It is with very mixed feelings that I am sending out this update on the status of our P2K community. Like many Israelis, I feel personally affected by the current conflict in southern Israel. Last Thursday, Arad lost one of its own sons when 23 year old Captain Omer Rabinovitch was killed in action in Gaza. Leadership from the Partnership made a shiva visit to his family, and learned that he had been accepted into JAFI’s Shlichut (Emissary) Program and Officer Training School. He felt that he would be better prepared to be an emissary after his experience as an officer in the Army. And so, their loss extends to us. May they know no further sorrow.
But we also have positive things to report. Mayor Gidon Bar Lev and the Municipality of Arad brought over 350 children and adults from the towns and kibbutzim that have been in the line of fire to Arad. The students are studying with their teachers, along side the Arad children. Over $20,000 has been raised from the citizens to cover housing costs for them, and we have committed to help with matching funds. We all hope that the conflict will be resolved soon, but it is so wonderful that the children have a safe place to be now, away form their shelters, the noise and pressure, and can study in peace and quiet.
Another bright light is our new Vision project. Professor Richard Israelowitz of Ben Gurion University has begun an exciting project that brings a mobile vision program to Arad and Tamar for the elderly and others. Students and staff from Rutgers University and Ben Gurion will work together to identify potential clients, examine them for glaucoma and other eye problems, and provide glasses and other appropriate remedies. Aside from helping older adults lead more active lives, this project brings together students and professionals from two universities, and familiarizes them with our special partnership. Our hope is that other programs that deal with social issues, such as substance abuse or domestic violence, can also be developed or replicated in Arad, thereby providing additional services to the city.
I can also brag that my 84 year old Mom, Naomi, who created a the AACI Library for the Visually Impaired in Jerusalem, has joined the project in Arad and is bringing her program of free books on tape for them and help expand the services (Which can be shipped free to the Library through the US Postal Service- I will send info on how to do that for those of you who have books on tape that you can send).
The ultimate goal of Partnership 2000 is to connect Israelis and Jews in the Diaspora in meaningful ways. Another new initiative of the Partnership is Eco-Connections, where classes in Israel, New Jersey and Delaware meet via the internet and connect through the study of the environment within a Jewish context. Already, three classes in Arad and Tamar have committed to participate and we are just finalizing which classes will participate from the states.
Our Living Bridge programs are gaining more and more interest as growing numbers of people participate. We are thrilled to have two OTZMA students living in Arad for two months and look forward to welcoming a contingent of volunteers from Central New Jersey to the region in March. We will again begin recruiting for our Kefiada program which sends six young adults to the region to be English language camp counselors. In turn, the region sends Israeli counselors to our camps through our Ivriada program. These counselors have home hospitality and form bonds with the families that last long after they return home. Similarly, our Maccabiah program brings Israeli athletes from the region to compete in our JCC Maccabiah games.
As you can tell, I am passionate about the Partnership and its potential. I invite you to join me and get involved in it. For more information, visit our blog at aradtamarpartnership2000.blogspot.com and find links to many Partnership sites.