Israel Trip Report--December 2011

Lillian and Larry Goodman Foundations

Israel Trip Report December 2011

In late December, fourteen Goodman friends and family members toured Israel. For some, it was their first Israel experience; for others, it was a return trip with an updated perspective.

The first few days were spent in Jerusalem, visiting the Old City; Mount Olives; Yad Vashem; and sharing meals with friends such as former Ambassador Uri Bar-Ner and Professor Jack Habib, Director of the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute.  Joshua Matza, a former Knesset member, former CEO of Israel Bonds and current President of the Begin Museum, led an insightful, multi-media tour of the museum that detailed one of the most important chapters in modern Israel history. 

The day’s highlight was the Be’er-Sheva Distinguished Citizens Award Ceremony.  Over 1000 guests applauded the 2011 honorees - individuals whose actions and contributions to the public good have led to advancement and growth of the city.  The Lifetime Achievement Award, Be’er-Sheva’s highest honor, was conferred upon Larry Goodman, for his long term passion and dedication to developing the city and improving the quality of life of its residents.

For nearly two decades the Goodman Family has supported a wide variety of educational, cultural, and social service projects in Be’er-Sheva. Their many initiatives include the Bat-Dor Dance Center; Ben-Gurion University Train Station; L&L Goodman Child and Family Center; the Acting School and Theatre of the Negev; and contributions to Soroka Medical Center, Ilan Ramon Play Park, and Ben-Gurion University.

As Day Four began, Mayor Ruvik Danilovitch and City Manager Avishog Avtubi shared exciting developments in Be’er-Sheva, and followed up with a tour of these sites the next day.  Tremendous growth and development are evident throughout the city.  The municipality’s goal is to make Be’er-Sheva appealing for young professionals and families, while also creating a hub for tourism.  Environmental programs are being implemented, as residents participate in recycling and solar energy programs.

The city is rapidly taking its place as a center for technology and science, with several companies already committed to putting down roots in the area.   Additionally, the Israeli Army plans to station 80,000 personnel in the region, yielding even greater development.

A visit to Soroka Medical Center allowed the group to observe a cardiac procedure utilizing specialized cardiac equipment funded by the Goodman Foundation.  They also received a progress report on renovations to the outpatient pediatric wing, as well as the fully equipped, on-site school for children undergoing treatment in the pediatric oncology unit (both projects are partially funded by the Foundation).   

The seventh night of Hanukkah was celebrated at a party at the L&L Goodman Child and Family Center and Inbal Ilyse Lopatin Center. Sharing the joy of over 100 children and parents singing songs and lighting candles together was heart warming.  The staff also provided updates regarding the second floor expansion of therapy rooms, a recently approved Foundation project.  The evening concluded with an authentic Moroccan dinner hosted by Elie Elalouf, Director General of the Rashi Foundation.  The Goodman Foundation partners with the Rashi Foundation on many projects in Israel.

The fifth day began with a private tour of the city’s new developments, led by the Mayor (per his presentation the prior morning).  Construction activity was evident throughout all areas of the Be’er-Sheva – from the interactive science museum currently under construction, to the newly opened Negev Museum and Visitors Center.  The city continues to expand quickly and purposefully, keeping pace with the cutting edge needs of its inhabitants.

The group had the unique opportunity to attend the pilot graduation ceremony at Hatzerim Air Force Base. These young men and women, having completed three years of intensive air force training and college classes, are committed to seven years of active service in the Air Force.  The sacrifices of family and friends of these new pilots did not go unnoticed, and the magnitude of the role of this elite Air Force throughout Israel’s history is remarkable.  Graduation held special meaning this year as Israel marks the 20th anniversary of Operations Moses and Solomon (in which thousands of Ethiopian Jews were rescued and brought to Israel by special missions of the Israeli Air Force).  

Day Six began with a visit to the Association for the Advancement of the Status of Women at Lakia, a group which empowers Bedouin women through income-producing embroidery projects, a mobile learning library and monthly forums connecting women to each other to discuss women’s issues and family challenges.

Much of the afternoon was spent at Ben-Gurion University (BGU) touring Goodman Foundation projects including a modern, efficient train station, engineering building, and the Lillian Goodman Memorial Garden.  The highlight of the visit was the official signing of the L&L Open Apartments Program agreement.  The Open Apartments Program provides free housing to a select group of 100 students in economically challenged areas of Be’er-Sheva.  In return, students “adopt” families to assist with day to day activities; serve as role models for neighborhood children; implement holiday programming; and provide a safe place for children and families to discuss problems.  Currently, 63 apartments are included in the program, with plans to grow to 75 apartments within the next 10 years. Group participants visited several apartments and spoke with students committed to the program.

The Foundation hosted dinner for BGU IMPACT! Scholarship students - men and women who are former Israeli combat soldiers receiving scholarships in return for continued community service.  Students in attendance spoke of the ups and downs of their chosen areas of study, including economics, engineering and medicine.  Most would not have the opportunity to attend BGU without these scholarships and their appreciation and warmth was evident.

The last day in Be’er-Sheva included a visit to the L&L Goodman Acting School and Theatre of the Negev, including a sneak peak at the dress rehearsal of their newest production “Galileo.”  In addition, the group was treated to performances by the youngest of student dancers at the Bat Dor Dance School, as well as a presentation by the dancers of the internationally recognized, professional Dance Company, Kamea.  The Foundation has recently approved a request to add a second floor to the facility which will become the permanent home of Kamea Dance Company.

The visit to Be’er-Sheva concluded with a farewell dinner hosted by the municipality, which included a surprise video montage of the group’s Be’er-Sheva experience and a tour of its beautiful and nationally recognized fountains.   

Having spent the New Year together in Tel Aviv, several travelers returned to the U.S. with a renewed love for Israel.  Others, including several first-timers, spent a few additional days venturing north to tour Akko, Tiberias, Caesera, and Haifa.  Several members of the group are already planning their next trip to Israel.