150 South African children will receive “Wheelchairs of Hope” from Israel!
By Tamar Lazarus acting co-president of WIZO South Africa
In South Africa, the statistics are grim. Children with disabilities are among the most neglected groups in the country and the majority of these children face enormous economic and social barriers that have an adverse impact on their physical, social and intellectual development and wellbeing.
The simple provision of a wheelchair is something completely out of reach for most!
Identifying the need to help, WIZO South Africa has joined forces with an Israeli NGO or non-profit, called WHEELCHAIRS OF HOPE to bring 150 child-size wheelchairs that will give these children the dignity of mobility.
“Wheelchairs of Hope”, is dedicated to providing children in developing countries with lightweight, reliable and child friendly wheelchairs. These wheelchairs have become more than instruments of mobility – they have become chariots of hope, helping these children to win battles and gain access not just to education but to friends and peers as well.
For some of these children, the only way to get around is to crawl.
“Our wheelchair is specifically designed for children, as we wish to empower education through mobility,” explained Pablo Kaplan who together with his life partner and co-worker Chava Rotshtein founded Wheelchairs of Hope in Israel in 2009.
“Mobility from early childhood is a gate to education. By giving access to education we create a new generation with better skills, confidence and hope.”
In 2013, Kaplan and Rotshtein presented their idea at the opening day of the United Nations General Assembly and were selected to serve on UNICEF’s task force for assistive technologies.
This inspired WIZO South Africa to ensure that we could help as many of our vulnerable children as possible.
WIZO Cape Town recently donated four wheelchairs to the Paediatric Oncology wards at the Red CrossWar Memorial Children’s Hospital and Tygerberg Hospital as part of its local outreach programme. This is just the latest in a series of wheelchair donations.
The child-size chairs will give those patients who cannot walk, dignity, control and self-reliance, which are often compromised by having to rely on other people to move them around.
The wheelchairs are not just practical – but attractive. Aimed at children aged five to nine-years who are able to push themselves, these colourful, ergonomically designed wheelchairs are light-weight and robust to handle urban and country terrains. The ‘WHEELCHAIRS OF HOPE’ wheelchairs were developed by specialist Israeli doctors and engineers from ALYN Hospital, Israel’s leading paediatric and adolescent rehabilitation centre, with the simple wish to “empower education through mobility”.
From Israel With Love
The donation of these bright and colorful wheelchairs from Israel, offers these young South African children the life-changing gift of mobility, and self-reliance. They will also be a great help for staff and nurses who care for these precious youngsters.
We often take the ability to move in our home and community for granted – and with that, the ability to learn, interact with others, and participate in family life. We are so pleased that we are able to assist, for now, 150 children with mobility impairments, and give them these’ WHEELCHAIRS OF HOPE’ to enable them to lead active and fulfilling lives.”
So far, the recipients of the WHEELCHAIRS OF HOPE wheelchairs are:
Maitland Cottage Children’s Orthopaedic Hospital, Cape Town
Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, Johannesburg
Red Cross Hospital Paediatric Oncology ward
Tygerberg Hospital Paediatric ward
Charlotte Maxeke Hospital Oncology ward
Special school Bolwar
‘Give a Child a Family’ organisation, Margate
Open air school Durban
Athlone school for the blind
Individual children who otherwise would not have access
We know that the receipt of these wheelchairs from Israel will have a truly lifelong impact on these kids – and their entire family unit will be transformed by the gift of the basic human right of mobility.
WIZO SA will be seeking additional donors to become part of this excellent initiative.
If you would like to donate, or recommend a suitable recipient, please contact our offices 021 4646700 ext 131 or email us at email@example.com.
Tamar Lazarus is the acting co-President of WIZO South Africa
Freshman Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) recently revealed her true feelings about Israel. During the radio interview on the 30 July on the “Ebro in the Morning” show based in New York, AOC concurred wholeheartedly with the program’s host that:
“…what’s going on with Israel and Palestine…is very, very, criminal, and it is very, very unjust.”
A few days following this interview where AOC added that Palestinians “have no choice” but to “RIOT” because they are “marginalized” by Israel, an 18-year-old yeshiva student and off-duty IDF soldier named Dvir Sorek was found stabbed to death near Kibbutz Migdal Oz in the West Bank. Sorek was neither armed nor in uniform when his body was found. Sorek was studying at a seminary as part of a program combining Torah studies and military service. He was last seen leaving Migdal Oz to buy books for his teachers.
While it’s highly unlikely that AOC has ever heard of Dvir Sorek, her words, coming as they do from an American Congresswoman carry extra weight and the danger of lending credence to the idea that attacking unarmed Israelis out of a feeling of being “marginalized” isn’t only understandable but justified.
“Once someone doesn’t have access to clean water, they have no choice but to riot, right?” Ocasio-Cortez rhetorically asked during the morning radio show.
By selectively overlooking horrific crimes if they’re perpetrated in the name of a fashionable cause, AOC is shaping up to be a 2019 version of the “useful idiot”, a term attributed to Vladimir Lenin, but crept into the political jargon of describing someone propagandizing for a cause without fully comprehending the cause’s goals.
