In December, Telfed launched the opening of the 2023-2024 PRAS and SASI scholarship programmes. Our decision to start the year was contingent upon the public universities’ decision to open the academic year in light of the war and a significant number of students serving in miluim (reserve duty).

This was not a decision taken lightly, with approximately one in three Telfed PRAS scholarship recipients unable to start the the new year with their fellow students. As a proudly Zionist organisation, we stand behind our soldiers, and once they return to university, they will rejoin our PRAS programme with full support from Telfed.

It was an emotionally charged opening event. The day before, Telfed staff and volunteers attended the funeral of Lt Yaron Chitiz Z”L, who fell in battle in Gaza. Yaron’s mother, Debbie, was a former Telfed employee who was instrumental in creating our PRAS programme. In her opening welcome to the students, Shely Cohen, Chairman of the Telfed Scholarships Committee, shared this powerful message:

I was going to speak about all the up-and-downs I’ve experienced since my Aliyah 30 years ago and how the moments of true unity were felt when our enemies reminded us that we were brothers and sisters, and I wish that we remembered on our own that we are brothers and sisters.  We’ve had a rough year, with mistrust, fear, and pain felt by so many people, and then October 7 came, and everything changed. Nobody will be the same again.

That’s what I was going to say, but this past week, amongst all our other precious soldiers who we lost, we lost Yaron Chitiz. The Chitiz family is part of the Telfed family – his mom, Debbie, started the PRAS programme at Telfed and his siblings are all part of our family. And I thought, honestly, I have no words. But then I reminded myself, we have a responsibility to Yaroni and all our brave and special soldiers – to make this place a country worth living in and not only dying for;  for a country in which we love each other, support each other, and help each other, and it is our responsibility and that of our parents, our brothers and sisters, our children, our teachers and our leaders to live up to the legacy that Yaron and his fellow soldiers have left for us. The PRAS and SASI programmes are part of this responsibility – to give and not only to receive, to create a society of mutual goals and ideals.

In their memory, and in honour of all our precious soldiers, we will work together to build up our precious Israel.”

We extend our appreciation to the donors who generously support our scholarship programmes, to our Scholarship Committee, coordinators and students. We know that some families are yet to connect with their students who are still in miluim, and we thank you for your patience and understanding.

Soon after our opening event, the first Aliyah flight of 2024 landed at Ben Gurion Airport. We’re excited to welcome Ricky home! Ricky is a former Telfed SASI student (South Africans Studying in Israel). He now joins the PRAS programme as an Israeli citizen!