Jewish National Fund

Your voice in Israel

0 notes

Thoughts from JNF Solidarity Mission

The following is a compilation of emails sent from Israel by Vivian Grossman, co-chair of the JNF Solidarity Mission to Israel (July 27-31)

Day 1

Day 1 of our mission has come to a beautiful end. Who could ask for anything more than being in Jerusalem now?!  First, we cannot tell you how grateful Israelis are that we’re here!  They cannot express enough how much it means to them to know that we came to support them and showed it by coming. There’s a total of about 47 people on our mission! How amazingly crazy is that?  47 people put their lives on hold, with almost no notice, just to be here and make a statement of solidarity!

Someone actually signed up yesterday and arrived today! Ron Nehring, who is running for Lt Gov of Cali and his campaign manager are with us - he’s been to Israel many times. As soon as the operation began, he started calling around to find out who is going to Israel. He totally “gets it”! 

Life here is such a crazy dichotomy - the day began on the beach in Tel Aviv - amazingly gorgeous - people swimming, running, biking and paddle boarding. Life as we know it. We walked to Neve Tzedek to shop prior to the mission starting.  We definitely boosted the economy!  Our group met about 2pm. There are people joining us from all over the country - some with spouses, some alone, some flew in from Europe, some missed trade shows, business meetings, whatever they had to do!  

image

We went to independence Hall, which was a pretty cool way to start.  We met up with the J’lem mission (the young leaders of JNF mission) - they look like a very fun and enthusiastic group! We were also joined by some young people who have made Aliyah over the last few years. From there we went to Muss High School in Israel for a huge BBQ- saw lots of friends..the kids spoke about how this has changed their lives- amazing. My friend Leslie Rosenblatt and her brother, Louis Reinstein were there - Leslie’s son is a Muss student whose summer program ends tomorrow. Both Leslie and Louis are Muss alums. Amazingly some of the same teachers are still there (which tells you a lot) and one of Leslie’s teachers had his grade book from when she was there! 

From there we traveled to Jerusalem, where we’ll start our day tomorrow with the Minister of Tourism and the Mayor of Jerusalem - along with some shopping at the shuk.  We walked to a restaurant for a drink, where we saw lots of couples on their date nights. Another indicator that life continues as normal in most ways….

We’ve been fortunate not to experience any sirens yet. We’ve had a drill or 2, but that’s it. My friend told me that the slight sound of thunder I heard in the background was the Iron Dome. No one noticed it because it was not in our area and you wouldn’t know unless someone clued you in. Israelis want the world to know they would like nothing less than to live in peace. The tunnels were far more complicated and brilliant than anyone realized.  Everyone was devastated that 3 boys were kidnapped and killed - but those 3 boys saved the lives of hundreds of Israelis!!!  A crisis of catastrophic proportion was averted…. Just imagine what Gaza would be like if they had used their amazing crazy brilliance for good instead of building tunnels of destruction. They literally built an underground people mover system that hardly any major city has! And people can’t believe the engineering that went into it. So far they’ve found almost 40 tunnels!  

It’s very late here and our day starts early. I hope anyone thinking of coming to Israel comes. We all feel so safe. We’re all so grateful to be here!  

Day 2

What an emotional day yesterday was.  We started the day with the Minister of Tourism and then headed to Mt Herzl.  The Minister said two things that really struck me:  “When you show me who your friends are, I’ll know who you are” and ” when you stand with Israel, you stand in Israel”. Very powerful statements . From there we went to Mt. Herzl. We visited the graves of 5 of the boys just killed in this terror. There was a group of soldiers who were holding a service for one of their own at the end of the 7 day shiva period. We also visited the grave of Yonathan Netanyahu.  

image

Later, we met with an amazing person - Miriam Peretz - a woman who lost 2 sons, both in the Golani Brigade, in wars.  Life is about choices, whether you make them consciously or not. After such a loss, she could have easily lived in the dark forever - but she chose to live in the light. She speaks all over Israel about her love of country - her parents were Moroccan, illiterate, spoke no Hebrew except the word,’Jerusalem’!  They made their way here and she transferred her love of Jerusalem to her children. She feels she now has 2 homes; her house and Mt Hertzl….she’s been to every funeral and shiva, visits the injured in the hospitals.  She’s chosen to make her legacy one of lightness. To speak with her is to feel her beauty, to share her love of life, Jerusalem, family and Israel.

After a break for lots of shopping, the group went onto Ammunition Hill for an amazing dinner and meeting with a man who fought in the battle there in 1967 and then went to work for Raphael industries in the Iron Dome.  Back at the hotel, I met a friend for a drink and Ron Nehring spent some time with us as well. We sat with him while he was interviewed by a conservative talk show host in San Diego.  We were so impressed with his understanding of the situation.  He made the analogy of a clock image, beginning with Lebanon as noon, Egypt as 9.  What a time zone Israel is located in!

