After I return from a trip to Israel, I find that when I download the pictures from my camera, there are pictures that I think I took but are instead consigned to my memory alone. (Sometimes this is a good thing. When we visited an IDF training base and rode in an armored personnel carrier, we were required to don a flak jacket and a helmet. This is not a good look for me, but fortunately there don’t seem to be any pictures to prove it.) I thought I had a group shot of our MetroWest group of 19 women, but that must be on someone else’s camera. All I have to do, however, is close my eyes and I can picture the enthusiasm and curiosity of our participants as we visited each project and I can hear the great questions everyone asked.
Then there are the pictures I did take, that capture the faces of the amazing Israeli women that we met. In addition to seeing the projects that we support in partnership with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (the “Joint” or JDC) and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), we met some amazing Israeli women. Over the next couple of weeks, I want to introduce you to some of them.
On our first day in Israel, we went south into the Negev by train – in the pouring rain! We went first to the Center for Independent Living (CIL). Funded by a coalition of the JDC and the Government of Israel, the CIL is located in Beersheva and serves the differently-abled population of the surrounding area, including Jewish Israelis, the Bedouin population and Christian Arabs. The driving force behind the CIL is a powerhouse of a woman named Dahlia. This photo is Dahlia (left) with Paula Saginaw, immediate past president of Women’s Philanthropy of MetroWest and incoming general campaign chair.
What you can’t see from the picture is that Dahlia herself has a disability; she walks with a limp. Dahlia is living proof that being differently-abled is no hindrance to making enormous change for the better in the world. After participating in a national rally to improve the rights of the differently-abled in Israel, she approached the mayor of Beersheva for a piece of property for the CIL. When he turned her down, she organized a protest that shut down the main street in front of the mayor’s office. She “received” one of the most decrepit, falling-down buildings you could imagine and, with the work of the disabled community she was seeking to serve, has transformed it into a beautifully decorated place for meetings of the community. In addition, there is a Bedouin-style tent on the property, also painted and decorated by the CIL participants, which is a café – also run by the CIL participants. Because the CIL is very near Beersheva University, the tent is filled day and night with students using the wi-fi service and enjoying the delicious pizzas, salads and soups. Dahlia started with a dream and made it into a reality – the current mayor of Beersheva calls her “The Bulldozer” – and isn’t that what we all have to be sometimes, in order to make our dreams come true?
Wishing you a week where you dream big –