All for the kids

Taking 40 days out of their lives, a few good men are currently walking the length of Israel to raise money for international children's charities.

Bradley Cohen 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Bradley Cohen 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Forty seems to be a magic number in the Holy Land - ancient Hebrews spent 40 years wandering in the desert, 40 days on Mount Sinai and now, three modern men intent on helping children will traverse the country in 40 days, raising funds for three children's charities. The "All for the Kids" fund-raising walk kicked off March 30. Bradley Cohen, from England, along with Americans Jeremy Ziskind and Jonathan Goldin, will be walking the entire length of Israel, over the mountains, along the beaches, through the cities and across the Negev, completing the 950-km. Israel Trail in 40 days. Their aim is to raise money and awareness for vulnerable children who are suffering from lack of basic necessities such as food, education and loving homes. While the concept of charity events is not new, Cohen's project differs in a critical factor: All of the raised money actually goes to those in need. "I dropped out of a charity bike ride in England when I realized that 70 percent of the donated money was paying for the ride," remembers Cohen as he tells The Jerusalem Post what motivated him to create the "All for the Kids" walk. "It should be 100% for the kids." Donations go directly to the children's funds Cohen supports, and he is funding the cost of the walk through corporate sponsorship outside of the project's fund-raising. Cohen is no stranger to helping children, having dedicated much of his life already to their cause. At 30, he is a recent immigrant after spending six years living in Africa and Southeast Asia working as an English teacher and volunteering in orphanages and youth centers. One of his driving ideologies is education, believing firmly that education in "values, self-esteem, common knowledge and skills" is the only way to break a cycle of poverty for disadvantaged children. Cohen dreams of eventually building schools in impoverished areas. "There are lots of Jews who only help non-Jews, and they are seen as very noble for 'reaching out,' but they forget their own people. Then there are others who only help Jews, which is great, too," explains Cohen. "But I want to help everybody." Cohen's walk will be raising money for two projects here and one in Malawi, where he lived and volunteered. Beit Hayeled is a loving home for abused and abandoned children on a kibbutz in the North. It offers lifelong support for the children and takes care of their education, nutritional and emotional needs. The Forgotten People Fund focuses specifically on the Ethiopian Jewish population in Netanya. The FPF gives food vouchers to families and pays for education for the children, as well as doing other community support work, including recently funding several children's bar mitzvas. Kuunika, in Malawi, feeds and educates over 200 children on a daily basis, giving them a chance in an otherwise poverty-stricken life. "I want to show the world that Israel and the Jewish people look after their own children first, but that we are also looking out for children of other nations who need our support. We must be involved in tikkun olam [fixing the world] and to live up to our role as a light unto the nations," Cohen says. The hikers started in the North and will reach Jerusalem in time for Pessah, after which they will continue into the desert, just as their ancestors did at this time 3,000 years ago, taking breaks from the hike for Shabbat. They are arranging events along the way, including being joined by children from FPF for the walk through Netanya and a Shabbat in Sderot to show their support for the children there. Cohen anticipates some challenges along the way, particularly in the desert, where there is "lots of uneven terrain, not a lot of water or shade. It will be the hard part, but it will also be the fun part," he says with a wide grin. "I am looking forward to spending time in the desert, where I have not spent any considerable amount. But ask me again on May 16." Next year, Cohen hopes to expand the walk to include adults from 10 countries and by having children from the charities they support participate in segments of the hike. "Being a new guy in Israel, I've got a lot of learning to do here," Cohen admits. "But I have a lot of past experiences, too, to put to good use in my new country."