Meanwhile, the reaction of pro-Israel advocacy groups to Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks was swift and ineffective. Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, stated that AOC’s comments come, “…from an intolerance of Jews and Israel that is unacceptable in the halls of Congress and in American political discourse.” Countering the outrageous statements of those who view Israel as uniquely wicked with statements expressing outrage at those statements does little if anything to make the moral case for Israel.
The way to defeat the Palestinian victimhood narrative that justifies terrorist attacks against Jews is for the Israeli government and its friends around the world to advocate for a more robust counter-terrorism policy. Once the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank is made to understand that its very survival depends on making compromises with Israel, a practical prospect for peace will become much more likely.
But for too long successive Israeli governments have bowed to international pressure to fight terrorism in a restrained, predictable manner. In the halls of the US Congress many of Israel’s harshest critics and even some of its erstwhile supporters repeatedly push Israel to fight the enemies at its gate in a proportional manner. While Israel should be able to respond immediately, so goes the conventional wisdom, it must only use enough force to reinstate the status quo.
Such a doctrine only codifies the perpetuation of hostilities between Israel and the terrorist groups at its borders. Indeed, proportionality has greatly weakened Israel’s deterrence capability against terrorism, according to former IDF Chief of Staff and leader of the Blue and White Party Benny Gantz.
More broadly, friends of Israel who acquiesce to the country being held to such an unrealistic standard of conduct are also doing a great disservice to the many people around the world who are subjected to far greater crimes against humanity. In her radio interview AOC mentioned these communities: “…I’m talking about Latin America. I’m talking about all over the world.” But by lumping a democratic state like Israel in with some of the world’s worst human rights violators, the freshman Congresswoman is effectively providing cover for repressive regimes to perpetrate gross human rights violations with impunity.
A “useful idiot” indeed.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her fellow travelers have effectively wrapped the Palestinian narrative in the mantel of justice. To reclaim the moral high ground, Israel and its supporters should focus less on the proportionality of the Israel Defense Forces’ conduct and more on the rightness of the Jewish state’s cause. War is always a terrible last resort, yet it’s sometimes the only way to keep free countries free. As Thomas Jefferson said: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
In case AOC lost track: Young Dvir Sorek was a patriot.
Those who ended his life were tyrants.
Gidon Ben-Zvi is an accomplished writer whose work has appeared in The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, the Algemeiner, American Thinker, the Jewish Journal, Israel Hayom, and United with Israel. Ben-Zvi blogs at Jerusalem State of Mind (jsmstateofmind.com).
A former Californian, the writer lives with his wife and four children in Israel.
*Title Picture: Dvir Sorek, 19, a yeshiva student and off-duty IDF soldier who was found stabbed to death outside a West Bank settlement on August 8, 2019 (Courtesy)
Aiming on future cooperation following SA academics visiting Israel.
By Benji Shulman
An enlightening tour took place in July where academicians from universities across South Africa visited Israel. Organised by the South African Friends of Hebrew University, the participants came from the University of the Witwatersrand, University of Johannesburg, University of Cape Town, University of Venda, University of the Free State, University of Stellenbosch, Gordon Institute of Business Science, University of Pretoria as well as government research agencies, and were closely exposed to Israel’s unique business culture.
With South Africa’s economy shrinking by a worrying 3.2% in the first quarter of 2019, experiencing sky-high unemployment and attracting little investment, it was important for the SA participants to learn how such a small nation like Israel, with few natural resources, engineered an economic miracle earning the enviable moniker of the “Start-Up Nation’.
The tour began at Hebrew University’s Jerusalem Business School of Administration where they heard a lecture on Israel’s “DNA” – a mixture of knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurship. In other words – the success mode of Israel innovation technology.
From theory to practice, the group’s next stop was the University’s Technology Transfer company known as Yissum.
Founded in 1964 to market ideas and innovation of university researchers and employees, Yissum’s mission is to benefit society by converting amazing Israeli innovations intocommercial solutionsthat address the world’s most urgent global challenges. It was important for our South African academics to hear how Hebrew University’s top researchers at Yissum were successfully “bridging breakthrough academic research with scientific and commercial applications.”
Such successes included working with Jerusalem-based Mobileye that was bought out for $15 billion by Intel. Mobileye safety technology is increasingly integrated into new car models from the world’s major automakers providing warnings for collision prevention and mitigation.
Hearing about Israel’s understanding of ‘entrepreneurship’ and how to grow businesses was high on the group’s agenda and HUJI Innovate provided the perfect vehicle to learn all about it.
The Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center is the Hebrew University’s platform to encourage and assist students, faculty and alumni to develop their Innovation and Entrepreneurship capabilities.
To meet the increasing challenges of an ever-changing workplace, our South African group heard how HUJI supports its students and faculty in the development of new solutions for real-world problems and in this way, create new and exciting ventures. This is something South African universities would do well to emulate.
Students of the 21st Century need to navigate a more challenging workplace than their predecessors and for the South African academics to learn how to boost a student’s perception of innovation and entrepreneurship with the aim to help them maximize their potential was most instructive.
And what could be more inspiring than the chance to view the personal papers of the 20th century physicist Albert Einstein at the University’s treasured Albert Einstein Archives.
