The B'nai B'rith World Center in Jerusalem and the Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity in Israel convened on September 4th the seventh meeting of their joint "Liaison Committee" - an informal Jewish-Christian initiative reconstituted in 2010 to foster better mutual respect and understanding between local Jews and Christians in a congenial atmosphere and as a platform for raising and resolving issues that impact on both communities. the meeting was dedicated to a presentation by Ambassador Mordechay Lewy, ambassador of Israel to the Holy See, who completed his tour of duty - and his 37-year diplomatic career - just two days earlier.
Ambassador Lewy's candid lecture on “Israel-Vatican and Jewish-Catholic Relations Today and into the Future” was followed by a lively Q & A and discussion session led by Ecumenical Fraternity director Rev. Dr. Petra Heldt among the participants who included leading Jewish and Christian academics, municipal officials, journalists and institutional representatives.
Ambassador Lewy opened his presentation by praising the Liaison Committee for serving "as a spearhead in Jewish-Christian relations in Israel." He detailed the trials and tribulations of serving as Israel's representative to the Holy See and the special historic responsibility carried by the ambassador also as a representative of the Jewish people. World Center Director Alan Schneider opened the meeting by condemning the previous day's arson attack against the Trapist Monastery in Latrun near Ramle, attributed to "hilltop youth" protesting the court-ordered expulsion from the settlement of Migron. "Regardless of what is happening around us, there can be no justification for attacking any property, much less a religious institution and house of prayer and contemplation. We must all call for an end to these despicable and deplorable acts of violence that gain nothing but further animosity for the settler movement."
Mordechay Lewy joined the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1975. His appointment as Ambassador to the Holy See in May 2008 followed postings to Bonn, Stockholm, Berlin (as the first Consul General after the Unification), and later as DCM and Ambassador to Bangkok, as well as a 4-year assignment to the Jerusalem Municipality as the Mayor’s Special Advisor for Religious Communities. Lewy is a widely published scholar on Jewish/Israel-Catholic/Church relations and is also an enthusiast on the topic of tattoos of Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land throughout the ages. His personal interest in Christian matters began with a Masters Degree in history, in which he researched the “Rise of monastic orders in the emerging medieval cities in Europe”. He will now pursue a Ph.D. in ancient European history based on medieval maps.
The first B'nai B'rith International Corporate Leaders Mission to Israel concluded on August 22 after a four-day intensive program of meetings and site-visits in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa.
The meeting was led by B'nai B'rith International president Allan J. Jacobs and executive vice president Daniel S. Mariaschin. Participating corporate leaders included the chief executive officer of a major multinational company, the head of a large medical products firm and the chief executive officer of one of the country's major hospital neworks – all of whom have been honorees of B'nai B'rith. B'nai B'rith World Center chairman Haim Katz, Ph.D., and director Alan Schneider also participated.
Meetings were held with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Minister of Finance Yuval Steinitz, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Nobel Prize laureate Prof. Daniel Shechtman, Teva President and CEO Dr. Jeremy Levin, Jerusalem Venture Partners founder and CEO Erel Margalit, YESHA Council Chairman Dani Dayan, Ministry of Health Director General Prof. Roni Gamzo, Israel Parks Authority Director for International Relations Salman Abu Rukun, IDF Field Hospital Commander Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Ofer Merin and Deputy National Security Advisor Dr. Eran Lerman, among others. Site visits included Yad Vashem, the City of David, Tefen Industrial Park, the Carmel Forest fire area, the Bahai Gardens, IDF elite Yahalom Unit combat engineers base, the community of P'duel in the Benjamin region and the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.
The mission was crafted and executed by the B'nai B'rith World Center in Jerusalem.
B'nai B'rith International executive vice president Daniel S. Mariaschin said that the mission provided a unique opportunity for leading U.S. business leaders to learn and experience Israel candidly and without the distorting lens of the press. He expressed the hope that the visit would also help to advance business cooperation between those corporations represented and Israeli businesses.
The B’nai B’rith Fire Scouts Clubhouse, located at Haifa's central fire station, was officially opened for activities at a July 30 ceremony.
The clubhouse was built at the initiative of the B’nai B’rith World Center in memory of 16-year-old fire scout Elad Riven, the youngest of 44 Prison Service guards, policemen and firemen killed in the December 2011 Great Carmel Fire.
