the south; Gush Etzion in the center; and Tiberias, Yokneam and Beit Jan, from up north.
From overseas, 18 year-old youth represented a broad spectrum of international youth movements such as HaNoar HaTzioni, Young Judaea, Jazit Hanoar, Habonim Dror and Hashomer Hatzair. They hailed from the United States, Mexico, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Peru. The purpose of the event was to establish a bond between Israeli teenagers and teenagers from around the world, based on the shared experience of building a raft and sailing across the Kinneret. This is a unique extreme sports activity, in which the youth movement members are required to work in a team and take on a great deal of responsibility for all stages of the activity,  from the construction stage until setting sail, and then disassembling the rafts afterwards. In addition, the overall conditions are rough, sleeping in the great outdoors and working outside in the heat.
The participants arrived at Yossi Beach on Wednesday afternoon. Every group, upon arrival, settled down and immediately started moving its equipment down to the coast line.
After a briefing from the professional instructors, the construction of the rafts began. The groups worked tirelessly until 8 pm, building the rafts, and accomplished much more than was expected. After they finished working, they all had dinner, and after dinner they enjoyed some fun musical activities.
The event was attended by Nisan Cialic, KKL-JNF board member in charge of international youth movements, who greeted the group and thanked them for their participation. Other KKL-JNF representatives included Simon Elbaz, Deputy Director of the KKL-JNF Education Division; Yitzhak Arbiv, National Director of the MAOF Program; and Hani Desa, Manager of the Overseas Department in the Youth and Education Division.
Yitzhak Arbiv said: “This special opportunity given to our young adults from Israel’s periphery, to meet young Jews from overseas and bond with them over a shared project, is but one opportunity of many we give these kids, teaching them Zionist values of leadership and proactivity, while also showing them the diversity that exists within the Jewish people. We could see the results of that in everything they did throughout the event, as well as in their products.”

And away we sail…

On the following day, the participants resumed their work with great gusto, building the rafts and painting the sails, not giving in to the heat.
At 2 pm, the big moment had arrived - the crossing of the Kinneret on rafts began! For 3 hours, they sailed on the 25 rafts that they had built, and navigated them to Golan Beach on the eastern side of the Kinneret. Despite the northern winds which made it very challenging to sail, all the participants reached their destination. After disassembling the rafts and putting everything back in place, they enjoyed some fresh fruit and shared their experiences from the flotilla.  
One participant from Ashkelon said that it was an ‘unforgettable experience’ and that he ‘enjoyed every minute of it’. He particularly loved meeting new people and ‘sailing calmly’ on the lake.
Two youth movement representatives from Canada reflected on process of building the raft and the exciting sail on the Kinneret.
"We did not know that we were capable of doing such a thing. There was joint teamwork here and we succeeded. It was a personal achievement for each of us as well a team achievement.”
Nina from Argentina has been living in Israel for the past 10 years. She is a member of the Habonim Dror movement.
Nina said they were learning new activities here and that when they returned to Argentina they would have a ‘new pool of activities’ to impart to the Habonim Dror children there. 
Valentina of Uruguay simply thanked KKL-JNF for its special activities.
KKL-JNF’s Hani Desa concluded: “The connection between Israeli and Diaspora young adults, in such an empowering and challenging activity, is an extremely important tool for strengthening these young adults’ connection to the state of Israel and to the vision of Zionism.”