As an aside, we learned that Einstein was a member of the university’s first board of governors and in 1925, the original 46-page manuscript of “the general theory of relativity” ended up at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
‘Innovation’ was what this visit to Israel was all about and no less ‘innovative’ was the event organised by the South African Friends of Hebrew University in partnership with Wits’ Israel Alumni Association. Hosted at the World Mizrachi Hall and supported by Telfed (the communal support organisation for the Southern African community in Israel), the main speaker for the evening was Sivan Ya’ari whose Innovation: Africa organisation has been bringing Israeli water technology into Africa and effectively changing lives.
The event was attended by many ex-pat South Africans living in Israel, as well as Israelis interested in environmental challenges on the African continent. Other special guests included former Ambassador to South Africa, Arthur Lenk, editor of the Jerusalem Report, Steve Linde, veteran radio broadcaster, Walter Bigham, and several Holocaust survivors. Our university professionals found the talk most insightful and spoke about water-related challenges in South Africa.
Not all work and no play
The group had the opportunity to tour the Old City of Jerusalem as well as one of the world’s oldest port, vibrant Jaffa; meet with members of Israel’s ethnic minorities, sample Israel’s famous night life and of course eat lots and lots of local delicious cuisine!
The group was most impressed of the visit to the Peres Centre for Peace and Innovation in Tel Aviv. Founded in 1996 by the late President of Israel, Shimon Peres, the group heard how the Centre develops and implements programmes with a focus not only on promoting a prosperous Israel but of paving the way for a lasting peace between Israel and its neighbours.
Celebrity weatherman and science communications expert, Simon Gear, who accompanied the group said that “as South Africans, engaging Israel is crucial both from a perspective of the incredible technology there and from a view of supporting peace initiatives for Israelis and Palestinians.”
The guests were able to see a side of Israel that many do not, and this included various engagements with Israeli government departments; meeting with NGO’s who are working in innovation and development and mingling with other members of the academic community. There was a broad consensus that both countries had much to learn from one another, and that finding ways to broaden the conversation in different sectors was a key to making collaboration a success. Already by the end of the tour, there was interest in specific projects.
This tour was made possible with the support of the South African Friends of Hebrew University. Yes, it was a journey from South Africa to Israel, but as we learned at Hebrew University, the journeys ahead are really those from:
“Ideas to Ventures”
Benji Shulman Benji Shulman is a board member of the South African Friends of Hebrew University, newly appointed Head of Public Policy as the SAZF and organises educational group visits to Israel.
If Helen of Troy is mythically remembered as “The face that launched 1000 ships”, then Jennifer Lopez’s short stint in Israel boasts an even more impressive outreach.
As Ynetnews.com reported:
“A thousand ambassadors would not have been able to improve Israel’s image in the eyes of the world the way Jennifer Lopez, who has over 100 million followers on social media, has done during her five day visit to the Holy Land as part of her concert tour.”
The ‘contours’ of Israel’s strategic thinking were instantly outmatched by Jennifer Lopez’s ‘contours’, as the “slayer of red carpets” disembarked from her El Al flight wearing a leopard-print crop top and matching leggings. She was happy to be in Israel – her first visit – and wanted the world to know it. Unlike other artists of J-Lo’s stature, she didn’t make it hard for photographers, or media in general, to get a hold of her.
And get a hold of her, Israelis did.
The Bronx-born actress, singer, dancer, fashion designer, producer and businesswoman who turned 50 on July 24, began her international “It’s My Party” tour on August 1 in Tel Aviv. And what an open-air party it turned out to be in Yarkon Park – nearly 60,000 fans!
Earlier, Lopez had intimately shared on Instagram her feelings towards her fiancé – former baseball star Alex Rodriguez, known as A-Rod – with a heartfelt caption:
“… you are one of a kind, my hurricane…”
This would also describe J-Lo on stage at Yarkon Park – “one of a kind” and “hurricane”.
Experiencing a Lopez concert is extraordinary. Each number comes with its own theatrical act with riveting choreographed dances, props of all imagination and stunning costumes. This mother of two was in and out of costumes throughout her 90-minute performance that ranged from a one-legged body suit for the opener “Medicine” to a shocking red salsa-style gown in honor of the late Selena Quintanilla (for which Lopez starred in the 1997 biopic Selena) and then to glimmering gold heeled boots that ran up the thigh, to a final electric green bodysuit.
And that didn’t even cover it all. In fact, the less ‘covered’, the more welcomed! Cracking jokes on stage, she teased that her one-legged jumper only showed off part of her bottom.
Actually, getting to the “bottom” of it, J-Lo was making a statement.
While efforts were made to sabotage her tour to Israel – nothing too unusual – she would have none of it. Her manager, Benny Medina, assertively expressed that made a headline in one newspaper:
“There Was Nothing That Was Gonna Stop Us from Being in Israel”.
Despite social media appeals from BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) activists to cancel her “It’s My Party” tour to Tel Aviv, Medina told Israel’s Channel 12, “Nothing was going to stop” Jennifer Lopez’s party in Israel.
BDS’s failed fiendish efforts included a July the 5th letter to Lopez urging the singer to boycott Israel arguing:
“Tel Aviv, where you are about to perform, is used as a tool for marketing the State of Israel as a ‘cool’ and ‘cultured’ democracy, while hiding a brutal history of colonisation, even that of the city itself.”