Participants in the ceremony included Haifa Region Fire Department Chairman Brig. Gen. Rami Dotan, Elad’s mother Tzvia Riven and three representatives of B’nai B’rith Israel: Nitza Niv, Chair, B’nai B’rith Haifa Regional Council, David Sirton, Deputy Chair, and Ilana Sirton, Mentor, Nitzanei Haifa Lodge.
The ceremony marked completion of the outfitting of the clubhouse and its transfer to the use of the fire scouts. B’nai B’rith invested $80,000 in the project from funds raised after the blaze by the B'nai B'rith Israel Emergency Fund and B’nai B’rith Europe. The clubhouse includes space for meetings, training and recreation.
The B'nai B'rith World Center was charged with implementing aid projects following the Carmel Fire. Shortly after Riven’s tragic death, the World Center learned that Haifa Region Fire Scouts officer Captain Avi Cohen had long dreamed of a dedicated clubhouse for the use of the fire scouts in Haifa - a project that allows teenagers to volunteer with fire departments across the country.
The World Center and the Haifa Region Fire Department cooperated closely for a year and a half to steer the project to fruition and realize Captain Cohen's dream.
First-Ever Leadership Seminar on Forest Safety in Northern Israel for Druze Teenagers A Success
On Dec. 29, nearly 70 counselors and members of the Druze Youth Organization and the Druze branch of the Zionist Council youth organization "Zameret" (Leadership) ages 14-16 completed the first-ever leadership seminar on forest safety and fire prevention. Co-sponsored by B’nai B’rith International and KKL-JNF (Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael - Jewish National Fund), the three-day seminar, which brought together counselors and youth group members from eight Druze villages in northern Israel, represented the next phase of B’nai B’rith’s Israel Emergency Fund project established in response to last year’s Mt. Carmel Fire. The program was initiated by B'nai B'rith World Center director Alan Schneider.
The seminar was held at KKL-JNF’s Nes Harim Field Center where attendees met with Knesset member Hamad Amar, Chairman of the Druze Youth Organization Zionist Council Yigal Brand, Executive Director of the Zionist Council Yoseph Nassar Aladin and Dr. Ben Zion Bar-Lavie, director of education and ecology at JNF.
“Since 1865, when B’nai B’rith responded to an appeal from Moses Montefiore for the direct relief of plague victims in pre-state Israel, we have remained committed to alleviating victims of natural and manmade disasters worldwide,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “We would not be able to co-sponsor this important seminar without our valued members and donors supporting our disaster relief work.”
On the first day of the seminar, participants toured the Carmel Forest collecting flammable tree trimmings from the green part of the forest near the area that was burnt last year. On Dec. 28, the youth took part in educational activities and exercised independent forest navigation. On the final day, Dec. 29, the Druze youth demonstrated what they had learned from the seminar, participating in a fire extinguishing simulation with the help of KKL-JNF's professional team. They also toured the Ben Shemen Forest, heard lectures on sustainable development, fire prevention and forestry, and saw a new film on the tragic progression of events in the Carmel Fire, produced by the Fire Department.
The course concluded at JNF's tree nursery in Kfar Zechariya where the participants received certificates. Plans are being made to extend the impact of the seminar back in the Druze villages through educational programs in the youth movements and schools.
“Though a year has passed since the Mt. Carmel Fire, there are still so many unmet needs. This seminar aims to mitigate that and provide valuable education and skills to the affected community,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin.
“B’nai B’rith sees great importance in educating forest preservation for future generations. This seminar has a national importance, as it is almost one year since the infamous tragic Carmel Fire. The seminar is the outcome of a fruitful partnership between KKL-JNF and B’nai B’rith International,” said Alan Schneider, director of B’nai B’rith International’s World Center in Jerusalem and the initiator of the seminar.
According to KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler, “The purpose of the leadership seminar is to share forest knowledge with Druze teenagers ages 14-16 in all that has to do with forest maintenance, how to contribute to the forest land and prevent forest fires. The seminar will expand their sense of personal responsibility towards the forest, and over the years they will be our future ambassadors, forest fighters and maybe even cooperate with the KKL-JNF. This seminar is experimental and we intend to expand it throughout the country.”
Druze youth participate in the forest safety seminar.
