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San Diego teens travel and volunteer in Israel

July 15, 2010 Leave a comment

San Diego teen trip members at San Diego-Ibim Student Village in Sha'ar Hanegev region of Israel

By Ulla Hadar

Ulla Hadar

SHA’AR HANEGEV, Israel–A group of 23 teen led by shlicha Shoshi Bogoch have for the last two weeks travelled in Israel from the north to the south as part of the Community Teen Trip sponsored b y the Jewish Federation of San Diego County.

Open to  Jewish teens of all backgrounds in the 10th to 12th grades, the trip
is designed to give youngsters an opportunity to feel the heart of Israel, explore historic places, meet Israeli teens and more, according to Bogoch, an Israeli citizen who now coordinates Israel programs at the Jewish Federation of San Diego.

Through traveling, learning and living the Israeli way of life, the Jewish
Federation Community Teen Trip to Israel creates a meaningful, life-changing experience and an unbreakable bond with Israel, the shlicha (Israeli emissary) said.

The group spent a couple of days in the company of Sha’ar Hanegev youth, enjoying home hospitality with the youngsters of Kibbutz Bror Hayil. A tour of the area included visits to the borderline of Israel and the Gaza strip, to the Sha’ar Hanegev  educational campus, and to the San Diego Ibim Student Village where a small ceremony memorializing San Diegan Marla Bennett was held. Marla Bennett,  killed in a terrorist action at the cafeteria of Hebrew University in Jerusalem 8 years ago,  has a permanent memorial in her honor at the village.

“The community teen trip has existed for the last ten years but in the last two have undergone dramatic changes,” Bogoch said.  “The Israel Center (at the Jewish Federation of San Diego)  and the former shaliach Eyal Dagan started the new concept that I now execute. The teen group includes students mostly from the public schools, covering all San Diego.

“Students at this age would not have the possibility otherwise to visit Israel, and would not have had the change of knowing one another, as one Jewish person to another,” Bogoch said. 

To organize the trip, Bogoch said that she “travelled throughout the entire area of San Diego, visiting the different temples and public schools, in an effort to publish this program. We succeeded in getting 23 teens together as a group.

“It is important to emphasize that the Federation supports this program and sees the importance of sending each teen who desires to Israel. The cost of the trip is $3,500 and the Federation supports the trip with an amount of $1,000 dollars. There are possibilities to receive additional scholarships to further reduce the price.

“Leading up to the trip Five seminars were  held, with the main subject being  social activism. Furthermore different activities were held in
an effort to strengthen the youth as a group. These youngsters are receiving a gift, the ability to identify themselves as Jews in the future. Enabling them to feel connected and involved has been much stronger than visits to historic places and sites.

“One of the first places we visited in Israel was a factory in Tiberias. The workgroup are grown ups suffering from different mental diseases and other physical difficulties.  The San Diegan teen group worked together with these people for a couple of hours, talking to them and experiencing the simple work of putting filters together, that these people do every day hour after hour, day in day out. The teens enjoyed themselves immensely and at the end of the day had a party where they all danced together.

“This experience made them understand that you can give and you can make a difference. My goal is that this group will continue with the contacts made in Israel and in between them and that they will work as ambassadors for Israel in the community of San Diego.”

Carlos and Meegan, two of the teen participants, had these comments:

M: “My awareness to this program came from my grandfather. It has always been very important to him that his family members will travel to Israel.”

C:”I always felt I had a responsibility to go to Israel. Most of the people I know in my community had already been here. I did not realize how great it was until I arrived here. Just the feeling of being surrounded by people just like you and who accept you for who you are. The feeling of community on a larger scale, and the country has affected me in a positive way throughout the entire trip. ”

M: “It feels a bit weird to be part of the majority, I have always been connected to a Jewish community in San Diego but there we are always a minority.  When meeting new people in San Diego, you don’t have this understanding of being Jewish, most assume that you are Christian or something else. In Israel you feel connected as Jewish. It is the natural situation and no one has to pretend, to be Jewish is a normal existence, a normal identity.”