Like foul laundry that it was, it didn’t wash!
Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters frequently pressures artists to not perform in Israel and to boycott the Jewish state. Experiencing declining success, such efforts with J-Lo also proved “wateroff a duck’s back!
Only a few months earlier, David Draiman, frontman for the heavy metal band Disturbed, said in a May 30 Facebook video on the band’s fan page:
“The very notion that Waters and the rest of his Nazi comrades decide that this is the way to go ahead and foster change is absolute lunacy and idiocy. It makes no sense whatsoever. It’s only based on hatred of a culture and of a people in a society that has been demonized unjustifiably since the beginning of time.”
To easy understand J-Lo’s position, is to have read an earlier interview when she asserted:
“I have no patience for anything that’s not real. Just no bulls–t.”
“We feel you, girl,” replied the interviewer, “ain’t nobody got time for that!”
And if Israeli fans thought they couldn’t love J-Lo any more than they already did, the singer gave every reason to love her more.
She told the Tel Aviv crowd she loved them multiple times and even had an upfront on-stage whisper with a fan translated in Hebrew for all to hear. Fans screamed in delight.
Her message for the night resonated:
“You are capable of accomplishing anything you want, so long as you believe.”
Israel is a country of believers, but its people are also family-oriented and so J-Lo connected even more with her audience when she turned the concert into a “family affair”.
Lopez’s fiancée Alex Rodriguez who was in the crowd appeared on the big screen during the event; Lopez’s daughter, Emme, made an on-stage appearance singing a brief duet with her mother and her 11-year-old twin – who appeared bashful at first – hit a couple of impressive notes to show she too has the Making of her Mom.
The Day After
The next day, after wowing 57,000 fans in Tel Aviv, J-Lo, A-Rod and their kids visited Jerusalem’s Western Wall. It was Friday and bustling with people. A video posted on social media showed the singer amongst the jostling crowd, touching the stones at the holy site and whispering in the ears of her children.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez kept his social media followers up to date.
In a clip posted to Instagram the previous day, A-Rod showed JLo and himself looking around at the Mediterranean from the balcony of their Tel Aviv hotel room. The clip is embellished with a heart at the top and the words, “The mother land Israel” next to an Israeli flag and exclamation points, then the words:
“First time I’m here. I’m in love!! #energyoffthecharts!!”
The following day the celebrated couple’s message from the Western Wall to their millions of followers around the world:
“Jerusalem, you are unforgettable. What a perfect finale to our first trip to this beautiful land.”
Moscow On The Yarkon
J-Lo has come and gone. Well not quite. She has come but she not quite gone for she has left an endearing and enduring message of love and understanding.
But not only, for she has taken some of ‘lively’ Israel with her!
So impressed was J-Lo with Israeli singer Maor Rayri’s performance during her opening act in Tel Aviv, she invited him to perform as part of her upcoming Moscow concert. The Israeli singer – known as ADL – recently gained world-wide attention after he performed with American rapper Snoop Dogg and Columbian singer Maluma (Juan Arias).
She Came, She Saw, She Conquered taking away some Israeli spoils.
It was election day in Israel and that meant that we got the day off. No school and no work, so once my husband and I had voted, we gathered the kids, hopped on a train and went into Tel Aviv to visit the Eretz Israel Museum.
We wandered around looking at the various exhibits and then we came across the David Rubinger, I Captured the Truth, 1947-1997 exhibit. Being a photography nerd, my husband was fascinated and spent a bit more time in the exhibit than the kids or me. So, we headed outside and sat on a bench to wait for him.
The photographer, David Rubinger, who won the 1997 Israel Prize in Communication and died in 2017 was one of a small selected group of photographers whose works are etched on local and international memory. His career began at the end of the enlisted “Zionist photography” period, that dominated the local photography scene until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. His iconic picture of the three soldiers at the Western Wall is an image that is seared in the collective consciousness of Jews around the world. It is a symbol of hope and our shared connections. His photographs have recorded some of the most important and poignant moments in Israeli history.
Rubinger took his photos with analogue reflex cameras, in other words, he never saw the image at the moment it was photographed, and this exhibition was a journey into his memories.
Once the husband was done, he headed out of the exhibit and seeing us sitting together, stopped to take a photo of us.
As he took the photo, the usher for the exhibit came rushing out, ‘No, no, no, you cannot take a picture there!’ She exclaimed (in Hebrew). My husband, who has been shouted at before for taking photos where he was not allowed to, started looking for a no picture sign. ‘No’, she said again. ‘You cannot take a picture here, that wall, that wall is old and ugly!’
She then pointed across the courtyard, ‘That is where you must take a picture!’ She was pointing at a shady spot with a colourful flower bed.
‘Here. Here is a pretty wall covered in Jerusalem stone, and look at these beautiful flowers. This is where you must take a photo!’
And so, slightly bemused, we proceeded to let her direct us to sit in front of the pretty wall and pretty flowers.
‘No!’ She cried again. ‘Abba (dad), must be in the photo too!’ while taking my husband’s camera out his hands and directing him to sit with us.
She even laid her uniform jacket on the bricks for the children to sit on while shuffling us around to best show off the pretty blooms.
