These Words Meant Everything (An interview with Eliav Batito)
Eliav Batito, an 18-year-old from the northern Israeli city of Afula, is a recent graduate of the AMIT Yehuda High School in that city. During his senior year, Eliav served as the chairperson of Israel’s National Student Council, representing over 750,000 teenagers. He is currently in the United States for a year abroad sponsored by the Jewish Agency.
- How did you come to attend AMIT Yehuda?
AMIT Yehuda is the only religious school in the city, and it places an emphasis on values. That was important to my parents and me.
- Tell me about AMIT Yehuda — what made it special for you?
My homeroom teacher had a truly unique approach: he was there for us in our lives as well as in school. One thing I remember very fondly is that, every time he sent a text, he would end the message with “I believe in you. –Rabbi Adi.” These words meant everything to us. And unlike most other schools, it places great emphasis on social action and volunteering—they value social activism before grades.
- What is the National Student Council and how did you become its chairperson?
Israel’s National Student and Youth Council is an officially elected body that represents over 750,000 teens in Israel.
- What were your primary functions in that role?
I served as the official delegate of the youth of Israel, including 1,200 school student councils, 250 municipal youth councils, eight regional councils and 32,000 representatives. I represented young people at all Knesset committees except Foreign Affairs and Defense. In addition, I worked with all the different government ministries on any issue related to youth.
- You are now volunteering in the U.S. Tell us about that experience.
The Jewish Agency Year of Service is a year during which youth from Israel volunteer in Jewish communities around the world. The goal is to strengthen the connection between Jews in the Diaspora to Jews in Israel, and to give them a true sense of the State of Israel.
Presently, I am working with the Jewish community in West Hartford, Connecticut, at eight different institutions of the Jewish community with people of all ages.
- What made you decide to apply?
I believe that this is the most important mission that I can do. Today, when Israel’s relationship with Diaspora Jewry has been weakened, I see every one of the shlichim (emissaries) as a thread that ties the Diaspora to Israel.
- Any specific project that you’re especially proud of?
A project I’m very proud of is a pen-pal program I organized with an elementary school in the U.S. and a school in Afula. The schools wrote letters to each other in Hebrew and prepared special gifts for the holiday [of Tu B’Shvat].
- What do you hope to gain/learn from your year volunteering in the U.S?
I hope to deepen my knowledge of the Diaspora and to learn other ways to maintain Judaism.
- What are your plans when you return to Israel?
After my year of service here, I will enlist in the army.
- Is there anything you would like to say to the AMIT supporters here in the U.S.?
Yes, I want to say that you are doing a wonderful job, and that your relationship to Israel is extremely important and very meaningful. Todah rabah! Many thanks to you all!