Sunday, May 22, 2016


This morning we visited a youth aliyah village, Meir Shfeya. It started as an agricultural settlement bought in 1888 by Baron Rothschild. In 1923, he gave the land to Henrietta Szold to save kids from Europe and bring them to Palestine. She and the organization she founded, Hadassah, rescued refugees and orphans after the Holocaust. In the 1970s it served problematic at risk Israeli kids. 

"Ethiopia Small"

wine barrels

In the 1980s it served Ethiopian and Russian new immigrants to Israel and today there are 300 kids who live in the dorms 10-12 months of the year. It is the most inclusive school in the country serving children from the Jewish, Druze, Muslim, Christian, and Bedouin communities. There is also a day school with another 300 kids. All the kids spend 2 weeks working in various parts of the school. They have a winery there practically run by teens!

We learned that 1/3 of Israeli kids live in poverty. Some are court ordered to Meir Shfeya because their home might be abusive, some are at risk kids, some are Russians who emigrate without their parents. Their message is, "Every child's dream is to feel at home" and they strive to make Meir Shfeya their home. 

We have the privilege of Barbara Goldstein, aka BG, joining us on our tours. Barbara has been involved in Hadassah pretty much since birth and is a major force in the movement. Wherever we go, people know her and come over to chat with her. At Meir Shfeya, there is a street named after her and a monument in her honor. She told us that Hadassah women are dressed in strength and dignity as our clothing - which comes from a passage in Eshet Chayil, which husbands traditionally sing to their wives on Shabbat- it translates to Women of Valor.
The important flags
Lynda & Michelle chatting with some of the youth

BG at her street
Our next stop was to visit Atlit, a detention camp run by the British after WW2. We had the privilege of meeting Murray Greenfield, who was  a volunteer captain of a ship that brought Holocaust survivors from Italy to Palestine. When they approached Palestine, their ship was taken over by the British and they were brought to a detention camp in Cyprus (an island off the coast of Greece). They spent a few months there where the rations were meager, there was a shortage of water, and the outhouses over flowed. When they were finally brought to Israel, they were brought to Atlit and held again. It was haunting to hear him describe their arrival in Atlit and to be separated in lines by gender, asked to take off their clothes, and take a shower. I can only imagine the horror that they felt after surviving work camps, and rumors of gas chambers at Auschwitz, and then the British asked them to do the same at this camp.
They lived behind barbed wire

The place to wash clothes - reminiscent of the concentration camp selections.

The bunks at Atlit

The Galina- one of the ships that rescued survivors 

Murray Greenfield

Over a fabulous dinner at Derech Hagefen, in Jerusalem, we met Miriam Peretz. Miriam has a book called Miriam's Song, and it's the story of losing 2 sons 12 years apart, while they served in the IDF (Israel Defense Force). She is an amazing women, full of hope, who spoke with a smile in her voice while we all wept around the table while listening to her story. She was blessed to have 6 children and when asked how many children she has, she falters before answering 6.

She said, "When you support Hadassah (Hospital) you support life. You give birth there, so you give life. We fight and fight and fight because we believe in peace."

She asks, "God, Why?" And says, There is no answer but every morning she chooses which life she wants to continue. 
She can stay in bed and cry but she chooses to live her life. 

Her son Aliraz died in Gaza 6 years ago while fighting Hamas  during his "Milu-eem", which is reserve duty. Aliraz was the father of 4 children between the ages of 6 and 2 months. He was 32 years old. She had already lost another son, Uriel, 12 years before that in Lebanon to Hizbollah

Miriam has strong faith in God and says, "Life is a big gift that God gave you. It's very hard to love God and sometimes I dance with God because he's the only one who can give me comfort".

Mirian's parents were from Morocco and they couldn't read and write but knew the word Jerusalem which to them meant eternity - hope. Her message was one of hope despite her unimaginable losses. She said, I can stay home and watch tv, but instead, I speak with 1000 soldiers every week including Mossad (special forces) and bereaved families. 

"It's very easy to die for this land, it's not easy to love after you bury your children." 

I promised to read her book
 It was an emotional day and we broke up the visits with loud singing on the back of the bus. I was sad to miss Mike's birthday and the USY elections at home but stayed in touch by texting. Once again, I feel the sisterhood of these amazing women as we laughed and cried and ate our way through the day. Thank you to Hadassah for an amazing day! #Thepowerofwomenwhodo #HadassahFellowship

No comments:

Post a Comment