We have yet to hear a siren - we walk, laugh, and have amazing days.  It is hard to believe that just a few, far too close miles away,  a war is going on and people are in such danger. Yesterday was a horrible day during which 10 soldiers killed.  Yet, for us, it felt like we could have been anywhere. Some people have a rocket siren application on their phones so that we will all know when they go off. Israelis wants us to know that life goes on here. Somehow it works. 

Day 3

This morning we meet with a representative of the foreign ministry - he told us about a specific operation going on in Gaza.  There is a church that is housing children with physical and mental disabilities and cannot be moved. The building has been marked on a ‘no fire map’-  the Vatican has become involved, the IDF is very aware, but the soldiers are being fired upon from the building.  Hamas is using the church for coverage.  Hamas has been notified but they will not cooperate. It’s an ongoing negotiation to try to ensure the safety of these few innocent children, yet Hamas isn’t playing by the same rules.  This has been a much longer operation than anyone thought it would be.  We were told that militarily the IDF does not want to conquer the Gaza Strip!!! They could have done that by now, but are avoiding it at all costs because it would involve massive casualties. Israel is willing to go back to a ceasefire where they stop firing but Hamas is not willing. Israel needs to figure out how they didn’t know about tunnels - within 12 months they will have a system to find and destroy them. Intelligence says there are about 40 tunnels, they’ve found 31 so far and think within the week they will find the rest.

Israelis believe the political power within Hamas would have wanted the fighting to have stopped a long time ago - and even, to have never started. The military faction are the ones that want it to continue.  Their hope is international community will put pressure on Egypt to open the borders and seaport so that more money can come in. Hamas leadership says that they still have weapons and people to fight.  Weapons have been smuggled in from as far away from no Korea!

Our day today has all changed and we’re waiting for the IDF to tell us where/when. We feel very safe and we’re all beyond grateful we came…. We are the most eclectic group- Jews, Christians, kids, grandparents. There is no place else we’d rather be.

Russell Robinson spoke to us about getting the word out about Israel - as he said, ” If you go out on a first date and talk about about how your family all died in the Holocaust, and your country is always at war and the cost of living is so high”  - you’re not going to get asked out on a second date.  But, if you tell them “Wow, my family brought an ancient language back to life, my family makes the world a better place through medical advances, technological, scientific… My family is awesome”.  This is a whole different story.

Day 4

Every day in Israel is fascinating and filled with lots of learning, emotions, laughter and tears….,and that’s true even when there’s quiet.  I consider myself fairly tough.  I’m not known as being highly emotional or one to just break down and cry -but- I get off the plane in a Israel and I’m always on the verge of tears, and find myself crying in a New York moment. I’m once again going home with tired red eyes…

We arrived in Be’er Sheva yesterday and hit the mall. We shopped for about an hour.  Everyone wanted to support the economy, buy things for the kids in Sderot, and soldiers.  Our friend, Sheryl, insisted on buying lipstick for the women soldiers.  The salespeople in the drugstore were so overwhelmed (after a bit of translating) they couldn’t believe it! - truly, neither could we….red, orange, pick…she bought 30 (Sheryl always does everything big…).  Afterwards, about 4 of us ended up in a bookstore- including one woman from Long Island had been given $1000 from a colleague to support Sderot. The guy who helped us was born in Be’er Sheva. He couldn’t believe that we, people who lived an ocean away, would put our lives on hold, come to Israel just to say we’re all one, we support you and you’re not alone.  He had no clue JNF was active in Be’er Sheva and was shocked when we filled him in on what we’ve done in his backyard. After we spent a lot of money in that bookstore, he brought the boxes of books to the bus.  He then got on the bus and started talking to us….he needed to express his thanks…”Kol HaKavol” he kept saying, “We can’t thank you enough” …. And then he started tearing up. “How can we ever thank you?  I can’t believe you came here for us”,  he was crying.  We tried to tell him “How can WE thank YOU?  You make our lives in America better. You do the hard work.”  Everyone we’ve encountered hugged us, thanked us, couldn’t believe we’d come to Israel just to show solidarity. 

