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MAY 17, 2019 | OLAM 11

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Olam In Profile BY JODIE MAOZ

George W. Schaeffer Music Conservatory in Ma’ale Adumim

On The Ground With Bnai Zion In Israel

I

was given the opportunity to join the Bnai Zion Foundation on a four-day media mission to Israel in early April. It was a privilege to be asked to join a group of twelve writers, bloggers and social media influencers. Bnai Zion Foundation is a U.S.-based nonprofit that has been funding a great number of projects in Israel for one hundred and eleven years. The goal is to strengthen the physical, mental, and social well-being of the people of Israel. With no political or religious affiliation, it brings together supporters of Israel from all walks of life to build a vibrant and unified society. From a center for disabled veterans to a village for Holocaust survivors, the lasting effects of Bnai Zion’s work can be seen across the country. We arrived late on a Sunday afternoon, and the marathon began… From our first dinner together at the Inbal Hotel, where we stayed, our group – comprised of complete strangers with a wide range in age and background – quickly formed a close bond. Our intrepid leader, Rebecca Harary, Senior Vice President of Bnai

Zion led us (sometimes with her husband, Joey) through the four-day schedule with precision, humor, intelligence, and friendship. The sheer amount of work Bnai Zion Foundation has done in Israel is overwhelming and admirable, to say the least. Every morning we’d meet for breakfast and talk about the previous day’s experiences. Then we’d get on

Dr. Amnon Rofe, CEO of Bnai Zion Medical Center in Haifa

our bus and start the day’s itinerary, which was long and full; which is why the following is just an overview of what we saw and the places we visited. More details will follow in future articles. Israel Elwyn is an organization that develops and provides a wide array of supports, means of accessibility, and tools for people with disabilities. Bnai Zion and Israel Elwyn have been partners in improving the lives of Israelis with intellectual and other disabilities for over 30 years. In the Barkan Industrial Park,

The author with Speaker Yuli Edelstein

one of several Israeli-run commercial zones in Judea and Samaria that serves as models of coexistence, factory owners pay Israeli and Arab workers equally. We met with the owner and several of the workers, Jews and Arabs, who told us they are treated so well that they bring their sons there when they’re old enough to work. During dinner with Neil Lazaros from MediaCentral he explained to us how Israeli politics and elections work, all the while keeping his personal thoughts to himself. It was a


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Our group with curator and creator of the exhibit “Leaving, Never To Return,” Dana Avrish

Our group at the American Embassy with Senior Advisor Aryeh Lightstone

week before the elections, so he was able to reference actual parties and politicians during his presentation. Israeli elections are different from those in the U.S., and it took us time to catch on, but with Neil’s patience, British accent and sense of humor he was able to make us Israeli election experts. Bnai Zion Medical Center in Haifa, now approaching its 100 th anniversary, was the first Jewish hospital in Northern Israel. Today, it reflects the diversity of Haifa: Christian and Muslim Arabs, Druze, and Jewish physicians and staff work together as a united team, driven by a common goal – to provide the very best medical care to all members of the Haifa community. Dr. Amnon Rofe (Hebrew for doctor!), C.E.O. of the hospital, spoke about their newest project: “The situation is not if we’ll suffer another missile attack, but when. We must be prepared. In order to ensure that the Medical Center can continue to deliver the highest level of care to its patients, Bnai Zion is in the process of building a new protected underground unit that will be fortified against nuclear, biological, and chemical attacks.” Ahava Village for Children and Youth in Kiryat Bialik provides

shelter and therapeutic treatment to children who are disadvantaged due to abuse and neglect. Hundreds of children have found refuge and access to a range of therapeutic programs, from psychological counseling to bibliotherapy, giving them a chance at a normal childhood. Bnai Zion has raised funds for a new therapy center, which allows these children to receive customized, coordinated, and cutting-edge treatment so that they can become happy, healthy, and productive members of Israeli society. The Yuvalim Center in Ma’ale Adumim is the only community center for seniors in an area that is home to over 3,500 elderly citizens, including many Holocaust survivors. The center currently provides an array of social and enrichment activities for the nearly 700 men and women who frequent it every day. We were treated to a concert by the Ma’ale Adumim Youth Symphony, part of the George W. Schaeffer Music Conservatory, composed of musicians who are handpicked from school music programs and taught by some of the country’s leading artists. On day three of our mission we were honored to have Rabbi Elie Abadie, M.D., join us for the duration. Rabbi Abadie is the founding

SOME HIGHLIGHTS OF BNAI ZION’S HISTORY • In 1941, the leaders of Bnai Zion helped found Magen David Adom, Israel’s equivalent of the Red Cross. Millions of medical supplies and 125 ambulances were donated. • In 1947, Kfar Bnai Zion was established as a communal moshav where Holocaust survivors could build new lives for themselves. • In 1988, the Rothschild Hospital Rabbi Elie Abadie with a childhood picture of himself at the exhibit “Leaving, Never to Return” at the Musa Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv

in Haifa was renamed the Bnai Zion Medical Center after the organization committed to complete a new 11-story west wing and modernize the hospital’s facilities. • In 2003, Bnai Zion began providing support to the David Yellin Academic College of Education, which trains secular and religious Jews, Muslim and Christian Arabs, and immigrants to become teachers.


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The mayor of Ma’ale Adumim, Benny Kashriel, addressing our group

Rabbi and Spiritual Leader Emeritus of the Edmond J. Safra Synagogue in New York City, Head of School of the Sephardic Academy of Manhattan, and Rabbinic Advisor of the Moise Safra Community Center in Manhattan. Because elections were less than a week away, only three of the 120 members of the Knesset were in the building during our special tour with a private guide. We also met with Speaker Yuli Edelstein. It was an unforgettable moment when he noted that presidents, prime ministers, and other heads of state had sat in the very seats where we were sitting. The American Embassy in Jerusalem is under construction, so we were not allowed in many areas due to safety concerns. When we saw the American flag flying at full staff, none of us was able speak. Led by our fellow mission participant Elizabeth Savetsky we sang the National Anthem on American soil in the middle of Jerusalem. What a feeling! We then sat in Ambassador David Friedman’s office, where Aryeh Lightstone, his Senior Advisor, spoke to us about the relationship between the U.S. and Israel and the meaning of the embassy being moved to Jerusalem. In 1947, Kfar Bnai Zion was established as a communal moshav where Holocaust survivors could build new

lives for themselves. Today the moshav thrives, with up to four generations of families living there. Lunch in Tel Aviv with guest speaker Jonny Perl, Director of MediaCentral, a non-profit, Jerusalem-based media liaison service center providing professional support for journalists working in or visiting Israel, was informative. They believe accuracy is one of the most important keys to journalism. “Leaving, Never to Return” is the name of the exhibit we visited at the Musa Eretz Israel Museum with its curator and creator, Dana Avrish (a former Miss Israel). The exhibition title was inspired by the words stamped on the exit certificates and suitcases of hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab countries. We were privileged to have one of the “stars” of the exhibit with us, Rabbi Elie Abadie. The exhibit details the experiences, both good and bad, of the Jewish communities in the 11 countries that forced its Jews to flee. *** I don’t want to leave out the most important thing to Jews in Israel (and everywhere else): At every stop we made, there was a large spread of food beautifully set up to cater to every food preference imaginable. (In case you were worried that we starved!) Art Therapy creations at Israel Elwyn

Underground emergency room being built at Bnai Zion Medical Center in Haifa

Ahava Village for Children and Youth in Kiryat Bialik

Profile for JewishPress.com

Bnai Zion 051719  

Bnai Zion 051719