Truly Israeli

Newsletter #3 – Spring 2018

Newsletter #3 – Spring 2018

Dear Friends,

Our work is never done and we like it! We doubt there is a better and more encouraging way to introduce our Spring 2018 Newsletter than to admit to our delight in always having dreams and exciting plans for Haifa’s future. Spring brings renewal and liberty, which is also the story of Passover. When it comes to the Haifa Foundation, renovating the city parks or repairing the damage caused by the terrible fire of November 2016 mean freedom. Allowing the students of Ofakim School to use their eyes to operate computers and have full access to technology means liberty. Allowing healthy and handicapped young and adults enjoy together an amusement park, whose equipment is designed for universal use, by everybody, means inclusion, the core principle of the City of Haifa. Strengthening even further the cultural and ethnic bridges in Haifa, while understanding better our own Jewish identity will also be part of what the Haifa Foundation intends to achieve this year. In this Newsletter, we will share with you our recent accomplishments and provide you a glimpse into our plans and dreams.

On behalf of our Board of Directors, we wish you and yours a joyous and safe Passover.

Amnon Leshem & Boaz Hirsch


The Clore Community Center in Hallisa is open!

Halissa is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Haifa. Most of its 4000 residents are of Arab descent, both Muslim and Christian, as well as new immigrants from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union. The infrastructure of the neighborhood is severely neglected and it is in a very deteriorated state. This rundown atmosphere combined with the lack of public spaces in which to have any activities, no playgrounds for the children and no green areas, have caused a sense of low self-worth among the residents. All that is about to change.

After two years of hard work, with the support of the Clore Foundation and the Municipality of Haifa, the Clore Community Center in Halissa is buzzed with energy and the sound of children joy is heard throughout. The Clore Community Center, the most beautiful community center in Haifa, will affect change in the neighborhood and make it a better place to live, an agent for cultural activity and a focal point for community life with the outcome that the residents will be proud of their neighborhood. After fifteen years of dreaming about a community center, the Clore Center is not a dream, but rather an invigorating reality. Thanks to the Clore Foundation, the brand-new facility will bring a much-needed change to the wonderful residents of this neighborhood. The Municipality of Haifa will add to the community center a large outdoor playground and an athletic center.


Jewish Identity in Haifa

In our last Newsletter, we shared with you our dream to build a center for Jewish identity in Haifa. The rationale behind this dream lied in the fact that in recent years it has become clear that most Israelis have little to no exposure to their Jewish cultural heritage and to its values – respect for fellow man, social justice, the environment and humanistic values. At the same time, young people in Israel are struggling with dilemmas related to their ethical world such as questions of identity, family, society and their connection to Israel. Hence, we wanted to address these needs by instituting a new and innovative program in elementary, junior high and high schools in the city, which will give principals, educators, parents and students the tools to answer this need – a program which will increase both the knowledge of and the connection to their Jewish cultural heritage.

We are grateful and proud that the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation donated the necessary funds to allow us to build a unique center that will answer our city and community cultural, ethical, and identity needs.

The location of the Mandel Center will be in a spectacular part of Haifa, with dramatic views to the port and the north. The activities in the Center will focus on Jewish universalism, holidays and life cycle events, cultural development from the time of the Bible until today, poetry and liturgy, connection to Israel and the Jewish people.


Empowerment & inclusion

The Ofakim (Horizons) School provides high quality education for 90 severely handicapped children and young adults, age 7-21. The school utilizes the educational standards used by Israel’s Ministry of Education, including passing the matriculation exams and preparing the students for the adult world.

Ofakim’s mission is to educate the students to be autonomous, self-directed adults who voice their opinions and need and take responsibility for their lives. The goal of the School is to equip the students with the tools necessary to be proactive and contributing citizens who are involved in the community according to their individual abilities and preferences. The School’s role is to mediate the process and expose the students to learning opportunities and experiences that lead them to insights and development.

Students with physical disabilities need to strengthen all aspects of their lives – academic, functional and socio-emotional. Thus, the School designs for each student a personal assessment and tailors a program that includes coping with stress and challenges, empowerment and normative behavior. The learning process contributes to strengthening self-image and long-term sense of belonging.

In the functional area, the school provides a significant boost in the health professions: physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and hydrotherapy. The students’ families are part of the Ofakim family. Once a month, a parent leadership group meets to discuss the parents’ needs and work to promote cooperation among themselves and with the School.

In the year, the Haifa Foundation worked closely with the school. With the generous help of our donors in Israel and Canada we built a whole new classroom equipped with state of the art iPads. In addition, we were fortunate to receive support to purchase a set of computers that track eye movements, thus allowing students who cannot use their hands to take advantage of the latest communication technology. We built a small playground outside the school and added a number of special auxiliary equipment for the students.

