Amir Ben Hur reflects on his year as the Leeds UJIA Community Shaliach, as he prepares to return to Israel.
One year ago, when I decided to embark on this (what some would call) crazy journey, I genuinely did not know what to expect.
A 21 year-old freshly released soldier, I was seeking an adventure which would enable me to take leadership and hopefully, be of influence and enrichment to others.
Coming to Leeds, I was looking forward to meeting new people, building strong bonds and exploring self, Jewish and Israeli identity. And what a year it has been…
Through my role, I’ve reached out to all sorts of different people. From leading school-to-school projects with young Brodetsky Primary School students and their partner school in the Galilee, to presenting sessions about Israel to senior members of the community, between running Israeli sessions for kids, teens and young adults at The Zone and leading wide-communal events such as the Yoms, I’ve managed to touch and encounter all sections of our community.
There’s a recurring question, one which I’m asked every once in a while: what’s been my biggest accomplishment? Well, they are these exact collective experiences of serving as a bridge to Israel for you all. It is the joy of knowing that I have somehow managed to spark interest or maybe even passion about my beloved land. It is the fulfilment of providing formal and informal education about Israel to different sectors in the community and even outside of it.
This has inspired and impacted me greatly. It’s enhanced my love for our country and the pride which I take in it. As I’ve a said a number of times in the past – I came to Leeds and fell in love with Israel! I thank you all for teaching me equally, if not more, about the things which I’ve wanted to explore from the very beginning; self, Jewish and Israeli identity.
Our Leeds community is one to take example from. The unique sense of comradeship and peoplehood which is ever present here, cannot be found elsewhere. This is why I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity of becoming one of you all, a true member of the community.
I’ve gained meaningful relationships with many of you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the warmest welcome in this often-cold British weather and for the ongoing love and support, I will carry you in my heart always.
With the arrival of the New Year, it’ll be strange not opening the school-year with the students I’ve got to know so well – students I appreciate and care so much about. This is a good opportunity to also thank all of the superb colleagues and work-partners I’ve had in the past year, who’ve enabled me to do what I’ve done and have supported UJIA and the Jewish Agency’s Shlichut programme. I could not have done it without you.
I’m certain that the schools and education systems in North Leeds will continue their fantastic work and aim to be outstanding, as always. I hope that Israel will continue to be very much on the agenda and that the New Year will bring exciting new projects centring around the young state.
My wish is that a part of Amir Ben Hur stays in Leeds with you all. That you’ll remember the young singing Israeli, who you’d occasionally see running around Street Lane and Roundhay Park. More importantly, I hope that you take something I’ve done this year with you and put it into action. This will ensure a lasting impact and continuity.
As I head back to Israel and move on to the next chapter of my life, I will continue to reflect on my time in Leeds. I promise to take back with me some British humour, the charming Yorkshire accent (which I’ve still not quite mastered), and most importantly, the spirit of the lovely Leeds community.
I wish each and every one of you all the best and look forward to seeing you in Israel…don’t be strangers!
With admiration, gratitude and love,