FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Evan Levitt
JNF Campaign Executive
Interfaith Mission of Teens Returns from Israel to Bucks County
January 10, 2008 -- Bucks County, PA -- On Sunday morning, January 6, 2008, a group of 41 Muslim, Jewish and Christian teens from the suburbs of Bucks County, Main Line, south Philadelphia, and southern New Jersey, arrived back home from what in their own words was a life-changing trip to Israel.
These teens were part of a Philadelphia area-based pilot program called The Common Ground Mission, whose goals were tolerance, diversity, and individual identity. From a look at the teens’ blog entries and their jet-lagged but heartfelt comments, the program was a huge success.
"When you get to know each other as people," said one teen upon his return, "there's a different kind of understanding between you."
The trip was sponsored by Jewish National Fund (JNF); Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is the honorary chairman of the mission.
“As governor,” he said, “one of my priorities has been student achievement; education is the key if our youth are to become the leaders of tomorrow. The Common Ground Mission shares that priority and I am honored to help them create ambassadors of tolerance and develop leadership skills in the teens of our community.”
Gene Epstein, a philanthropist who works with JNF, conceived of this trip “because I want people to understand each other’s roots,” he said. “The best way to promote peace and understanding between the religions is for people to be exposed to the roots of those religions. What better place to do that than in Israel, home to many Islamic, Christian, and Jewish holy sites?”
“It's our world and we have to live together,” said one teen before she left. “I want to see our group bonding and getting along.”
The itinerary included visits to the holy sites of all three religions in Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, Masada, the Galilee, Nazareth, hiking in the Golan Heights, a jeep ride in the Negev Desert, the Israeli Knesset and more.
“Instead of seeing each other in terms of conflict,” said Epstein, “it is hoped that the participants will be so inspired by their time together and the chance they had to get to and understand each other as individuals, that they will get back home and share what they learned with their peers. I have every reason to believe that Common Ground will diffuse hatred and bias and start a positive chain reaction in the world.”
Watch YouTube to see what participants are saying about their experiences. Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yq_e4fmM69Q
Participants are available to speak upon request at community religious institutions. For more information, or to make a request, contact Evan Levitt at 215-832-0697 or email@example.com.
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Jewish National Fund (JNF) began in 1901 collecting coins in blue boxes to purchase land and return the Jewish people to their homeland. In over 106 years, JNF has evolved into a global environmental leader and become the central address for the land and people of Israel. JNF has planted 240 million trees. Built over 1,000 parks and recreational areas. Constructed security roads. Educated students around the world about Israel. Created new communities so that Jews from around the world would have a place to call home. Discovered drip irrigation and new means of growing plants under arid conditions, bringing green to the desert. Built over 190 reservoirs and water recycling centers, increasing Israel’s water supply by 10%.
As a United Nations NGO, JNF sponsors international conferences on desertification, shares afforestation techniques and funds research on arid land management. Is restoring northern Israel, making it home again to its residents. Is supporting Israel’s newest generation of pioneers by developing the Negev Desert, Israel’s last frontier. For more information on JNF, call 888-JNF-0099 or visit http://www.jnf.org/. JNF is a registered 501(c)(3) organization.