Eytan and his mother, Liza, with the solar panels prior to their installation.
(photo credit: LIZA KRAMER)
The daily news usually covers the negative: scandals, corruption, wars, etc. I once heard a nightly news anchor say that she begins every night with the words “Good evening” and that is usually the last good thing she says for the entire broadcast. But in a country like Israel, filled with so many challenges and hardship, we cannot forget the extraordinary beacons of good and light living in our midst.
Which brings me to my new hero. His name is Eytan Kramer, a 13-year-old boy from Ra’anana.
As Eytan was approaching his bar mitzva a year ago, he and his mother had a discussion about what it means to “become a man.” Eytan concluded that it means not just taking responsibility for yourself, but for the needs of others as well. So Eytan decided that he wanted to take on a project for his bar mitzva that included helping the less fortunate.
He found out that there are some 600 million people in Africa who live in darkness – no electricity – and another 300 million Africans who do not have access to clean water. Most of us hear these statistics and sigh for a moment, and maybe even appreciate what we have – and then carry on with business as usual.
Eytan heard those numbers and decided to take action. He and his mother contacted Sivan Yaari, founder and CEO of Innovation Africa, and after raising $18,000, Eytan and his mother traveled to Uganda a few weeks ago to see, as a result of Eytan’s efforts, the lights switched on at the Bukalikha Primary School.
That’s right: 959 children now have electricity in their school because of the efforts of a 13-year-old Israeli boy who spent months raising the funds to bring them Israeli solar technology via this non-profit organization. Electricity for that school means they can attract the best teachers and provide the children with a place to study in the nighttime hours. These children now have an opportunity for a high-level education and a brighter future.
The impact that this had on the children could be seen by their reaction when the lights went on: absolute euphoria, cheering, singing, dancing. Sheer joy. And Eytan was there to dance and celebrate with them.
We live in a generation that is focused on what can others do for me. Even bar and bat mitzvas have become a competition of one family trying to outdo another with the party’s venue, quality of the entertainment, and other novelties at the celebration. But Eytan Kramer reminds us what our society can look like: a world in which people look for ways to help others.
Eytan also reminds us of something else – what Israel is, and how much greater it can be. Innovation Africa’s website and Facebook page feature videos and pictures of people in eight African countries singing and dancing in gratitude. Hundreds of Africans make comments like “Thank you for coming from Israel to take us away from the darkness” and “We thank Israel for having come to give us water. You are our fathers and mothers from Israel.”
The Prophet Isaiah declared that the destiny of Israel is to be “a light unto the nations.” Imagine if children throughout Israel spent the year leading up to their bar and bat mitzvas raising funds to bring electricity and water to children in Africa. Imagine if Diaspora Jews who are struggling to connect to Israel embarked on a massive campaign to adopt African villages and enable Israel to bring African children light and water.
Imagine if college campuses were filed with students partnering with Israel to solve the problems that worldwide organizations such as the United Nations have not solved.
Innovation Africa has improved the lives of a million people in 160 African villages by installing electricity in their schools and medical clinics, and providing them with clean water. Imagine if we all joined together to bring electricity and water to 1,000 villages, impacting the lives of millions of people who currently live in the dark and in drought.
Aside from the inherent good of transforming lives for the better, such generosity would demonstrate once again that Israel not only stands for human rights, but is leading the world in fighting for it.
Thank you Eytan, for reminding us of who we are and who we can be.The writer was a member of the 19th Knesset and is a consultant for Innovation Africa.