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Derech Hateva is an organization founded by Yael Ukeles that integrates hands-on outdoor education and Jewish learning.
Founded in 2004 by Yael Ukeles, a New York native and outdoor educator, the program was created connect Jews with Israel and to stress the connection that exists between Judaism and nature. The organization was started in Israel as an outgrowth of Ukeles' earlier program Teva Adventure and was incubated by SPNI (Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel) for its first years.
Ukeles says that she modeled Derech Hateva after environmental programs in the United States like National Outdoor Leadership School and Outward Bound. The idea was similar to Outward Bound - to create educational opportunities by placing participants out in nature without modern convenience forcing self & group reliance.
Its first two summers were only open to Orthodox Jewish teens. By 2007, interest in the program allowed it to be expanded, and it was opened up to young people from multi-denominational backgrounds in multiple sessions.
The main program is the Israel Trail Teen Adventure (ITTA) - a month long hiking program covering some 215 kilometers in Northern and Southern Israel. The program is divided into gender-segregated groups with each of the groups operating independently.
Elements of the program include hiking and biking in areas mentioned in the Bible along with development of outdoor living and leadership skills. Participants are taught map-reading, setting up camp and preparing meals, combined with swimming, rock-climbing and other outdoor pursuits. They keep kosher and observe Shabbat, exploring Judaism through relevant biblical texts on topics relating to nature.
Other programs include smaller trips and educational programming covering topics such as water conservation education and wilderness halacha (Jewish law). The Derech Hateva program goals are to integrate teaching of outdoor skills, ecology, Leave No Trace ethics and Jewish learning.