There, they embarked on a voyage of giving to the local community. We have chosen to share with you three stops on the delegation’s journey.
Ready, steady…. volunteer
Each day, immediately after breakfast, members of the delegation would present themselves to one of the social organizations working with various ethnic communities in Beersheba for the purpose of volunteering.
On one of these occasions, two delegation members were shocked at the sight of one of the cooks slicing by hand, vegetables for salad for some 200 impoverished, disabled people at the Ramot Rehabilitation Center. Without saying a word, they quietly left the center, leaving behind the rest of their comrades to continue their volunteer activities.
Active participants (Photo: Jacob Wainstein)
About an hour later, they returned carrying an electric vegetable slicer! The cook could not believe her eyes. The long hours she would spend slicing and dicing this enormous amount of vegetables disappeared in the blink of an eye.
“I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry,” she said. “I certainly enjoyed slicing the vegetables, but the time I now save allows me to spend more quality time with the people themselves.”
Donating air conditioners to center for blind
In order to permit the blind citizens of Beersheba to live like any other citizen of the city, the Center for the Blind decided to create a workout gym for them. Members of the Montreal delegation had given a donation enabling the center to buy air conditioners for the facility.
“We are speaking about a very special donation for us,” said Sidney Benizri, a leader of the delegation and Director of Social Services of the Sepharade Community in Montreal.
“This is a donation which can change the lives of people who most need a social framework and also to adopt a life style as near as possible to that of the sighted population. We see this donation as a meaningful step, not only for the city of Beer Sheva, but also for the sightless community itself.
When Elbaz met Elbaz
Many children in Beersheba reach the age of bar mitzvah with families who cannot afford the expense of a ceremony and the purchase of tefillin. Other children have no families to help celebrate their coming of age and its meaning. This situation becomes more complex for those children who come from a traditional background and see the ceremony as a significant step in their lives.
To meet all these needs comes an organization called Orot Israel (Lights of Israel) which works to provide a quality framework for children-at-risk, and which tries to provide for them the mitzvah of ‘aliya latorah’.
The Orot organization asked for help from the Montreal Jewish Community, and the community gladly joined the effort. Through the community’s generosity, 43 Beersheba children were able to experience a unique bar mitzvah experience.
In Jerusalem (Photo: Jacob Wainstein)
Happily, the matter did not end just with a donation. The Montrealers decided to come to Israel themselves to celebrate the occasion. The children spent a whole day in Jerusalem with members of the delegation, taking part in activities including breakfast on the lawn of the ‘Sacker Gardens’’; a tour of the Jewish Quarter; the Aliya Latorah ceremony at the Western Wall; and the high point of the day – a moving ceremony at the Novotel Hotel.
The children, accompanied by their families, were beside themselves with joy. The excitement was most intense in a group of seven children who had been orphaned or abandoned by their families and were now part of this incredible experience.
During the presentation of the sets of tefillin, the head of the Montreal delegation, Marcel Elbaz, called out to each child by name to step up and receive his gift. One of the children answered to the surname ‘Elbaz’. The eyes of the two met. The workings of fate… The elder Elbaz did not lose his cool, and asked to be photographed with the youth. “It moves me so much that we have the same name,” he told the boy.
For me, an active participant in the Partnership 2000 program and who accompanied the delegation on their journey, the most moving moment was the ride in the bus from the Western Wall to the hotel in Jerusalem. At the start of the ride, the members of the delegation broke into the song ‘Kol Ha-olam Kulo, Gesher Tsar Meod’ (The whole world is a narrow bridge). The two Elbazs' prove this.
And this is not a fairy tale.