image

Our plans have been fluid as you can imagine, but as much as we hear we might not go to an area, we’ve pretty much stayed on schedule. We went to the Sderot Indoor Recreation Center last night.  There were soldiers, new immigrants, children-both with special needs and without, and us…. If you haven’t been to the recrecreation center - put it on your ‘must do’ list!!! Then we had a real treat - David D’Or performed!!!    He’s sung for Obama, Clinton, and us! Everyone was loving it! The soldiers couldn’t believe it!!  While he sang his heart out and we all partied, you couldn’t help think about the craziness that exists only 1/2 mile away. If the terrorists could only flip a switch in their hearts and minds, they could experience the life that we were - A life that celebrates living, that values people- whomever and from wherever, special needs, boring, exciting, nice, not so nice.  Just values life and people.  It was not lost on any of us. 

image

We experienced our first siren last night. We were sitting in the bar about 9:30… Everyone got up walked to the stairwell… No panic….someone pulled out her camera to video each of us and a few minutes later we went back to doing exactly what we were doing.  Perhaps it’s our naivety, plus everyone has the siren app on their phone so we’ve been hearing it the sirens all week…but after a few minutes we went back to our drinks, hung outside, and stayed up far too late.

Today was amazing. We visited Aleh Negev, a rehabilitative village for the severely developmentally disabled.  As someone said, “it is a jewel in the JNF crown”. Doron Almog, the chairman of the village, has an infectious passions - how can you not stand taller when one of Israel’s greatest military heroes tells you his greatest professor was his special needs son, Eran?  He talked about how we’re judged not when life is easy, not with areas in which we do well, -but when we have to step outside our comfort zone and help in ways for which you’ll never be thanked.   Afterwards, we were in the Halutza region in the south western area of Israel about 3 miles from Gaza, and alongside the Egyptian border. We boxed packages for the soldiers, ate far too much, and tasted the first crop of pineapples!! In Halutza, they’re growing tiny, sweet as sugar, pineapples!!! Just wait til you try them! Much harder to grow than the bigger ones. There were 2 or 3 sirens.  The babies were crying so we all started singing. Am Yisrael Chai..and they stopped crying. I think, JNF’s CEO, Russell Robinson was singing the loudest!

image

We also visited Siroka  Hospital - visited several injured soldiers, heard some details about the NICU and the life challenging difficulties in moving the babies to a temporary area.  They created a state of the art NICU with a glass ceiling so the babies could be on their circadian rhythm. Well, with the rockets, a glass ceiling doesn’t work so they have to relocate the entire NICU.  We saw Shimon Peres, some reality and soap opera stars…they said everyone is coming. It’s been forever since Israel has been so unified, so supportive of the soldiers. People line up to make sure the soldiers are taken care of!!  It’s amazing. We visited a soldier who has become the symbol of the war!  He was badly injured, and thought to be dying and insisted on putting an Israeli flag over his face because having the flag meant more to him than living!!! He was on the cover of a newspaper and has meant so much to everyone! He’s fine, beyond adorable, and radiates warmth. We all thought his injury was probably minor at best - and would be back on the field sooner than later. We didn’t find out until tonight how badly he was injured.  He just wants to be back with his men! (See link to an article about him at the end of this post).

We keep hearing Israel will come out if this and will be ok, but that it’s much tougher than they thought. We keep hearing about the extremes that the IDF is going through to avoid casualties, knowing too that the mainstream media papers back home continue to talk about how oppressive and aggressive Israel is. The Doctor at Siroka Hospital put it best: “If it takes $1 million to build a trauma center and $1 million to build a tunnel, Israel invests in the well being of its people”. There used to be doctor exchanges between Israel and Gaza, until Hamas decided that Israel benefited more!  There are Palestinians today still being treated at Israeli hospitals that end up living at the hospitals for years.  Israel values life - all life.  We see it wherever we go!

We felt amazingly proactive today. Come to Israel!  Don’t hesitate! You’ll get lots of hugs.  Tomorrow is our last day and it feels very bittersweet.  I am glad to say that I’m coming back next week and that JNF is thinking of putting together another solidarity mission in a few weeks since this was so successful and the requests keep coming in - So…if you want to come, now is a good time! 

Best,

Viv

http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/07/30/wounded-soldier-becomes-iconic-symbol-of-israels-war-with-gaza/

0 notes

Where Victims of Terror Remember Victims of Terror

By Gary Hill

Ever hear the expression, “You can’t get there from here?” Due to construction of a new high speed rail line from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, it is almost a true statement as you try to find the Living Memorial dedicated to the victims of 9/11. That’s correct, a memorial in Israel for victims of terrorism who died in New York City, Washington, D.C. and a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.  But once you find the Memorial you understand why it is in Israel and how important it is to visit.

