Thursday, 4 November 2010


By Jonny Cline, Modi'in Israel, November 1, 2010

When someone feels the need to look at you in that certain way, lower their voice, and say, "Let me tell you the truth...", don't you feel that you are about to witness an inversely proportional relationship between the truth and the words on their way to your ears?

That is the uneasy feeling I have on two issues that are running through my brain on this, the 15th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin.

The first issue is one that has bugged me annually for the last fourteen years.

The first  annual memorial demonstration  was held on the first anniversary of the murder, in the square where it happened. I do not use the word "demonstration" without reason.

Yitzchak Rabin was a legend of Israel, a military man since before the founding of the state, the man responsible for the road to Jerusalem during the pre- and post- independence struggles. He was the Prime Minister of the country, the whole country, even those who did not see fit to help him get the job. The government he formed, the policies it promoted and the day to day running of the country it facilitated was, on the whole, for my good as they understood it. Following that line of reason, his murder was my loss, the turmoil that followed it affected me, the way society reacted and counter-reacted was something I suffered - therefore, should its remembrance not also be for me?

The traffic on the way to the square that night was horrific, even by Tel Aviv standards. I ended up walking the last mile or so, with the crowds of people growing more dense as I approached the main site. The graffiti underneath the stairwell next to which the shots were fired had been covered with perspex to protect them, the marking of the actual site had not yet been properly designed as it is today. The square itself was twice as crowded as it had been for the demonstration held that night.

So there I was, Jonny, the religious young Zionist, recently released from my service in a fighting unit of the IDF, studying at Bar Ilan University (a profile not entirely unlike that of the Bar Ilan University law student who wore a kippa and had recently been released from his service in a fighting unit of the IDF, who had pulled the trigger a year before). I came to join my fellow countrymen in remembrance of our collective tragedy. I came around the corner just as Yossi Beilin began his speech.

"Let me tell you the truth," he preached, "We don't blame all of the religious community, we don't even blame all of the students at Bar Ilan..."

In one foul swoop I had been labeled, branded, ostracized. I had no place there. I had no share in the commemoration of the most profound event that had happened in Israel since I had received my first blue passport.

This has not changed. For the next few years I would watch the broadcast of the memorial "concert" on channel 1 Israeli television , hoping that the speeches would be more of a call to unify than a vilification of half of the population of the country by a small group who had hijacked our national heritage. After a while I gave up. The day on which I remember Rabin, and contemplate  the lessons that are to be learned, is the 3rd of Tishrei, the Fast of Gedaliya. I had no real appreciation of this fast until Rabin was killed - Gedalia was a Jew who administered the Jewish autonomy in the Land of Israel, and was killed by Jews who disapproved of his policies. Sounds familiar, no?

A couple of years before his assassination, a couple of students were arrested and tried for having passed out car stickers (Israel's most effective media for ideological expression) stating that Rabin must be killed. As part of their punishment, the court demanded that they write an official apology to Rabin.

This year the National Archives published some documents relating to Rabin and his murder. One of these was the letter that Rabin wrote in reply to these two.

It was a powerful letter, concise and moving. In his own, recognizable, way, Rabin officially condemned their actions. He wrote that on another, personal level he could understand the strength of conviction that would lead them to suggest such a course of action, but that he felt that taking such steps would negate the very strength of our being - the ability to tackle difficult issues in a manner that facilitated the very existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic State.

The Declaration of Independence had stated it, Herzl had written about it, Jabotinsky had sworn by it - everybody knew that the fundamental principle of Israel as a Jewish and democratic State is the very core of our raison d'etre, the imperative guiding line of our society, the essential basis for our existence as Israel in this neighborhood of the world. It is obvious.

So why do we need to have it said?

Are we not sure? Do we need to hear it over and over? Could it be that it could be said and not meant?

Why is it so important to have the discussion about the wording of a pledge of allegiance at this point in time? Why does it matter? I mean, of course it matters, of course all citizens of the State should be loyal, but since when has reading a declaration changed the speaker's way of life? ...and what are we so afraid of?

In America (not normally my chosen icon of normalcy, but needs must) one can burn a flag as a student, not inhale, and still become president! Oh, I forgot to mention that a law pushed through quietly on the same day was one defining the damaging or destruction of the symbols of the state as a criminal act.

