Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hila Levy-Hamami visiting US communities

From December 2 though December 16, Hila Levy-Hamami, the Youth Director of the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, visited Tucson, Phoenix, and Seattle, to talk about the different projects the TIPS communities support in Hof Ashkelon and Kiryat Malachi and also to talk about life for youth in the Hof Ashkelon Region, especially under the stress of missile attack.

First she visited Tucson. She told how the Tucson Jewish community supports projects in Hof Ashkelon and Kiryat Malachi though donations to the Federation's campign and individual giving to the Partnership. She also talked about life for youth in the Hof Ashkelon Region , and the problems caused by the random shelling of the area with Qassam rockets. She thanked the Tucson Jewish community for supplying funds for the emergency system in the region, which is put into use with Qassam attack. Now that the "cease fire" is officially over, unfortunately, more rockets are being fired into Hof Ashkelon, so the emergency equipment is very important.

With Tucson host family

On her first day (Tuesday) in Tucson, she spoke to the North West community of Tucson, a group that often does not get Israeli visitors. She told them about the partnership, how TIPS supports the region, and how they too can get involved.

The next day she was interviewed by Rabbi Sam Cohen for his weekly radio show, "Too Jewish." She talked about how it was to live under Qassam rockets for residents of the Hof Ashkelon region and how the Tucson Jewish community has supported the Hof Ashkelon youth, especially about providing funds to help the youth take a trip to the Golan region and get away from Qasssam attacks.

She met with the PNAI (Parents of North American Israeli) group, telling them about Hof Ashkelon and Kiryat Malachi. The audience had a lot of questions and were interested in her personal story and the projects. They were quite touched to hear that her father had immigrated to Israel from Yemen as a baby, and that he was the first one from Moshav Heletz and the only one of 9 children to get a university education.

Later in the day, she had a great meeting with the professional staff of the JCC. She also attended a staff meeting at the JCC and compared it to staff meetings she attends in Israel!

On her last day, she met with students at the Hebrew Academy and later with the Jewish Federation executives. .

The highlight of her visit was the 2nd Tucson P2K annual meeting. She was the main speaker. We also heard from other Tucsonians about their experiences in the region.
About 100 were in attendance, and it was a great success. One key item she talked about there as well as other places was the amazing success of the mini-soccer league that TIPS financed for the first time last year. There had never been a sports league among the 20 communities in Hof Ashkelon. With our help, especially for transportation, the first one came into being in 2008, and the participating youth said it was fantastic. Since teens in the same community often go to 4 or 6 different schools, they rarely have a chance to be together. On the soccer team, they could, so they visited, gained community spirit, and had a chance to get to know other teens in the region. They also let out excess energy caused by the stress of the threat and reality of the rockets.

She then went to Phoenix where she spoke at two Jewish day schools, to the entire Jewish Campus staff, to the Phoenix TIPS committee, and at a few meetings with synagogue leaders and other Jewish community leaders.
Lunch with Alliance for Israel leadership
Outside HarZion synagogue

Her host family, the Lights, took Hila to Sedona.

Hila was kept quite busy in Seattle, although some of her talks were cancelled because of two unusual snow storms!

The afternoon she arrived, Hila talked to a group of 4th, 5th, and 7th graders at Herzl-Ner Tamid religious school. Some of the youth attended the JCC Day Camp and met the counselors from Kiryat Malachi and Hof Ashkelon the past two summers. They were interested when she showed pictures of Netiv Haasara and how the young children go on with their lives, even when the Red Color warning siren goes off. They liked the song created for the kids to help reduce their stress.

At six p.m. she spoke to several people (including a teacher) and showed her PowerPoint presentation an hour before Hebrew High began.

The next morning she talked to a group of twenty 8th graders at the Orthodox Seattle Hebrew Academy.

Most of these youth will be traveling to Israel in the spring and they were excited to know that they might be able to do a joint project with their peers in the region.

Of course, most of the girls wanted to be in a picture with her.

The new director of the Middle School, Rabbi Yoni Sacks, was very interested in having pen pals and establishing contact with 8th graders in Hof Ashkelon before they visit, so we are working on organizing such an arrangement with the 7th and 8th graders at Morasha School at Moshav Hodaya.

At noon, Hila spoke to the Israel Programming Committee, Staff, JT News, and then met with Amy and Sara and Dina about speaking in public schools
Sara Lahyani, Liat, and Hila talking about teen trip.

Friday, Hila talked to the 7th and 8th graders at the Jewish Day School of Metropolitan Seattle. The then spoke to a very gifted 5th grade class at Stevenson elementary school in Bellevue. The students were in the middle of a 3-week study of the Middle East Conflict, and really enjoyed her visit.

Hila spoke at Temple B'nai Torah, a Reform congregation, on Friday night, and at Herzl Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation on Shabbat morning.

Several Host Families joined Hila for dinner at Lorna and Dave Isenberg's on Saturday night.

Sunday at eleven a.m., she talked to residents of the Summit Retirement apartments. Many have children or grandchildren in Israel.

Hila was amazed by the snow in Seattle. Much more fell at Dina's than at Lornas.
Sunday evening she spoke to the Tribe, a young adult group the large Reform synagogue, Temple de Hirsch Sinai.

Monday and Tuesday Hila spoke at 3 high schools. 3 others had to cancel because of the bad weather, unfortunately.
At Garfield High School

In front of Ingraham High School, with Rob Jacobs, the Seattle director of "Stand With Us "
Sports trophies at Ingraham. Hila was very surprised to learn how big sports were in high schools, and Amerian teens were shocked to hear that Israeli high schools do not have sports teams or intramural sports.

Signing in at the main office of Ingraham Snow outside of Ingraham
Snow and school buses

Mercer Island--speaking to Advanced Placement Comparative Government class

Before going to the airport on Tuesday evening, Hila spoke to the SpringBoard, the Young Adult Leadership course. She told them too about the major program that TIPS supports in Kiryat Malachi, ART CITY, which has given talented artistic teens ownership of dance, theater, and music in town and presented three major concerts, including one last July together with leading professional Israeli musicians. Call Festival B'Shekel, over 12,000 people from Central and Southern Israel attended this amazing event, and saw Kiryat Malachi is a very positive light.

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