Israel has lost nearly 3,000 civilians to acts of terrorism – each of their names is inscribed at the Victims of Terror Memorial on Mount Herzl, Jerusalem. The United States lost nearly 3,000 victims to acts of terrorism on September 11, 2001 and each of their names is inscribed at the 9/11 Living Memorial in Jerusalem’s Azazim Valley, in the Ramot neighborhood. Only one place outside of the United States lists the names of all the victims of 9/11 – the 9/11 Living Memorial in Israel. The the 9/11 victims were of all religions and ethnic groups and came from more than 50 nations – including five from Israel.

A project of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and Keren Kayemeth Lelsrael (KKL) the Memorial was dedicated on September 11, 2013. The center of the Memorial is a thirty-foot bronze sculpture of an American flag curled in the shape of a memorial flame. Under the flame and encased in the base of the Memorial is a beam from the remains of the World Trade Center. Some of the granite base came from the Twin Towers and was donated by the city of New York. The Living Memorial Plaza sits on five acres and includes a curved Wall of Remembrance on which plaques with the names of 2,974 people killed on September 11, 2001 are listed.

At the dedication, U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro said, “Here, at this painfully beautiful memorial site, we are a reminder to everyone that we, Americans and Israelis, stand together in a spirit of solidarity and commitment to the future. No other nation in the world can understand better than the Israeli people the pain that Americans are feeling today. Israel and the US are linked by a profound friendship, a strong security covenant, economic ties and a shared history of victory and tragedy.” 

The memorial plaza, as JNF CEO Russell Robinson pointed out, is located near Ben Gurion airport and on the road to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and is where prime ministers and ambassadors who come to Israel will stop to lay a wreath and say a prayer. To that I add - it is also a place where all who visit or live in Israel should stop, ponder the beauty and message of the Living Memorial and read some of names inscribed on the wall – giving silent voice to those who no longer can.

The JNF 9/11 Living Memorial

Driving Directions

 

From Jerusalem:

1)     Take Route 1 (towards Tel Aviv)

2)     After about 4 kilometers (3 miles) take the turnoff (to the Right) towards “Bet Zayit” & “Motza”.

3)     Travel about 500 meters (400 yards). You will come to a “T” junction.

4)     At the “T” junction continue Straight onto a dirt/unpaved road.

5)     Continue Straight on the dirt/unpaved road until it becomes paved.

6)     The paved road curves to the Right.

7)     Follow the signage leading to the site.

From Tel-Aviv:

1)     Take Route 1 (Ayalon Highway towards Jerusalem).

2)     As you approach Jerusalem you will go under the Harel Bridge. 

3)     2.6 Kilometers (2 miles) after you have gone under the Harel Bridge, you will come to the exit/turnoff (on your Right) towards “Bet Zayit” & “Motza”.

4)     Take this turnoff and then an immediate Left towards Mevaseret.

5)     Travel 400 meters (300 yards), then turn Left towards Mevaseret.

6)     Travel for 120 meters (110 yards) and continue under the overpass.

7)     After 30 meters (25 yards), turn Right onto a dirt / unpaved road.

8)     Continue straight on the dirt/unpaved road till it becomes paved.

9)     The paved road curves to the Right.

10)  Follow the signage leading to the site.

0 notes

FRONTLINE REPORT: BRINGING SMILES TO KIDS FACES DURING DIFFICULT DAYS

Jewish National Fund Aids the Negev Bedouins of Segev Shalom
By: Rivkah Lambert Adler

“You don’t understand how it feels to find someone who cares and gives with a full heart.”

If there ever was a community caught in the middle , it is the 9,000 Bedouins living in the village of Segev Shalom in the Negev region of southern Israel during the current conflict.

On the one hand, descended from nomadic Arab tribes whose ancestors migrated around the Negev desert in southern Israel for centuries, Israel’s Bedouins are Arab. Their mother tongue is Arabic. On the other hand, they identify strongly as Israelis. They vote in Israeli elections. And as many as 10% of the Bedouins eligible for military service serve in the Israel Defense Forces. If this split loyalty is confusing for adults, one can only imagine how confusing the current war in Gaza is for the children of Segev Shalom.

Community Building JNF Making Lives Better in the Negev

One of  Jewish National Fund’s goals in making the Negev Desert home to tomorrow’s generation is ensuring the well-being and peaceful coexistence of all of its residents. So Karmit Arbel, JNF’s liaison with the Green Horizons youth movement, was charged with finding a way that JNF could help the Bedouins of Segev Shalom during the current crisis.

This past Sunday, Karmit reached out to her colleague Kinneret Bargil, head of the community center in Segev Shalom, and asked simply, “How can we help?” For Bargil, JNF’s expression of concern, and Arbel’s call, was the answer to a prayer.