Do me a favour! Even my 4 year old can quote Thumper! "If you can't say not'n nice, don't say not'n at all!"

Why can we not keep sight of what is actually necessary? Should we not be seeking to disarm those who are actually out to break laws that cause actual damage? Why introduce a farcical dramatic act instead of actually leading the State to a place where it may actually inspire loyalty and pride among its citizens?

More importantly:
Have we so completely lost sight of our fundamental principles that we need them plastered in populistic slogans rather than serving as the wisdom that guides us?
Are we so short sighted that we can allow for cheap political tricks to undermine our sense of self protection and will to survive?
What the hell is wrong with us, and when are we going to learn?

Three years after the assassination of Rabin, the first time I felt able to write about it, I concluded by stating that I did not make Aliyah in order to live in the Israel of today - with all of the good that there is to say about it, the modern miracle of our survival, there are some aspects of our behaviour that are really nothing to write home about - I made Aliyah in the hope that others with the same belief in what we could be will join me, and together we can create the State of Israel of which we all can be proud.

I am still here. I still believe it can happen.

What are you waiting for? For the work to be done by someone else, or for it to be too late?

Come on, already!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Wandering Jew Builds a Hut

One of those "can you imagine..." moments that I have been known to use to describe Winnipeg to the average Israeli is the story of how the schach (roof) of our succah collapsed under the weight of the snow. 

We had a very pretty Succah in the 'Peg - sturdy, but homey. Actually, it is the type of Succah you will rarely see in Israel today. Its walls were made of solid wooden paneling, it had a door with a heavy lock, it was equipped with all mod cons, including lighting and central heating - well, a small blow heater that burned the legs of the person sitting immediately opposite it, and didn't really do much good to anybody else due to the facts that heat rises and that Succot have no real roof insulation!

I was familiar with this type of shack from my youth in England. As opposed to sitting in Manitoba in your thermal underwear, in close to zero temperatures, expecting to hear sleigh bells and faint echos of "I'm dreaming of a white....", in Blighty you would be doing the calculation of how long it would take for the men to run out, hoist open the roof, make kiddush from a cup that was already more precipitation that wine, and run back in to dry off, with the hope that a bowl of hot chicken soup would ward off the inevitable seasonal snuffles.

In both of these situations you spent at least an hour at some point over the holiday season in a group conversation, that sometimes resembled a pre-strike trade union gathering, discussing why The Big Boss chose the seasons He did for the holidays we "celebrate": Sukkot in the snow, the fast of the 9th of Av that goes out at 11pm, Tu B'Shvat (New Year for trees) when the ground is still in permafrost, etc. Why is our religion not seasonally sensitive?? Are even our holidays supposed to be a burden?? What, with our backaches, the price of Jewish education today, and the dreadful service at the restaurant last week, don't we have enough to complain about???

The simple answer is: There is a solution to (almost) all of your woes!

There is a magical kingdom where Yom Kippur ends at 6pm, where you don't lose fingers to frostbite whilst lighting your Chanukah candles outside for all the world to see, where the best football game of the season will never force you to choose whether to be there for Kol Nidrei, or to be just a little bit late (He'll understand). 

A couple of times a year Shlomit comes home from a store and proclaims the goodness of living in a country where your own seasonal symbols are the ones paraded on display in the commercial district. "I just love it!" she will invariably effuse, "They give out apple and honey to you as you walk by! The songs are ours, not carols, ours! You don't have to explain to anybody why you want a fish head!" 

OK, that last one is mine, but you get the picture.

Sukkot, for us, is generally spent at Shlomit's elder sister's house on a kibbutz in the North. There are more or less 14 of us nowadays (us and our 3, them and their 3, the parents and the younger sis-with-spouse) who gather to celebrate the one festival in the calendar that is actually called "a festival of rejoicing" (no fasting, no extended dirges in shul... there is a little bit of twig shaking, but even so, it hardly seems Jewish to have so much fun).

Putting up the Sukkah (a task that is generally identified as something you drag yourself out into the cold to do, late at night - as if surviving Yom Kippur wasn't enough, He was now going to see you off one hammered thumb after another!!?!) takes about 25 minutes. You have to make sure that the metal lego-style frame has its cotton "walls" arranged so that the door will open towards the house, and of course you have to tie it down so it doesn't blow away in the breeze that will playfully dance across the rolling, green hilltops to dissipate the slightest over-warming you may be feeling under the gaze of the autumn sun. The children will spend the days designing artwork that will be displayed both from the walls and among the fruits that can be hung from the trellis that will support the leafy roof, through which we will look for the stars that shine as if hung out in the clear skies as the whole family wines and dines in comfort and togetherness....

