Good News Friday

It’s time for a palate-cleanser after the balagan of the past week, so here is a Good News Friday installment to put us all into a better mood for Shabbat.

Let’s start with the amazing “Good Neighbour” program instituted by the IDF to help Syrian civilians caught up in the fighting, and who are desperate for food, hygiene products, medical help and anything to enable to live a half-normal life amidst the destruction. Just watch this video:

Kol hakavod to Tzahal (the IDF) and to all the multitudes of personnel involved in this important project.  We can be so proud of our crazy little country!

In the Bible it is written “מעז יצא מתוק” – “out of bitterness comes sweetness”. Maybe this Operation Good Neighbour will be the thing that can bring about peace between our nations.

Look out for more videos and Facebook clips about Operation Good Neighbour. They are all eye-opening and heart-warming.

Since we’re talking about helping others, here is a story of a non-Israeli – a visiting British policemen – who helped an Israeli under attack by a violent gang in Jerusalem while he was on holiday, who has then received a well-deserved award for bravery:

A detective sergeant from Essex Police is up for a bravery award tomorrow night — for saving the life of a Jewish resident of Jerusalem after he was violently attacked.

Detective Sergeant Richard Burgess told the Jewish News this week that he “didn’t think about it” despite nearly getting killed in the attack. But he did detect “God’s purpose” in helping the Jewish man.

Detective Sergeant Richard Burgess who saved Israelis from attack in Jerusalem

DS Burgess, 45, who is based in Rayleigh, Essex, has served in Essex and the intelligence community and has been a police officer for 25 years. But his real ambition, as he told the Jewish News, is to become a priest, and he has been studying with Canon David Tudor of St Nicholas’ Church in Canvey Island.

The group’s week-long tour was nearly at an end when, at DS Burgess’s initiative, they visited the grave of Oskar Schindler, who saved hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust. Schindler is buried in the Catholic cemetery on Mount Zion, near the Old City’s Zion Gate. The police officer has worked as a historian and a Holocaust guide, teaching many young people and guiding them around sites in eastern Europe.

“As we came out of the cemetery, there was a young child screaming in an alleyway opposite, and a woman who pointed down the alley and begging, ‘please help’ in broken English.

“I saw three Arab-looking males assaulting a Jewish man wearing a kippah. I saw him being dragged and assaulted, and some sort of noxious substance appeared to have been sprayed at his face, because his eyes were streaming.”

The burly police officer ran down the alley “without a thought”. He said: “It wasn’t a good year for me, 2016. We went to Israel two days after my mother’s death and I had had a bad motorcycle accident which affected the use of my right arm”.

But, undeterred, he said: “I curled my arm around one of the men — who was hitting the Jewish man with a belt which he was using as a knuckleduster — and put him in a headlock. With my other arm I pulled at the Jewish man’s clothing and literally threw him up the alley, shouting ‘go, go’ — he soon got the message”.

But the drama wasn’t over, as the men began hitting DS Burgess round the face with the belt-buckle. “A third man came into the area with a claw hammer, and hit me on the back of my head.” The police officer slumped against the wall and the assailant raised the hammer once more — and this second blow would certainly have killed him.

“I managed to raise myself up — I’m a big bloke — opened my arms wide and shouted at them”. The men shouted back for him to leave and Canon Tudor and his police colleagues made certain that the children of the injured Jewish resident were safe.

Two men were later convicted of assault and DS Burgess made his way back to the pilgrimage coach and safety. His colleagues nominated him for a Police Federation Bravery Award, which is due to be presented on Thursday evening.

The National Police Bravery Awards honour officers who have performed outstanding acts of bravery while on or off-duty. The awards are sponsored by Police Mutual.

Kol Hakvod to DS Burgess! As his superiors said, he is a true police hero. He also should be awarded a medal for courage from the Israeli police. May DS Burgess have success in his chosen career and may he continue to be a role model for all policemen.

Turning now to something completely different, here are some lovely educational items.

Teachers in haredi (Ultra-Orhtodox) schools have decided to bring nature studies to the classroom. These children typically study mainly “book-learning” with very little hands-on experience, particularly about the environment, and the teachers had the bright idea of teaching about nature by creating “mitzvah gardens”:

Leshomra is a two-year-old organization that helps plant gardens at nursery schools, kindergartens, schools, and community centers in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in an attempt to connect children in a tactile way to nature and how things grow. It aims to build environmental awareness and green practices from the bottom, through a real understanding of Haredi culture and how best to relate to people in that community.

“First you need a connection with nature,” explained Avishai Himelfarb, the founder and director of Leshomra. “If you go to a [Haredi] first-grade class and say ‘you should recycle,’ that’s not even the issue… They don’t even understand that nature exists and that you need to take care of it” through recycling and other actions, he explained.