After a few misfires with the camera, and my 11-year-old popping up to show her what to press, she snapped a beautiful family photo of us, and the pretty Jerusalem stone wall and the pretty flowers.
We thanked her and she told us that she had planted those flowers herself and was very proud of them. We also had a conversation about where we came from, ‘Oh, you are not tourists, why did you make aliyah? How long have you been here? How are you settling in?’
She told us that she is also an immigrant, from Uzbekistan, and that she came to Israel many years ago. She then took our map and showed us the best exhibits for the children to enjoy and wished us well before going back to the photography exhibit.
It may not have been an iconic picture that captured Israeli history, but it was a picture that recorded Israel’s present. This is a country whose diverse population is reflective of those who have been here since the birth of the state and those who for a variety of reasons have chosen to come home. Capturing the simple delights of a family outing after a democratic election, speaks about the optimism that encapsulates Israel. It also creates a lasting memory of all the country has endured and its unpredictable but hopefully bright future.
We had a wonderful day, voting, exploring the history of our country and generally relaxing, but the best part of the day for me, was a photo, with my family, in front of some gorgeous flowers!
Gina Jacobson is a mom, a wife, a dreamer. She hates mornings and loves coffee and when she’s not reading, she’s writing.
It was a weekend to weep – two mass shootings within 24 hours, leaving 31 people dead. First an attack on a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas on the Saturday that left 22 dead, then nine died in a shooting in Dayton, Ohio on the Sunday.
As one movie buff in Dayton poignantly lamented, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”.
Clearly, that county’s position on “the right to bear arms”, trumps – pun intended – the right of people to live.
While many folk in Israel carry firearms – mostly young adults in military uniform – mass shootings are an aberration not the ‘norm’ as it is today in the USA.
What is it about American gun culture?
Yes, we know:
that gun ownership in the United States is constitutionally protected by the US Bill of Rights.
that firearms are widely used for self-defense, hunting, and recreational uses, such as target shooting.
that American attitudes on gun ownership date back to the American Revolutionary War and the militia/frontier ethos.
Though guns have not been an essential part of daily survival in the USA for well over a century, generations of Americans continue to embrace and glorify it as a living inheritance. While the statutory law of any country is complex, ask any American what is the “Second Amendment” and he or she will rattle off this 1791 snippit of legalese – “the individual right to keep and bear arms.”
From frontiersmen like Davy Crockett through to characters of the “Wild West” like Jesse James, Wyatt Earp, and Annie Oakley to villains and heroes of the 20th century glorified in movies from the Godfather to tough cops types like “make my day” Dirty Harry or Robocop is it any wonder that guns are so culturally ingrained in the American psyche.
To those outside America watching these mass murders on the news networks, it’s like a familiar script. The sad unfolding human tragedy has become so predictable from the instant of the murderous act to rolling out the security experts and psychiatrists, to the politicians who either advocate tougher gun control to those in the pocket of the all-powerful gun rights advocacy group, the National Rifle Association (NRA).
How often have we heard – particularly when many children have perished at a massacre at a school – “maybe this time it is different.” It never is!
In 2018, the NRA membership reached 5.5 million, while its membership dues reached $170,391,374 – an increase of 33% from the previous year!
Aspirant US presidents frequently tout American “exceptionalism”.
Well, here are some examples of “exceptionalism” not to be proud of:
With over 350 million privately owned firearms, the United States substantially exceeds all other countries in both per capita ownership of guns and absolute number of guns
It is estimated that there are more guns than people in the country.
Approximately 30% of all privately-owned firearms in the world are in the hands of US residents.
The US rate of suicide by firearm is 8 times higher and the rate of homicide by firearm is 25 times higher than the rates in other economically developed countries
Mass shootings, although a major news item, generally accounts for 1% or less of all firearm violence, and suicides routinely take twice as many lives as homicides.
More US citizens have been killed by gunssince 1970 than all US servicemen and women killed in all foreign wars combined. We’re talking tens of thousands every year.
The number of mass shootings across the U.S.so far in 2019 has outpaced the number of days this year, according to a gun violence research group. The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as any incident in which at least four people were shot, excluding the shooter.
The public health impact of firearms in the United States is staggering.
What was once labeled an epidemic is now better described as hyperendemic.
It’s Mental Illness, stupid!
Who’s being stupid? An increasingly common message from gun supporting politicians, is that people with mental illness are prone to violence in general and are responsible for mass shootings. This is demeaning, offensive and false.
Studies tend to indicate not only is there zero to negligible correlation between mental illness and shootings, but that there are far superior predictors for gun violence.
Weighing in on the debate, researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) concluded that having a mental health diagnosis – whether it’s a mood disorder, PTSD, borderline personality disorder, or schizophrenia – doesn’t make you more likely to threaten somebody with a gun.
What does? Simply knowing you have access to a weapon.
Findings revealed that by far the most significant clue to a propensity for gun violence is simply knowing where you can lay your hands on a firearm. Those who answered in the affirmative to the question “do you have access to a gun if you needed or wanted one?” were 18 times more likely to have used one to threaten violence.
The false linking of mental illnesses to gun violence is shown to have two effects. First, they promote stigma by conflating mental illness and violence — a bias that affects patients, providers, the public, and policy makers and secondly, diverts attention away from effectively dealing with the real problem – proper gun control, starting with background checks.
