Thursday June 23
Meeting the Giborim
Today we met the Giborim (heroes). Debbie & I help provide scholarships for IDF members who can’t otherwise afford to attend Hebrew U. It’s a program that Lenny Shapiro started 2 years ago. Lenny is the backbone of the program; we are teeny cogs in the wheel.
Lenny invited us to go with him and his granddaughter Jessica Murphy (who is here accompanying him on this mission and who was on the same March of the Living trip as Lizzy) to visit the students who are the beneficiaries of these scholarships.
We spent 90 minutes with these guys (for some reason, all of the recipients right now are men – need to look into that) and heard their stories. Many of them were with combat units that had very difficult jobs to do. Many of them are married with one or more children. All of them are working hard to continue the legacy of the Start-Up Nation. Visiting these guys was hands down the highlight of our time here.
Naomi (one of our HUH) gave us a tour of the Hebrew U campus and that allowed us a chance to visit with two important people: Miriam Sharon (nee Shatz) and Marla Bennett z’l’.
Miriam is one of the Shatz sisters and the head librarian at the Hebrew U Faculty of Law. We had a nice reunion with her (and her daughter Hadass who said hello on the fly to deliver a paper that was going to be 2 minutes late). She’ll be in Edmonton next month so we’ll get a chance to visit for longer.
Marla Bennett was a young overseas student from the US who was killed along with 8 others by a terrorist bomb in the cafeteria at Hebrew U. on July 31, 2002. She was a friend of Steve Shafir’s and he asked that we place a rock on the memorial to her memory in the plaza in front of the cafeteria created after the attack. We were honoured to do so.
Naomi took us to the amphitheatre overlooking the Judean Hills and onto the Dead Sea from which, amongst other things, Albert Einstein (a founder of the University) attended for the inaugural ceremony and from which some years later Leonard Bernstein conducted the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra. There are a zillion dramatic settings here in Jerusalem but the top of Mt. Scopus is definitely one of the best. Indeed, the view from the Synagogue on Mt. Scopus at Hebrew U. ma well be the best single view from a synagogue anywhere, Temple Mount-wise.
This evening I spent 45 minutes in a triple-decker security line. 2 metal detectors; 1 hand swab; and a “Are you carrying a weapon?” later and I was in the hall for the final plenary session at the Jerusalem International Convention Centre. An opportunity to hear from Benjamin Netanyahu, Natan Sharansky, and a final word from Shimon Peres.
Bibi used the occasion – 2 days before the 5th anniversary of the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit by Hamas – to announce that there would be no more ‘favours’ for Hamas prisoners in Israeli jails. He wasn’t totally specific about what the ‘favours’ mean aside from specifying an end to graduate education courses. In his words, “no more Masters for Murderers; no more Doctorates for the Doctors of Terror”.
This is, of course, seen by many as way too little way too late and considering there has been no actual sign that Gilad is still alive for over 2 years now and Hamas continues to reject any effort by the Red Cross to visit with him there is a growing restlessness in Israel about the government’s failure to bring home every soldier.
And so, our formal time with the fellow missionaries of Hebrew U. and with the other 4,500 participants in the Israeli Presidential Conference has come to an end. We ‘celebrated’ with one final “Group of 8” dinner (Merle stood in for Faye who wasn’t feeling well today) at the Mamilla Hotel rooftop restaurant (a roof with a view).
Leslie snuck in the Halvah cookies made for her by the baker at the Mamilla (and has promised to share the recipe too) and made up a care package of them for each of us. My guess is that our share won’t make it alive out of Jerusalem three days from now.
We are all set for a reunion in some far-off land (Osoyoos? Penticton?) that is ‘approximately’ mid-way between Vancouver & Winnipeg. I voted for Palm Springs. We are not that far apart and so my expectation is that we’ll have a chance to see one another sooner than later…. And that is a very nice thing to know, indeed.
Safe travels home to all our new friends and please remember to tell Canada Customs upon arrival that a flying carpet is headed your way and you are dying to declare it and pay the necessary tax.
You know what, don’t bother – I’ll tell them for you; I’ve got all your addresses and I’ll just pass that on to Canada Customs for you when we arrive back in Canada next week, ok? Don’t thank me; it’s my pleasure.