Riding a wave of support

Ha’Gal Sheli co-founder Yaron Waksman (front) leading a surfing lesson for at-risk teenagers in Tel Aviv.

IT’S hoped a final wave of support from Australia’s Jewish community will result in an Australia–Israel Surf Education Centre opening on the Tel Aviv coastline, to enable Israeli not-for-profit Ha’Gal Sheli (My Wave) help thousands more at-risk Israeli teenagers get back on track in life through a love of surfing.

Keen surfers and youth workers Yaron Waksman and Omer Tulchinsky established Ha’Gal Sheli seven years ago to offer weekly surfing lessons, and mentoring and leadership classes, to a handful of students who had dropped out of a Tel Aviv high school.

From humble beginnings, Ha’Gal Sheli has seen more than 3000 teenagers complete the program – 95 per cent of whom returned to complete high school.

In 2017 it won the Knesset’s Quality of Life Prize for its contribution to Israeli society.

Faced with rising demand and cramped premises in Jaffa port, the Municipality of Tel Aviv-Jaffa has provided Ha’Gal Sheli with a rent-free, two-storey building facing a southern beach.

Through the Tel Aviv Foundation, a major grant from the city, and fundraising efforts within Israel, have covered 75 per cent of the cost of a $1.3 million major refurbishment, featuring new classrooms.

If Australian donors can fund the balance, the new facility will be called the Australia–Israel Surf Education Centre.

Waksman will be the keynote speaker at a fundraising evening in Sydney’s east this Sunday night, organised by the Roth, Schlessinger and Vidor families, with the support of JNF Australia.

He told The AJN, “There are no words to describe the feeling” of seeing the life-changing impact of the program, and added Ha’Gal Sheli is very appreciative of the strong support it has received from Australia’s ambassador to Israel Chris Cannan. 

“Our programs also bring religious, secular, Jewish and Muslim kids together through surfing, because we all are riding the same wave,” Waksman said.

According to Carole Schlessinger, if the centre’s opening can be achieved, the next step will be to introduce Ha’Gal Sheli’s programs in Australia.

“That would be a fantastic example of a social impact initiative that Israel can export to Australia,” she said.

To attend the event on August 18, email Carole at [email protected] or phone 0439 913 577. 

For more information about Ha’Gal Sheli, visit hagalsheli.co.il.

SHANE DESIATNIK