Pretty picture, no? The truth? Ok.. The kids will fight over who gets the chair next to Saba, somebody (I have $10 on it being Shlomit, again!) will spill half a bottle of coke on the tablecloth and the baby won't sleep so well in yet another strange bed... but you know what? 

This is how Sukkot was supposed to be!

The season is perfect, the fruits are ripe, the national spirit (whilst not necessarily 100% in line with the day's mitzvot) is absolutely in-tune with the message of the festival - happiness, freedom, the people connecting with our land - what could be better than this? (besides that, cynic!)

Oh, yes, and we one keep one day of Yomtov at either end!

Heaven, no?

Well, perhaps it's not heaven, but it is Israel, and that's the closest we have to heaven on earth!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

An article of mine that was published in the Winnipeg Jewish Review today

Features - Winnipeg Jewish Review


By Jonny Cline

The Israel to which I returned from my time in Winnipeg was not the Israel that I had left behind. If we are already talking openly, neither the Israel that I left, nor that to which I returned, were anything like the Israel to which I made Aliyah. Then again, the Israel to which I made Aliyah was different before my army service than it was after my army service, and different again, to the Israel I knew when Yishai, my eldest, was born. I will explain.
Next year I will have been Israeli for half of my life.
The Oslo Accords were signed on my 18th birthday. I believe this was just a coincidence.
I made Aliya the following summer, quite unintentionally as it happens. Rabin was the Prime Minister, peace with Jordan had been declared, and everything was looking quite optimistic. With all of the celebration in the air, nobody really noticed that many of the tourist attractions that I had visited during my two earlier trips to Israel, and even those that I hiked through during that first year as an Israeli citizen, were being closed off to Jewish visitation, among them the Temple Mount, Shechem, Herodian, Sebastia, etc. Many beautiful, historical sites that had been the connection between me and the history of the land were now off limits - but we were all happy with what the future seemed to hold, so it seemed to matter less.
Six months into my IDF service, Rabin was assassinated. The party seemed to end abruptly. I remember hitching a lift from near Hadera to Bar Ilan University during the following spring, as I was making plan for my release from the army. A young woman  stopped for me and I got in. As soon as I did, and she saw a couple of things she had not noticed as I stood on the road side, she became tense. At one point she reached over to get something from her handbag, and I suddenly understood why. These were the facts: I served in an active field unit, I was wearing a kippah, and I was travelling to Bar Ilan University. This is the association she drew: Yigal Amir was an orthodox Jew who had served in an active field unit and  had been a student at Bar Ilan University at the time he pulled the trigger. When she moved her bag from the dashboard, she uncovered the "Shalom, Chaver" sticker that lay underneath it.
"You don't feel comfortable with me in your car, do you?" I asked her.
"To be honest," she replied in embarrassment, "no.  I know it's wrong. I can't help it."
That was Israel during the post-Rabin years.
In 1999 Shlomit and I got married. After finishing university we moved to a small (40 family) community called Kiryat Netafim in the Ariel corridor. We moved into our new house two weeks before Rosh HaShana 2000. At that point in time it appeared that a final settlement agreement between Israel and the PA that would end the saga of the previous century was imminent. Our house would most likely become prime real estate, 30 minutes away from Tel Aviv, and 450 meters above sea level. Great view and great clean air, what could be better.
During dinner on the eve of Rosh HaShana, with all of Shlomit's family around the table, one of our new neighbours knocked on the door and invited me out for a chat. I was asked to come and sign on an M-16, to take my place in a civil defence rotation, and to be on the alert. We were under the impression that there had been a few sporadic incidents, that the youth in villages throughout Israel were letting off a little steam over the holiday, and that all would be back on track soon. Yishai was born three years later.
Four years and more than 2,000 deaths later - of which I attended the funerals of about 300 with whom I had worked, taught, lived and shared friendship -  we accepted the position as Shlichim in Winnipeg and made the move. About a week before we flew to Canada I was working with youth in the communities of Northern Shomron.
Likud Prime Minister Arik Sharon had asked the party whether or not to disengage from Gaza. The proposal was voted down, and he vowed to honour the results of the democratic process.
By the time we returned to Israel Arik Sharon was the Kadima Prime Minister, although there had been no election, and the Gush Katif Bloc and Northern Shomron were empty of Jews, and the imminent peace and quiet was not yet evident.
Two more wars later I find myself living in the central Israeli city of Modiin. 70,000 others live here with me (with plans to grow to 230,000), many of whom, particularly in the Buchman and Kaiser neighbourhoods, are Anglo olim. Closer to home, Yishai (no longer chubby with long hair) is a tall and skinny young man who finishes first grade tomorrow, Adar (conceived in Winnipeg, born in Jerusalem) is now 4 years old and has a very definite opinion about almost everything, and Jordyn has spent most of the six months since her birth smiling happily at the world around her. Shlomit has gone back to work following the best part of a year, pre and post birth, at home.