Unlike most of the rest of Israel, the village of Segev Shalom - in constant rocket range from Gaza - was built without adequate bomb shelters. In fact, with the exception of a handful of newly-built homes, no one in the village has access to a bomb shelter at home. When sirens in Segev Shalom warn of  incoming missile fire from Gaza, there is virtually no place to run  and no safe place to go. The only bomb shelters in the village are located in the schools and community center.

Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, the company that works with local governments (and manages all the community centers in Israel) had also funded activities for children. However, on Monday, Bargil ran out of funds to keep the programs going.

In Segev Shalom, the challenge to keep the children occupied is not merely important, but  potentially life-saving. Every hour the children are in the school building is another hour they can run to a bomb shelter in the basement when necessary. This reality gives JNF’s support an extra measure of urgency.

After discussing how JNF could be most helpful to the children of Segev Shalom, Arbel and Bargil came up with a plan to extend the daytime activities in the school building for at least five additional days. Bargil agreed to oversee all the logistics and JNF agreed to cover all costs.

Picture this: 600 Bedouin children, ages five to 12, wearing matching T-shirts, imprinted with Arabic, in green, orange or yellow.  A team of 20 trained Bedouin youth leaders keeping the children safe and occupied. And four Hebrew-speaking, Jewish, Green Horizons youth leaders bringing with them so many supplies, they overtook a small office in the school.

The children squealed with delight as they watched the Jewish volunteers unload hundreds of pounds of games, puzzles and art supplies, including Styrofoam balls, construction paper and markers, and over 200 pounds of chocolate biscuits, mounds of dried coconut and cocoa powder for a no-bake chocolate ball-making activity.

Since the Bedouin population in Israel is Arab, they fall through the cracks of most Jewish organizational funding. In a voice filled with emotion, Kinneret Bargil praised JNF’s devotion to help the Bedouins in Segev Shalom saying, “You don’t understand how it feels to have someone who cares and gives with a full heart.”  

0 notes

JNF Solidarity MIssion to Israel Leaves NEXT Week

July 27th-31st Trip Aims to Bring Life and Tourism Back into Israel 

In times of high alert, Israel suffers from more than just the threat of rockets falling from the skies.  Israel’s economy suffers as well.  This is seen most dramatically in the cancellation of tourist reservations and the absence of those dollars that otherwise would have been spent - in hotels, restaurants, shops, museums, galleries, etc.

To show support for Israel’s people, Jewish National Fund’s L’Chaim Solidarity Mission will be departing for Israel on July 27

     “It is crucial that we show our support for and unity with the Israeli people,” said JNF CEO Russell F. Robinson.  “I hope all join with me and mission chairs Lauren Mescon, Melinda Wolf, Vivian Grossman and Vice Chair Rabbi Brian Glusman as we lead this important journey. Now more than ever, we must stand with Israel and her people.”

     The L’Chaim Solidarity Mission will allow participants to engage with residents of the Northern Negev who will share their personal stories and experiences, hear exclusive security updates and attend insider briefings with top Israeli officials, volunteer at JNF’s Indoor Recreation Center in Sderot, speak with Iron Dome IDF representatives for a unique look at this remarkable system, and help deliver much needed supplies to Israeli fire fighters and IDF soldiers while hearing their stories of bravery and courage.

     No matter the conflict, Israel is open for business. At the present time, more than 100,000 foreign tourists are on holiday in Israel, enjoying the many attractions and activities the country has to offer. Along with the worldwide Jewish community, JNF stands with Israel, and will continue to show support by moving forward with its scheduled trips. Presently, the JNF-JDate Singles Mission to Israel which left the US July 13 and returns July 19, reports that all of its travelers are enjoying a wonderful experience while searching for love and having a great vacation.

     Another annual mission made up of young professionals from across the US, the JNFuture Leadership Institute Mission, also departs for Israel July 27-31.  

     The L’Chaim Solidarity Mission is open to all and the special land-only portion is priced at $900.00. Flights are not included but may be arranged upon request. The single supplement price is offered at $400. For more information or to register, visit www.jnf.org/solidaritymission or contact René Reinhard at rreinhard@jnf.org or at 212.879.9305 ext. 235.

0 notes

Safety and normalcy during these difficult times

While rockets continue to fall, Jewish National Fund has been working with our partners across Israel to protect citizens and to help create as much of a sense of normalcy as possible.

CEO Russell Robinson said, “All across Israel, from Sderot to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, we are providing the resources so that people can be safe and continue to enjoy a good quality of life. While these are not ideal times, I pray for the safety of the people of Israel and all who have the yearning for peace.”

