This summer, high school students from culturally and religiously diverse backgrounds will have an opportunity to experience Israel like never before. On July 6, 2016, Israel Teen Fellowship (ITF) will set off on its inaugural trip with twenty pioneering teenagers who are interested in a non-traditional glimpse at the richness and uniqueness that comprise the land of Israel. To do this, ITF distinguishes itself from other Israel-experience trips in two important ways: (1) students from any faith or background may participate, and such participation is encouraged; (2) the program’s itinerary includes activities, meals, and projects with a diverse group of Israeli teens including Jews, Arabs, Bedouins, Druze, Ethiopians, and Baha’i.

Michael Dorfman, ITF’s Executive Director, emphasizes, “The Fellowship does not assume or require that its participants share a certain level of knowledge about Israel, as some other trips do. Instead, our program strives to provide a high level of nuanced ideas about Israel’s complexities, which any teenager will find accessible, welcoming, and engaging.”

“The trip is designed with inclusiveness, openness and respect in mind.“Dorfman continues, “Our goal is to provide the opportunity for young people to partake freely in an Israel experience, where they’re free to engage with others who have disparate beliefs or different perspectives; free to question their own beliefs; free to bridge divides; free to think critically and learn; and free to deeply engage in an experience that will remain with them for a lifetime, possibly shaping their worldview and/or belief system.”

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The educational philosophy of the Israel Teen Fellowship is that teenagers thrive on a balance of authentic learning experiences, real interpersonal connections, the enjoyment gained from trying new activities, and engaging in safe risk taking about important global issues. Whether they are exploring the underground ancient bath house in Nazareth (hidden beneath a souvenir shop), sleeping in a tree tent) on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, touring the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, or visiting the Al Jazzar mosque in Akko, the Fellowship’s expert guides and educators will enhance participants’ experiences with fascinating information that encourages them to ask questions and develop their own unique relationship with Israel. The 2-week journey is designed to maximize teens’ interest in Israeli society, culture, and history, and increase their understanding and appreciation of Israeli music, Middle Eastern food, and Israel’s unique geography and politics.

The cost to participate in the 2016 Israel Teen Fellowship is $3,850. A primary aim of the program is that it remain affordable and barrier-free for all those who would benefit from its multicultural Israel-based experiences.

Fellowship applications are now being accepted on a rolling basis at www.israelteenfellowship.org.

Michael Dorfman is the Founder & Executive Director of Israel Teen Fellowship and the Director of Education at Oheb Shalom Congregation in South Orange, NJ. He can be reached at michael@israelteenfellowship.org