Some of the youth and counselors pose for a photo during the forest safety seminar.
On October 23, 2011, nearly 11 months after the Great Carmel Fire in northern Israel, B’nai B’rith and the Haifa Fire Department inaugurated the B’nai B’rith Fire Scouts Clubhouse at the central Haifa Fire Station. About 100 people—50 of them fire scouts—attended the opening of the clubhouse, built in memory of 16-year-old fire scout Elad Riven, who was killed in the fire.
“You, represented here today—firefighters, police and Fire Scouts and the Riven family—all lost friends, comrades and loved ones [in the fire]. This tragedy was not lost on the Jewish communities of the Diaspora who suffered along with you and also sought to make its contribution to healing the wounds and rebuilding,” said B’nai B’rith Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “B’nai B’rith is proud to play its significant role in this process by funding the building of this facility.”
B’nai B’rith provided $80,000 for the clubhouse project from its Israel Emergency Fund which opened in December 2010 to support relief efforts after the nation’s worst fire. The clubhouse includes space for meetings, training and recreation.
Others who attended the inauguration included Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav; Fire and Rescue Commissioner Gen. Shachar Ayalon; Haifa Region Fire Department Chairman Brig. Gen. Rami Dotan; Fire Chief Arie Regev; Elad’s mother Tzvia Riven; and Fire Scouts comrades.
In his remarks, Yahav described Elad as a “real hero” who was extremely dedicated to his community as a fire scout. The mayor noted that the youth who volunteer to assist in positions that also pose danger should not be taken for granted. He said he is “very impressed, moved and touched that B'nai B'rith has joined forces with the people of Haifa to commemorate this wonderful kid who gave his life for the community in an inconceivable tragedy.”
Elad’s mother Tzvia Riven also addressed the attendees, noting that her son’s birthday was the day before the inauguration.
“Elad loved volunteering with the firefighters and providing assistance to those who help others. Elad did not waste time, and when he went for his shift he took books along so that he could study during free time, and the results showed in his excellent grades at school,” she said. “Therefore it is important that with the inauguration of the clubhouse, the scouts will have a place to study, rest and unwind.”
Shortly after Riven’s tragic death, B’nai B’rith World Center director Alan Schneider, who had been charged with implementing aid projects following the fire, learned that Haifa Region Fire Scouts officer Captain Avi Cohen had long wanted a clubhouse for the fire scouts in Haifa. B’nai B’rith’s World Center and the Haifa Region Fire Department cooperated for a year to see this project to fruition.
“We hope this clubhouse will serve both to remember those who died in the fire and to provide a center for Fire Scouts to convene and continue their important work protecting northern Israel,” Mariaschin said before the event. “B’nai B’rith’s assistance to Israel dates back to 1865 when we provided vital support to the victims of a cholera epidemic. We will continue to provide whatever disaster relief is needed to our brothers and sisters in the Jewish state.”
The clubhouse is the second Israel Emergency Fund-sponsored post-fire project to be completed. Soon after the Carmel Fire, when disruption of cellular service made relief efforts difficult, B’nai B’rith supported the purchase of satellite phone kits and contracts to the 10 civilian search and rescue teams operating under F.I.R.S.T. (Fast Israel Rescue and Search Teams). These phone kits, at a total cost of $25,000, guarantee emergency communication. F.I.R.S.T., which along with B’nai B’rith is a founding member of IsraAID-The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid, has been a major partner in emergency relief efforts around the world.
Additional projects in cooperation with the Jewish National Fund and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority are in the works. Funding for these projects came from donations all over the world, including major contributions from B’nai B’rith Europe.
These ventures follow extensive assistance from the Israel Emergency Fund and B’nai B’rith World Center surrounding the 2006 Second Lebanon War when Hezbollah attacks crippled the lives of many Northern Israel residents. B’nai B’rith worked with six municipalities across northern Israel to provide $200,000 in aid which provided children’s play areas, computers, electronic equipment, air conditioning units and other amenities for families in shelters. It also funded the Sifrut for Soldiers project that provided Hebrew-language best-selling books to Israel Defense Force combat soldiers. Additionally, it funded the establishment of an advanced Command and Control Center for the Kiryat Shmona Municipality. Elbit Systems designed the system at a cost of $100,000.