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Terrie Sherman Volunteers in Israel

[Archived from August 28, 2009]

Editor’s note: Terrie Sherman is a former Louisvillian who maintains her ties with the community. A regular volunteer in Israel, when she sought to expand her connections, she chose to do so with Louisville’s Partnership with Israel region, the Western Galilee. The following is her account of her experiences there.

[by Terrie Sherman]

I wanted to expand my volunteering in Israel, as this is my third summer going to Tucson’s partnership community in Kiriyat Malachi. With the help of Alan Engel from the Jewish Community of Louisville and Beth Zuriel and Noa Epstein in Nehariya, I was able to connect with Noam and Ela at Beit Hagalgalim for an incredibly wonderful week. I participated in and enjoyed the final events of the year. I know a lot of hard work went into these events, and I look forward to returning earlier next year to participate in these excellent programs.

Beit Hagalgalim is translated “House on Wheels.” And that is what it is! No, it doesn’t move, but it is a large trailer. The participants who attend classes here have cerebral palsy and range in age from elementary school to adult.

The backbone of this successful program is Noam and Ela, the staff. They look at the participants through eyes that see what can be; they see their hearts and souls.

There is such a love, trust and respect between the staff and the kids and adults. Noam and Ela are their friends, confidants and key to a more independent life. I feel that when they look at the kids, they see who they are inside, and not any of the physical limitations. What they expect and get from these individuals is remarkable. It was amazing to watch the various programs and become a valued members of their volunteer corps.

I attended the final drama presentation. Of course it was all in Hebrew, but I could understand enough to laugh at the right times! The kids were so proud of their production, as were their parents. The parents in attendance just glowed with love and admiration for how well their children performed.

The cooking class prepared a dinner for their families which was delicious. The kids cut all of the vegetables to make Israeli salad, opened cans and put other vegetables into bowls, and cleaned up after themselves. The delicious meal was enjoyed by all! As a bonus, the participants received a cookbook with the recipes they had learned during the year filled with pictures of the kids sprinkled throughout.

The independent living group ended their class by preparing dinner and spending the night at Beit Hagalgalim. That was a lot of fun! After dinner, we sat outside, and everyone received a diploma for completion of the program. Afterwards, Noam played the guitar, and we sang songs.

The kids went off with their friends until it was time to go to bed. The boys talked about sports, girls, and computer games. The girls talked about their boyfriends, clothes, music they liked … just like any other teenager would. These children are no different from any other 17 or 18 year old. They are so dear.

One of the teenagers who touched my heart was Ofer. Ofer is 18 years old and Ela worked as his aide since he was 7.

While in the North, I stayed with Ela. We were invited to join Ofer’s family for Shabbat dinner. Ofer’s Dad gave him a lit candle so he could light the Shabbat candles. He said the last part of the Kiddush with the rest of us and totally enjoyed drinking the wine!

Ofer’s parents are unbelievable! Wherever they go, he goes. Ofer speaks 4 languages and is a computer whiz. Since he will be graduating from high school, Ofer and his parents are exploring options for his service in the Army.

There is housing and work available for Ofer, and he is choosing where he would like to be. Since he is a computer whiz, he has been creating “things” for the Army, which they have found very impressive. I think it is wonderful that there are no boundaries for him, or others like him, who want to serve Israel.

Ofer has a great sense of humor and played some funny practical jokes on the other kids. He loved my camera and took pictures with it when I wasn’t aware.

I hope this brief description my experience will encourage others to come to Israel and partake in this or another unique program. You will be surprised how much you will come away with just by giving to others. I thank all of you who helped to make my visit possible from the bottom of my heart. I look forward to new adventures there next summer.

If you are unable to travel to Israel or participate in the Partnership with Israel program, financial help is always appreciated. Beit Hagalgalim needs funding for laptop computers, gardening supplies, instructors for its courses, day trips, job training, a television, digital and video cameras.

• • •

Partnership with Israel, a program of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), is designed to foster individual relationships between Israelis and American Jews. The Louisville Jewish Community has been an active participant in the program since its inception in 1997.

Louisville is part of the Central Area Consortium that is partnered with the Western Galilee region of Israel. The Western Galilee is located along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and extends to Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.

Through Partnership programs, Louis-ville has benefited from numerous exchanges in medicine, art, music, education and business. The program is flexible, so if a Louisvillian has a specific interest he/she would like to pursue with counterparts in the Western Galilee, it is often possible to develop a suitable program.

Partnership with Israel receives support from the Jewish Community of Louisville’s Annual Campaign.

If you are interested in learning more, please contact Louisville’s Partnership Chair Kathy Karr, or Alan Engel at the Jewish Community of Louisville, 451-8840 or alane@jcfl.com.

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