WIZO Australia joined 500 women from around the world the the 26th EGM- Enlarged General Meeting in January 2016.A preconference tour was held in the week prior to the EGM
Our tour began with a cocktail party at the home of the Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma and his wife Rachel. They very graciously hosted us at their residence. We had invited the executive and some of the staff of World WIZO, so we hosted Tova Ben Dov, World President, Prof Rivka Lazovsky World Chairperson and Helena Glaser Past President as well as chairmen of various portfolios.
On Tuesday morning we headed to Hadassim Youth Village, the largest Youth village in Israel and a project of CHWIZO. It houses an emergency centre for children from aged 4 who have to be removed from their family quickly. There are 10 of these centres around Israel to help young people in danger. At Hadassim we heard about their program for teenage girls in distress. I didn’t know that Hadissim houses house approximately 50 girls inn distress in 4 dormitories with 1 more dormitory to be added this month. These girls have been removed from the streets and are given a new chance at life through WIZO.
From there we went to WIZO Ahuzat Yeladim. We were all very excited because we were participating in the official opening of the School of Life. What a rewarding experience. The delegation had not seen the improvements that our fundraising had enabled and were blown away by the changes. The school was wrapped in ribbons and bows and I was honoured to cut the ribbon and unveil the plaques for the WIZO School of Life and the Triguboff Vocational Centre.
We saw the classrooms in action and they were clean and large and really changed the learning environment for our children. The most exciting innovation was the creation of 3 classes in hairdressing and makeup; computer technician course and the Bakery and kitchen. There is also the possibility that Yossi will establish a course enabling some of the students to become assistants in a DCC – they would do in-service work in the community. Students can now enrol in these courses and be issued with a recognised vocational certificate when they graduate to help them apply for jobs. 8 children are in the cooking class. They had prepared entre for us and had baked delicious biscuits. It was wonderful to see them so proud of their red and white uniforms. They were clean, polite and very excited. Lovely speeches were made. All of us cried and laughed on this very special visit. I presented a certificate to Yossi, thanking him from WIZO Australia for all that he does for the children. It is very exciting that we have been able to send money for the 3rd and last school building. Work should begin in May and be ready in September for the next school year.
I had visited the school the week before and Yossi explained me some of the problems he is having because the children entering the school are even more difficult and now 2/3rds of them (approximately 65 students instead of 30 ) are classified post-psychiatric and this has caused problems. In order to help these children he has had to reduce the groups to 5 students not 8 and they are in need of more intense therapy and counselling. One student had bitten a staff member who then had to get medical attention. The Departments of Welfare, Economy and Education are slow in paying the subsidies they are supposed to pay which affects the cash flows of the school. Still he was thrilled with what we had provided which will help build the self-esteem of the children.
He talked about the need to repair the staff quarters. They are falling apart and it is bad for staff morale. There is not even a path from the quarters to the school so they walk through mud when it rains. I have asked for costs and will let you know when I get them.
We visited Ahuzat Ha’aktana. The children are difficult and now 4 stay in the Shabbat house rather than going home for the weekend. Neri the director would like to build her office and a therapy room for the social worker outside the present building and use the old offices for the children. She said it was so noisy in the present offices it is impossible for them to do their job properly. Again I have asked for costs.
From there we went to the Korsunski Youth Club in Kfar Saba, where we were greeted warmly and thanked for our latest improvement- knocking a wall out to enlarge the tutorial room. This was done thanks to a donation by Miriam and Egon Sonnenshein. It was wonderful to see so many children using the facilities- a gorgeous group of ballerinas aged about 3 and a class full of budding gymnasts as well as children getting help with their homework. It was a great day
We began Wednesday with visits to Chorley DCC in Ra’anana and the Raya Jaglom Multipurpose DCC in Tel Aviv. At Raya Jaglom, 30 children had been referred by welfare and as well there are many children who have only one parent. It is always a pleasure to see the facilities that we have supplied being used by the most gorgeous young children. We thank Rose Fekete for the gorgeous placemats made by the kindi children in Sydney and given to the children in our 3 DCCs.
Following a delicious huge lunch at Goshen restaurant, we went on a walking tour of Tel Aviv’s start up ecosystem. We met some dynamic young women- totally impressive and real entrepreneurs. It is fascinating to see them in their working environment, very much encouraged by the Tel Aviv mayor.
Thursday, the final day of the tour was a great day. We began with a visit to Shikun Mizrach DCC in Rishon. It was good to see the new plaques from WIZO Rachel (Sydney). We visited the Adi Centre in Beer Sheva, (a WIZO UK project) which is housed upstairs in the WIZO Beer Sheva Centre. We heard about the girls in distress program to help the girls on the street who are prostitution themselves with Bedouins. At present there is nowhere for these girls to sleep so they go back onto the streets. We are going to support the creation of an emergency centre so girls in danger will be able to sleep safely. It is not a regular dormitory- the girls will stay for a few nights/weeks until alternative arrangements can be made. There will be a counsellor on call and it can house 3 girls. This is a real need for this service. The counsellor said that sometimes the men wait for the girls at the end of the day and there is nothing they can do. The girls go with the men for 30 NIS ($10) because there is no alternative. This project will take some time to organise but I have expressed our support. We saw the building that is to be used and were impressed with the potential of the site which is large and flat with a small house on it at present.