The truth is that this is Israel.

If you were short-sighted enough to imagine that Israel can be understood by judging the ebb and flow in the short-term, you would probably get the impression that my home is one riddled with uncertainty, victim to the whims of political intrigue and extreme ideological shifts. You may feel that war comes way too often, and perhaps be mistaken into thinking that there may be a "wham-bam" solution to all ills.
I would suggest an alternative paradigm.
I have spent the last seven years watching each of my three children go through pretty much the same series of steps in their growth, my father has spent the last 35 watching me and my brother, and my 97-year-old grandmother (may she live a long and healthy life) still speaks frequently about how her "children" (71 and 67) still haven't fully grown up. In the same way that I would not dream of looking at my four year old critically for the rapid changes in her behaviour and whims, knowing as I do what she had to go through in order to reach this (very cute) stage of her development, and knowing as I do what awaits her as she follows in her brother's footsteps, I would like to ask that we look at the State of Israel as if she were going through something like puberty. We can discuss the pros and cons of various nurturing and education methods at some other point.
Israel is an exciting place to live, sometimes exhaustingly so. I would say that there has not yet been a calm period in her short history, and indeed that every period has been interesting in its own way. During the 16 years since my aliya I have watched a social and political system go through incredible developments. Politics is beginning to be more about economic and social issues than about borders and land. Education and employment are the number one concerns in every public survey, and our system of checks and balances (government, Knesset, supreme court) is about to reach the point of having to redefine its rules of engagement.
I love being part of the future in the making. I share that love with pretty much everyone I meet, all of us who can take a step back from our daily grind of traffic jams and making the mortgage to realise that we have reached the point where our greatest concerns are beating the traffic and getting a raise!
If you watch carefully, really carefully for the next few years, I bet you will see the following: a new generation of leadership emerging that wears suits rather than sandals, Israeli business success creating a viable middle class, an urbanisation movement, investment in transportation and industry infrastructure that will make the periphery of the country thrive independently of Tel Aviv, and much, much more.
I look forward to sharing it with you as it happens.
Jonny Cline was the former Shaliach for the  now defunct Winnipeg Zionist Initiative. He was  born and raised in England.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Amateurs, bloody amateurs!

Yair Lapid, a journalistic icon in my eyes, described a couple of weeks ago how we seem to be failing to attract the attention of even our own people to a true appreciation of our current paradigm, let alone that of the wider global community. He called us amateurs. The government are amateurs, our PR pros are amateurs, we are all amateurs.

He is right!

Just as much as, if not more than, in any other way, we are amateurs when it comes to the management of our third sector, the social sector, the non-profit sector... You see, we are so amateurish that we cannot even agree how to call ourselves (are we fundraisers or Resource Developers?), and yet we are surprised to find that support, financial and otherwise, does not come pouring in to facilitate any programming whim we happen to have.

We need to grow up. We need to stop doing what we have always done. We need to look around us and see what has changed, is changing, and is about to change.

"The rules of philanthropic engagement for Israeli non-profit organizations have changed drastically in response to 21st Century realities and in reflecting the sensibilities of modern donors." writes Sari Revkin, named one of the 50 most influential women in Israel by Globes Magazine, in an enlightened article she wrote recently. Her 7-pronged strategy provides the necessary basics for the rejuvenation of any NGO or campaign.

