By GREER FAY CASHMAN
EVERY YEAR, the Menachem Begin Heritage Center awards the Begin Prize for an outstanding contribution by a group or an individual to the State of Israel and the Jewish People. In addition, the Begin Center awards prizes and scholarships through The Aliza and Menachem Begin Nobel Peace Prize Fund, which was established in 1978 with the money that was given to Menachem Begin by the Nobel Peace Prize committee. At the time, Begin decided that inter alia, the money would be used to grant scholarships, loans and assistance to needy students and to give aid and care to underprivileged children to assure their future and standing in society.
The Begin Prize recipients this year are Prof. Reuven Or of the Hebrew University Medical Center Hadassah Ein Kerem for his extensive medical and research work in establishing the bone marrow registry and the national public umbilical cord blood bank; former foreign affairs and defense minister Moshe Arens for his contribution to the State of Israel and his illuminating research on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising; and Harold "Smoky" Simon for his many years of volunteer activity in Israel for the state and its society. Scholarship recipients will be from Ariel University Center of Samaria and the tutors in the Perach Project, who with warmth, love and goodwill have enabled countless children to discover and rise to their potential.
AMONG THE many Israelis who send regular weekly e-mail newsletters to their friends throughout Israel and around the world is Jerusalemite Sheila Raviv, the wife of Zvi Raviv, the former director of the New Jerusalem Foundation. Sheila's newsletter is usually sent on Friday afternoon, arriving locally just before Shabbat.
However this week, because she and her husband are going abroad, she sent out a letter on Sunday, part of which reads: "Early this morning I went to a plant nursery, where I was served by a young Palestinian man who was washing his car outside the nursery (I knew he was Palestinian from the number plates). He was incredibly helpful, explained the plants in excellent Hebrew, and carried my purchases out to my car with great good grace, without being asked. On my way home, I saw a group of highly excited haredi children, laughing excitedly and helping an Arab shepherd boy keep his errant animals off the main road. A little further down the road, a family of haredi Jews, the women covered from head to foot, stood near three Muslim women, also covered from head to foot, and nearby a couple of young girls in jeans and T-shirts playfully teasing the young man trying to walk nonchalantly past them. The aforementioned groups were all waiting to cross the road at a junction, blissfully unaware of the fact that they were part of a form of freedom and democracy rarely seen in our corner of the world.
"As I sat at the traffic lights watching them, I realized that that is what I wish for 2009, acceptance and tolerance of the other, to the extent that they become unaware. We are so busy proving we are right, that oft-times we try to bully those who think differently into thinking like us. Savlanut means 'patience' in Hebrew, and sovlanut means 'tolerance' - words so close, from the same root, that teach us that we should be more patient with others, which will naturally lead to tolerance."
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