Grapevine: Getting a jump on the ‘hagim’

In Israel there’s always a feeling that we go from festival to festival.

April 6, 2016 20:06
3 minute read.
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man inspects freshly baked matza

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man inspects freshly baked matza. (photo credit: REUTERS)

■ SOME PEOPLE are so well-organized they can make plans for months ahead, but in Israel there’s always a feeling that we go from festival to festival. Hanukka is barely over before the doughnuts disappear, to be replaced by gift packages of dried fruits for Tu Bishvat; hamentashen then appear. Purim gets extended in both directions to way beyond its proper calendar dates, then supermarket shelves are stocked with kosher-for-Passover products. Yet even though Passover is still two weeks away, Rabbi Berel Wein and his Destiny Foundation are already advertising a five-day, four-night Shavuot retreat at the Kibbutz Lavi Hotel in the Lower Galilee.

■ IT’S NO secret that Israel is desperately short of social workers. There are two reasons for this: Social workers are overworked and underpaid; worse, they are subjected to violence – such as when a disgruntled individual is unable to receive the welfare benefits he believes he is entitled to and takes out his frustration on the social worker.

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Yet for all that, there are dedicated, altruistic people who genuinely want to help the weaker sectors of society, even at the risk of being physically and verbally attacked. It is for them and in the hope of attracting other potential social workers that Sapir Academic College near Sderot has introduced a master’s program in social work, with particular emphasis on dealing with children and youth.

Introduced in light of numerous requests by social workers and others who help at-risk youth, the program will begin at Sapir’s department of social work during the new semester and has been approved by the Council for High Education. Sapir College president Prof. Omri Yadlin says it has been geared to understanding the world of the child, the adolescent and his or her parents, and to intervene in accordance with the child’s needs. The program was formulated by the college’s deputy president, internationally recognized educational psychologist Prof. Avi Besser, together with Dr. Merav Moshe Grodofski.

■ A MARRIAGE proposal is sometimes a bigger deal than the wedding itself.

Usually it’s the potential groom who proposes; some men just ask straight out, “Will you marry me?” Others, seeking to make the proposal a memorable occasion, come up with all kinds of gimmicks.

That’s what happened to Sapir Tam, 19, a National Service volunteer at Kaplan Medical Center’s pediatric department who makes a habit of reading stories to the children. One day last week, she opened a storybook, and instead of seeing the title and author of the story, there was a large card covering the page with the words “Sapir, Marry me.” Moments later, her boyfriend entered the ward, got down on one knee, and made the traditional proposal. The medical team had been party to the secret, and everyone applauded when Tam replied in the affirmative.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, enthused Tam, to be surrounded with people she cares for and who care for her as the proposal was being made.

■ IN A country whose population is made up largely of immigrants, nearly everyone at one stage or another suffers from wanting-to-belong syndrome – which affects their identities, sense of self-worth and well-being, especially in the case of those who don’t know the language or come from a completely different culture.

Accordingly, the “Belonging” exhibition opened on April 7 at the Rishon Lezion Museum; it features the work of 23 artists whose genres include sketches, sculpture, photography, painting, textiles and video art. Curated by Carmel Gofer under the supervision of chief curator Yona Shapira, it reflects many emotions, taking the viewer in some cases to the past life of the artists, the pain and joy in the effort to recreate themselves in their new environment, through to the adoption of Israeli identity and, on a local level, their integration into Rishon Lezion.

The artists come from Argentina, Ethiopia, the former Soviet Union, Mexico, Morocco, Poland, Cambodia, Sweden and Yemen. Some are veteran immigrants, some are relatively new arrivals. There are at least two native-born Israelis among the exhibitors – siblings Moran and Or Yogev, who were born on a kibbutz and grew up with the complexity of having an Ethiopian grandfather, which makes them one-quarter Ethiopian.

The exhibition will be on view till May 29. This is the first in a series of exhibitions probing Rishon Lezion’s contribution to the formulating of Israeli identity and a sense of belonging.

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