Friday, February 13, 2009

Report from the Field: TIPS Steering Committee meeting in Israel, Feb. 09

Report from the Field--Feb. 10, 2009

by Adam Tennen
Phoenix's Assistant Campaign Director/Director of Global Partnerships

Adam & Moriah, a new member of the Steering Committee from Kiryat Malachi

Last week the TIPS (Tucson-Israel-Phoenix-Seattle) Steering Committee convened its annual meeting in Israel in our partnership region of Kiryat Malachi and Hof Ashkelon, located just north of the Gaza border. This meeting was a chance for us to visit and discuss at length the projects and programs funded by our Annual Campaigns for Jewish Needs through the TIPS Partnership. In the weeks leading up to the meeting, the committee considered postponing it in light of the recent crisis. However, in the end we decided to proceed and show our solidarity and support for our friends living under rocket fire. We were told over and over again how much they appreciated our coming.
On the first morning of our meeting, we were awakened by a tzeva adom (red alert) siren. Fortunately, no one was hurt from the rocket, which landed in the city of Ashkelon, but it certainly gave me a real sense, at least for a moment, as to what it feels like when that siren goes off. Unfortunately, our friends in Hof Ashkelon are accustomed to rockets. Even before the recent crisis, an average of 25 rockets were falling each day in this area. Homes and buildings on many of the kibbutzim and moshavim near the border are supposed to be built with protective shelters and special roofs. In fact, several years ago the Phoenix Federation funded the construction of a special roof above the pre-school at one moshav adjacent to Gaza. They are especially grateful for this contribution right now.
Security concrete Cover over pre-school at Kibbutz Zikkim

Later that morning, we made a stop at the underground command center in Hof Ashkelon where the mayor and other municipal services relocated their offices for a period of three weeks during the onslaught of the rockets. The morning's siren sparked a number of calls to the center and concerns that the “war” was starting all over again. We listened to an update by the Hof Ashkelon Security director, Gidon.
Gidon and Revital Lavi, Hof Ashkelon representative to the Steering Committee

During the crisis, schools were closed and activity was limited to what could be done in the underground shelters. The teens in the youth council in Hof Ashkelon, funded by TIPS, took it upon themselves to organize activities for the young children. Dressed as clowns, many engaged the kids in fun activities and made them smile. For at least a few hours a day they were able to take their minds off the sirens. We had a chance to meet some of the teenagers who took part in this project. There was another group of teenagers who volunteered to deliver meals to homebound seniors.

In Kiryat Malachi during the crisis, members of our TIPS funded Art City program provided entertainment for the younger children during the time they spent in the shelters. The teens involved with Art City also took the initiative to make house visits to check on seniors and make them feel better.
It was really inspiring to hear that so many youth felt the need to volunteer during this three-week crisis, and that the programming that we normally fund through TIPS empowered them to take on this responsibility. Perhaps it was a way for them to feel like they were making a contribution while their older siblings or family friends went off to fight on the front line.

Through emergency funding, we assisted our partnership region with their ability to repair bomb shelters that were not usable, provide equipment for the volunteer emergency response teams, and transport as many as 1,000 people each day out of the range of the rockets to other parts of Israel for periods of respite. Every person we met throughout the week was so grateful for what we did from afar-not just by our funding, but also by the support we provided through the cards that people wrote at our community rallies last month and the toys collected from a grassroots initiative in the East Valley.
Security is just one aspect of TIPS. Through the generosity of our 3 communities, we are funding a number of important programs that provide opportunities for youth and young adults to better their lives each and every day. We met with children who participate in the Sports for All Program, which is the only organized sports league in Hof Ashkelon, an area made up of 20 kibbutzim and moshavim. It's a unique opportunity for kids around the region to come together, play sports, let off stress, and build self-esteem. At moshav Heletz we saw the results of a six-month long project to construct a Ramada next to the community center. TIPS provided the funds for the youth in this low-income moshav to design and build something together.

We met the 17-year old leader of the project who was so excited by what his team had accomplished! (He hopes to become an architect some day.) This project really has empowered the teens on this moshav.

The week ended with an amazing show by the Art City program in Kiryat Malachi, made up of young dancers and musicians.

A sold out audience of over 500 people came to see it! This program is changing the way the kids view themselves and is becoming the point of pride for this city of 22,000 people, made up largely of immigrants, most recently from Ethiopia and the Former Soviet Union. What an incredible accomplishment in a few short years. I should also point out that it was the youth that conceived the idea for this program. TIPS empowered them to dream big, and they certainly did.

We should all feel good and hopeful about what is happening in our TIPS region through these life-changing programs for youth and young adults. We are helping them to build a brighter future as individuals and as a community. It's always inspiring to see first-hand what we do through our contributions to the Campaign. So, if you have a week or two or three, I invite you to come and stay in our volunteer apartment in Kiryat Malachi where we will set you up with a meaningful volunteer opportunity where you can make a difference and see the impact we make in the TIPS region.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Otzma Volunteers Arrive in Kiryat Malachi, Feb 1, 2009

On Sunday, February 1, six American volunteers via the Otzma program finally arrived in Kiryat Malachi, a month later than they had planned. Project OTZMA is a 10-month program designed to offer Jewish young adults ages 20-25 an opportunity to live and volunteer in Israel in a variety of settings. This year, three are from Arizona, one from Seattle, and two from California. They had been scheduled to arrive the beginning of January but the Gaza action postponed their arrival for a month. They are delighted to be in Kiryat Malachi. They feel that the town has a lot of character. The adults are very warm and the children very open.

Justine Slovin from Phoenix

in the volunteer apt living room

In the kitchen

Sara Beckerman, volunteer from Phoenix

Zara from Seattle

Adam from Phoenix next to Salomon, a new member of the Kiryat Malachi Steering Committee