This week has passed so quickly and before I’ve looked round it’s time for another Good News Friday installment.
First, an astonishing story of self-sacrifice in more ways than one: a Haredi woman from New York lost 34 kg in order to be able to donate a kidney – to a stranger!
For most, the notion of serving as a living donor – that is offering one’s internal organs to those in need – is a daunting prospect; a sacrifice few would make unless absolutely required by a loved one.
But one Brooklyn woman not only took the plunge, she literally reshaped her life to qualify as a donor – all to give up one of her kidneys to a total stranger.
Hindy Messinger, a 41-year old mother of three and grandmother of two from Borough Park spent five years preparing herself to meet the requirements to serve as a living donor, including losing 75 pounds (34 kilograms).
“The whole time I was losing weight, my thoughts were to give a kidney,” said Messinger.
“Six months after I lost my weight I called Cornell [Medical Center]. ‘So I’m gonna be able to donate a kidney now? Will I be able to donate a kidney?’ They said ‘no, not yet.’ I wanted to donate a kidney already. This is why I’m doing this.”
She had originally wanted to donate to her cousin, but after this became unnecessary she decided to go ahead and donate her kidney to a stranger.
Five years later, however, Messinger fulfilled the requirements to donate, even though her cousin no longer required the donation. Instead, she gave her kidney to Barry Bichler, a man she had never met before the operation.
I am in awe of Hindy’s motivation, her persistence, and her pure self-sacrifice in order to save a life. As our Rabbis have said, a person who saves one life is as if he saved a whole world. and indeed Hindy Messinger has saved both the life of the recipient as well as her own by regaining her own health. And she has made a huge Kiddush Hashem in the world as well. Kol hakavod is too weak a term to use here. I wish her and the recipient continued good health into the future, and may we all learn from her example.
Moving now into the diplomatic field, Israel and the African nation of Guinea renewed ties after a disconnect of 4 decades:
After almost five decades, Israel on Wednesday renewed diplomatic relations with the Republic of Guinea, a small, overwhelmingly Muslim country in West Africa that cut ties with the Jewish state in 1967.
“This is an important closing of a circle,” Gold said, noting that it has been nearly 50 years since the government in Conakry cut ties with Israel.
“The number of countries on the African continent that still haven’t [re-established ties with Israel] is steadily decreasing, and we’re hopeful that soon this number will not exist anymore,” Gold said. “Israel is calling on the countries that still haven’t renewed diplomatic relations to follow in Guinea’s footsteps so that we can work together to the benefit of all peoples in the region.”
This is excellent news, hopefully to be followed by the renewal of ties with yet more African nations. Kol hakavod to all the diplomats and politicians involved in these renewed relations, including PM Netanyahu who has made relations with Africa one of his declared aims. May these revived connections lead to more peace and security for the entire region.
Another visiting diplomat this week was the Paraguayan President, who was praised for his steadfast support for Israel:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes to Jerusalem on Tuesday, calling him a close friend who defended Israel “in difficult circumstances.”
Cartes, the first Paraguayan leader to visit Israel, regretted that the trip did not take place earlier as the two countries were “so close” and “friendly,” but indicated that it was an opportunity to catch up on lost time.
During Operation Protective Edge two years ago, Paraguay stood apart from other Latin American countries in its refusal to condemn Israel, The Jerusalem Post explained. Some other Latin American countries sharply criticized Israel in its war against Hamas, with Brazil, Peru, Chile, El Salvador, and Ecuador even withdrawing their ambassadors in protest.
However, Paraguay has consistently either abstained or voted in favor of Israel in international forums since Cartes was elected president in 2013.
Netanyahu said the relationship reflects both Cartes’ attitude towards Israel and the historical parallels between the two nations. Both Israel and Paraguay are “small countries surrounded by a lot of big countries, not always on the friendliest terms,” Netanyahu observed. Cartes noted that Paraguay voted for Israel to “become a state in May 14 of 1948.” He added that, coincidentally, “the independence of our country Paraguay .. is May 14 too, but in 1811.”
Following his recent historic trip to Africa, Netanyahu expressed an interest in working with Paraguay to expand Israel’s “relationship with the countries of Latin America.”
A huge kol hakavod to President Cartes on his unstinting support for Israel, no easy thing and not to be taken for granted in international forums today. May this visit be the harbinger of many more from South America.
And from diplomacy we move now to one of my favourite subjects: Aliya. This week saw the arrival of over 200 new immigrants from the United States and the largest French aliya flight of this summer, also with 200 immigrants.
The French olim were welcomed by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky who said:
“Each aliya reminds me of my own aliya; each aliya is the closing of a huge circle,” said the Soviet-born former refusenik, who made his own aliya in 1986 after nine years of imprisonment.
“We all know there is a future for French Jews in Israel, while there is a discussion over whether they have a future in France,” he told the olim. “You all made a giant step today in building a more secure future for your children.”
Indeed, many of those fresh off the plane gave that as the reason for the move to Israel.
“We decided to come to Israel for the children,” Anthony Marek of Paris told the Post.
The American olim meanwhile expressed their huge emotions on their arrival in Israel:
Noah Lawrence, 29, originally from Massachusetts, said Israel had always had a hold on him.
“I always wanted to live in a Jewish national culture, and I just discovered it over the years,” he said. “One of the early stops on that journey was when I was an intern for The Jerusalem Post… and Baruch Hashem, God brought me back.”
When asked why he decided to move to Israel, Lawrence replied, saying “it’s like asking how you fell in love with someone. It’s hard to even say.”
It is words like these which make living in Israel, with all the difficulties and dangers involved, so worthwhile.
Bruchim haba’im – Welcome! – to all the new olim. May your absorption be easy, may your future life here be successful and I wish you every success and happiness in your new life in Israel.
And finally, yesterday we celebrated the Batmitzvah of our granddaughter Hodaya. It was a lovely evening, with good food, speeches, video clips and dancing. It was a very exciting and moving occasion for all of us: for us as her grandparents, for my parents and in-laws who had the privilege of seeing their great-granddaughter celebrate, and of course for Hodaya’s parents, her other grandparents, her siblings, and the entire community.
We wish Hodaya all the blessings that can be bestowed on a Batmitzvah girl: that she should grow in her faith and mitzvot; that she should enjoy continued success in school, good health, happiness, and success in all that she does.
And with these happy thoughts I wish Shabbat Shalom to all my readers.