After lunch we drove to visit the Anzac memorial from which we could see Gaza. We ended the day with a visit to Moshav Netiv Ha’asara which is quite literally on the border with Gaza in an area in which contained tunnels. We could see the wall and then a second wall to protect the Moshav. There we stuck mosaics onto a peace memorial – May that dream come true.
All in all we had a terrific week.
By Sunday, we were surrounded by the delegations. The noisiest were the 90 + chaverot from Mexico! They were in Israel, like us to attend the 26th world WIZO EGM with the theme ‘Women taking the Lead’. What was impressive during this conference was how many dynamic young women we met, each doing so well in their very diverse fields. Women like Adi Altschuer, Google for Education Manager in Israel. We met Ghada Kamal the Druse chairperson of WIZO Daliyat el Carmel branch who has started WIZO groups among women in her area. What about Shulli Gotein who had gone from being an abused woman in a shelter with two children, to a successful designer of footwear and jewellery. Dr Einat Wilf Senior Fellow at the Jewish people Policy Institute made a strong impression on us all
The afternoon session continued the theme and again we to six inspirational women. A highlight was hearing Moran Samuel a paralympic rower about how she dedicated her life to achieving success in spite of her disability. Israeli rower Moran Samuel made her country proud when she won the gold medal at the Gavirate international rowing competition for disabled athletes in Italy. Some of you may remember when she had won a gold medal but they played the wrong national anthem. So she sang the Hatikvah and filled us all with pride.
Tova hosted an opening ceremony that night where we were entertained by wonderful young people in our care. Of course it ended with all of us up dancing!
Tuesday was the touring day which saw 11 buses traipsing all over Israel to look at WIZO projects. All ended up at the Kotel to receive a blessing from the Rabbi of the Kotel. We had the opportunity to go into a newly renovated part of the tunnels where we saw a video of Holocaust survivors who had recently celebrated their Barmitzvah in this area. Everyone was crying and we began to sing. What a glorious moment, a true highlight. We had a wonderful dinner at the Waldorf Astoria, thanks to WIZO Florida president Jana Falic and her husband Simon who hosted the event. It was a great day and night full of emotion and solidarity with the state of Israel and celebrating the importance of Jerusalem to us all.
Wednesday morning we were addressed by MK Prof. Manuel Trajtenburg who gave an interesting speech on the economic challenges facing Israel today. He stressed that Israel must stress education. The education system is different for each sector of Israeli society-e.g. Haredim, Arabs, Secular Israelis. They use different languages, textbooks etc. He praised WIZO’s model of looking after the young children so mothers can work. He recently presented a Bill to the Knesset for the creation of a National Council of Early Age to look after all aspects of society dealing with young children.
Then we divided into groups for two sessions. I presented our brochure for the School of Life Campaign at the fundraising session. The shame is that all the groups were interesting and unfortunately you had to choose between them.
In the evening we had a presentation about Maskit fashion. Sharon Tal their designer gave an interesting presentation of this fashion label begun by Ruth Dyan to help migrant women by using their embroidery on modern clothes.
By now everyone was exhausted but there was still a day to go!
The high quality of our speakers continued. First we were addressed by Maxine Fassberg, Intel General Manager. She manages 10,000 employees. 40% of the management are women at Intel.
She said that of the 760 million women in the world, 2/3 is illiterate. Large gender gaps have to be addressed, particularly in area of technology and maths, physics, science etc. Women in Israel are earning approximately 60% of the male earnings.
Next MK Moshe Ya’alon, Minister of Defence addressed us.
He dealt with the question ‘Is Israel safer than before?’ It is true the neighbours are all fighting but Iran is still the highest threat. Israel’s advantage is our highly trained, well- educated soldiers and builders of weapons, tanks, helmets etc.
Will the terror attacks end? Between 1948- 1973 Israel took part in conventional warfare. Since then no Arab leader has sent troops to fight the IDF. They moved to attacking with rockets, missiles but now Iron Dome is controlling these. Now the problem is the stabbings enabled by the indoctrination of the youth. Without changing the education system, this guerrilla warfare won’t stop.
The conference sessions ended with the presentation of the new executive. That evening we had a wonderful farewell to Tova to thank her for 50 years of Service to WIZO. It was full of ruach and energy and included a song from Dana International! The chief Chazan of the IDF sang with a young soldier- truly heart-warming.
Over the course of the conference of course we had presentations by Prof Rivka Lazovsky, Tova Ben Dov , Gila Oshrat from WIZO Israel, Atara Ilani Treasurer, and I was pleased to see Raya Jaglom come to welcome us too. Despite being in a wheel chair show addressed us without notes in her usual style.
All in all it was great fun to be at conference. We strengthened our international WIZO network and could compare situations and learn from each other. We felt great pride in our work and could see for ourselves the great changes we make to the lives of the women and children in our care.
I want to thank Margot Donde for all her input into the smooth running of the tour and conference for our WIZO Australia Delegates. I also want to thank all the delegates for their good humour and their serious approach to the work that we are doing. We all benefitted from the experience and I encourage all of you to attend conference in 4 years time!
WIZO makes it all possible.