Saturday, April 28, 2018

An Undaunted Spirit pt. 1 - Yad L'kashish, Yerucham

A couple of people asked me “Why would a young person leave behind the life they know and make Aliyah?” Obviously, there are as many answers as there are individuals. But, our last few days in Israel add a most important answer as we met people who took and are taking advantage of Israel’s entrepreneurial spirit to create positive social change.

Yad L’kashish: Providing Dignity To Our Elders

In the 1960’s a few young people saw the growing number of elderly poor in Jerusalem. Rather than walking by with downturned eyes they opened a workshop to train these people as bookbinders to provide them with meaningful paid work and ensure they had at least one good meal a day. From that creative but humbling beginning Yad L’Kashish has expanded to teach people how to embroider, weave, make brass ritual objects, and most importantly, providing each of their clients with new creative skills and a deep sense of dignity. Today they have a shop where people can buy the goods the clients make and enable Yad L’kashish to help even more people. They sell beautiful items which thankfully many of our group purchased. Of course some of of what they make reflects the beginning skills of their workers.

Yerucham: From Developement Town To A Meaningful Place To Live

In the 1950’s, Israel created the so called “development towns” throughout the south to build the population of the desert and to provide homes for new immigrants mostly from the Arab world. Minimalist housing was built and whatever work there existed was minimalistic. With the mass immigration of the Russian Jews in the 1990’s these towns saw a brief influx of new residents and government resources and then found themselves abandoned again by the government and the exodus of their young. But in the last few years, a new generation arose who knew not, or cared not, the legacy of the past and determined to control the future of their homes. Yerucham is the vanguard of this new reality.

We were privileged to meet with two women leading the change. The first, Perach Lilach is a 25 year old woman who returned to Yerucham following her army service with a dream to change the lives of Yerucham’s residents left behind. After convincing her “big city” boyfriend to return to Yerucham, Perech works with Atid BaMidbar (The Future is in the Desert) Perech helping young people to find their to help build Yerucham while she attends school in nearby Be’er Sheva. Her enthusiasm for her home is contagious.

We also met with Deputy Mayor Tal Ohayon who became the youngest Deputy Mayor in Israel eight years ago at age 26. She started her adult life by returning to her family’s ancestral home in rural Morocco to work with the remaining Jews to build their work skills and improve their own communities. She returned to Yerucham with the same dedication to change her home town for the better. With a vision of a Yerucham filled with young people who return after college to build their home community and attracting new high tech businesses, or workers who can telecommute, she has been transforming her home. This week she announced her campaign for mayor so she can continue changing the community she loves.

One of the brilliant programs in Yerucham, Mevashlot Yerucham pays retirees to feed visitors like us. They open their homes and provide feasts. We were blessed to meet Jojo and Mazal who not only fed us but entertained us with their life story and leading us in song.

We were privileged to witness Ben Gurion's dream of Jewish life flourishing in the desert.

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