Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kiryat Malachi Celebrates 60 Years: TIPS Makes Its Mark

Kiryat Malachi is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its founding with a full year of special programs and activities. The celebratory year was kicked off by a gala program on June 16, 2010 attended by thousands of residents and guests who gathered in the park in front of a large and creatively lit outside stage.

The program included official speeches from a representative of the government, Minister of Finance Yuval Steinitz, who spoke and who was given honorary citizenship to the town of Kiryat Malachi; a speech by a member of the opposition, MK Shaul Mofaz who is the past Minister of Defense, a speech by the mayor, local entertainment, historic and contemporary films of the town, and a well known Israeli entertainer, Miki Geva.

All of these elements and more including a spectacular stage, lighting, and personal stories presented in the most creative and entertaining way were in the program.
A closer examination of the evening event reveals just how integrated the TIPS (Tucson, Israel, Phoenix, Seattle) presence is in the life of Kiryat Malachi, the partnership town along with the Hof Ashkelon region that is linked to the American Jewish communities.
The Tzuza dancers, an integral part of Art City and not long back from a successful performance tour of Phoenix, Tucson, and Seattle, were on stage five times dancing with their usual energy and skill.

The master of ceremonies was a comedian named Miki Geva. Miki grew up in Kiryat Malachi and got his start by singing in the Dor Sheni musical group of Kiryat Malachi, which was supported for many years by our partnership. The group was brought over to perform in the American communities twice in the last 10 years. He is a masterful MC and told a funny story: "When I was younger I performed in Dor Sheni during the Yom Ha'atzmaut celebrations in the town. Of course, the town had no money and at the end of the program when it was time for the fireworks, the mayor told everyone to stand up and pointed to the northwest and the audience to look at the fireworks display
from Ashdod in the distance.

A key element of the 60th celebration gala evening was a version of the TV program Amazing Race."

Here it was called the "Race to 60" and four teams of two individuals were featured as they tried to complete assignments as fast and as well as possible. Most of this was off stage and film clips showed how they participated in "building" the first refugee camp that became the town; how they chose specific objects that revealed something of the early that history of Kiryat Malachi; or how they put together puzzles and answered questions on stage. What was truly amazing is that 7 of the 8 individuals had a connection to TIPS. One team was composed of Hila Kordana and Ariel Kasis. Hila is the coordinator of the production group of Art City and has spoken and performed in Tucson and Phoenix three years ago. Hila also answered correctly the question, " What is the name of the youth project that has changed the image of youth and of the town? Of course, the answer is Art City, the program that TIPS supports and helped create. Ariel is a drummer who was groomed in the Music Club which is also part of Art City. He is now in the army and still plays whenever he can in the club. Three years ago when Hila was the coordinator of the TIPS Kefiada English Day Camp with counselors from America, Ariel was the head counselor. He composed a percussion piece that was played by about 20 people during the celebration.

Mazal Caravani and Sara Kadori were another pair. Both Mazal and Sara are part of "Taamei Ami" (Tastes of My People), the ethnic food group that TIPS started last year.

Mazal was part of the delegation that came to America in the fall of 2009, where she led the singing and dancing. Sara is one of the most active volunteers in town. She heads one of the major volunteer groups which meets on the second floor of the Yedid Center building. This building, since earlier this year is used as the volunteer center and young adult center (another program of TIPS) thanks to the generosity of supplemental gifts from Tucson and Portland. She travelled twice to visit American communities over the past decade. Both of them along with Hila sang in one of the choral groups – one project of the town that we are not directly involved in.

Another pair was Yarden Golan, a high school student who was one of eight teen counselors sent to America to work in JCC camps. He spent the summer of 2009 in the Seattle JCC day camp organizing Israel programs and serving as a counselor as part of the TIPS people-to-people programming. With him on stage as a partner was Shlomo Gedamo who was selected to be a counselor but could not participate.

The seventh person with a contact, more peripheral than central, to TIPS was Rima Popov. She is the chair of the town's deaf group which is very active and meets weekly in the Yedid Citizen's Empowerment Center. Yedid is supported by supplemental funds from Tucson and Seattle.

Moti Malka, the Kiryat Malachi mayor, mentioned TIPS in his speech, thanking the communities for their valuable and consistent support of key programs, enabling youth and young adults to be more integrated and strengthened in the town. The program ended with a powerful performance by Sarit Hadad, one of Israel's best known singers. It was the only act on the stage with which TIPS had absolutely no connection.

Adam Schwartz, the Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, who visited and volunteered in Kiryat Malachi during the last two weeks of June, was amazed at the strong connection between the American communities and everything happening on the stage. "I knew that the federations were doing good things here but I had no idea how much good we were doing and how we were impacting on so many people." Kiryat Malachi would welcome many more TIPS members to come to the 70th anniversary celebrations and to witness for themselves the progress that is being made with the support of the American TIPS communities.

Ira Kerem
TIPS community representative in Israel