C: “The work experience we had with the disabled in the factory was a fantastic time, feeling that we did something for another person, not only for you yourself.  It was an act to help others, and it put much more meaning behind it. These workers do the same simple work every day, week and month. Our showing up helped them a lot, put smiles on their faces, it was just great. Another work experience we had was a day of picking tomatoes for the poor that have no money. This concept of helping makes one feel good, and made a very big impact of this trip.”

M: “The big part of doing community work here was understanding how different people live, like apart from the Jewish community we saw how Druse and Bedouin minorities live inside Israel, and it is interesting also to experience the life of the people in a kibbutz.”

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Hadar is Sha’ar Hanegev bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

Sha’ar Hanegev social workers win national award for excellence

June 12, 2010 Leave a comment


AWARD WINNING SOCIAL WORKERS-- Top row, from left are Batia Amram, Iris Fridman, Marva Meizeles, Orly Banay-Lender, Oded Ettinger, Hannah Tal and Dor Meyhuas. Bottom row: Hofit Dekel, Patricia Sadovsky, Tehilo Revivo, Avital Nir, and Tammy Goren.

By Ulla Hadar

Ulla Hadar

TEL AVIV -On the 8th of June during the nationwide conference of social workers from all over Israel, the national organization conferred the “Henrietta Szold 2010 Award of Excellence” on the Sha’ar Hanegev municipality social service workers, headed by Marva Meizeles.

The committee’s citation said  “This team has in the last years worked daily showing to everyone a shining example, how to work and at the same time cope during situations of stress and emergency. To other social workers their acts are a model to copy. They represent our trade and bring great pride to everyone working in the profession aiding people in the community.”

For the last ten years this team has acted in war situations and in an environment filled with stress and threatening situations.
  
The team has throughout the years  developed new strategies and founded creative projects in order to support and help the citizens of the area. Today they are a role model for other social workers in Israel. Other municipalities and organizations have adopted ideas from the Sha’ar Hanegev social service department, mostly the ones dealing with how to cope with terror both on the personal and communal levels.

Most social workers working in the Sha’ar Hanegev municipality live and raise their families in the kibbutzim  neighboring the Gaza Strip. They experience the same dangers as the people that they counsel.

These social workers are committed supporters of the community’s local leadership, and help to preserve the local and social pride of this area.

Five of the current team– Hannah Tal, Oded Ettinger, Orly Banay-Lender Marva Meizelez and Avital Nir —  participated in the San Diego UJF Professional Exchange In 2006. While visiting San Diego, they met many San Diego social workers, observing their work first hand.

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Hadar is Sha’ar Hanegev bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

Gaza flotilla prompts musical messages on Internet

June 5, 2010 Leave a comment

SAN DIEGO (Staff report)– With worldwide media focused on the Gaza Flotilla, we at San Diego Jewish World have been experiencing an upsurge in email messages containing links to musical commentaries.

Fred Reiss, Ed.D, who often reviews books for us, was moved by a YouTube presentation of a song declaring, “I am a Jew”.

Ulla Hadar in Sha’ar Hanegev forwarded a message from Michael Rassler, executive directror of the United Jewish Federation of Santa Barbara, in which he included a musical parody about the Gaza Flotilla participants titled “We Con The World.”

Even in line of fire, Sha’ar Hanegev mayor seeks peace with neighboring Gaza

June 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Tractor works in Sha'ar Hanegev wheatfield set ablaze by Kassam missile

Editor’s Note: Our Sha’ar Hanegev bureau chief, Ulla Hadar, recently invited  Sha’ar Hanegev Mayor Alon Schuster to reflect on the Gaza Flotilla and on the upsurge in rocket attacks on his community.  Here is what he had to say:

By Alon Schuster

Alon Schuster

SHA’AR HANEGEV, Israel–I remember at the age of seven driving with my father on a tractor along the borderline between the Gaza strip and Israel.  At that time the border was marked only by  a line of big barrels placed every 200 meters.  After the Egyptians deported the UN forces that had been placed along the border, IDF forces entered Gaza.

