Grapevine August 4, 2019: Education is the key

Grossman recently went to a kindergarten in an Arab village where the kindergarten teacher read the story out loud in Arabic, and Grossman read it in Hebrew.

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September 4, 2019 04:59
Grapevine August 4, 2019: Education is the key

Palestinian schoolchildren take part in a lesson at a school run by UNRWA in the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)

The parents and/or grandparents of some of New York’s leading Jewish lawyers, physicians, accountants and academics were illiterate or semi-literate immigrants, mostly from Eastern Europe. The fact that they didn’t have much education didn’t mean that they didn’t value education. In fact, they made sure that their offspring went to school and to college. It’s a vehicle for the acquisition of knowledge and a tool for career advancement.

Ethiopian-Israelis whose parents and grandparents came from remote villages where they received little or no schooling, are in more or less the same position as those successful New York Jews who are the progeny of former residents of the city’s Lower East Side. Given education, the sky is the limit – sometimes quite literally as was the case when President Reuven Rivlin met Israeli civilian pilots from the Ethiopian community who are graduates of the Ye’elim organization’s flight program.

Founded in 1998 by Izzy Canaan, Ye’elim provides scholarships and organizes activities for its young participants and children at risk. Since 2005, it has focused its efforts on empowering Ethiopian-Israeli youth in the “Flying Proudly” and “Pilot for a Day” initiatives, which develop self-confidence and motivation for meaningful military service.

Canaan, together with recent flight training graduates, came to the President’s Residence within the framework of Ye’elim’s 20th anniversary celebrations. Danio Chana, one of the graduates, is presently completing his MEng after successfully completing his BEng degree in electrical engineering. He currently serves as an academic reservist in the IDF Ordnance Corps.

Chana told the president about his first meeting with Canaan, who he said changed the course of his life. “My family and I immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia in 2003. We knew no Hebrew and did not know how to read and write. At the absorption center in Israel, I started elementary school and all the way until high school, I was a problematic kid with no discipline and no motivation. In 10th grade, I first met with Izzy and he told me that in order to get to the flight course at Ye’elim, I would have to complete 5-point matriculation in physics, math and computers. I thought he was kidding. But slowly I realized that Izzy was not only counting on me getting a full matriculation, but also that he believed I could be a pilot. It was the first time anyone believed in me, and it is where I felt my motivation had changed. I started studying for my matriculation and at the same time studied for the theory tests for the pilots’ course. After working hard, I completed the pilots’ course and got a full matriculation. I
zzy continued to push me to go to the IDF academic reserves and study for a degree, and that is how I got to where I am today. “

Rivlin told Chana that he was an inspiration in the national mission to open doors to all segments of the population with the aim of providing equal opportunities for all.

■ IBCA, THE acronym for Israel Britain and the Commonwealth Association, annually holds a Balfour Day Dinner in November to commemorate the signing of the Balfour Declaration. The dinner date seems to be moving further away from the actual anniversary each year, and this year will be on Wednesday, November 13. Not only the date has been changed from that of the actual November 2 anniversary, but also the venue. In past years, it was usually the Tel Aviv Hilton or another Tel Aviv venue. But this year, it will be at the Daniel Hotel in Herzliya Pituah. One suspects that the reason for this might be because the overwhelming majority of people who attend the dinner are British expats, most of whom live in Herzliya Pituah, Kfar Shmaryahu, Ra’anana and Netanya.

There may also be another change, this one in the wording of the invitation. It is customary to have two keynote speakers, one from Britain and one from Israel. The British speaker is Lord Eric Pickles, a former member of Parliament who has been to Israel before, and who is currently chairman of the Conservative Friends of Israel, and the United Kingdom Special Envoy for post Holocaust issues. The Israeli speaker however, is MK Gideon Sa’ar, former cabinet secretary, former chairman of the coalition, former interior minister and former education minister. It’s possible that he may have another title in September or October, pending the outcome of the elections.

■ NOSTALGIA IS one of those inexplicable emotions. Many people who have suffered persecution, discrimination and even prison in the lands of their birth, nonetheless have some sense of yearning for the homeland when living elsewhere. Some want to return to at least visit, if not to live there again – but that is not always possible, because the gates of the homeland are closed to them. That’s what happened to Geoffrey Hanson, a retired hotel manager, who is president of the Center of Jewish Heritage of Egypt and Sudan.

Hanson, who was born in Alexandria, was for many years denied a visa to enter Egypt. This may have been because some zealous clerk discovered that at around midnight on October 31, 1956, Hanson had been arrested. His arrest was on the day that Israel invaded Egypt followed by Britain and France in what in Israel is known as Operation Kadesh and elsewhere as the Suez War.

Most Egyptian Jews held foreign passports, but because of their religion, were suspected of being pro-Israel – and Israel at that time was the enemy.

After 90 days in a Cairo prison, Hanson was released, and being in possession of a British passport, was deported to England. He was one of many Jews with either British or French citizenship who were expelled from Egypt.

It has been estimated that close to 25,000 Jews left Egypt between November 1956 and the end of 1957.

Hanson, who had been a 25-year-old hotel manager with a bright future ahead of him, was traumatized for a long time afterward. Hanson later came to Israel, where he had a successful career in the hotel industry, but his heart was always in Alexandria.

Following the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, he tried for several years to return, but was consistently denied a visa. Eventually that changed, and because of the geographic proximity, he was able to go back to his home city quite frequently.

The Jewish community of Egypt continued to dwindle. Today, there are fewer than 20 Jews living in Egypt. Of those who remained after the latter-day exodus, most have died. But the JCC Cairo continues to maintain a Facebook account in which there are posts from former Jewish residents of Egypt.

According to Hanson, limited permission was recently granted for visits to these sites, which include the Sha’ar Hashamayim Synagogue in Cairo, the Bassatine cemetery in Cairo, the Rambam Synagogue in Cairo, three cemeteries in Alexandria and the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Alexandria. The latter, which was originally built in 1354, was bombed in 1798 during the French invasion of Egypt and rebuilt in 1850 with contributions from the Muhammad Ali Dynasty, is now on the list of Monuments at Risk tabled by the World Monuments Fund. The permit to visit is valid for 10 days from September 1, 2019.

■ NOT ALL Israeli best-selling authors who write in Hebrew have their works translated into Arabic. In fact, most don’t. Among the rare exceptions is David Grossman, whose first and second books for children have been translated into Arabic. The latest book is about two little girls fighting over a doll. One doesn’t have to be a great philosopher to understand the implied meaning. On the other hand, one doesn’t have to analyze it and spoil it for young children. It’s not like being translated into any other language, Grossman told Goel Pinto on Reshet Bet. It is always a moving experience for him to receive feedback from Arab children or their parents and teachers, especially from those whose countries do not have diplomatic relations with Israel, he said. There are Arab countries in which his books are banned because Grossman has been branded as the Zionist enemy.

Grossman recently went to a kindergarten in an Arab village where the kindergarten teacher read the story out loud in Arabic, and Grossman read it in Hebrew.

■ MANY OF the more affluent members of the tribe, who were born into lower-middle class families in various parts of the world, made their fortunes in real estate. One such person is Washington billionaire Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins football team, whose impressive mansion overlooking the Potomac, has been up for sale since October, 2018. The asking price is $49 million, though according to The Wall Street Journal, Snyder paid $8.46 million when he and his wife, Tanya, purchased the property known as the River House in 2000. The previous owner was Jordan’s Queen Noor. Admittedly, Snyder added to the value by building an extension to the property, but even so, if he succeeds in finding a buyer, he will be making a very hefty profit on his investment.

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