Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Scholarships to College Students in Kiryat Malachi

For over a dozen years, the Seattle Jewish community through the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle has had a special relationship with the Israeli development town of Kiryat Malachi. Currently, over 25% of the town's population is Ethiopian-Israeli.

Since 2006, thanks to a a generous $250,000 donation from the Meta Rosenbaum Endowment Fund, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle has awarded annual scholarship of $2,500 to some of the brightest college students who live in Kiryat Malachi. All these "Dream Team" students are from immigrant Ethiopian-Israeli families and have worked extremely hard to be able to study in universities. Often they have been the first in their families to go to college. Many also work to support their siblings while some are also married. Many have parents who do not read or speak Hebrew. Without this financial help, most would not have been able to continue their university studies.

The $2500 annual award is for four years, including one year of preparatory studies and the subsequent three to four years of study for a BA or BS degree. Another component of the scholarship is a $250 gift, awarded to each recipient for personal expenses.

On February 5th, an annual award ceremony was held in Kiryat Malachi with the current recipients in attendance, many of whom are finishing their last year of university. In addition to the students, guests included a representative from the "Dream Team" Jewish Agency program, Moti Malka (the mayor of Kiryat Malachi), and Itai Zilberberg (the regional Jewish Agency representative). Amy Wasser Simpson, Executive Vice President of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, handed out the awards to the recipients. Dina Tanners, co-chair of the Seattle Israel Connection committee, spoke to the recipients in Hebrew on behalf of Seattle.
Mayor Malka congratulating scholarship recipient
Amy Wasser-Simpson handing out award

Dina tanners speaking on behalf of Seattle

Some of the recipients

A number of students are studying social work and hope to work within their communities when they graduate.

Eldad Taraka is one of the scholarship recipients. Last year he spoke in Hebrew, representing the group. He was the first male student of Ethiopian origin to study fashion design in te Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, Israel's top design school. He is very proud of his achievement and is a real trailblazer.
Avi spoke for the group this year. He is finishing law school and will start an internship at a law firm in the Tel Aviv area. He has also worked as a security guard while studying. He is not sure if he will combine his interests in law and security or go into government or the diplomatic corps. In any event, he has a bright future. He spoke eloquently in English. He and the others especially wanted to communicate to the Seattle Jewish community their gratitude for the scholarships and the opportunities that they afforded them. Because of the scholarships, their lives and those of their families have profoundly been changed.
Recipients and others in attendance

Monday, March 30, 2009

Volunteering in Kiryat Malachi, May 2008

In May of 2008, Barbara Goldberg spent 3 weeks volunteering in Kiryat Malachi. Her daughter, Mindy, had volunteered two years in town earlier as part of the Otzma program. Here are excerpts from an article Mindy wrote wrote for the Seattle Jewish newspaper:
Mindy Goldberg, host "Mom" from Moshav Hodya in Hof Ashkelon, and Barbara Goldberg

Kiryat Malachi - the City of Angels - is a 45 minute drive southwest of Jerusalem, though it seems as if it may be a different part of the world. There are no movie theaters, bowling alleys, internet cafes or night clubs. There are many synagogues for each of the ethnic and cultural groups who have immigrated to Kiryat Malachi. There are after school teen programs and a community swimming pool.

Many Seattle community members (including my daughter, Mindy, who spent 3 months living and volunteering in Kiryat Malachi) have written articles about their experiences in Kiryat Malachi. These articles have educated us on the difficult socio-economic issues that are relevant to a poor immigrant community. One of these issues is the lack of self worth. Many of the students asked "Why are you HERE?" as if why would anyone care about the youth of Kiryat Malachi.

For three weeks in May I had the opportunity to live in the volunteer apartment in Kiryat Malachi partially funded by the Jewish Federation of Seattle. During that time, I tutored English in 4th and 5th grades and helped high school seniors prepare for their oral English graduation exams.
Some of the youth at AMAL High School in Kiryat Malachi that Barbara worked with to improve their English skills.
In addition, I spent one day a week doing arts and crafts, exercise classes and Israeli dancing in the Adult Senior Day Center. (Herzl-Ner Tamid synagogue near Seattle has recently donated funds to improve the beauty salon in the senior center, an important service for the seniors.)
Senior and staff at Senior Center Women from Ethiopia working on Israeli Independence Day project at the senior center in Kiryat Malachi.Traditional crafts done by Ethiopian-Israeli seniors

I do not speak Hebrew and since Kiryat Malachi is not a typical stopping point for tourists, as well as it being an immigrant city, many people there do not speak English. Despite this communication barrier, I was able to satisfy all of my needs. The most challenging and humorous experience was grocery shopping in the small grocery stores in Kiryat Malachi. Since I also don't read Hebrew, I purchased products by picture only. Luckily, everything I bought was delicious!