The Palestinian terrorism led to a closure of the border and the building of a border fence. Other heavy security devices were added. This fence parts us from our neighbors today.

The last two decades saw two important events: In the 90’s Israel agreed to return the Palestinian leadership to Gaza and the Western Bank from their exile. In the beginning of the 21st century. Israel made a complete unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip.  Ine result was the uprooting of several thousands Israeli citizens.

These two actions were executed amid intense political and ideological arguments amongst the citizens of Israel.  We can only regret that the Palestinian side did not know, or even worse, did not want to take advantage of the opportunity to create a
normal coexistence with Israel.

For the Palestinians this situation is a disaster and we can only express our deepest regrets that there has been no success in establishing together with us, the closest neighbors, (we describe ourselves as “peace searchers”) a healthy and reciprocal relationship.

Sha'ar Hanegev residents "weed" a Kassam from Gaza out of fields

 
A couple of weeks ago the State of Israel marked Yom HaShoah,  Holocaust Memorial Day. In Kibbutz Mefalsim where I live, a kibbutz that lies one and a half kilometers from the Gaza Strip borderline, an emotional ceremony was carried out. In the middle of the ceremony two mortars blew up close by. And later in the night the whole kibbutz was shaken by an enormous blast when an explosive placed by the border was detonated. How can you deny the symbolism in these acts??

Who are the people living next to the Gaza Strip on the Israeli side? Mostly people of the kibbutzim and moshavim, many of them moderates in the political arena.  Most of the area’s population had been educated in the socialist youth movements, with the main banners – all men are equal, tolerance and peace among human beings and nations as important values.

During the 90’s we tried to develop a healthy relationship with our Palestinian neighbors. Hundreds of Palestinians studied in the local Sapir College situated in the Sha’ar Hanegev municipality.  This college in the last 10 year became one of the main targets of the Kassam rockets  launched from the Gaza Strip.

Several models in cooperation were formed, in areas like agriculture, environment, industry, trade and health. Students started to meet and talk and leaders talked more moderately. All this was an attempt  to fashion  a future healthy coexistence. How sad and frustrating to be on the Israel side where the standard of living  is ten or even twenty times higher than in the Gaza
Strip! How depressing it is to realize that the hand stretched out in a sincere desire for peace is met with hatred, nourished from a base that is imcomprehensible to all of us!

We have sworn to never again be engulfed or be victims to the madness of hatred and anti-Semitism. We will not agree that the hooligan killers who grabbed power from their people can command us to lose our hope, or lose our faith that one day there will be a better future.

This is one of the reasons that we use our resources, continue to dream, and do not miss any chance or possibility to establish peaceful encounters among Arab and Jewish teachers, youth and sometimes even leaders.

The main goal is  to feel the joy of taking part in a joint action. This was taught as early as in the “Golden Age” in Spain where Jews and Muslims once stood together shoulder by shoulder in an action for human civilization.

We are determined that our democratic country for the Jewish people will continue to exist. We will not give up the simple human dream – to be in a healthy neighborly relationship with the people that live so close to us and yet so far away….

As for the recent events and the closure of the Gaza Strip: It is extremely important to notice that it is not about banning the importation of goods to Gaza. Every day there are tons of supplies that enter the Gaza Strip, true that only goods defined by Israel as acceptable are entered.

The intention is to enable the population to achieve a reasonable existence and to assure supplies of food and medicine.

Two reason for closing the border: To prevent the smuggling of arms that might be used against Israel and to demand the release of the captured Israeli soldier Gilat Shalit.

In a situation where there is  no political agreement with Hamas, where the leadership  in the Gaza Strip does not recognize the legitimate existence of the State of Israel and Hamas’s  army is gaining strength, Israel has a the full right to defend itself and to interdict military goods bound for the Gaza Strip.