JNF is actively supporting Israeli firefighters, who have been on duty 24 hours a day responding to rocket-ignited fires and rocket-related accidents across the country. (Donations are needed to purchase much needed firefighting equipment and provisions for fire stations.)

To encourage people to continue to maintain a sense of normalcy in their lives, JNF’s heritage sites partner, the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites, is offering free admission to many of their sites in the north, including the Atlit Detention Camp, HaReut museum, Kineret Courtyard, Ayalon Institute, Mikveh, Sarona Visitor Center, and Yellin House, among others.

Noa Gefen, executive vice-chairman remarked, “We hope that people will come out to these great historical locations and use this time as a nice break from the situation that surrounds their homes.”

Since rockets first began to rain in southern Israel, JNF has kept its Sderot Indoor Recreation Center open 24 hours a day it was also used as a command center initially by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) following the destruction of a plastics factory, located a short distance away from the recreation center.  The 21,000 square foot center doubles as a bomb shelter and can accommodate more than 1,800 people on a rotating basis.

Activities for young people are being provided by JNF partner Green Horizons, a youth leadership group.  Green Horizons has arranged for hundreds of children from Be’er Sheva, and areas along the Gaza border to take hiking trips in the north, a region that continues to be calm and where kids can enjoy a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere in the beautiful outdoors of the Galilee.

Aleh Negev, a rehabilitative village for young severely disabled adults, located in the southern region, recently experienced a rocket assault on its compound. Fortunately none were injured but activities are now taking place in secure rooms to protect residents there.

Alexander Muss High School in Israel, a JNF partner and a fully accredited study abroad program for international high school students, is continuing its academic itinerary with some adjustments to ensure student safety. Emergency drills have been performed in the event a siren sounds during classes. Officials there are closely monitoring the security situation and in frequent contact with parents.  

We are all praying for an end to the current situation and return to normal life as soon as possible.

1 note

WE REMEMBER NAFTALI, GILAD AND EYAL

This afternoon the world learned of the killings of the three teenagers in Israel, Naftali Frenkel, 16, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19. Our prayers and thoughts go out to their families and to all who knew and loved them.

In a way, their loss is one that we all share. Each of us came to know Naftali, Gilad and Eyal in the last two weeks through the global campaign #BringBackOurBoys. Their story and captivity brought people together from many backgrounds and nations to support their release. It was indeed an unprecedented display of emotion and community not seen in some time.

However, the fact remains that these young men were abducted and struck down for no reason. They were not soldiers but Jewish students who loved Israel, desired to learn Torah, and had their entire lives before them.

In tribute to their lasting memory, Jewish National Fund will create gardens to honor Naftali z”l, Gilad z”l and Eyal z”l.

In the meantime, we will honor the customs of our forefathers and grieve with the families who have lost so much. Our prayers are with them all.

May the families be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion and Yerushalayim.

May the families know no more sorrow.

Jeffrey E. Levine
President, Jewish National Fund

Russell F. Robinson
CEO, Jewish National Fund

3 notes

New Radio Station for AMHSI

Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI) will inaugurate its very own student radio station and music recording space on its campus in Hod Hasharon, in time for the arrival on Wednesday of 150 high school students from across the US who will be in Israel for a six-week college-prep program. 

 

The state-of-the-art radio station was made possible by generous donations from Gisele Ben-Dor and Eli Ben-Dor, AMHSI partner Jewish National Fund (JNF), and TLV1, the cutting-edge English language internet radio station broadcast from Tel Aviv.

The AMHSI Ben-Dor Radio Station will be broadcast from the Rappaport Music Room, on the Hod Hasharon school campus in central Israel.

Specially designed to help students gain a broader view of the world and develop a deep appreciation of history, international relations, geography and literature, the AMHSI program inculcates in its students valuable learning skills and perspectives that assist throughout high school and prepare them for college-level academic demands.

"The AMHSI Ben-Dor Radio Station will enable students to develop and broadcast original radio content for international audiences," said Rabbi Leor Sinai, Co-Executive Director at AMHSI.  JNF CEO Russell Robinson is enthusiastic about the potential the professional radio station brings to the international high school, and what this means for JNF and for AMHSI. "JNF is very proud to be a part of the AMHSI Ben-Dor Radio Station,” said Robinson, “as it will give students an opportunity in gaining a real radio experience that is second to none, as well as facilitate a new and exciting form of communication between AMHSI students in Israel and the Jewish world."

TLV1 Founder Avner Shelem shares in the excitement. “For us passionate radio enthusiasts at TLV1, it’s important to provide an authentic radio experience to as many young people as possible. Radio is very much alive and is developing in new directions, thanks to the increased use of mobile devices. With the help of AMHSI students, this radio station will become a popular outlet of self-expression and creativity.”  