We are deeply grateful to our donors for their generosity and compassion: Amot Investments Ltd. And its CEO Mr. Avi Mosler, our longtime Canadian friend and supporter, Mr. Neil Shore, the Ziefen family from Israel and the Arieli Foundation.


Pushing the boundaries: disability and inclusion

We copied the headline above from our friend, Ms. Linda Kislowicz, President & CEO of the Jewish Federations of Canada – UIA. In her blog dated September 13, 2017, she writes about the need to “explore the issues facing physically and developmentally challenged individuals in the Jewish Community.” ‘Pushing the Boundaries: Disability, Inclusion and Jewish Community’ is the title of the first such conference in Canada that specifically explores the challenges and opportunities facing the disabled within the Canadian Jewish community.

Like Linda, the Haifa Foundation and the Municipality of Haifa seek to improve access to public facilities with the construction of a Universal Design Park to be located where the Nahal (river) Kishon meets the Mediterranean. The Universal Design amusement park will create a space that is enabling instead of disabling. It will allow all people, no matter what their physical ability, to enjoy the park and to take part in social and communal activity on an equal level. Our park will be open and inclusive to all segments of society enabling them to interact in a way that strengthens the fabric of our multi-cultural city.

Our Universal Design amusement park will be the first of its kind in Israel. In addition to providing a welcoming and inclusive space for all local residents, it will bring visitors from all over the country and abroad. This increase in internal and external tourism will help to advance Haifa’s economy as local businesses benefit from the increased traffic in the area.

The park will include a lake, walking paths, specially designed accessible play equipment, games that can be activated by those who are physically handicapped and more. It will be approachable, accessible, and usable by all, without regard to any physical limitations that may exist.

The site has been approved by and designated as the location for the park by the local authorities. The National Insurance Institute has committed to provide 33% of the cost of the park. Now all that is missing is YOU.


Overcoming language barriers

Language serves as a bridge among people; it furthers understanding and acceptance of each side and allows for a constant and constructive dialogue. Learning Arabic is important on national, local and individual levels. Learning spoken Arabic will give Jewish students in Haifa an advantage: on the one hand, it will allow them to better understand their Arab neighbors. On the other hand, it will deepen their identity as citizens of a pluralistic Jewish State.

There are many programs throughout Haifa’s school system that emphasize the importance of multiculturalism and Jewish-Arab coexistence. These programs emphasize sharing of culture and heritage, understanding better the self and the other. We suggest that the most important component in the establishment of constructive communication is the study of language. Most Arab students learn Hebrew throughout their studies in elementary and high school, but only a small minority of Jewish students is exposed to spoken Arabic.

Since young children tend to learn new languages faster, our project is intended for pupils in the first to sixth grade. A pilot of this program has been carried out on a modest scale in the city of Haifa and has proven very successful. Given this success, we would like to expand the pilot from one grade in five schools to more grades in the entire elementary school system.

Furthermore, we suggest that language acquisition should be accompanied by joint, Jewish-Arab, cross-cultural events. The main premise is to deepen cultural knowledge and make more meaningful the communication between Jews and Arabs.


Answering the country’s needs of the future

The city of Haifa sees as one of its highest priorities the promotion of science and technology. As home to two first class universities – the Technion and Haifa University – as well as Israel’s first technological park which includes such brands as Intel, Microsoft, Yahoo, QUALCOMM, Amazon, General Electrics, Philips Medical, to name a few, and with 54% of the city’s residents identified as academics, it is most appropriate that Haifa should also have a state of the art high-tech high school of the highest quality.

While we hear constant praise of Israel’s high-tech industry, its success is not possible without the unrecognized support of practical engineers and technicians. Yet, there is no program in Israel that takes the most promising students and trains them in these fields starting from junior high school. The result is that there is a national need for quality professionals because the class of practical engineers is almost extinct, and there is also a serious shortage of engineers.

The possibility of being a free people in our country, as Israel’s national anthem purports, depends on our entrepreneurial and creative skills, continuous innovation, and the ability to adapt to and even lead frequent changes. In addition, we must be sensitive, empathetic, and show solidarity to others. The State of Israel has set excellence in science and technology education as a national goal of the future and to further this goal, the Municipality of Haifa aims for 20% of high school graduates of the education system to be eligible for a high-quality matriculation exam in scientific and technological fields within six years. But how will they achieve this objective?

The new school to be named BOSMAT will answer this call. It will adapt to the modern market requirements and demands of the population. BOSMAT will fulfill the mission for the professions of the future utilizing first-class values, applying them to new technologies. BOSMAT will significantly increase the number of graduates in vital areas such as practical engineers and technicians which are currently lacking both in the private sector and in the IDF.  Given the shortage of human resources in these fields, local industries will provide a wide range of opportunities for the graduates based on their fields of interest and talents.

The six-year program will be open to students who are interested in pursuing a career in the areas of technology and studying at the highest academic level. The Technion will be a significant partner in the project, guiding the development of the academic program and even providing its staff members to give lectures and classes in their fields. At the end of 12th grade those who have successfully completed the program, will receive a degree under the auspices of the Technion, one of the most highly respected science universities in the world.

