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A delegation from Christians for Israel International visited the Jewish Agency’s For Israel “First Home in the Homeland” project at Kibbutz Revivim in the Negev desert on March 1, 2016. Elena Kovarsky (director) and Svetta (Orly is her new Israeli name) Wolstein (assistant to Elena Kovarsky) accompanied the delegation and prepared a hearty welcome.
Tomeh, born and raised in Revivim explained the foundation and background of the kibbutz Revivim. The community was formed in 1943 in Rishon LeZion by help of UK government and young immigrants from Austria, Italy and Germany, all of whom were members of HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed who had been educated at kibbutz Givat Brenner. The kibbutz itself was established on 7 July 1943 as one of the three lookouts, and was initially named Tel HaTzofim (lit. Scout's hill). It was later renamed Revivim by Berl Katznelson after the magazine edited by Yosef Haim Brenner (for whom Givat Brenner was named), and its name is also taken from the Bible, Psalm 65:11: "You (Lord) ... level its ridges, you soften it with showers."
Tomeh explaining the foundation and background of kibbutz Revivim
Originally the kibbutz was the scene of an agricultural experiment. It was a deserted place, with hardly any water but with good relations with the local Bedouins. The first they did was design and build a water system. It involved a lot of hard work in this lonely place. There was no transport available and the first pioneers lived in a cave. When things improved they built a house and started growing gladiolas in 1946. Since the winter of 1946 was quite rainy, the gladiolas flowered very well. The UN sent a committee in 1947 to Revivim to view the local situation. The committee was impressed to see the gladiolas. Although the Arabs didn’t want to cooperate initially the Negev came under Israeli rule since 1948. In the early years of the state, it absorbed many of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries, with the Israeli government setting up many development towns, such as Arad, Sderot and Netivot. Since then, the Negev has also become home to many of the Israeli Defence Force major bases - a process accelerating in the past two decades. Transportation was poor in those days, the dreams were big and everything involved a lot of hard work.
The welcoming committee at Revivim
The next development phase started in the 1970’s. A factory was founded, so that agriculture was not the only source of income. Today the factory is part of Raval ACS Ltd. which is specialized in fuel venting systems for motor cars, for example: GM, Jaguar, Skoda and many others. In 1969 VW came to Israel and bought a 90% share of the Israeli magnesium production. VW came to Revivim and because one person from Revivim spoke a little bit of German contact was made. Ten years later VW installed Revivim’s fuel valves in their motor cars.
Tomeh was born and raised in Revivim, his parents are from Canada. Once, when he was a young boy, he went to the dining room in Revivim and there was a Russian boy who told him that his Dad’s name was Victor too. Today they are friends. The Russian boy was part of the first group of olim in Revivim. It’s one big family. They share big dreams while making roots. Their lives are not only focussed on agriculture and industry but also on human relations. People matter in Revivim and it is a good place to start, according to Tomeh. Make dreams come true, make the desert your home. Revivim is a community with high values.
Elena Kovarsky , director of “First Home in the Homeland”, made aliyah 25 years ago from Moscow with her 1 year old daughter and husband. She was amazed to see the “soft landing” that was prepared for them in Revivim. There was an apartment, food in the fridge, flowers on the table, a welcome message in Russian on the door and chocolates on the bed. So strange! She who welcomed us didn’t even know us! But anyway: Welcome! This is your new home! Today I am a grandmother and mother. “Ulpan” the Hebrew language school generally lasts three months and then usually the families move to another place. Although some stay and become members of kibbutz Revivim.
Every year 220 families (in total 550 olim) come to Israel and take part in the Jewish Agency’s First Home in the Homeland program, divided over 44 kibbutzim. Christians for Israel is the main sponsor of this program. This support is very important. If the olim do not succeed to learn Hebrew in six months they have to accept low jobs and usually stay poor. They usually don’t advance in society and sometimes go back to their former country.
The olim are not supposed to stay in Revivim. They take part in a program that will take six months to one year to enable them to learn modern Hebrew (Ivriet). It is important to make them independent and fluent in Hebrew, so they study five days a week and five hours a day. The financial support comes from Christians for Israel, so they don’t have to work and can concentrate on learning Hebrew. Just learn Hebrew and keep practicing! Secular or not, all the Biblical feasts are celebrated in Revivim!
The olim are strong and independent after one year. We don’t have to give them solutions. We give them the tools to find the solutions themselves. The government helps them with finding jobs and a place to live with programs in their first, second and third year. However, most olim will find their own solutions and find jobs independently. There are plenty of jobs in Israel if you are fluent in Hebrew and can function independently.
Two years ago, when the war in Ukraine broke out, many more olim came to Israel. That caused us to find solutions for housing and helping them with learning Hebrew. Because the refugees had poor preparation they needed extra help. For example, there are Russian speaking psychologists available in the ulpan.
Orly Wolstein, the assistant to Elena Kovarsky, made aliyah four years ago. Orly is now helping people in Ukraine with a group Skype session on Sunday morning. In turn Elena in Be’ersheva, Orly in Revivim and the olim in Ukraine.
In the kibbutz Revivim there are six new families, there is a five month waiting list. By the middle of March of this year 2016, fifty-six olim families will be in Israel, by mid August another seventy or eighty and by the end of December another sixty-five. In total some two-hundred-and-twenty families through the year, divided over forty-four kibbutzim.
Together with the Jewish Agency in Ukraine, the olim from the Ukraine decide on which program to take part in, depending on the desired options and their profiles. For example, do they have young children, have they already learned Hebrew? The application is sent to Revivim and an interview is held with each family to make sure that they really understand what they want to do and to find the right kibbutz. So, this is a two-way process. There are fifty grade areas, depending on age, needs, time of the aliyah, Hebrew background, language knowledge, children, vocational specialization, et cetera.
There are social workers in the program. All the time there are four-hundred olim in the program. Some are new, some in their final phase. In the kibbutz Revivim there are eight hundred people of which four-hundred are olim. It is said that “every learned word in Hebrew adds a shekel to their income”.
Christians for Israel is the main financial sponsor of the First Home in the Homeland project. The Jewish Agency matches the funds donated by Christians for Israel.
In the first six months, all participants receive financial support. If that is not sufficient they must find a job to add to their income. While in the program the olim don’t have to pay full price in the first year, i.e. they pay only half price for rent, food, kindergarten et cetera. That is why they don’t have to work and can concentrate on learning Hebrew. You can look at it as a kind of scholarship. At the moment there are eighty olim families on the waiting list for Revivim.
First Home in the Homeland has a volunteer program for young adults. Presently there are volunteers from Korea, Poland, Ireland and Sweden. Most stay for three to eleven months. The agency for the volunteers is the “KPC”, the “Kibbutz Program Center”. Volunteers can work in the kitchen and do house keeping. It is also possible to learn Hebrew in short Hebrew courses. Volunteering is possible for three to five weeks or as long as two months. Tour groups are also welcome to kibbutz Revivim, with notification in advance.
There is a long waiting list for the 'First Home in Homeland' program of more than 80 Jewish families from the Former Soviet Union. Also Jews from France have indicated that they want to join this program. Assisting a family in the "First Home" program costs € 230 euro / US $ 250 a month.
Please support this 'First Home' program and help the people settle in the land of Israel! Any amount is welcome!
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