Hamas is ignoring the civil rights of the captured Israeli soldier Gilat Shalit and it is unacceptable. It has made it mandatory for Israel to act harshly until the policy of the enemy is changed. We can not obligate the Palestinians to love us, but it is possible to deprive them of a normal life if they abrogate the  rules of behavior amongst civilized  people.

I will remind you again, Israel disengaged itself one hundred percent from the Gaza Strip, with a costly political and social effect for the country. We did this in order to enable our neighbors an independent, honorable and thriving life. They decided not to use this enormous opportunity, they rejected the hand stretched out for peace. Misery is brought to the civilians of Gaza by their murderous and dictatorial Hamas government.
 
Strangely enough a dramatic change and improvement in the life of the Palestinians could be very close. The only thing they need to do is to stop shooting and attacking Israel, to enable visits to the captured soldier and to ban the import of weapons to the Gaza Strip. On these conditions Israel – even with no official peace treaty signed– will ease its measures against the Gaza Strip and the life of the thousands of civililian Palestinians will improve dramatically.

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Schuster is mayor of the Sha’ar Hanegev municipality which includes ten kibbutzim, a moshav, and the Ibim Student Village in an area lying along the Gaza border in the vicinity of the Israeli city of Sderot.

A Shavuot celebration in the wheat fields of Kibbutz Ruhama

May 20, 2010 1 comment
 
 

Kindergartner experiences a ride in a harvester

By Ulla Hadar

Ulla Hadar

KIBBUTZ RUHAMA, Israel — When my children were younger, one of their highlights in the season of Shavuot was to climb into a combine and observe from that vantage point what it’s like to harvest the fields.  For some years we have not done this, as they have grown a lot bigger.

However, this year, as the holiday approached,  my eldest daughter Anat  (26 years) invited me to join her for a visit to the fields.   My excitement was so great I concluded kindergarten is MY holiday.

Climbing Aboard

Today, Anat is a kindergarten teacher in nearby Sderot for children with special needs. She had decided to take the children for an experience that she had remembered from her childhood.  The children know me as I have visited the kindergarten and also have helped to host visits to Kibbutz Ruhama by these pupils.  They came to Ruhama for a day of challenging sport with the organization “Etgarim”(the Hebrew word for challenge).

There may be no feeling more heartwarming than hearing the children call out “Ulla-Ulla,” and coming forward to hold my hand or give me a hug.  Anyone who has this experience will feel her body refill with new energy.

In groups of two and three, the small children climbed under their teacher’s watchful eye to the cab of the combine.  Once they were safely aboard, the operator of the huge machine moved it slowly through the wheat field, enabling the pupils to know the motions and aromas of that experience. To me it seemed that the teachers were as excited as the children.

There is something quite magical to see these large machines entering the wheat fields and harvesting them in a matter of no time.  Surely, Anat’s kindergartners will remember the experience for some time.

The festivities of Shavuot (Festival of the Weeks) in Kibbutz Ruhama , one of the kibbutzim in the Sha’ar Hanegev municipality, took place in the afternoon of the sixth day of Sivan, corresponding with May 19. This holiday marks the conclusion of the counting of the Omer (Shavuot is celebrated exactly seven weeks after the second evening of Pesach) and the day the Torah was given to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai. It is one of the shalosh regalim, the three Biblical pilgrimage festivals. As well as being called Shavuot this holiday is also known as, Hag ha-Katsir (the Day of the First Fruits) Yom ha-Bikkurim (Festival of Reaping) and Hag Matan Torah (The Gift of the Torah). The seven species are the agricultural theme of Shavuot. The products symbolize the fertility of Israel. The seven species are wheat, barley, grapevines, figs, pomegranates, olives and honey (from dates).

As always the celebrations were run by the agricultural department (Gesher – Giduli Sadot Ruhama) which is in charge of this local event.

