(February 9, 2016 / JNS)
By Eliana Rudee/JNS.org
This week I have had the privilege of traveling around Israel with a group of South Africans who are all journalists, professors, and/or editors in the economic field. We have met with some amazing politicians, activists, and authors, and will also be meeting current Members of Knesset. I am excited to share some of my photos, along with explanations.
“Save a Child’s Heart” wing of Wolfson Hospital, Holon
This is a very special picture and one that I believe epitomizes Israel. The doctors: Israeli on the left and Palestinian on the right. The woman being comforted in the back is from Uganda. Her son has just been wheeled out of heart surgery at the children’s wing of Wolfson Hospital in Holon. I got goosebumps as the little guy was rolled out on his stretcher with machinery way bigger than he. On the right, an Arab family having their child treated as well. Just down the hall was a teenage boy from Duhok, Iraqi Kurdistan, where many refugees escaping Islamic State live in camps. This moment happened because of Save a Child’s Heart, an Israeli organization that provides free heart surgeries for children in underdeveloped countries. This organization trains doctors and brings children and their families here for surgery without discrimination, regardless of who the child is or where he or she is from. This Israeli organization is the real United Nations.
New SodaStream factory, Lehavim
SodaStream is a wildly successful Israeli company that makes carbonation devices along with their syrups to create flavored soda water. Its main manufacturing plant used to be in Mishor Adumim, in the West Bank. Due to pressure by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, the factory had to close and relocate to a less-controversial region. While this may represent a victory for the BDS movement, the real losers are the Palestinians—approximately 700 Palestinian workers were employed at SodaStream’s West Bank factory, and were paid well above minimum wage or what you would expect from other jobs in the area. But because of the closure and move, more than 600 of them lost their jobs—and many of the people working there also had spouses at the company, leaving many families completely jobless. The new factory is strategically placed next to Rahat, a Bedouin town, which will increase Bedouin employment. This picture, to me, illustrates the BDS campaign’s and anti-Israel activists’ lack of genuine care for the Palestinian people. Unfortunately, they clearly care more about defaming Israel than the wellbeing of the Palestinian people.
School in Eshkol region, a few kilometers from Gaza
I don’t know whose locker this is and neither do you. But here’s why you should care about this child: This child goes to school in the Eshkol region of Israel, just a few kilometers from Gaza. The school itself is a bomb shelter, which unfortunately is necessary. Terrorists in Hamas-ruled Gaza constantly shoot rockets at this school and the community around it. If a siren goes off during school when the children are outside playing, they need to run to shelter and have 15 seconds at most before the rocket hits. Every year, snipers and rockets take their toll here. Ninety percent of the children are under medical care for post-traumatic stress disorder. Sixteen-year-olds still wet their beds. This is obscenely unfair to any child. The child whose locker this is, as you can probably tell, just wants to learn. Inside the locker: math books, Hebrew novels, science worksheets, and lessons of peace. What do you think is in the school lockers of the children in Gaza? We know the answer, and it is not optimistic.
Dinner with former Knesset member Pnina Tamano-Shata, Jerusalem
Pnina Tamano-Shata is an Israeli lawyer, journalist, and former Knesset member. The first Ethiopian woman in the Knesset, she prides herself on representing the Ethiopian community in Israel through politics and law. She immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia at the tender age of 3. She remembers coming to Israel in a van, crossing Sudan, and being taken by plane to Israel in a secret operation. She remembers being told that her mom and sisters had died in a vehicle accident on the way over. She also remembers when, a while later, her mom unexpectedly arrived to Israel, emaciated, and coming from a refugee camp. Pnina was trained as a lawyer, but found politics a more suitable field. Pnina’s past is compelling, and her future, even more so. When asked about potentially running for Prime Minister in the future, she says with a smile, “Why not?”
City Hall, Jerusalem
I have met Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on several occasions recently, and this time, when I introduced myself, he said, “I remember you! I’ve met you before!” I believe that Jerusalem is transforming, in large part, because of this man. He has brought more innovation, entrepreneurship, and young people here, and to be a part of that transformation is incredible. Barkat recently joined the Likud party and there has been speculation that he will likely run in the next election for prime minister, to succeed Benjamin Netanyahu.
For more on the South African delegation’s visit to Israel, please check the Times of Israel in a week’s time for an upcoming feature article.
Eliana Rudee is a fellow with the Haym Salomon Center and the author of the “Aliyah Annotated” column for JNS.org. She is a graduate of Scripps College, where she studied international relations and Jewish studies. Her bylines have been featured in USA Today, Forbes, and The Hill. Follow her column on JNS.org.