Don’t blame those with disabilities; the only ‘disabled’ here are the politicians!
In the town of Tir’a in central Israel, a group of teenagers have gathered for a rehearsal. Over the cacophony of greetings in both Hebrew and Arabic, the strumming of a tiny instrument can be heard.
The humble ukulele has been “instrumental” in bringing together teens from Arab and Jewish backgrounds and the result is not just the creation of beautiful music, but the building of bridges that ultimately will lay the foundations of peace in this part of the world often mired in conflict – and mistrust.
The brainchild of musician, Paul Moore, who was fed up with the situation after the Second Intifada, Ukulele’s for peace aims to bring together children from different backgrounds who can find common ground by doing something creative and unifying – playing music together.
“I thought that if peace was possible between Israel and Egypt and Jordan then perhaps the same could happen with its Palestinian neighbours. Israel has a dynamism that is extraordinary and I felt that I had to either leave or do something. The hatred had to stop”, says Moore.
Moore is a vibrant personality. Dressed in beach chic short, his sartorial nod to his passion for the ukulele is the lei tucked around the brim of his hat. A seasoned performer, Moore is dedicated to helping build positive bridges between people and what better instrument than the ukulele. Small and easy to use (it only has 4 strings) ukuleles are very versatile and as a result, there is a burgeoning global ukulele movement.
Paul Moore’s love of the ukulele coupled with his experience and passion for performance sparked an idea. What if he brought children from opposite sides of the conflict and creates a space where they could get to know each other – and play a little music.
The result was the birth of Ukuleles for Peace in 2004. Moore’s dream was that the children would really integrate into each other’s lives and become friends, not just live parallel lives.
How did it all start?
Moore approached the mayor of Tir’a and in literally a day, found a cooperative partner in the Democratic School. And so Ukuleles for Peace was born. Parents became involved because after all, it was them who were doing the major schlepping with carpools and lifts. Initially, some of the parents were resistant to coming to Tir’a but the project has become such a communal success that families meet up for picnics, holidays and recitals.
Ukuleles for Peace hasn’t just shared joy through music – it has created real and lasting friendships between children who under different circumstances would never have had the opportunity to meet each other.
Singing in Arabic, Hebrew and English, Ukuleles for Peace has grown beyond the neighbourhood of the Middle East. The groups which through the years have been about 11-12 strong have played at schools, different towns, coexistence events, Holocaust survivors and autistic therapy.
This has also taken these talented and open-hearted youth overseas to play in places like Hawaii, Croatia, Italy, Poland and Georgia. It is proof that the even the most humble instrument when paired with the greatest intentions, can bring much needed positivity to the world.
It is not only the children that have benefitted from friendships – but their parents as well. During our visit to a rehearsal in Tir’a it was hard to see who was having more fun – the parents or the ukulele band!
“It is a joy to see these children blossom as musicians and performers,” says Paul. “I would love to turn up at the United Nations and just simply play our Music to them as a statement of what is possible words seem to only divide whereas music unites us all in harmony” he continues.
It is evident as the music flows seamlessly from Arabic to Hebrew and then to English that Paul Moore’s dream of bringing children together to know and appreciate each other’s cultures and build friendships that it has come to fruition.
Ukuleles for peace is living proof that the foundations of coexistence and peace will be built from the ground up through every day interactions between people. There may even be ukuleles involved.
Following on from a bellicose response to the above article on social media, see the writer’s response:
Tel Aviv’s oldest Jewish district, Neve Tzedek is young at heart.
With its 19th century gentrified homes, trendy cafés, boisterous bars, beautiful boutiques and exquisite art galleries along its narrow cobbled leafy lanes, Neve Tzedek (“oasis of justice” in Hebrew) is one of Tel Aviv’s most fashionable districts and also where the story of Tel Aviv really began.
By David. E. Kaplan
People believe that the story of Tel Aviv began with a seaside lottery in 1909 but in truth, the story of modern Jewish settlement in this coastal metropolis began nearly two decades earlier with the first house built in 1888 by Aharon Chelouche who arrived in Palestine in 1838 as a young boy with his family from Oran, Algeria.
The writer stood with a group of mostly former South African Israelis outside his house at No. 32 on the street that bears his name and had as our guide, Yair Chelouche, a direct descendent from the father of Aharon, the patriarch of the family – Abraham Chelouche.
“Abraham is believed to have stated before he left Algeria in 1838,” said Yair, “that unlike many others who were migrating to the Land of Israel at that time, “I am not going there to die – but to live!””
Unlike his biblical namesake of 3000 years earlier who came close to suffering the sacrifice of a son, this 19th century Abraham endured the sacrifice of two sons only meters away before he set foot on “The Promised Land”.
“In those days there was no port of Haifa only a beach next to a few coastal villages. And so, small dinghies used to row out to the sailing ships that anchored offshore and bring the passengers ashore. Tragically, one of these dinghies capsized, and Abraham’s young sons, Yosef and Eliyahu, drowned,” related Yair.
After settling briefly in Nablus, Abraham Chelouche moved his family to Jaffa, where Aharon, then nine years old, grew up. Later, when Aharon married and had children, he named his second son Yosef Eliyahu in memory of his two drowned brothers.
