History Is Now: Youth Rescue in Israel Continues

-Carol Goodman Kaufman

The story of Youth Aliyah is one of adventure, Jewish and world history, and good versus evil, with a few heroes — and even a few miracles — thrown in for good measure.

On January 30, 1933, the very day that Adolph Hitler was named chancellor in Germany, educator and musician Recha Freier anticipated that things were going to get very bad for the Jews. Believing that it was critical to get children out of harm’s way, she founded Youth Aliyah, hoping to convince parents to send their children to relative safety in Palestine.

The Jewish Agency adopted this project and chose as its leader the inestimable Henrietta Szold, the founder of Hadassah. Even though she was already in her 70s, Szold traveled to Nazi-occupied Europe to rescue children, and she made it a point to be on the dock to meet every ship that made it to Palestine. While Szold never married and had children of her own, the thousands of children she saved called her “Ima,” the Hebrew word for mother.

Virtually none of these children ever saw their families again. But because of the care they received, they grew up to become outstanding citizens of the new nation of Israel. Among the prominent Israelis who spent time in youth villages are the late national leader Shimon Peres and the famed artist Mordechai Rosenstein. Actor and author Gila Almagor wrote of her experiences in Youth Aliyah in “Under the Domim Tree,” a novel that was made into a movie of the same name.

youth-aliyah-kids-w-goat_conv2016

Youth Aliyah Students

The job of saving children didn’t stop with the war’s end. Far from it. Since 1934, over 300,000 young people from 80 different countries have graduated from Youth Aliyah.

As difficult as it is to accept, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, almost 800,000 Israeli children, which is about 30%, lived below the poverty line in 2014. The Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute reports that as of January 2015, almost 400,000 at-risk children and youth, up to age 17, in Israel were registered with municipal social services. They suffer from physical and sexual abuse, neglect, substance abuse and the effects of prostitution. These youth engage in high-risk behaviors, have low educational achievements and suffer from emotional or social problems.

Almost from its inception, Youth Aliyah has received significant support from Hadassah. The three villages sponsored by Hadassah — Meir Shfeyah, Ramat Hadassah Szold and Hadassah Neurim — accept the neediest and most difficult students, ages 12 to 18.

Some children come because their parents can’t or won’t take care of them, whether because of poverty or extreme dysfunction.

Some students come on their own initiative, trying to break free of hopelessness. Eli Mentason, one of nine children of Ethiopian immigrant parents, had to drop out of school at the age of 8 in order to help support his family. After working in the Netanya open-air market for several years, he decided that he wanted a future, so he found his way to the Meir Shfeyah youth village. Eli is now a criminal defense attorney, a husband (married to a fellow student from the village) and a father. He has been “paying forward” his good fortune by finding other lost boys and bringing them to Youth Aliyah.

And then there are the “Na’ale” (“we will go up”) kids. Parents are sending their beloved children to Israel — alone — because of the increasingly difficult life for Jews in places like Russia, Ukraine and Estonia. A full 30% of our student population is made up of children from the former Soviet Union.

In addition, hundreds of day students want to study at our village schools. The parents of upper middle class Zichron Ya’akov petitioned the Ministry of Education to allow their children to attend the excellent, award-winning high school at Meir Shfeyah. These students and the boarding students both benefit from the mix of culture and social class.

Not all of our students are Jewish. Our villages also serve Arab, Bedouin and even Eritrean refugee children.

In our villages, students receive not just shelter and food, but also education, vocational training, counseling and other support services that help them develop the life skills they need to become productive members of Israeli society. The work is challenging. With some of our students, we have to teach basic life skills, ranging from personal hygiene to self-discipline and teamwork. In addition, almost 85% of the children come to us with some level of learning disability, so small classes and one-on-one tutoring are necessary.

youth-aliyah-girl-harvesting

Youth Aliyah student harvesting grapes for wine at Meir Shfeyah

The vocational training curriculum includes courses in the culinary arts, high-tech precision tool-making and high-tech motor vehicle maintenance. From the beginning, agricultural work has also been a major part of the vocational training in the villages. The village of Meir Shfeyah, for example, has a winery under the direction of a renowned vintner. The village produces 5,000 bottles of wine a year, with the students doing everything, from tending the vines, harvesting the grapes and making the wine to designing the labels and helping with the marketing.

