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Letter from israel0001

  1. 1. .' ,y •... IINTERNATIONAt I Letter from Jsrael Cleveland group builds bridge to Israeli city By Christopher Johnston B ElT SHE'AN, ISRAEL - Until a few months ago, Dror Moredechi, a gro- cery store owner outside of Beit She'an, Israel, probably never thought ht would feel closer to people from Cleveland than to some of his own relative; But that changed after June 19,2003. At about 6 a.m. that day, his father, Avner, had never met before Robert Goldben was reading his Torah at the front counter of chairman of Ohio Savings, and the mli the store, when a 'Palestinian man entered, behind the program's initiation, told then. acting nervously. When he started to exit, they had to work together to strengthen tm Avner confronted him, and the man deto- region and better serve its 17,000 residena nated the bomb wired to his body, destroy- One of the program's goals is to brin! ing the store and killing both men. Israeli together the diverse interests represented in police believe he was there to attack the the region, connecting people who live on school bus that passes the store around 6:30 the kibbutz communities with those in the' every morning, but had arrived too early. city, recent immigrants from Russia or When I met with him last Thursday, .Morocco to long-time Israelis, religious with Dror proudly showed me his father's Bible, secular Jews, and so on. which was the only thing to survive the The partnership has also established a blast. A bookmark indicates he was reading variety of exchange programs with a passage from Genesis about sacrificial Cleveland organizations. For example, stu- goats. When Dror asked how to interpret dents from Cleveland's Agnon and Solomon the passage, his rabbi told him that Avner Shechtet schools enjoy relationships with had sacrificed his life so that the school two schools in Beit She'an, and children children could go on with theirs. from Beit She'an annually visit Cleveland in Dror remains obvious- March, while Cleveland ly shaken; as he quietly children travel 'to Israel discusses the incident If you speak in May. The JCF has also through an interpreter brought members of the inside the new store, con- English in Beit Cleveland House staff to struction of which should Northeast Ohio: Among be completed by the end She'an, residents those, Nitzan Aviran, of the year. Presently, he executive director, visit- runs a temporary grocery are likely to ask if ed with individuals from out of a trailer in the parking lot, and he chose you are from the Small Administration, Business as well to rebuild because it's the only way he can support Cleveland. as Howard Gudell, pres- ident of the Ohio-Israel his family. Finding the Chamber of Commerce, money to do so, however, would have been and David Yen, executive director of the nearly .irnpossible without the help of the World Trade Center Cleveland. Cleveland House, an economic development "We are open to any kind of economic office established in 1995, when the Jewish development and ways to help entrepre- Community Federation of Cleveland OCF) neurs," Aviran says. "So having access to decided to make Beit She'an a "Sister City." those kinds of resources helps us create A significant portion of the 200,000 shekels business in the region." He adds that com- the organization gave Dror for the new store mercial activity has increased 10 percent came from Cleveland, which donates more annually since the partnership was estab- than $500,000. annually to this region known lished. In fact, JCF's presence is so preva- as the "Land of the Palms" because of its lent that if you speak English in Beit She'an, numerous date-palm trees. residents are likely to ask if you are from At the time the JCF established the con- Cleveland. nection, Beit She'an was "just a crossroads," More recently, Goldberg brokered rela- says Alan Gross of the federation, later that tions between Beit She'an and businesses in evening at a special reception for a delega- Jordan, which lies directly east across the tion from Cleveland at the recently opened Jordan River. Residents like Miri Davidovin Guest House. The luxurious facility is the remember having to wear shoes to bed in first hotel in the region, although it will pri- case they needed to dash to the nearest bomb marily serve as a youth hostel. With shelter, prior to the 1967 war. Today, admir- Cleveland's help, the city is trying to bolster ing the city lights twinkling across the valley its tourism trade by finding ways to keep on the mountains where Jordan's artillery people in town overnight, not just as a quick once stood, she hopes the growing econom- stop to see one of the largest archeological ic connections between the two nations will sites in Israel. help bring peace. As throughout all of Israel, new construc- Late Thursday, after presenting the out- tion can be seen just about everywhere in going mayor with an attractive gold menorah Beit She'an, again thanks primarily to the and stained glass window representing Beit work of the JCF partnership. The palm- She'an, Fran Immerman, chair of ]CF's lined Menachem Begin Avenue even features People to People programs and a frequent a new boutique mall with a kosher visitor to the region, echoes Dror's feelings: McDonald's. In addition to money, the "For Israelis to know there are Jews in group has been instrumental in the area's Cleveland who care deeply about them is resurgence through making connections. pretty significant, especially when you feel For starters, the city and regional mayors the whole world is against you. So we all - Israel's local government structure - have a lot of family here now." •