Back to regular programming, last week’s holiday seems like a million miles away already. But at least it’s time for a Good News Friday installment.
Starting with the Olympics, one of Israel’s bronze medallists, Judoka Yarden Gerbi, put her signed name-tag up for auction in aid of a children’s cancer charity:
Olympian judoka Yarden Gerbi won a hard-fought bronze medal three weeks ago at the Rio Games, but since that historic achievement she has lent her strength to the formidable fight against cancer, raising 196,000 shekels ($51,730) on behalf of children fighting the disease.
Gerbi put her signed nametag, which appeared on the back of her Olympic uniform during her historic medal run, up for auction on eBay, pledging all proceeds to the Dana Children’s Hospital at the Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv. The public, online auction ended August 29.
In a Facebook message she posted two weeks ago to announce the auction, Gerbi commemorated the late Liran Or, a young girl she met in the hospital’s pediatric cancer treatment facility, who recently lost her battle with cancer.
“I recently learned that Liran Or, a wonderful and beloved girl I kept in touch with, has passed away,” Gerbi wrote. “This terrible news about Liran hit me hard and saddened me deeply, and at the same time also strengthened my resolve to continue raising money for the [children’s] ward. Three years ago, I won the world championships. In a public auction, I sold my nametag and was able to raise NIS 15,000 [$4,000] for Yedidim [a social services organization for children, teens and young adults] and the children’s oncology ward at Sourasky Medical Center.”
Gerbi added: “I don’t know how much [money] I’ll be able to raise but any amount will help, even if just a little. I fight on the judo mat, but in visiting the children’s ward I’ve met true heroes, who fight every day — children who fight and try to maintain the joy of living.”
An anonymous donor bought the tag for $50,000! What a wonderful mensch is Yarden Gerbi. She is a champion both on the judo mat and, more importantly, in her character. Kol hakavod to her on her great win and on this wonderful initiative. And of course a huge thank you to the anonymous benefactor who has contributed so much towards sick children.
Speaking of charities, while not technically “good news”, the Israeli international aid organization IsraAid has sent a delegation to Italy to assist in rescue and trauma treatment after the devastating earthquake two weeks ago:
IsraAID’s emergency professionals were on standby within hours of the earthquake in central Italy. IsraAID was the first foreign aid organization on the ground in Italy to help survivors.
Amongst the first to be recruited to the team was psychologist Silvana Winer who was born in Rome and immigrated to Israel at age 20. With Italian as her mother tongue and a deep understanding of the culture, Winer is an invaluable asset to the IsraAID team.
“It all happened so quickly and I can hardly believe that I’m back in Italy, not to taste the famous flavors of Rome, but this time to assist,” Winer said. “I’m here to help in any way that I can.”
An earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale hit central Italy on August 24. The epicenter was located in the commune of Accumoli, and at least 40 aftershocks were felt in cities such as Rome, Naples, and Florence. Approximately 290 people were killed, and entire towns were reduced to rubble.
IsraAID’s dedicated team of professional trauma therapists assists families throughout the process from the identification of bodies to decisions about the burial and funeral arrangements.
“One woman I helped really moved me,” Winer recalls. “She clearly just needed someone to listen to her; someone to and be with her during her most difficult time. We spent two days together and she was so grateful for the contact.”
The pictures from the scene of the earthquake are shocking. But let us hope and pray that with the help of IsrAid as well as other international aid organizations, the citizens of Amatrice and the region will soon be able to recover from the trauma and rebuild their lives.
Kol hakavod to volunteer Sylvia Winer, and of course to IsrAid for being, as always, one of the first on the scene of a natural disaster. You make us all proud.
On a completely different subject, we have very good news from the Finance Ministry. Israel’s growth in 2016 was better than expected!:
Some 2 million Israeli school kids grabbed their backpacks and headed back to school Thursday morning, as the start of 2016-17 school year got off to a largely uneventful start.
According to the Education Ministry, a total of 2,232,172 students are attending 4,733 schools and 18,972 kindergartens this year. Of those, 158,958 were starting first grade, and 123,497 were starting 12th grade, their last in the state-run educational system.
In a statement, Education Ministry director Michal Cohen said the year “started as planned” despite the annual threats of strikes by parents or teacher associations.
Praising the “festive morning,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett said the Israeli educational system was “more personalized and more professional than ever.”
For the 2016-17 school year, the average size of first- and second-grade classes was reduced from 34 to 28 kids, and kindergartens were allotted an additional teaching assistant so that “each child will be given more warmth and love,” said Bennett, whose office sent out pictures of him with his children on their way to school.
Bennett and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened the academic year at a school in the northern Arab city of Tamra. In an address to some 200 elementary school students, the prime minister urged coexistence and increased integration for Israel’s Arab communities.
“I want you all to learn about the history of the Jewish people as well as of the Arab communities and learn the truth. We are meant to live together,” said Netanyahu, who drew criticism ahead of the 2015 elections with a video statement about “droves” of Israeli Arab voters that some deemed racist.
“I want you all to be doctors, scientists, writer or whatever it is you want, to be integrated and loyal citizens of Israel,” he said. “This is your country.”
Those are beautiful and heart-warming wishes from our leaders. May these wishes come to fruition in our younger generations.
In my own family, for the third year running we had a grandchild begin kita aleph (first grade), while I was brought up short at the thought that we now have three (!) granddaughters in high school! But I’m still 17! At least that’s how I feel inside 🙂
Even our son-in-law started school yesterday ☺. He began his new career as a high-school teacher in a central Israeli town, teaching maths, Jewish philosophy and the 7th grade educator (מחנך). I wish him all the luck and success in the world in this very important job. And I wish all our grandchildren הצלחה רבה in their studies. May they all grow up to be wise and knowledgeable about our wonderful traditions.
Today and tomorrow also mark a new start, the beginning of the month of Elul. This is the last month in the year, when we begin saying selichot (penitential prayers), and we prepare ourselves spiritually for the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
May this Shabbat Rosh Chodesh bring us comfort and redemption, and may we all merit to see the Geula in our time.
Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov everyone!