A local communal activist gives some longtime Israelis a new angle on the Negev.
A Day in Netivot and Sedot Negev
My husband, Elliot, and I are frequent visitors to Israel and are always looking for something new to see. Being involved with Philadelphia’s Partnership 2Gether community in Netivot and Sedot Negev, we have traveled frequently to the region, visiting and staying with friends there whenever we are in the country.
When we are with our friends in Jerusalem we talk excitedly about the region and all the wonderful people we have met and the strides the community has made. They look at us incredulously and say, “Where’s Netivot? The next time you come, we want to go to Netivot with you.”
So this summer, that is exactly what we did. We took three Israelis to Sedot Negev and Netivot to experience what we love so much about the community, which is aided by funds raised by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
With the help of our Federation, we gave them a day that changed their perspective. It was a day of meeting incredible people and sharing a meal; witnessing how close the Gaza Strip is; talking to soldiers who were monitoring a lookout post; watching a child complete his occupational therapy lesson at the Saligman Early Learning Center; visiting a day care center that has a special roof to protect the children from rockets; and seeing the plans for future building in the region with new homes, businesses, the railway station and more.
We also saw innovative science projects in the making and we visited fields where sweet potatoes are harvested. We spent time with Russian olim who have been interviewed by young Netivot leaders and are the subject of a book and film about their lives.
So impressed were our Israeli friends, we received this letter from them:
Dear Maxine and Elliot,
We want to thank you for an exquisite experience and a great learning and heartwarming trip. It is funny that we had to wait for you to introduce the Negev to us. Up till now, it was only part of the news for us and you turned it into reality — some scary, some heroic and, altogether, rather optimistic.
The trip was intense and serious, like it should be. I remember mainly three things: the huge cement tents that they build over any major house; the eyes of the baby in Beit Yeladim who was waking up in the shelter; and the soldiers on the tower overlooking Gaza. It emphasized the danger under which the inhabitants live and the great importance of the army — which is mainly our youngsters.
We were impressed by the scientific and educational achievements of Sedot Negev and by the efficiency of your team. Netivot was not what I expected it to be — a rapidly growing young city. Seeing you so devoted and hardworking for the cause of the city reminded me of how the Jewish people survived for many generations, with one community helping the other.
Thank you for a well-planned, fun and exciting trip and for introducing us to your amazing friends. We’ll stick with you.
Love, Ahinoam and Joe Romanelli
Maxine Rosen | Penn Valley