The virtue of magnanimity

Guy Avihod is the director and co-founder of the Shaf Yativ Mental Health Rehabilitation Institution, which has branches throughout the country.

■ What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Actually I hate getting up in the morning.
It’s hard. I struggle every morning.
But I teach a daf yomi shiur [class in the daily Talmud study portion] that begins at 7 a.m. And that is after I’ve already prayed. But the fact that I know people are counting on me to teach helps me get up in the morning.
■ What keeps you up at night?
Thinking of how I can best help my students at Shaf Yativ and their families in coping with the difficulties of mental illness. And also I worry about our financial situation – paying the staff and making sure that our program continues to operate at the highest professional level.
■ What’s the most difficult professional moment you’ve faced so far?
My most difficult moments are actually the most important – when I have to push my students out of their comfort zone and make them believe in their strengths and abilities to reintegrate into society. Also, I always have to check myself and make sure I give my students the best service. I can’t allow myself to settle into comfortable patterns, but must continue to push the envelope and to innovate, which isn’t always easy.
■ How do you celebrate your achievements?
My achievements are marked by my students’ achievements, so I celebrate with my students and staff. At Shaf Yativ, we usually have parties when they reach certain goals and milestones. I often bring my kids and members of the community with me to share in the festivities.
■ If you were prime minister, what’s the first thing you would do?
I would increase funding to help people with disabilities so that they can become integrated into society. I am not talking about handouts, but investments in people.
■ Which Israeli should have a movie made about him/her?
The Israeli volunteer – the everyday Israeli who gives of himself to help others, but is never in the spotlight.
■ What would you change about Israelis if you could?
I would make us less segregated and less judgmental. I want Israelis to think of their fellow citizens as family. In your family, you might have people who are different than you, but at the end of the day you still love them as family.
■ iPad, BlackBerry or pen and paper?
iPhone, for sure, especially with my Facebook application.
■ If you had to write an advertisement to entice tourists to come to Israel, what would it say?
Israel: Feel the love. Forget the stereotypes and generalizations, come meet the Israeli people personally; those who make up this country are a warm, loving and kind bunch.
■ What is the most serious problem facing the country?
Internal divisiveness and mistrust, both on a political and social level.
Meaning, even though we can all get along as individuals, when we are categorized into certain groups, we develop an intolerance toward others. We can’t lose the big picture – we are here for a common goal, which is to be a thriving Jewish state.
■ How can it be solved?
It can only be solved on an individual level. I honestly believe social media can play a big role in this, where people can relate to each other, even though they would usually not otherwise be spending time in the same circles.
■ In 20 years, the country will be:
It’s very hard to predict. We live in such uncertain times. But my faith leads me to believe that the Jewish people in Israel will continue to thrive and overcome all hurdles in our path, with the help of God.