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June 28, 2011
My friend Ronald Cope, granddaughter Hailey, and great-grandson Gabe recently returned from Israel. This was a truly spectacular trip filled with so many wonderful events. The City of Be’er Sheva and the Negev region are steadily growing and there are many new projects in development.
Projects the Lillian and Larry Goodman Foundations support are so well embraced within the community that the L& L Goodman Bat Door Dance School is adding a second floor, the Saban Pediatric Hospital at Soroka Medical Center is opening a new outpatient clinic, and the L&L Goodman Child and Family Center and the Ilyse Lopatin INBAL are ready to expand. There is much to be proud of in the City of Be’er Sheva and it’s truly an honor to be a part of so many endeavors there.
We spent the first couple days in Jerusalem where we visited with friends, received updates from the Joint Distribution Committee, and visited Yad Vashem to learn about an exhibition that will soon be at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie. We also met with the Jewish Agency for Israel education staff to hear about their Israel education programs at camps in the Diaspora.
Then it was off to Be’er Sheva where we attended a dinner for the Board of Governors of Ben-Gurion University (BGU) hosted by the University President Rivki Carmi. We engaged in thoughtful conversation about the role of the university both locally and abroad.
Over breakfast Sunday morning, Mayor of Be’er Sheva Rubik Danilovitch and Avishag Avtubi, city manager of Be’er Sheva, shared an overview of the growth and changes happening in their marvelous city. They provided an update on the City’s long range plans including a proposed City Park and the impact the Israeli Defense Forces base expansions will have on the Negev.
We also met with the new leadership of the Be'er Sheva Foundation and confirmed the many projects that are in development (We hope to share more news about these projects soon).
We spent the majority of Monday with Shmulik Efrach, the director of the L&L Goodman Theater & Acting School of the Negev, the Be'er Sheva Cultural Center, and Be'er Sehva Theater. He told us the Theater and School continues to grow and is in need of an additional storage facility where the School can keep props, costumes, and other necessities. We found it particularly touching to be able to have lunch with and speak to students. They love the Theater and School and it’s refreshing to hear how much it all means to them. That evening, Shmulik took us a great production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” premier at the Be’er Sheva Cultural Center.
We had an eventful Tuesday—first we visited with Director Daniella Schapira and Resource Developer Liron Keidar, of the L&L Goodman Bat Dor Be’er Sheva Dance Center. The school has become so successful that they are now building a second floor addition! The Lillian and Larry Goodman Foundations are happy to once again support their efforts and we had a wonderful ground breaking ceremony for the new project. Mayor Danilovitch was in attendance and Kamea presented a wonderful dance performance.
Later that day we met with Esther Amar, director of the municipal Social Welfare Department, and Chava Shochat, director of L&L Goodman Child and Family Center which includes the Ilyse Lopatin INBAL. Here, too, expansion is the key word: They are expanding with a second floor addition to allow more space for treatment and therapeutic recovery rooms for their clients. The Center is now working at full capacity and all the Center’s units are fully booked with clients.
We also visited with the Dorot dance troupe and toured their renovated “dressing and powder rooms” that the Foundation had provided a grant for. The dancers now have a place onsite to change into their dance gear as well as freshen up. As a thank you for this gift, they performed for us showcasing their amazing talent.
I also met Ofir Fisher and Sol Fayerman-Hansen from "Gateway to the Negev" in the old city of Be’er Sheva. An inventive visitor and information center, "Gateway to the Negev" is equipped with innovative multimedia systems to evoke informative and emotional experiences to promote positive images of the Negev. Their goal is to attract 300,000 new residents to the region in the next decade. Speaking of new residents, we also spent some time with Ravit Greenberg and other new immigrants from the Chicago-area who have moved to Be’er Sheva to start a new community.
The next day was a lovely dedication of Ben-Gurion University’s Maagan Center, a support center for cancer victims and their families, in memory of my dear friend Edy Freedman. We were proud that we could be there and share the meaningful, emotional ceremony with her husband Sol and their family.
There was also a dedication ceremony for the Hybrid Cardiac Catherization Unit at Soroka Medical Center. A couple years back, the Foundation had provided a grant for new cardiac technology equipment. Sorkoa now can provide immediate quality care to patients using newest technology in their state of the art facility
The group also met with representatives from BGU’s Open Apartments—the Open Apartments program helps student’s secure free apartments in the city and in return, they engage in community projects with their neighbors completing the circle of Tzedakah. The staff shared their appreciation for the Foundation continued commitment to the BGU Open Apartment Community ongoing service program.
We also met again with BGU President Rivki Carmi for a summary meeting with gave us the opportunity to discuss our shared concerns for the future of the Negev.
The following day we returned to Soroka Medical Center for a “Corner Stone” ceremony for the Saban Pediatric Hospital Outpatients Clinic. The Lillian and Larry Goodman Foundations are partnering with the Rashi Foundation to assist in the renovation that will enable more children in the Negev region to be treated in an exceptionally child-friendly and attractive space.
We attended a spectacular event that afternoon planned by my friend Hezi Levy. Along with a small group of other donors, we purchased a Torah for The Golani House—a small clubhouse/rest place for Golani soldiers traveling through Be’er Sheva. They used to have to borrow a Torah from a nearby synagogue in order to pray on Shabbat and holidays, but now they have their own for their very own “synagogue" within The Golani House.
There was a very touching ceremony that included each donor signing the Torah by adding a letter to it. After the ceremony we went to a site near the Golani House “synagogue” where there was singing and dancing. Retired Israeli Air Force Lt. General and former Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces Dan Halutz was in attendance and it was an honor to be in the presence of such a fearless leader. It was truly a highlight of the trip.
That evening was spent having dinner with BGU students who the Foundation supports through the IMPACT! Scholarships program from Friends of the Israel Defense Forces organizations. These men and women, former Israeli combat soldiers, are our future leaders. By sponsoring them, they receive the gift of education including tuition and textbooks. In exchange, recipients are required to complete 130 hours of community service each year of their scholarship. The students are always delightful to converse with and we enjoyed hearing about their studies and experiences at the University.
The next day was Friday, and since my great grandson Gabe was such a trooper, it was “Gabe’s day.” We toured the Air Force Museum with Yaacov Terner, former mayor of Be'er Sheva, and had private tour on the Hatzerim Air force Base with former base commander, retired Lt. General Shelly Guttmen. Gabe also thoroughly enjoyed the Be'er Sheva Zoo.
The Foundations Israeli representative, Elizabeth Homans, had us all over for Shabbat dinner with her family, celebrating her grand children's and Hailey's birthdays.
We left for home the next morning feeling optimistic about Be’er Sheva’s continued growth. It was another wonderful trip to our homeland.