One of the senior high school students shared her own personal poems written in English in hopes of having them published in an American newspaper. Here is one by Sharron on the blog:

You told me to count,
And I count pointlessly without will.
Tell me to count,
And then if I ran out of numbers
I can start again with some sheep,
Told me to count,
I count pointlessly -
Hopefully. I'll count some more,
I'll count the times
I've knocked at your door
Count the times
I had to endure
Splitting into two,
Just count, told me to count, the breaks, the poles the rods…
The words that are repeatedly coming, with one and same cause

I look forward to being fortunate enough to return to the warm and appreciative citizens of this wonderful Jewish community on an annual basis to spend a few weeks volunteering while I visit Mindy in Israel. Kiryat Malachi is growing - a new shopping center is being built and a new adult work-out gym opened earlier this year. I anticipate an increased pride and hopefulness in the citizens that will accompany this growth. .

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Kassam Missile on Hof Ashkelon

Tuesday:This afternoon, a kassam missile fired from Gaza landed in the Hof Ashkelon regional council area, close to one of the moshavim. The Red Alert siren sounded and almost before it finished, the boom of the missile striking the ground was heard.
No injuries or damage reported - yet another miracle.
We have had a period of quiet but we are always aware that it's quiet until there is another missile fired.....

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Gilad Shalit - 1000 days in Captivity

photo by Gil Yohanan (ynet) of the Shalit family in the protest tent in Jerusalem this week

Saturday, March 21, 2009
Today marks 1,000 days of captivity of the soldier Gilad Shalit, held in Gaza by the Hamas movement since June 25, 2006. Shalit was kidnapped by Hamas, Army of Islam and Popular Resistance Committees terrorists in an attack on an IDF outpost at a Gaza crossing, where two other soldiers were killed and a fourth was seriouslywounded.

The date will be commemorated with a mass rally in Jerusalem this evening.

The Hamas has never allowed the International Red Cross to visit Gilad Shalit. which is in direct violation of the Geneva Convention. The Shalit family have no proof of whether he is alive, after Operation Cast Lead or of his physical and psychological condition.

During its final days in office, the Olmert government attempted a last-ditch bid to secure Gilad Shalit's release, through intensive indirect negotations, mediated by Egypt, with Hamas. The negotiations collapsed this week over the Hamas' insistence that Israel free hardcore militants imprisoned in Israeli jails These dangerous terrorists were involved in planning some of the worst terrorist and suicide-bomb attacks that killed many Israeli civilians and have publicly declared that when released they hope to kill more Israelis.
1000 days in captivity.
How much longer?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

TIPS Trip Boosts Morale, Programs

TIPS Trip Boosts Morale, Programs
Report from the Field
by Ken Miller

When the conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip escalated and hundreds of missiles and mortars began landing in southern Israel it became very tentative whether we would be able to hold our annual meeting for the TIPS (Tucson, Israel, Phoenix and Seattle) Partnership 2000 in Israel. A number of the members, including me and fellow Tucsonian Ken Brandis, felt it important to travel to our partnership region of Kiryat Malachi and Hof Ashkelon in Israel to show our solidarity. with Israel and with our friends and co-workers. In the week before our January 29 departure, the military situation de-escalated enough for our Israeli associates to agree that we could.

Our first night in Israel, the eight USA TIPS representatives joined some 30 of our Israeli counterparts for an informal dinner. One Israeli member, who resides in a community bordering Gaza that has been shelled for years, stated how moved she was that Americans had come to the region at this time. Knowing the impact our trip had on Israeli morale was enough to make the annual meeting a success - even if we did nothing more during our visit.

We stayed in a hotel in Ashkelon, Israel’s largest city in the south and an area often targeted by Hamas. I was just about to get into the shower when the missile attack siren sounded. A missile landed not too far from the hotel. Luckily no one was injured from this attack but the attack brought home the reality of what our friends and Israel were experiencing. I am a US Air Force veteran and was in Israel during the wars in 1973 and in 2006 but others were seeing for the first time what war was like.

Our meetings focused on TIPS efforts empowering youth, developing young adult programs, establishing educational opportunities at all levels, addressing the needs of the poorer communities and helping to address psychological counseling for children growing up in a war zone. During the current crisis, emergency funding helped transport children and teens out of the war zone into areas where they could experience less stress. In quite a few of the communities in the Hof Ashkelon region, bomb shelters were the only place where the children could safely gather. Tucson raised money for the emergency purchase of heaters to equip the shelters for extended periods.

Seeing the immediate changes in the lives of the children, youth and older citizens in the region evokes much more than a satisfying feeling. Each time we visit, we see how effective the TIPS Partnership 2000 organization truly is - and how much more we can still accomplish.
NOTE: The above is a piece Ken Miller wrote for the Arizona Jewish Post and the blog, about the trip and meeting for the TIPS Partnership in February.

Facebook has links to all Ken Miller's photos from this annual meeting with the 2nd Art City, Festival B'shekel and last year's 2008 Annual Meeting which has the 1st Art City.

To see Ken Miller's photos: please add the "TIPS Partnership 2000" to your Facebook groups, http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=55003201630#/group.php?gid=55003201630

The photo albums are listed as links you can click on, which puts you into Ken's photo album section under Ken's Facebook page. You can see the photos by adding Ken's name to your friends list. The url to Ken's page is http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=658607391&ref=name#/profile.php?id=658607391&ref=name or you can find Ken's name in the search as "Ken Miller" location of Tucson.