“After sowing for six months, it’s time for us to work hard and reap, with G-d’s help,”. This is what Tirael Cohen wrote in a Facebook post when she announced the establishment of her first Jordan Valley Student Village in 2014. “It all started with that one post, which made so many people call me to see if there’s any room left that I didn’t know how to handle it at first. But the young people that showed up were all incredibly driven, moving in from a place of deep convictions that leave behind the distractions of Netflix and the illusions of urban community.”
“Cohen grew up in a Moshev next to the Israeli city of Modi’in, the eldest daughter of two Olim who came to Israel from France in the 1980s. Cohen says their choice laid the foundation for her path in life: “Their choice, to leave Paris and fly all the way to Israel and join the IDF as Lone Soldiers without their families to support them, was a heroic act that continues to inspire me”.
Tirael founded Kedma while she was still a student in the Koteret School of Journalism at Tel Aviv University, looking to shatter the daily student routine of study, work and boredom. Cohen hopped on her scooter and drove east – to the eastern Israeli border with the Kingdom of Jordan. Along with 20 other young Israeli students, she came to an abandoned field school in the frontier town of Ma’ale Efraim where she founded her first community. “I knew I had to meet the modern generation halfway, find the spot where their need to be a part of something meaningful intersects with the immense potential for growth in the Israeli frontiers. That’s all we really needed,” she says, “to have the opportunity to build a real home in the countryside and see whole regions come to life because of our work. That’s what it all comes down to.”
Tirael founded additional frontier focused initiatives of gap-year volunteers and onboarding platforms for new residents; and with the recent establishment of her 9th Student Village she is coming closer to her dream of 18 such Villages, spread across Israel’s northern, southern and eastern borders. She also finds time to write her Doctorate about the ideology of the Israeli Hityashvut movement. “The more I study the ideals of the original Israeli pioneers, the more I see how strong this idea of frontier life is;” she summarizes. “Kedma took that old idea of pioneer life and made it contemporary: life on the edge for the Y generation.”