From Diller Teen Fellow to leader

  • Erin
My three-week trip to Israel with Diller Teen Fellows was not just a tour, it was a journey, an experience unlike any other.
by ERIN MIDZUK | Aug 01, 2019

Though I arrived in the Holy Land with a passion for Israel, the trip shone a new light on the country. Diller aims to show us the many different faces of Israel, and this was my experience.

I learnt that to strengthen my love for Israel, it’s important to be able to explore all aspects of the country, to see the bumps and flaws, and look beneath the surface, while also seeing its radiating beauty, both physical and spiritual.

Experiencing the reality of this country triggered many questions, but I learnt that questions aren’t bad. Questions are the first step to learning. They show that you care enough to search for an answer. Asking questions allowed me to see Israel in a unique, personal way.

I also learnt to value other people’s opinions, to remain respectful in spite of disagreements. On meeting about 640 teens from 32 different communities, I encountered so many different views and opinions about Judaism and Israel’s place in the world. Many of these challenged me, but the Diller approach encouraged me to remain respectful, tolerant, and listen.

The Diller programme is built on six main pillars: Jewish identity, Israel, tikkun olam (repairing the world), peoplehood, pluralism, and leadership. On the trip, I learnt to comprehend, value, and implement these six pillars into my life.

Our experience underpinned these elements. We had the opportunity to plan a week in Israel independently, allowing us to put our leadership skills into action. Meeting hundreds of Jewish teenagers from across the globe, being introduced to new ideas and encountering Israelis from across the spectrum of society, allowed us to value pluralism and peoplehood, while building tolerance towards others.

Visiting the Kotel, having to stand firm in our beliefs when tested, davening on Shabbat beside Jews from across the globe, were among the moments that highlighted our common Jewish identity. Receiving an email from a lone soldier thanking me for parcels and letters sent, and understanding how my small gesture touched him, showed me the impact a small deed can have.

Our experience began with a week of travelling, from surfing in Tel Aviv to facing the meshuga (crazy) alleys of the Jerusalem shuk (market), concluding with a Shabbaton at the famous Bedouin tents, where we met 16 international Diller communities.

Our second week was spent with our partnership community, Beit Shemesh Mateh Yehudah, where we were hosted by the families of resident Diller teens, and got to know their community.

In our final week, we were united with all 32 communities, and spent four days in global congress, summing up our year of learning through sessions, conversations, and an amazing race around the Golan.

We then toured with our Beit Shemesh comrades, and spent our final shabbat in Acco, holding on to every last moment before having to say goodbye to our new lifelong friends. Our journey ended at the Kotel – Israel’s heart – for tearful and joyful goodbyes.

On my Diller journey, I learned to step out of my comfort zone, to think in unconventional ways, and to challenge myself. I’m so grateful that this adventure gave me access to the leader within.

Unfortunately, my year as a Diller Teen Fellow is ending, but the benefit of Diller is that my journey as a leader is just beginning. I have been given life skills and experiences that will continue to have an impact on me.

I’m deeply grateful to the South African Zionist Federation, as custodian of the programme, for this opportunity of a lifetime, which resulted in me making lifelong new friends, in South Africa and worldwide. I learnt, grew, and was inspired by them. Our year of learning is ending, but a lifetime of growth has just begun.

  • Erin Midzuk is a Diller Teen Fellow in Grade 11 at King David Victory Park. Diller Teen Fellows is a leadership programme that invites a select group of Jewish students in Grade 10 and 11 from six continents and 32 communities to step up, lead their communities, and repair the world. Part of the programme is a summer experience for the teens in Israel.

1 Comment

  1. 1 errol and elaine racussen 01 Aug
    Sounds a wonderful program, I just wonder if the smaller
    towns are ever included in these programs, definitely Port Elizabeth comes to mind.

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