… And it’s HOO-MUS, not HUH-MUS. Learning how to sound Israeli. We’re getting there.
Just like at home, today started with Yoga on the roof. Technically, today started at a Tel Aviv dance club called Rubi (seriously, it was a sign). While we may not have been the oldest people in the club, we were certainly the only ones watching the Cardinal game on my iPhone. It was quite an experience all around.
The St. Louis Jewish Federation supports an non-profit orgaization called Orr Shalom in Israel. Orr Shalom is a program of 1300 children, aged 6 to 18, who have been removed from their homes for various reasons. Through group homes and fostering, they are taking kids off the path to deliquency and putting them on a past to normative, healthy living.
Interestingly, the process of moving kids into foster homes is a service this organization and a few others provide on behalf of the government. This is very different than the government programs in the United States. This “outcome ownership” model has proven to be very successful.
Most interesting, they have developed a “youth village” model where each household is assigned a “house mother” and “house father”. Often a married couple (and, often, with their own children), they provide a home to 8-11 additional kids. These homes are located in very nice neighborhoods so the kids can attend the best schools and have resources available to support them. There are currently 20 group homes.
The focus is on the children. Each is in therapy at least once per week. The program is supported by National Service Girls – kids who, for religious or other reasons, choose not to join the military when they turn 18 for their two years of service.
We were moved by the stories of kids “graduating” from the villages and returning to the program to contribute. The theme is that the program gives the kids “aspirations” and this translates in graduates continuing to support the program.
This was an incredible experience. We dined with soldiers and border patrol profressionals, learned about the scope of the undertaking to protect Israel, and were able to dialogue with officers and soldiers. Many of them were kids – boys and girls – providing their two years of service to Israel.
The base also is home to a major military court. We met with the “President” of the court, who is the senior judge at the base. This court handles the highest profile matters (e.g., people accused of the more recent terrorist activities). We learned about about the process of prosectuing criminals, including suspected terrorists, and the form of due process afforded people accused of crimes. For examples, anyone accused of a crime has to be charged with a crime or dismissed within 48 hours. There was a recognition of the perception …
P2G is a program connecting over 550 Jewish communities in the Diaspora with 45 Israel Partnership areas. P2G focuses on people-to-people interaction, building community and leadership. Through this program, every year more than 10,000 volunteers work together to examine issues and responses, to determine projects and budgets. Principal areas of involvement within the individual partnership regions include education, community and economic development. Our Partnership is between St. Louis, Atlanta, Yokneam and Megiddo. Bernice Malka, Living Bridge Coordinator with the Jewish Agency has been our tour guide through the region, teaching about the work we are supporting and the growth of the region. We left the meeting filled with ideas for helping to contribute to this work.
We arrived at Kibbutz Dalia in the late afternoon. We prepared a fire, vegetables for dinner, and focacia for snack. After our snack, we headed out into nature for a long hike. We split into groups for a challenging assignment. That was a meaningful and fun experience. Thanks to our guide, Dovev, we found more bushes to eat – some were sweet, some thorny, some deadly. We watched the sun set in the mountains as we walked about to our cabins to clean-up and prepare for our meal.
We dined around the camp fire with some local residents of Yokneam Megiddo. One of them immigrated from Ethiopa with his parents and 9 siblings in the late eighties. I enjoyed learning about his family’s experience. A bit embarrased that I wasn’t more familiar with the Ethopian migration to Israel. But, that’s a daily experience on this trip for most of us. And a big reason for coming.
The Kibbutzim are fascinating. While some of them are in transition to “privitatization”, some are still self-sustaining communities of people sharing resources and contribution. Kibbutz Dalia (where we are staying), is like many Kibbutzim, where the community is built around the facilities that support the children. This design was intentional – to make the children the center of the community and protect them from potential outside threats. In some instances, the children sleep communally while their parents sleep in facilities around the common area.
We ended the evening sharing stories around the campfire, appreciating the stars and wishing someone had a guitar. Our text to Rabbi Randy in St. Louis for long distance song leadership went unheard (still handling. Maybe tonight we’ll give him more notice…