Finally, a huge portion of our population comes to us knowing nothing of Judaism or Jewish history. Our Joy of Judaism program addresses this enormous vacuum through small group discussions and hands-on activities that bring the richness of Jewish heritage into our students’ lives. In the 11th and 12th grades, our students, like all Israeli high schoolers, participate in a heritage mission to Poland that includes visits to the Warsaw Ghetto and several concentration camps. When they return to Israel, these children have a newly developed understanding of their place in Jewish history, and pride in their identity as Jews and Israelis.

The work of Youth Aliyah is critical. Failure is not an option. Israel needs physically and emotionally healthy adults to ensure a safe and secure future for all within her borders. By following in the inspiring footsteps of Recha Freier and Henrietta Szold, we can make real the Zionist dream.

For more information, please contact Carol Goodman Kaufman, the national chair of Youth Aliyah for Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America.

The Israel Peace Paradox

Dome of the Rock above Western Wall.

Dome of the Rock above Western Wall.

Since its re-establishment in 1948, Israel has sought to live in peace with both its Arab citizens and its Arab neighbors. Yet, there are several biblical injunctions that are seemingly in conflict with each other regarding Israel’s responsibilities to promote and seek peace, and protect itself from its enemies. [Read more…]

“Zionism: The Birth and Transformation of an Ideal,” by Milton Viorst

Zionism: The Birth and Transformation of an Ideal,” is ambitious in its scope, and original in its format. The history follows chapters on critical figures including Theodor Herzl, Chaim Weizmann, Vladimir Jabotinsky, David Ben-Gurion, Rav Abraham Isaac Kook and Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, Menachem Begin, and a final chapter “Arriving at Netanyahu.” But it is clear from the outset that this will not be a fair and balanced history. [Read more…]

Word Choices Matter: FactsOnIsrael.com

Who is the Occupier?

Who is the Occupier?

The right of the Jewish people to their homeland of Israel is greatly misunderstood. This is partly because the mainstream media has adopted the delegitimizing language of Israel’s foes, but also in part because we who are well-meaning supporters of Israel ourselves unthinkingly use these terms. Both of these practices contribute greatly to the widespread bias against Israel.

FactsOnIsrael.com, Inc., was incorporated in 2016 as a Pennsylvania non-profit entity, with a website, Facebook page, mobile app, and other activities to make clear to Jewish homeland supporters the connotations and nuances of words used in Israel-related discussion, and to encourage Israel supporters’ own use of historically-grounded terms, which reflect the Jewish people’s three-millennia connection to the land of Israel, and not Jewish-homeland delegitimizing pejoratives.

FactsOnIsrael.com website.

FactsOnIsrael.com website.

For example, “West Bank” is not a synonym for Judea and Samaria, but an antonym. The biblical names Judæa and Samaria (יְהוּדָה וְשׁוֹמְרוֹן) remained in use all through the 1800 years of continuous foreign rule between Romans’ destruction of the Jewish kingdom Judaea in CE 135 and the State of Israel’s attainment of independence in 1948 as the land of Israel’s next native state. The United Nations referred to “the hill country of Samaria and Judea,” not to “the West Bank,” in its partition resolution of 1947. “West Bank” was coined in 1950 by the invader Jordan, for the same reason the Romans renamed Judæa as “Palestine” in 135 – to disassociate the Jewish homeland from Jews.