Pipe Dance at Kibbutz Ruhama

Ori Levi as head of the kibbutz’s agriculture department oversees the planning and is active throughout the entire ceremony, together with his team of agricultural workers. Everyone is proud to show off the capabilities of the huge farm machinery utilized on the kibbutz. The ceremony includes dancing, with the agricultural workers arranging a dance with irrigation pipes;  a bicycle rondo;  a crop-dusting demonstration by a small aeroplane ; a balloon release with the wish of freeing captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from his captivity across the border in Gaza,  and off course all the agriculture machinery lining up around the big crowd .

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Hadar is Sha’ar Hanegev bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

Millionaire American filmed Israel’s history in color

May 15, 2010 5 comments

Staff Report

SAN DIEGO–Our correspondent in Sha’ar Hanegev, Israel, Ulla Hadar, sent along to us video footage of a television newscast devoted to the discovery of American millionaire Fred  Monosson’s color movie footage of pre-state and early Israel.   The video literally has bounced and forth across the world, as she  received it from Michael Rassler, executive director of the United Jewish Federation of Santa Barbara and former chief executive of the UJF in San Diego.

For most people, Israel’searly  history is in ‘black and white,’ but Monosson–a wealthy Boston raincoat manufacturer and Zionist–had access to the most sophisticated color film camera of its time, and was welcomed wherever he went. 

His film cannisters were about to be thrown out by his family, until someone decided to take a look at what was on the reels.  The result, astounding to Israelis, is a look back at the nation’s history — in color.

Here is a link to a short Israeli TV documentary, with English subtitles, on some of the events, scenes and people that Monosson saw:  http://www.blip.tv/file/2915188.

From the mountain to the valley: 200 km of heart-pumping effort

May 1, 2010 3 comments

 

Start of a mountain to valley relay

By Ulla Hadar

Ulla Hadar

TIMRAT, Israel–Several weeks ago I attended a lecture performed by a man that had gone through several difficulties in his life but nevertheless had decided to participate in an Ironman competition, which involves a 180 kilometer bike ride, 42 kilometer run and 3.8 kilometer swim.

He was sharing his experiences with the audiences and his accomplishments, explaining that you can do anything as long as your mind is set to it. He finished the lecture by throwing the question to the listeners “So what is your Ironman???”

Well I think I found mine, I signed up for the 2nd annual Mountain to Valley, a 200 kilometer relay race. A competitive run that starts at Kalat Nimrod in the North, near Mount Hermon and finishes at the town of Timrat situated in the valley of Jezreel. The relay competition has 24 pieces each of a different length, ranging from 4 to 13 kilometers.

The participants run along dirt roads, cobblestones paths, ascending and descending, far from the lights of the city. Each and every runner passes to a team member at 23 exchange stations along the way a relay bracelet and a chip which records the time.

Gidon Gal and Shmuel Ruchin, the two main organizers of this event, brought the idea to Israel after participating in Vermont, USA, in a similar race known as the “Green Mountain Relay” a 320 kilometer race.

Two hundred sixty groups comprised of 1350 runners signed up for this competition, each group containing 2, 4, 6 or 8 runners. Several ultra runners did 120 kilometers on their own and one Brazilian runner Maoro Chasilev started from Kalat Nimrod and did the entire 200 kilometers on his own.

Based on the time estimation for each runner, the teams were sent off between 8 AM to 4 p.m in an attempt to spread out the crowd and ease the pressure on the 24 stations and enable everyone to arrive at Timrat at the same time more or less.

My stomach was turning upside down in the days leading up to the event. I kept asking myself, Why do I need this? What have I gotten myself into? And surely I will fail to finish this race. Among the four in our group I was the weakest link and I knew that before starting. As a lover of sport I need a new target to train towards, lest weekly running or biking training  get boring and not challenging enough.
You want  to prove to yourself how much power your body contains, what hurdles you can overcome and what you are able to push yourself through to reach the limits and even stretch them further on, to an unbelievable point.

On a nightly training run two weeks before the event I stumbled and strained my left ankle. I had to convince myself that it was nothing, just continue more or less as usual and it will pass.  This was in the midst of the BikeIsrael2010 and one day I rode 60 kilometer with a sprained ankle.
 