“Yosef Eliyahu Chelouche is my great grandfather”, says Yair
Strong Arm Tactics
The Chelouches spoke fluent Arabic and had no difficulty settling into life in Jaffa, a thriving, colourful mainly Arab port town that must have shared similarities with the family’s native Oran.
Young Aharon grew up to be a shrewd businessman – a goldsmith and money changer. His sharp mind and keen eye for a good deal soon made him a wealthy man.
Yair relates a story that has become part of the family folklore: “Aharon calculated that the mineral content of one particular Ottoman coin was worth considerably more than the monetary value of the coin itself, and so he collected these coins, smelt them, and then sold the mineral or used it to craft valuable jewelry.”
Aharon was not only an entrepreneur – but a visionary. Emerging as the leader of the Sephardic community in Jaffa, “He believed,” says Yair, “that Jews should build their own town, and in 1883, bought the first plot of land north of Jaffa that would become NeveTzedek. This was over twenty years before he joined a group of about 100 people on the sand dunes in 1909 to acquire plots by way of a seashell lottery that became Tel Aviv.”
In those days, indicates Yair, “There were no land surveyors. The seller and the buyer would meet on the land to agree on the size of the land and the price. To measure the plot from one end to the other, the buyer took a stone and threw it, and where it landed was the end of the plot.”
Smiling, Yair continues, “Aharon must have had a very strong arm because the family ended up with a huge chunk of land.”
Reshaping a Landscape
To attract Jews to join his large family, Aharon built a Beit Knesset by his house located today close to the magnificent Suzanne Dellal Center for Dance and Theater. Established in 1989, just over a century after Aharon culturally transformed this barren landscape of sand dunes and brushwood, the Suzanne Dellal Center today is the home of dance in Israel and premier presenter of Israeli and international contemporary dance companies. Situated in the center of Neve Tzedek, Yair points out where the original synagogue stood, the water well and a school, and where a plaque remains of the builder’s name – “Yosef Eliyahu Chelouche” – Yair’s great grandfather. “He became one of Tel Aviv’s important builders and apart from building many of the city’s first homes and schools – his most famous construction was the Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium, originally known as HaGymnasia HaIvrit (lit. Hebrew High School).”
Only a short walk from Neve Tzedek, the cornerstone ceremony of the school took place in 1909, the founding year of Tel Aviv and was the county’s first Hebrew high school. The design was inspired by descriptions of Solomon’s Temple and remained a major Tel Aviv landmark until 1962 when “it was regrettably razed for the construction of the Shalom Meir Tower on Herzl Street,” laments Yair.
One of the most visited tourist sites in Tel Aviv, the Suzanne Dellal Centre’s beautiful and sprawling multi-level campus, consists of four performance halls, numerous rehearsal studios, a restaurant and cafe, and wide plazas that host various outdoor performances and events throughout the year.
Yair points out where his great grandfather’s factory stood – “Fabrique Chelouche Frères”. The name, painted in French and Arabic, was still clearly visible until building started a while ago on that plot, and, standing beneath its place, Yair relates that “the building material produced here was used for most of the early construction of Ahuzat Bayit (Hebrew meaning “Homestead”) the forerunner to the naming of the city – Tel Aviv. “One can still see the brightly patterned floor tiles of Chelouche Frères in some of Tel Aviv’s oldest buildings,” says Yair.
Neve Tzedek boasts a variety of architectural styles from Bauhaus to eclectic and at the beginning of the 1900s, it was the intellectual and cultural hub of Tel Aviv, attracting artists and writers. To appreciate their legacy and the impact it had on the cultural destiny of the future State of Israel, “a visit to the Nachum Gutman Museum is a must,” asserts Yair.
Only a short walk from Beit Chelouche (Chelouche Home), the museum is located on the east end of the narrow cobbled Rokach Street, named after another celebrated Neve Tzedek resident, Israel Rokach, who became the second mayor of Tel Aviv, after Meir Dizengoff. On the way, Yair relates family stories of the political shenanigans in the 1936 mayoral election between Rokach and his opponent – Moshe Chelouche, brother of Yair’s grandfather, Avner, son of Yosef-Eliyahu. Although Moshe won the election, the British High Commissioner intervened in the support of Rokach, and despite the public uproar about British intervention in the Jewish democratic process, “Moshe served little more than a day, while Rokach went on to serve as mayor of Tel Aviv until 1953.”
Rokach would also go on to head the Maccabi World Union, sit as a member of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), serve as an Israeli Interior Minister and be awarded the title of ‘Officer of the Order of the British Empire’. Rokach’s house in Neve Tzedek is today a museum – possibly the oldest museum in Tel Aviv – and is often used to showcase cultural events.
A Brush with the Past
The Nachum Gutman Museum used to be known as Beit HaSofrim (the Writer’s House) due to the large number of famous writers who lived here and gathered for literary meetings and discussions, such as the poet Chaim Nachman Bialik, S.Y. Agnon, who would later win the Nobel Prize for Literature, Joseph Aharonovitz, editor of the newspaper HaPoel HaTzair (The Young Worker), Dvora Baron, labeled as “the first Modern Hebrew woman writer” and Nachum Gutman’s father, a renowned Hebrew writer and educator who wrote under the pen name S. Ben Zion.