I read two great articles today (and retweeted them both). 

In the first, entitled "Standing Again At Sinai, This Time With Facebook", Hillel president, Wayne L Firestone, puts it to us in the simplest of terms that the way we insist on telling our story is not really bad, but rather totally irrelevant. Facts do not a story tell, and the fact that you have put it out there does not in any way translate into it being read, understood or accepted. There are ways to make that happen, and Wayne offers quite a few very simple suggestions as to how to reinvent ourselves to regain our lost relevance.

The second, "Why Your Fundraisers Are Your Biggest Competitors," by Rik Haslam of the Resource Alliance, warns of the inherent overthrow of the fundraising world by the socially networked giver/raiser. Far from being a believer in any doomsday prophecies myself, Rik is only emphasizing in an extreme way the trends that have been creeping up on us since Facebook reached Tipping Point.

So why aren't we listening? Why haven't we changed? What are we waiting for?

The answer, in my opinion, is similar to that given to the hi-tech companies I used to work with/for in the run-up to the bursting of the bubble in 2000. There are many ways to divide up the non profit community of Israel, but I will suggest just one: there are those who have made a change, those who would like to but just don't know how, and then there are those who are quite sure there is no change to be made.

"Change, why change? Ok, there have been a couple of tough seasons, but there was a market crash so what did you expect? We will just keep on doing what we have always done, that is what has worked 'till now!"

If an NGO could for a second be compared to a parrot, that, my friend, is (or will soon be) an ex-parrot!!

You see, there were three types of hi-tech company that sat comfortably in the bubble in 1999. One of them saw no need for examining its organizational growth or fiscal security, two of them went through (sometimes with me) processes of introspection, sometimes with consultancy and sometimes with restructuring. These two generally documented their findings. The owner of one may be able to rummage through the boxes they took from their office as they moved out, and might be able to find a copy of the report they wrote... in pristine condition, as if it had just been printed and bound - the other will pull his dog-eared copy off the shelf of his corporate archive or personal collection and will show it to you, delicately, with the respect afforded an old friend and mentor, so that it doesn't fall apart. Of course I am exaggerating, but fewer than half of the the companies were still around after the whole business went belly-up

The same thing is about to happen to us.

This is not going to happen because of the sub-prime fallout, it is not going to happen because of Madoff (may he get what he deserves), it is not even Obama's fault. It is going to happen because the times they are a'changing. Times are changing, technologies are developing, generations are passing, and societies are maturing - all of this is happening, and all we (some of us) are still doing is sending out mass mailings by email (so we get the younger generation, you know).

I am about to give a rather strange parallel, please bear with me...

The Rambam (Maimonides), in his collection The Mishneh Torah, describes the onset of idol worship. In short, he describes how a people who truly know and celebrate their beliefs becomes, as the generations pass on, a people who nominate a group of "priests" as the educated elite, the descendants of this group allow their knowledge to be replaced by "ceremony", that then gets lost and becomes "secrets" that then lose any meaning, eventually ending up as "the way things have always been done."

Dr Barnardo used to write letters to his donors, personal letters, handwritten letters. His letters contained all of the elements that we use today: a personal story, a specific project, a personal invitation to become a partner in an essential effort to mend the ills of society, etc., etc. - all of the elements of the "secret formula" that we thought we recently created. Dr Barnardo died 105 years ago. How much progress have we made since then? How much more sophisticated have we become? Is the great advancement of a century that we send these letters by email, that the savvy among us use services to ensure that we get through spam filters??!?

I believe that there are three types of NPO in Israel today. There are those who really and truly have already set out upon the path to building their future; there are those who are realizing that their well will soon run dry and are looking to make a change before it is too late; and then there are those who feel that their mission is far too important for their "friends" to ever let them die.

After the cloud settles, less then half of them will survive. Of the 26,000 Israeli NPOs (over 1,400 new ones every year!) registered, only those who are genuinely willing to step outside their comfort zone, who are looking for ways to replace "the way that things have always been done", respectfully, with the way that our future donors and partners will expect to be found, approached, cultivated and/or stewarded in the future, will be able to carry on doing the good work they have done.

