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Eli Rubenstein: "Our Strength as a Nation Comes from Supporting Each Other
"People keep asking me why we chose the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei-Brak as the site for the park we wanted to create in memory of my father, Dov ben Mordechai Rubenstein. There are two answers to this question: One, there is a critical need for more parks in Bnei Brak, which has less green spaces than any other city in Israel. Two, my father, of blessed memory, taught me that all Jews are responsible for each other. As a Holocaust survivor, my father understood that the enemies of the Jewish people never distinguished between secular and religious Jews, or what sort of head covering their victims did or didn't wear. Our strength as a nation comes from our ability to support each other."
Mr. Eli Rubenstein of Toronto, Canada, was speaking on Friday, October 17, at the dedication of the Har Habanim Park and playground in Bnei-Brak, Israel's largest ultra-Orthodox city. Five years ago, Eli and Renee Rubenstein were the honorees at KKL-JNF Canada's Negev Dinner, where they decided that their contribution in memory of Mr. Rubenstein's father would benefit the residents of Bnei Brak. They were the guests of honor at the dedication ceremony, which was emceed by Mr. Micha Danieli, former KKL-JNF shaliah to New York, and were greeted on their arrival by children waving flags especially printed for the occasion.
"My father was a warm Jew who loved everyone and pursued peace. I am proud to continue in his tradition. My wife and I would like to thank everyone who helped to realize this project, including the mayor of Bnei Brak, Rabbi Yissascher Frankental, who has become a personal friend, and all the officials and employees of the Bnei Braq municipality. I would especially like to thank everyone from KKL-JNF, who worked tirelessly to transform this dream into a reality. There were a lot of problems and difficulties during the process, but the mayor and the KKL-JNF were always there to smooth things out. On behalf of myself and my family, who accompanied me to Israel for this special occasion, I am honored to present this park to the people of Bnei Brak. May their children enjoy it for many generations."
The park is situated on the highest point in Bnei Braq, with a breathtaking, panoramic view of the entire Tel Aviv metropolitan region. Mr. Ze'ev Kedem, KKL-JNF Fundraising Division director, thanked the Rubensteins on behalf of KKL-JNF: "We know that the people of Israel are compared to the four species of plants that we are commanded to take during the Sukkot holiday. Of the four, the etrog is considered to be the finest, as it possesses both taste and fragrance. I would say that Eli Rubenstein is like the etrog, since he both loves Israel and also has the means to practically support our people.
"Wherever you look at the map of Israel, you find KKL-JNF's fingerprints. KKL-JNF has created beautiful sites where people can enjoy nature and the outdoors. It is these sites that give Israel its 'taste and fragrance', and it is thanks to people like Eli and Renee Rubenstein that we are able to create these sites. May they be privileged to come and visit Har Habanim Park and see how it develops for many, many more years."
Rabbi Yissascher Frankenthal, the mayor of Bnei Braq, mentioned that while most of the year people's lives revolve around their homes, Sukkot is the time that people go outside: "As mayor, my job is to think about the 'outside' all year long, especially in a place like Bnei Braq, the tenth largest city in Israel. Eli Rubenstein is an example of a person who feels responsible not only for his immediate family and vicinity, but also for his larger community, the entire people of Israel. He is also a very successful businessman, so he realized that in terms of his investment, he could get more for his dollar in Bnei Braq. Here, out of 200,000 residents, over 100,000 are children, one of the highest ratios in Israel.
"As Providence would have it, I met Eli the first day of my job as mayor. I am now completing my term, and finally this project is being dedicated. There were a lot of problems we had to overcome, the most complicated of which was the water tower located on the site, which is operated by Mekorot, Israel's water company. We finally came to an agreement with them to build the water reservoir underground, so in the future, the park will be about three times its present size.
"I would also like to thank KKL-JNF, which has been a full partner to this project from the beginning to its successful end. Mr. and Mrs. Rubenstein, this gift truly honors the memory of your father, Dov Rubenstein, whom I knew personally. This is the most beautiful site in Bnei Braq. Thank you once again."
A local children's choir entertained the audience with Chassidic melodies. The moving ceremony concluded with the unveiling of the dedication plaque and cutting the ribbon of the new playground. The excited voices of the children enjoying the playground equipment filled the air, and local residents agreed that this isle of green in the middle of densely populated Bnei Braq was the perfect holiday gift.
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