Fine friendship and Chabad of Baka

Founded 13 years ago, the Friendship Circle is a volunteer program that helps kids with special needs and their families

 A FINE time was had by all in Ein Lavan. (photo credit: BEN BRESKY)
A FINE time was had by all in Ein Lavan.
(photo credit: BEN BRESKY)

On June 1, Chabad of Baka threw a multi-purpose event at Ein Lavan, a gorgeous fresh water spring nestled in the Jerusalem Hills, to celebrate another great year for its Friendship Circle of South Jerusalem.

Founded 13 years ago, the Friendship Circle is a volunteer program that helps kids with special needs and their families. Once or twice a week, young adults visit the homes of children with special needs to play with them or take them out for an activity. The volunteers are mostly gap students from abroad studying in local yeshivot.

In the past, most were female. This last year, the Friendship Circle had up to 100 volunteers, with a record number of guys, one of the reasons why this year’s annual BBQ included a backcountry cycling component dubbed the Friendship Cycle.

The BBQ was busy and well attended, but it didn’t feel crowded, offering delicious and easily accessible food to volunteers, families of special needs children and anyone else wanting to celebrate “inclusion and friendship.” The meats (kebab, chicken and hamburgers) were grilled using a small propane stove at the edge of a pool covered in floating algae. 

Chabad chose for itself a back corner of the Ein Lavan open space compound, overlooking picturesque Palestinian villages and as away from the general Ein Lavan activity as one could be. The general Ein Lavan activity was also quite nice: kids cannonballing from elevated rocks into the main pool, older kids smoking nargilot with their feet dangling in water and adults lounging on blankets and enjoying the late afternoon breeze.

  A FINE time was had by all in Ein Lavan. (credit: BEN BRESKY) A FINE time was had by all in Ein Lavan. (credit: BEN BRESKY)

At the Friendship Circle BBQ, there was a bow and arrow section, exotic little animals for the kids to play with and a sports opportunity with Tamir Goodman, once dubbed the “Jewish Jordan,” who brought a bag of balls and hoops that the kids, many with special needs, had a blast playing with. 

The shlichim (emissaries) at the Chabad of Baka are Rebbetzin Nechama Dina and Rabbi Avraham Hendel, who were both very present, with Nechama managing the event and Avraham participating in the 30 km. fundraising bike ride that ran in conjunction with the barbecue. 

For the cyclists, who were for the most part volunteers in the program, the barbecue was a moment to breathe, as it came at their 23 km. mark. At the end of the BBQ they continued on to their final destination, the First Station, where they had started.

Aaron Hurwitz, president of KosherCycleTours.com, was the leader of this professional looking and apparently high endurance ride up and down the Jerusalem Hills (one rider I interviewed wasn’t able to finish it). It gave the event quite a flare when the cyclists took off into the hills to finish their route, designed by Hurwitz.

I don’t know how much money they raised, but I hope it was a lot. The Friendship Circle is a fast-growing charity (now serving 50 families speaking a range of languages) doing stellar work on so many levels, a ray of light in the south Jerusalem horizon. ❖

Learn more: https://www.chabadofbaka.com/templates/articlecco_cdo/aid/1440337/jewish/Friendship-Circle-of-South-Jerusalem.htm