The night before the race, my team arrived at a small hostel at Nimrod close to the starting point.  Our team was a four member group two men and two women: Rafi Hadar (my husband), Atara Ron, Dubi Dover and myself, all of us 40+, some of us even 50+!!

Logistically we were very organized thanks to team member Atara Ron. Two cars driven by Dalit Dover (Dubi Dover’s wife) and Eliezer Shamir (Atara Ron’s husband) escorted us along the way, dropping off and collecting the runner from one station and driving the runner to his or her next assigned race leg.

The drivers also supplied runners with food and drink along the route as it is important that the body is nourished throughout the different relays. In the middle of the night you can become disorientated and distracted and can easily forget this important factor.

An hour before our start the air was electric, all runners very excited and everyone eager to start. For my part I had “saved” myself from running for a few days and the adrenalin and the need of endorphins was making my body scream out to start. My number in the chain was four so I still had a couple of hours to wait before it was my turn.

The sign to start went off and Dubi our first runner ran down the steep road going from Kalat Nimrod towards the Baniass. The escort car drove towards station number 3 where I was to wait for Rafi for my first relay shift. As a pilot project this year, 55 teams where provided with a GPS phone in case of an emergency, and we were among the teams receiving one.

Transferring monitoring devices at relay point

We all had 6 runs to finish; mine were of the following lengths: 9 km, 8.9 km, 7.4 km, 5.3 km, 6.4 km and 10.6 km for a total of 47.6 kilometers (approximately 29.5 miles).

At the beginning it was very hot. Descending from Carcum towards Kfar Nachum and the Kinneret I felt all my senses being intoxicated. It was just so beautiful I didn’t feel the heat, noticing the orange groves, the fields and the lake shining with sun beams gently touching the water. Two weeks ago I was at exactly the same spot with the bikers from BikeIsrael2010, but now I was crossing the fields not the roads.

The relays I was most worried about were the night runs. As a woman it is not the nicest experience to run on your own through fields and forests. Although there are other runners, most of the time you are by yourself.

Luckily a good friend of mine Ofra Gafni waited for me at station 12 for the start of my first nightrun (I had three in the dark) and she ran with me as a companion until we reached Timrat.

At one of the night runs we passed through the forest of Ramat Hashofet and again our senses were intoxicated by the smells, the sound of the Shofet stream tingling next to the path we were passing. At the same time, 5 a.m.,  the birds were starting to sing their morning tunes–sweet melody for the ears.

The last relay leading to Timrat was mine to run. One of my advantages was that each run I started I was sent off by my husband and he awarded me with a kiss on my lips which each time gave me a push to go forward.

Exuberance at the finish

The route was not easy; it was the hardest of all my relays. The path started winding up the hillside. Ofra kept  feeding me with optimistic words and joy. I had to walk some of the ascent because my body was just starting to say to me that it was tired and had just a bit too much by now. Once we reached the top of the hill and had another 2 kilometers to go towards the finish line suddenly my body filled with energy and I started to run as if it were the beginning of the race. I just raced towards the end, being greeted by people who shouted words of encouragement and compliments. All my teammates waited for me  at the last corner and we entered the finish line together everyone hugging and cheering.

It is an event  that I will never forget. The togetherness, the friendship. the patience and empathy everyone was showing  towards each other. If this could be copied throughout the world it would be a better place to live.

The adrenalin rush is still in my body. The excitement of the event and the feeling of achievement of finishing and conquering the problems on the way are impossible to describe. Perhaps only the people who experienced the event can fully understand what I am talking about.

The teams that shared the same moments, the volunteers that even at four o’clock in the morning had the power to smile to you, to encourage and cheer you filled my heart with joy and pleasure. I am glad that I decided to sign up for this although having been very hesitant before. This is something I will remember anda story to tell my grandchildren about. It was my “Iron man.”

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Hadar is the Sha’ar Hanegev, Israel, bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World