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I felt so proud to be one of the participants from 48 countries, in Israel to help celebrate WIZO’s 100 years of existence. Not previously knowing a lot about WIZO, my eyes were truly opened to the extraordinary things that WIZO women do.

Our first Friday night, Shabbat at the Kotel, was really magical for me personally, as I was fulfilling my dream of visiting Israel again. It was amazing how many Australian friends we bumped into as we walked towards the courtyard and, despite all the doom and gloom going on throughout the world …. on this Shabbat, women and girls of all ages and from all different countries were gathered together, singing and dancing, just being their natural selves. Of course we all joined in … to become one big group of happy women …. in friendship … all there to welcome the Shabbat.

A DAY ON THE BUS

While crossing the Yarkon River, I commented that the river was high and learnt that: this year Israel has had the most rain for 51 years, that while Tel Aviv has very tall office buildings, …. their residential apartment buildings have a height limit …. That a total of 9 million people live in Israel: that in Jerusalem there are 800,000 people and in Tel Aviv about 400,000. AND the traffic is just as bad (or even worse) in Israel as it is in Melbourne!

AT HADERA:

Sponsored by WIZO Brazil, this refuge was built especially for “battered women” (and their children) who are initially referred by the police to this place, as far away from their violent partner as possible. Free mediation is provided to both men and women (on issues relating to the children) but only the women receive free legal advice and free legal representation, to ultimately obtain a divorce and also a Get! The women are encouraged to study and are shown how to economise, how to socialise and how to develop strength to carry on with confidence, with the help of this fabulous support group. The women are nurtured for up to 18 months, being assisted to find a job and their own home. Two of the residents bravely revealed their experiences of domestic violence and emphasized how the centre has changed their lives. Like every place we visited, a sumptuous morning tea was served.
“HOLD YOUR HEAD HIGH” is their very apt motto.

AT NAHALAL YOUTH VILLAGE

Sponsored by WIZO Canada, children from 16 years of age are invited by Israel to come from countries (such as Canada, Russia, Argentina and Mexico) to live and study in the fields of engineering, computer science, aeronautics, etc.. When they arrive in Israel, none can speak Hebrew and few can speak English, however today these children were extraordinarily fluent in both languages, and proudly told us of their experiences. They showed us their clever inventions and demonstrated the drones they had made.

An agricultural school of over 300 acres, originally for young women only, now both girls and boys are welcome. This is one of the top high schools in Israel (one of their students won first prize at the ‘Chemistry Olympics’ this year) and the 200 teachers, counsellors and other staff are former graduates of the school. Canada recently built some new toilet blocks and donated two new tractors and a new milking shed for the farm.

Next visit was to their computer centre and “in case we were hungry”, a delicious banquet lunch was hosted by the students, who sat with us and chatted while we ate. We were quite impressed with the talented students’ musical performance after lunch.

Post-graduation, the students don’t have to stay in Israel, but most of them do stay and continue on to become successful professionals in their field. Some of their parents immigrate but not all. The children we met seemed extremely confident and very well adjusted.
“CHANGING THE LIFE-COURSES OF CHILDREN FOR THE BETTER” is their very appropriate motto.

I did want to tell you about visits to other wonderful places like the Arava, the Australian War Memorial at Beer Sheva, ANZAC Park, the markets, the Tower of David “Sound and Light” Show, and the most amazing place of all the Taglit Start Up Centre, but maybe you should go and see for yourself?

I was so glad I decided at the last minute to take this trip to Israel, which I will remember lovingly for the rest of my life.

SANDRA FARBER 

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