Monday, February 24, 2014

Marathon man on a roll

Photo: Anne Taillandier
Reprinted from the Jerusalem Post by Abigail Klein Leichman

A car accident 11 years ago killed Eden Rutman and put her eight-and-a-half-year-old brother Raz in critical condition. When he regained consciousness after two months in the ICU, his mother, Esther, had to tell him the terrible news about his sister. 

Then she added, “You have two choices: If you want, you can join Eden. If you want, you can live.” 

Raz chose to live. And on March 21, a day after his 20th birthday, he will lead a group determined to finish the 800-meter accessi­ble route in the Jerusalem Marathon, to raise funds and awareness for LOTEM, the 20-year-old nonprofit that has become entwined in the lives of the Rutman family. 

They’ll be participating as part of a larger team under the banner of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, which has partnered with LOTEM for the past eight years to build accessible hiking trails and guide some 30,000 Israelis a year with phys­ical, communication and intellectual chal­lenges, hearing and vision impairments, who have an opportunity to experience the outdoors. 

Other KKL-JNF partners, including farm­ers from the community of Halutza in the Negev and firefighters, will be running as part of this team. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Usafiya fire station dedication

Tuesday was the opening ceremony of the brand new state-of-the-art fire station in Usafia that was made possible thanks to the Miami-Dade and Florida regions of Jewish National Fund under the leadership of Ron Kriss, the Miami president. In many ways, the occasion was like the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new one. The morning started with a visit to where it all began three and a half years ago. There was an emotional visit to the Carmel Forest Memorial where 44 people lost their lives in the worst fire ever in Israel’s history. The group then continued to the opening ceremony at the new station.

When commissioner Ayalon made his remarks, he recounted a phone call after the Carmel fire from Ron Kriss in Florida who was so moved and simply said -- "I want to help… tell me how." The commissioner told Ron about plans to build a fire station on Mount Carmel in the Druze village, a station that would lower response time to 4-6 minutes instead of the current 25 minutes, and a station that would help support the continued development of the North and would make a true difference in the lives of those in the region. "Ron and our JNF USA family got straight on it, and today was the result of all of the hard work that was put into raising the funds and building the station."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Bullet Factory: Always something new

By Alyse Golden Berkley, Makor member

The Ayalon Institute is a museum dedicated to preserving the history of a secret bullet factory, set up by the Haganah, and built right under the nose of the British. The factory was built to look like a Kibbutz laundry. Volunteers led a double life, telling everyone they knew that they were going to work in the laundry but really working tirelessly underground manufacturing ammunition.

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to visit my favorite tourist attraction in all of Israel, The Ayalon Institute, also known as the Bullet Factory. I accompanied the wife of an American Executive. As our guide fascinated us with the personal stories of the workers from the Factory, our guest shared stories of her father fighting at Normandy during World War II. She saw that we all had to sacrifice and fight together for freedom. It was touching to see how moved she was by this experience.

Some might say that returning to this site is the same old, same old; however, it has never been the same. I always learn something new. This time, our guide told us of a Holocaust survivor who came to see the Bullet Factory. During the war, she endured torture when forced to make bullets for the very enemy that was trying to annihilate her and her people. In coming to this place, she saw that at the same time, Jews were doing the very same thing, but for their own defense. In the words of this survivor, her life had come full circle and was given the closure that she has always sought. Her thought and feelings have been memorialized in the letter that is below.   

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Negev bound, with a message

By Alyse Golden Berkley, Makor member

As a member of Jewish National Fund's speaker's bureau, Makor, I have certain responsibilities; at the same time, I have many blessings. This year, my journey begins with an airport pick up by Noa Gefen, our partner with SPIHS (The Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites), and my friend. After lots of warm hugs and salutations, our conversation turned to updates of our projects together and how we may better showcase them to the world. She gladly invited me to join her on a special private tour with a potential very major donor from the United States not yet connected with the Jewish National Fund. I endeavor to change that.

On Wednesday, days prior to the official start of the Makor Mission, I was given the unique opportunity to bring new potential donors to the Central Arava. They work in the produce industry and are very well-respected for the unique produce that they introduce in the United States. In addition to providing them with the opportunity to share in our JNF projects in Israel, I hope to open doors to potentially establish a mutually beneficial working relationship with our farmers in the Negev.

Our day was artfully planned by Shahar, who works for JNF in Israel and leads many of our tours.  He could not have been more accommodating, professional and gracious. Our first stop was a quick tour of Sapir where we watched a short video of the resources in the Central Arava, followed by a meeting with Hanni, the Director of AICAT, the Arava International Center for Agricultural Training

We were privileged to observe classrooms filled with students from Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Imagine how wonderful I felt when we entered the classroom with Vietnamese students and the Translator immediately recognized me and greeted me with such a warm hug!  And even more special, he told me that when we last met, his family had been so against him coming to Israel, but now, as a result of the special time he has spent here with AICAT, his family now wants to join him in Israel!  Muslims becoming Zionists!  Who knew?!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

New eligibility for Birthright participants

Birthright/Taglit has made a major announcement that changes their participation guidelines.  Birthright was designed for young Jewish people (between the ages of 18-26) who had never experienced an educational peer trip to Israel. In January, Birthright officially expanded that criteria to include even more young adults in the program.

As part of the expanded criteria for participation, “second-timers” — youth who have already participated in an Israel trip — will be eligible for the heavily subsidized Israel experience.

This is great news for anyone who previously participated on a high school teen tour and for anyone who has attended or is considering attending Alexander Muss High School in Israel