There are a host of other historically incorrect misleading terms – e .g., misstatement of the 1949 Israel-Jordan military ceasefire lines, expressly declared in the Armistice Agreement not to be political borders as “Israel’s 1967 borders,” reference to “East” Jerusalem, which existed only during the Jordanian seizure of 1948-67, as though it had always been a separate city, not part of a single city, Jerusalem, that’s been the capital of three states, all Jewish, and has had a renewed Jewish majority since 1800’s Ottoman rule. Calling contested territories “occupied,” and Jewish communities “settlements” but Arab communities “towns and villages,” and labeling Israel “apartheid” likewise one-sidedly denigrates Israel.

The UNESCO resolution that disassociates Jerusalem from the Jewish People and calls the Temple Mount only by its Islamic name is blatantly contrary to historical evidence and is an insult to Jews and Christians. Even Islamic texts and 20th century guidebooks attest to the Jewish connection with King Solomon’s Temple.

Through explanations of toxic terms on our website; our book, “Pressing Israel: Media Bias Exposed From A-to-Z,” PowerPoint presentations to groups (some on our website), published articles, instructive videos in TED-talk fashion, and other means, we work to make clear to our own camp the critical importance of word choices, which everyone – Israel’s foes, the media, anti-Israel Jews – seems to grasp except us. We invite those seeking unfiltered facts on Israel to visit www.factsonisrael.com.

Contact: Lee S. Bender, President: 610-804-7882, lsb23@cornell.edu

Sukkot Snapshots from Israel

Photo credits: Adriana Katona

Sukkot is one of the three pilgrim holidays when the Israelites would go up to Jerusalem to celebrate. It was an agricultural holiday, as well as a reminder of the 40 years wandering in the wilderness before entering the land of Israel. Agriculture was central in their culture, so Sukkot was an important holiday. Today, Jews from all over the world travel to Jerusalem to celebrate.

Celebrating at the Kotel.

Celebrating at the Kotel (the Western Wall).

A selection of etrogs.

A selection of etrogs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is a mitzvah to give gifts to the poor during Sukkot. What type of gift? The farmers of Ancient Israel were required to give a tithe, ma’aser, of their harvest (Numbers 18:21-24) to the Levites. This harvest consisted of wheat, barley, oat, spelt, and rye.  In addition, they had to give a tithe of their production of wine, olive oil, fruit, and cattle.

Examining a lulav.

Examining a lulav.

Blowing the shofarot.

Blowing the shofarot.

Book Review: The Angel – The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel

What would motivate someone who lives a life steeped in success, status and power to deliver their nation’s most guarded secrets to its most dreaded enemy?

In Uri Bar-Joseph’s most recent book, The Angel, the answer is revealed as the reader follows a treacherous and circuitous route from Cairo to London to Tel Aviv. What turned out to be an extraordinary journey began in an iconic London red phone booth. It was from that booth that a call was clandestinely placed to the Mossad with an offer to spy for them. That call came from a most unlikely source, President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s son-in-law, Ashraf Marwan.
[Read more…]

Shimon Peres: May His Name be for a Blessing

Shimon Peres

Shimon Peres.

The staff of the PJVoice joins with the world wide Jewish community in mourning the passing of Shimon Peres. Many American Jews, particularly those old enough to have experienced the formation of the State of Israel, see a direct line from Ben-Gurion to Shimon Peres. Peres helped shape the development of the Jewish State to a great extent.

The founding Israeli leaders were never divorced from the hard reality of Israel’s security situation. Each of them took a turn leading the military, and fully understood the need for protection from both internal and external enemies.

Still Peres, especially later in life, saw the need for an accommodation with the Palestinian Arabs, while protecting the State of Israel. When the opportunity came, he applied his utmost effort to carry out the goal of a two-state solution. He shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, for his work as Foreign Minister negotiating the Oslo Peace accords. [Read more…]

Hillary Clinton Supports Historic Agreement Between U.S. and Israel

The United States and Israel signed a new Memorandum of Understanding that guarantees $3.8 billion of military assistance to Israel annually for the fiscal years from 2019 to 2028. This $38 billion total aid package is the largest pledge of military assistance by the United States to a single country in American history.‎ [Read more…]