Although women drive buses in Israel and ride motorbikes, only three in the whole country ride ambucycles. The third, who is the first in Tel Aviv, is Aely Haccoun who immigrated to Israel from France eight years ago. Like most immigrants, she worked hard to learn the language, find a job and an apartment in a good neighborhood and has been happy living in Tel Aviv, the city she now calls home. One of the things that make Haccoun unique is that after moving to Israel she also chose to become a United Hatzalah volunteer and rushes out to save lives whenever an emergency occurs in her vicinity.
Haccoun, who follows in the footsteps of Sophie Donio from Eilat and Sanaa Mahameed from Umm al-Fahm, works as a project manager whose expertise focuses on resource development and cross-organizational partnerships in the nonprofit sector. She joined United Hatzalah over a year-and-a-half ago and volunteers as one of 5,000 EMTs, paramedics and doctors who provide treatment free of charge to anyone in need of emergency medical care. In addition to becoming an ambucycle driver, Haccoun is currently completing a course to become an ambulance driver as well. She is one of a relatively small group of women who are making a difference.
■ A WOMAN who has made a difference in another completely unrelated sphere is Prof. Deborah Lipstadt, Dorot professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Lipstadt rocketed to international fame in September 1996, when notorious Holocaust-denier David Irving filed a libel suit against Lipstadt and her publisher Penguin Books for characterizing some of his writings and public statements as Holocaust denial. Under British law, the burden of proof is placed on the defendant and not on the plaintiff. Both Lipstadt and Penguin were able to prove that what she had written in her book Denying the Holocaust was in fact true, and they won the case. The story was reported in great detail around the world.
His defeat in court did not stop Irving from continuing his denials of the Holocaust or from spewing antisemitic and generally racist remarks. He was barred from several countries, and in Austria, he was arrested and sentenced to a three-year term in prison.
Lipstadt will be in Israel next month as the keynote speaker at the 27th annual Bnai Brith World Center Awards for Journalism, recognizing excellence in reportage on Diaspora Jewry and Israel-Diaspora relations. The event will take place on Wednesday, July 3, at the Begin Heritage Center. This year’s winners are Antonia Yamin of Kan 11 in the broadcast media division, and Zvika Klein of Makor Rishon in the print media division. A certificate of merit will be awarded to Attila Somfalvi of Ynet News. Yamin is truly remarkable in her grasp of what is going on in Europe, especially in relation to incidents and events pertaining to Jewish communities. This year, there will also be a citation for fostering Israel-Diaspora relations through the arts with veteran singer, actor, television host and radio current affairs broadcaster Yehoram Gaon as the recipient. Gaon, though approaching his 80th birthday, is as busy as ever. Last week, he gave an open air concert in Jerusalem’s Safra Square, and last night, Saturday, he sang to an even larger audience in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square.
■ YOU CAN’T argue with success goes the old adage. When Prof. Uriel Reichman initially established the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya a little over 25 years ago, there were many who forecast that it was doomed to failure. But the opposite happened. It continued to grow, and several philanthropists supported the policy of providing courses in English for foreign students in the hope that their experience of the reality of Israel would turn them into unofficial ambassadors for Israel in their home countries. But not only foreign students were attracted to IDC. Over the years, thousands of local students, including members of the Knesset and personalities from the world of entertainment as well as the business community, have earned their degrees in various fields at IDC. Last week 2,000-recipients of bachelor’s and master’s degrees attended the graduation ceremony honoring the class of 2018. Among them were more than 400 graduates of the Raphael Recanati International School together with thousands of family members and friends.
Ninety-plus countries are represented in IDC’s student body, which essentially means a lot of goodwill for Israel around the globe after they graduate and return home or go elsewhere in the world. Not all are Jewish, and of the Jewish students, some 70% opt to remain in Israel. At the graduation ceremony, emulating the customs of universities abroad, faculty and graduates marched into the arena in academic garb. The parade, headed by Reichman, was led by deans and other senior faculty members, as well as Herzliya Mayor Moshe Fadlon, and IDC Chancellor Oudi Recanati, along with Nadav Mendelson who spoke on behalf of the graduates.
This year’s ceremony was very special in that it was held within the context of the 25th anniversary celebrations of the establishment of IDC Herzliya and the approval it received from the Council for Higher Education to confer doctorates, thereby transforming it into the first private university in Israel. In his address to the graduates and their families, Reichman characterized IDC Herzliya as “a Zionistic institution which acts in the spirit of the values expressed in the proclamation of independence.” While he understood the good intentions behind the recently legislated Nation-State Law, a last-minute deal prior to the enactment robbed the intention of its meaning, which was to strengthen the message of the ‘proclamation. As a result of that deal, the Nation-State Law “completely ignores” what is stated the proclamation and its value, said Reichman.
The distortion of the bill was the beginning of the assault on the foundations of Israeli democracy – the police force and its chief, the attorney-general and state attorney, who were all accused of persecuting the prime minister in an attempt to replace the government. Most of the attacks were directed against the Supreme Court, he continued. Expressions of hatred determined that the Supreme Court was the enemy of the people, like Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. Legislative initiatives were aimed to deprive the Supreme Court of its authority, and the justice minister suggested to disqualify verdicts that do not suit the government.
In bidding farewell to the graduates, Reichman expressed his concern over what he perceives as the erosion of democracy, which he admitted he is not sure that Israel will be able to withstand. He was proud of the human mosaic of IDC graduates who between them speak all common languages on Earth, come from various ethnic and religious groups, are of varying age, come from more than 90 countries, and who each carry a different set of traditions and stories, and yet are linked forever through their experiences at IDC, which he said would always be there for them.
■ FOR MORE than a decade, the ROI community, sponsored by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, has convened in Jerusalem where leading young innovators from throughout the Jewish world have been brought together to challenge each other and develop visions for change. At this year’s ROI summit, taking place from June 23-27, some 150 of the most promising young Jews from Argentina, Australia, the Bahamas, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uruguay will join the ROI network.
For those who may not be aware, the initials stand for Return on Investment, and as far as the Schusterman Foundation is concerned, the future leaders of Jewish communities around the globe will be the return on investments in the foundation’s annual summits in Jerusalem. Aside from providing a platform for these young leaders to share their visions and opinions, the ROI Summit enables young Jews from farflung, and often very small communities to meet with their peers from other countries and to form friendships which could well become life-long connections separated by geography but linked on a daily basis through social media.
The people chosen for this year’s summit have already proven their ability and readiness to step up and to lead,” said No’a Gorlin, ROI Community’s associate executive director. “We are energized by their limitless potential to generate positive impact. firstname.lastname@example.org
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