"While students are encouraged to keep a journal or blog about their experience at their ‘home away from home’ in Israel," said Head of School Rabbi Philip Nadel, "never before have our students had such an incredible opportunity to explore and broadcast their personal AMHSI experiences to the world – through radio."

Students, along with occasional alumni, faculty, and special guests, will be able to operate the radio station in cooperation with, and under the guidance of, leading professionals from TLV1.

The unique radio course to be offered to AMHSI students consists of a hands-on curriculum that incorporates research and interviewing skills, choosing topics for podcasts, technical instruction on audio editing software, preparing a show inventory taking into account production considerations, and field recordings. Students will visit the TLV1 Radio studio and will be introduced to linguist Guy Sharett’s popular recording of Streetwise Hebrew.

The instructors of the summer program will be Guy Sharett and Nadav Ravid. Sharett, well-known for his popular and alternative teaching of Hebrew and Israeli culture through graffiti, street signs, tombstone reading, and sewer covers in the streets of Tel Aviv, is a former journalist with Yedioth Ahronot and Channel 10. Ravid is a radio host and co-founder on kzradio.net. He is also program manager at TLV1 and a radio teacher at the IDC Herzliya.

"I believe this is really taking the school to the next level in terms of a campus technology upgrade,” said Sinai. “It will also get the good word about Israel out there on the radio and on podcasts which the students’ families and friends, as well as the school’s alumni and others back at home, are going to want to tune into. This is a great step for Israel engagement as a whole."

For further information about Alexander Muss High School in Israel, please see www.amhsi.org or contact Sarah Vanunu at svanunu@amhsi.org +972-54-5474-306

###

About AMHSI:  AMHSI, a partner of JNF, is a renowned and fully accredited study abroad program for international high school students in Israel, where the land of Israel becomes a living classroom. Since 1972 the school has run year-round programs of varying lengths, offering students the opportunity to live, study and travel in Israel, learn about the history of Israel and the Jewish People, while keeping up with regular class work from home schools. AMHSI is the only non-denominational, pluralist English language academic experience in Israel for high school students that offers high school and college credits.  

 

0 notes

‘Fireman’s Fireman’ Remembered in Jerusalem

New Truck Dedicated in Memory of LA Firefighter

By June Glazer

No. 38 is the newest fire truck in Jerusalem. Weighing in at 12 tons of red fiberglass and pulled by a 240 horsepower engine, it is capable of driving over steep hills, rocks and ditches, and is perfectly suited for the terrain of Israel’s capital city and its surrounding forests.

Last week, family and friends gathered at a fire station in Jerusalem’s Givat Mordechai neighborhood to dedicate No. 38 in memory of fallen American firefighter Captain David L. Bailey, from Los Angeles County, California.  Captain Bailey, who died in the line of duty in 2012, was known as a “fireman’s fireman,” and the truck, which will bear his name in perpetuity, testifies to the esteem in which he was held by those who knew and loved him.

“Dave was one of the most highly certified firefighters in the Los Angeles County Fire Department,” said Sam Heller, Bailey’s good friend and the force behind acquiring the fire truck for the Jerusalem fleet. “At his funeral, which was attended by over two thousand firefighters, the fire chief who spoke asked all those assembled to rise. Then he listed multiple accreditations and one by one asked the firefighters to remain standing if they held that accreditation. After going through a long list of possible accreditations all fighters were seated, to which the Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief said, “If Captain David L. Bailey was among us today, he would still be standing. That’s the kind of professional firefighter Dave was.”

Bailey, who joined the department in 1994 and made captain in 2009, was certified in Urban Search and Rescue, Swift Water Rescue, Homeland Security, and HAZMAT; was a HAZMAT certified instructor, recruit instructor, and Explorer Academy instructor; and was part of a FEMA team that deployed to Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and to Japan following the earthquake and tsunami there in 2011. He died at age 50 when he collapsed while leading wild-land fire training for prison-inmate firefighters.   

Bailey’s wife, Lisa, donated the truck together with Heller and his wife, Marlies, through Jewish National Fund (JNF) and Friends of Israel Firefighters with a matching donation from the Israeli government.  The dedication took place in the presence of firemen from the Givat Mordechai station. 

“The average fire truck in Israel is 15 to 20 years old and lumbers along at a speed of only about 50 kilometers [35 miles] per hour,” said Yael Levontin, who is the Friends of Israel Firefighters liaison for JNF.  “The trucks lack air conditioning and equipment that is essential for extinguishing fires such as modern hoses and nozzles, Nomex masks, and breathing apparatuses.  The situation is even worse when dealing with forest fires since conditions there require that vehicles have superior traction and flexibility of response as well as a compact physical profile.”