The governing pedagogical principle will be Project Based Learning, a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge. BOSMAT students will work in three work environments that unite into one work environment that is actually a simulator for life in the 21st century: school, technology and industry.

BOSMAT will employ the STEAM paradigm which includes Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics. In addition to advances in technology, experts believe that art and design are the next big fields to develop and transform industry and thus Art has been added to the traditional technological/scientific fields. The impact of the school will go far beyond just the education that it provides to its students. Just as art schools have developed an environment of art, BOSMAT will create an environment of technology, adding to the high-tech related reputation of the city. In addition, the introduction of a school of this quality and reputation will raise the entire level of education in the city as more students compete to gain entrance to this academic institution.

The School’s curriculum will be path breaking: in the middle school, students receive enrichment classes in the fields of technology and science above and beyond the regular curriculum. Among the required courses are electronics, computers, robotics, business entrepreneurship and Chinese. In the high school, students will study one of the technological trends – robotics, nanotechnology, clean-tech, cyber and electronics, to name a few, and will continue to study the core subjects for matriculation. Mathematics, physics and English will be taught in the highest-level format.

Parallel to the scientific studies, students must be prepared to live in society. The new life skills program, based on the curriculum of the Ministry of Education, will be enriched by additional lesson plans that will include training and grading the students based on their achievements in this field. The accomplishments of the student in this field will influence the student’s progress in the school.

The time has come for Haifa to answer the needs of today’s market and to prepare a new generation of professionals to fill that need. We have already started the project and the construction of the first building was completed last year. We need to add two more buildings to make the campus fully ready and operational.


The German connection

Among Israeli cities, Haifa has the largest number of sister cities in Germany: Düsseldorf, Mannheim, Bremen, Mainz and Erfurt. In October 2017, the Haifa Foundation launched in the city of Düsseldorf, Germany, the first ever ‘Haifa Business Club.’ In fact, no other city in Israel has a club that carries its name in Germany. The idea behind the ‘Club’ is to introduce business people and philanthropists to Haifa’s many investment opportunities and share with them our future plans and community projects.

The event in Düsseldorf included presentations by Haifa’s Deputy Mayor, Hedva Almog, and by Or Shahaf, CEO of Haifa Economic Cooperation. The event was attended by forty top executives and community leaders from the area and was covered by the press. We were honored to have Düsseldorf’s Mayor, Mr. Thomas Geisel, in the event. The wonderful event was organized by the Haifa Foundation’s representative in Germany, Mr. Sinisa Toroman. We are thankful to Mr. Rüdiger Goll for his generosity and for enabling the event to take place in such a lovely setting.

In March 2018, we launched the second ‘Club,’ this time in the city of Mannheim. Like the first event in Düsseldorf, the Mannheim event was very well attended by key business leaders and top executives as well as by distinguished guests like the Mayor of Haifa, Mr. Yona Yahav, who gave the key note and Dr. Amnon Leshem, Executive Director of the Haifa Foundation. The event was honored by the attendance of the Mayor of Mannheim, Dr. Peter Kurz.

We will continue to open ‘Haifa Clubs’ in other German cities and bring the unique story of our incredible city to larger crowds so that more key business players in Germany are aware of the many investment opportunities Haifa may offer them.


The 2016 fire: repair and renewal

On November 24, 2016, Haifa suffered a tremendous blow when it endured the third catastrophe in a decade. After the 2006 Second Lebanon War that paralyzed the city for long days and Hezbollah’s missile destroyed homes and after the residents of Haifa finished licking their wounds from the Carmel disaster in 2010, we needed to recover from yet another massive wildfire, the worst disaster Haifa has experienced since 1948.

Six schools and kindergartens were burned down. 280 hectares of vegetation vanished. 527 apartments were evacuated and were deemed uninhabitable. In addition, Haifa suffered a major infrastructural blow when numerous underground water and electricity pipes were blown by the heat.

Like the phoenix we have risen. With the generous help of our friends in and outside of Haifa, in Germany, the United States and Canada, today signs of the fire are hard to find. From the first moments of the fire, the Municipality of Haifa responded efficiently and effectively and handled the needs of the residents. The Mayor of Haifa invited Israel’s Minister of Finance, a Haifa resident, to assess the damage and define the path to reconstruction. And so, together with you our friends all over the world, everybody mobilized to make Haifa beautiful and vibrant again. The evacuated residents are back to their renovated homes and we managed to restore the city to its pre-fire condition.

With your support, since the fire the Haifa Foundation renovated playground and parks as well as schools and kindergartens. Thanks to your concern and kindness, our city is green again and the fire a long memory.

This is a great opportunity to thank all of you for being there for us at the moment of need. We are deeply grateful for your efforts and for your heart warming generosity.