“Maybe they know it in their brains, but they don’t experience it, they don’t know what nature is,” Himelfarb said as he looked out across Modiin Ilit, one of the first places where Leshomra started working. Many of the playgrounds in the city are covered with synthetic grass.

…  Leshomra now works in 85 schools and community centers in the ultra-Orthodox locations of Bnei Brak, Jerusalem, Modiin Ilit, Elad, Tel Stone, and Beit Shemesh. It mostly works with younger children, but in some places with Talmud Torah schools, or elementary schools for ultra-Orthodox boys.

He started Leshomra two years ago after running shmita, or sabbatical year, tours in the central Israeli Moshav Gimzo, where he lives. Without any advertising, more than 7,000 ultra-Orthodox kids and their parents came for tours to learn about the special Torah commandments that govern every seventh year, when observant Jews let the land lie fallow. The strong response inspired Himelfarb to pursue his dream full-time by starting Leshomra. He studied at the Mandel Institute’s Leadership Development in the Haredi Community program to help him develop the idea.

The mitzvah garden also enables the children to integrate their Jewish studies and the commandments relating to the Land of Israel to nature studies:

There are commandments connected to agriculture that few observant Jews have a chance to fulfill because they are not farmers. One of these is kilayim, or the prohibition of planting different species close to each other.

At the kindergartens and nursery schools, the children make their own “kilayim rulers,” practicing numbers and geometry in the process, and plan their gardens with sufficient space between the species.

… Rivkie, a kindergarten teacher from Modiin Ilit who declined to give her last name, recalled the excitement when she taught the students about the commandment of ma’aser, or tithes, which means putting aside 10 percent of the harvest for the Levites. In their garden tended by 4- and 5-year-old girls, 10 percent of the harvest turned out to be a single radish.

They gave that lone radish to the father of a student, who was a Levite. He brought it to the kollel where he studied Torah full-time and cut it into little pieces, and all of the Levites there took a small bite.

“Everyone was excited,” said Rivkie. “From the girls to the father to all of the people in the kollel — because it was the first time they had observed this commandment.”

“It really affects people,” she said. “I see mothers come in to the kindergarten to visit, and the girls don’t show them their drawings, they run with them to the garden and they want to show them how it’s growing… The girls document every little leaf that sprouts for us.”

And there are some important life lessons in all this too:

There are also disappointments, like when a whole class waited patiently for a single watermelon to ripen only to discover that the fruit had rotted and ants had eaten its innards.

“It’s also part of the experience when things don’t grow,” said Rivkie. “It’s part of dealing with life — there are disappointments, and there are also so many other wonderful things.”

Read the whole article. What a beautiful idea! Kol hakavod to Avishai Himmelfarb and the Leshomra organization and to all the teachers who participate and encourage nature studies, bringing such an important dimension to these children’s lives. May they go from strength to strength.

And one more item before we go (via Hadassah). Sarit Sternberg, a 16 year old Israeli student who is in the Hebrew University’s Alpha program for gifted students, was invited to Australia to represent Alpha. She described how she discovered a virus that kills anthrax in her studies at Alpha:

Antibiotics are usually used to treat anthrax, but certain bacteria are building resistance.

Sternberg has been looking at bacteria-killing viruses called phages, and she found one that can kill anthrax.

Sarit Sternberg in Sydney speaking to Year 11 students at Emanuel College.

“It was wonderful, I was really, really happy. I was literally jumping up and down, it was amazing,” she said.

“Anthrax is a very dangerous disease. It could cause death within a week or less.”

It’s a significant discovery and a remarkable one for someone of her age.

Sternberg addressed Year 11 students at Emanuel College in Sydney on Tuesday – and has a new fan in the shool’s principal.

“When you see people like Sarit and the work she’s doing to solve some of the problems the world has, it gives me great hope for the next generation,” Emanuel School Principal Anne Hastings said.

As well as studying at high school, Sternberg does scientific research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem two days a week.

Listen to Sarit’s interview on Australian RN radio here. (Click the arrow on the left).

Kol hakavod to Sarit!  She and her friends are the young people who are the promising future of Israel, but who work for the good of all mankind. May she continue with huge success in her future studies and career.

And with these inspiring thoughts I wish you all a safe, peaceful Shabbat and Chodesh Tov.

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2 Responses to Good News Friday

  1. Reality says:

    Wow what an uplifting post after the tensions of this week!Kol Hakavod to the IDF on the good neighbour programme.Where is the resounding praise from that icon of h(in)humanitarianism the UN? Deafing silence is resounding from them.Well done to DS Burges.What an act of heroism.May G-d watch over him and keep him safe.
    I love the agricultural idea of leshomra.What a unique way of teaching nature.I bet the kids love it.
    As for Sarit Sternberg,what an inspiration she is to others.May she go from strength to strength.
    Shabbat Shalom

  2. Pingback: Good News Friday – 24/6 Magazine

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