Nachum grew up in the neighborhood, absorbing as a child the local lifestyle and intellectual culture of a young vibrant expanding city. This impacted Nachum’s art enormously, depicting a culturally explosive city in vivid vibrant colors.
Welcoming his visitors, we were ‘met’ by Nachum or rather by one of his large colorful paintings. A juxtaposition of images of Tel Aviv, it captures its iconic architecture, and outdoors way of life as a coastal city, with the sea in the background and ships coming into dock. We see outdoor cafés with people sitting around tables on the sidewalks, chatting, reading and watching the passing show. This is quintessential Tel Aviv – a vibrant city with people on the move. In this sense, little has changed. Gutman captured the essence and spirit of a city that stands the test of time.
“And it all began with a house that now stands at 32 Chelouche street,” Yair reminds us.
Keen to learn more about the personalities of the Chelouche pioneers and how they shaped the future, Yair ‘unveiled’ this intimate heartwarming historical gem!
A Tale of Two Families
When the founder of Neve Tzedek, Aharon Chelouche, was still living in Jaffa, an incident occurred that that would connect two Palestinian families – the Jewish Chelouches and the Arab Samarras – for over a century.
Sometime in the early 1860s, a caravan of merchants passed through Jaffa on camels on the way to Alexandria and neglectfully left behind a young Arab boy. By the time his father Sheikh Samarra realized, the caravan was too far travelled to return.
The young boy was brought before Aharon Chelouche who said:
“No problem, he will live with us until his father returns from Alexandria”
And so, three months later, on the return, his father Sheikh Samarra from Tul-Karem collected his son who, by all accounts, had enjoyed his stay in Jaffa with the Chelouches who had cared for him well.
Nothing more of the Samarras was heard until the Great War of 1917. The Turkish authorities, fearful that the Allies would invade Palestine from the sea, considered Jaffa’s Jews a threat to national security and exiled them inland. The Chelouches, who were exiled to Kfar Jamal near Tul-Karem, found themselves in a pitiful situation. Their funds had run out and had little to eat. Aharon was then 90 years old, and his sons Yosef Eliyahu and Abraham Haim now headed a family that was destitute.
Help then came from an unexpected source!
One day, a pair of camels, preceded by a donkey, appeared on the path. The rider came down from his donkey and asked:
“I am searching for the refugee Aharon Chelouche. Is he here?”
Brought before the old man, the visitor said, “You do not know me. My name is Hajj Ibrahim Samarra. I am the youth to whom you once gave a majida (Arabic: glorious) in Jaffa. Your benevolence will never be forgotten. And I heard that your family were refugees here.”
Hajj Ibrahim then unloaded from his camels, sacks of flower and beans, and leather bags of oil. That young boy left behind in Jaffa nearly four decades earlier, was now a rich man, the Sheikh of three villages.
There was more to come – a lot more!
He invited Aharon’s sons to his home, broke through a hole in the wall with an axe, and removed a red handkerchief holding 500 gold pounds, which he handed over to Yosef Eliyahu – with whom he had played as a child during his three month stay in Jaffa – and said:
“Take it, I have enough. Return it when the war ends, Inshallah. It will be my shame if you do not take the money.”
Yosef Eliyahu thanked him and offered a promissory note.
“Why?” asked Hajj Ibrahim.
“What if we all die in the war,” replied Yosef Eliyahu.
“Then neither of us will need the money,” protested Sheikh Ibrahim.
In 1981, while a student at Tel Aviv University, Yair Chelouche, the great-grandson of Yosef Eliyahu went into the office of his great uncle Aharon Chelouche, named after the founder of Neve Tzedek, who was then Dean in charge of student affairs.
“Sit down Yair” he said, “I have a story to tell you”.
Aharon then related that the week before, an Arab female student had come in to see him about a certain problem. When he saw her surname, he began asking her questions, and not too long thereafter he said to her:
“We are connected by 100 years of history. You have a wonderful family.”
“How do you know my family?” she asked rather puzzled.
And so, Aharon began:
“When your great-great grandfather was a little boy, he was left in Jaffa…”
At story’s end, she burst out crying and the elder Jewish Chelouche and the younger Arab Samara hugged.
Today, while Neve Tzedek still retains its quaint character with colourful buildings and small narrow streets, the district is an upscale suburb of Tel Aviv, attracting the rich and famous.
Where “in the old days” its residents included the likes of great literary luminaries like Nobel laureate, S.Y. Agnon, and Y.H. Brenner, pioneer of modern Hebrew literature, in modern times, residents have included billionaire Roman Abramovitch, the owner of the English professional football club Chelsea F.C., and superstar Gal Gadot of ‘Wonder Woman’ fame.
It is little ‘wonder’ that Neve Tzedek, where the story of Tel Aviv began, is once again in the limelight – attracting residents, investors, pursuers of culture and tourists.
Yair, who created in colorful concentric circles the family tree for the a Chelouche family reunion (2004) that attracted over 500 members from Israel and abroad and held at Beit Chelouche, relates:
“It was wonderful meeting all my family, young and old, and who all descended from our patriarch, Abraham Chelouche, who not only founded a dynasty, but whose progeny helped create this great city of ours – Tel Aviv.”