The I BELONG ISRAEL 4th Annual Conference – “Initiating Change” held at the Knesset on March 20 brought together leading business figures, academics, school principles and educators from around the country, as well as government officials from across the political spectrum.
The Conference explored the question of Jewish, Zionist, and Israeli identity and the importance of these values for Israelis and specifically Israeli youth. A poll commissioned by I BELONG ISRAEL and conducted by the Midgam Institute found that 1/4 or 27% of Israelis would leave the country if given the chance; 36% of these respondents identified themselves as secular Jews and 7% identified themselves as religious. Those most likely to express the wish to leave were single, secular men between the ages of 23-29.
In response to these disturbing results, Minister of Education Naftali Bennett pledged that within four years all 11th grade high school students will participate in an I BELONG ISRAEL journey. Prof. Gad Yair, head of the NCJW Research Center for Innovation in Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, spoke about the results of his two year study of I BELONG ISRAEL participants. He said, “Follow one of these groups on their I BELONG ISRAEL journey and see Israeli Pedagogy in action. When you see it and understand it, and when it is fully absorbed and processed by the Ministry of Education, some of the problematic findings of this poll will disappear.”
Among other speakers at the Conference were MK Isaac Herzog, Leader of the Opposition and Chairman of the Zionist Union party, MK Shulamit Mualem-Rafaeli, Chairwoman, The Jewish Home, Knesset Chairman MK Yuli Edelstein, Gen. (Res.) Eliezer Shkedy, I BELONG ISRAEL Board Member and former Commander and Chief of the Israel Air force, Gen. (Res.) Avi Mizrahi, former IDF Chief Central Command, Michael Eisenberg, Partner, Aleph Venture Capital Fund, and Yariv Oppenheimer, former director of Peace Now.
Minister of Education Naftali Bennett declared that I BELONG ISRAEL will be offered to all Israeli high schools.
Minister Naftali Bennett visited with I BELONG ISRAEL participants while they were learning about Jewish history hands-on at the Adullam National Reserve. The Adullam Archeological Park in Emek Ha’Ela has been designated an official I BELONG ISRAEL digging site. Every week, hundreds of I BELONG ISRAEL students participate in archaeological digs.