No. 38 is adapted to the needs of Israel’s fire-fighting services and is particularly suitable for use in forests thanks to its compact size, speed, and special equipment, according to Levontin.   

In fact, it was a devastating fire on Mount Carmel in Israel’s northern region that got Heller thinking about donating a fire truck in Bailey’s memory.  The deadliest forest fire in the country’s history, in 2010 the fire claimed 44 lives and more than 17,000 people had to be evacuated.

“I was aware of the Mount Carmel fire and when Dave died it just clicked with me,” said Heller who was born in Israel but immigrated to the US with his family when he was a young boy.  

“Neither Dave nor I had ever been to Israel, but this cause, in this city, would have been very meaningful to him,” said wife Lisa.  “We’re Christian, but Jerusalem is a holy city, no matter what religion you practice.  This dedication would have made Dave very happy.”  


0 notes

"We are not the first but maybe one of the first nations ever who really found the way to cultivate the desert and make it bloom," said Alon Badihi, executive director of the Jewish National Fund.

0 notes

Extreme Makeover Be’er Sheva River Park: From Garbage Dump to Eco-Wonder

The city of Be’er Sheva, whose population in the greater municipal area is close to half a million, is fast overcoming an image problem. The city had been long regarded by Israelis as a sleepy, run-down development town; a dusty pit stop on the way to Eilat.

image

That is no longer the case. In the past few years the city has experienced a makeover that almost defies belief. Museums, theaters, high-rise upscale apartment buildings, high tech parks, giant malls, and new parks and restaurants have appeared around the city. The former dilapidated town is gradually undergoing an aesthetic gentrification and the city’s outer suburbs are nestled on green hills dotted by cool water fountains. 

Nothing demonstrates this transformation as dramatically as the Be’er Sheva River Park. As if by magic, the park was created in an area described once as the “armpit” of the city, in what was a dry riverbed near the southern entrance of the city piled with wrecked cars, garbage and sewage. It took months of cleanup with trucks going in and out to dispose of the rotting trash that had accumulated over decades.

The garbage is now gone and in its place is a picturesque eight-kilometer long park with lush green lawns, colorful trees, impressive landscaping, bicycle paths and a promenade. Besides the expansive green at the park entrance, it’s the many species of birds egrets, plovers, curlews that cheerily announce to visitors that here is an oasis in the Negev Desert. Nearby are archeological and historical sites. Also planned is an artificial lake with recycled water, a sports center and a botanical garden. When completed, the park a joint project of Jewish National Fund, the Israeli government and a number of private sponsors will double the size of New York City’s Central Park.

The park’s “piece-de-resistance” is the newly inaugurated Irving and Danielle Grossman Amphitheatre, a state-of-the-art 12,000-seat open-air theatre - the newest and largest of its kind in Israel.

Jerome (Jerry) K. Grossman, an attorney and past president of JNF’s Delaware Board of Directors and the Mid-Atlantic Planned Giving Chair, came to know Irving and Danielle Grossman (no relation) in the 1980s when he started providing legal representation to both the couple and their business, Beacon Container Corporation, a box manufacturing company. Irving passed away in 2004. Before Danielle passed away in 2008, she and Jerry had many discussions about what to do with her estate.

As the Grossman’s executor, Jerry and his wife, Susan attended and spoke at the ceremony. “Irving and Danielle were both strong supporters of the performing arts,” he said of the couple. “It would have given them great pleasure to see this magnificent facility.”

“They were both very charitable individuals,” said Jerry. “In connection with estate planning, Irving and Danielle decided that they wanted to do something in a charitable way with part of their estate. Over the years, the focus of their charitable giving changed. They were always interested in Israel, but not necessarily other Jewish organizations besides their synagogue.”

At the official naming ceremony on April 28, Mayor Ruvik Danilovich referred to the role of the Jewish National Fund in its support of the Be’er Sheva River Park. Danilovich remarked, “It sounds almost surreal that an organization based thousands of miles away managed to persuade the Israeli government to get involved in a project. They saw the opportunity and the vision, and only then did the government get involved.”

Although not yet completely built out, the Be’er Sheva River Park has already changed both the look of the area and the real estate market. Along the promenade new apartment buildings are going up that are the most expensive in the city.

The park is still a work in progress, with much to be done to complete the rehabilitation of the area. As Mayor Danilovich said at the inauguration of the amphitheatre: “Who would have imagined this day, this beautiful park emerging from this neglected dump? People are finally realizing that Be’er Sheva is an attractive metropolis in terms of culture, education, tourism and jobs. This is really the future.”