Our future, if I may be so bold as to make a forecast, looks quite different from our past. 
  • We need to seriously begin looking closer to home. The Israeli is getting richer (at least some of us are), as the American is struggling to retain their social status.
  • We need to begin to broaden our base of support. Far fewer major funders are looking to invest so much in one place for a long period of time. We need to be spreading our risk and looking for more friends,giving less, with whom we may have to resign ourselves to sharing shorter relationships.
  • We have to meet our prospective donors where they expect to be courted. Our truth, and our genuine belief in the righteousness of our cause must be replaced by an open invitation to facilitate the empowerment of a funding partner to realize their ideology by subcontracting to us activity in the field.
  • We must be present, and regularly communicate, through the media channels, and in the language, that will maximize our impact and broaden our reach. Todays world communicates through social media, open code, free expression, self-explanatory soundbites that are commensurate with on-the-fly information overload and non-stop information communication. (This blog post, for example, would never fly!)
I find myself looking forward to this future. It may not be easy, but it will definitely be (already is!) very exciting.

May the deserving survive, and may Yair Lapid never be able to write such a thing about the 3rd sector.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Monday, 8 March 2010

An Eye Opener that Changed a Gut Feeling

On my (long) drive home yesterday I heard on the news an item about a 3-year-old boy who was found wandering the streets of Hadera. As he was wandering across a main road, he was noticed by an Arab Israeli gent, who took responsibility for ensuring that the toddler was brought into the nearest police station.

My gut reaction to hearing the item... "Take the child away from the parents! How terrible is it that some people so neglect their children!"

Yesterday was my first day as Director of Marketing and Resource Development for Yeladim - The Council for the Child in Placement. I began my first day at the organisation with a tour of one of the hostels/homes in Tel Aviv for kids who have been removed by the authorities from homes in which they could not, or should not, be raised.

As an anecdote on the side, I remember little of the swimming lessons I received as a child, except for one, apparently outstanding, event - my father picking me up and throwing me into the water. This is how I felt at midday yesterday - drenched with the substance of the experience from which I had just emerged, a little overwhelmed, and enthused with a feeling of empowerment having seen how much can be done and the profound affect any effort invested can have.

To hear about the family, it turns out, may well draw out a quick instinctual reaction. Having seen the kids, I now realise how that well intentioned, almost Pavlovian, response may well be more self-righteous indignation than an effective solution.

There are 6,500 children and youth under the age of 18 in Israel who have been removed from their homes and who are living in state facilities. The system does try its best in most cases, but the needs greatly overshadow the available resources.

I look forward to seeing what can be done.

Oh, and the end of the story of the tiny wandering Jew: His mother had asked an older sibling to watch him for a minute whilst she took care of the baby. The sister saw the tot running after the skirt-tails of the mother, and assumed the child stayed with her. A small oversight, perhaps, but one that could so easily have ended tragically!

Info about Yeladim can be found here.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Mayanei HaYeshua 90sec for tradeshow.wmv

This was my swansong for MYMC, the last project I saw finished.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

מכתב פרידה ממעיני הישועה

1) יש דיון בגמרה (מס' תענית, דף כט) באם האמירה "משנכנס אדר מרבין בשמחה" יש בה עניין של הלכה למעשה. הבה נניח שכן.

2) בתקופה זאת אנו מרבים לקרוא על נושאים פילנתרופיים למיניהם. בפרשת תרומה אנחנו קוראים על בניית המשכן וכליו, ולומדים על ההתגייסות העממית המאסיבית למען העשייה הנהדרת. לעומת זאת, אנו לומדים לעומק את הנושאים של שמן המאור וכד' אשר עבורם נגבה מחצית השקל.
נשאלת שאלה מתבקשת: איך ייתכן שאת סכומי העתק עבור כלי כסף וזהב יכולנו לבטוח בטובת ליבם של בני עמנו, אך למען מוצרי יסוד זולים ושכיחים כגון שמן זית אנו מוכרחים לגבות מס? הלא כל עלות המצרכים הייתה מכוסת על ידי תרומה אחת משמעותית (סה"כ בגובה 600,000 Xחצי שקל לשנה)?
ניתנו תשובות "עמוקות" כגון:
מעורבות כל פרט ופרט בישראל בעבודת הקודש,
העובדה שללא התרומות הכי קטנות של עניי העם, הכלים היפים והנוצצים אין בהם אלא חתיכות מתכת מעוצבות,
העושה דבר שאינו מצווה עליו לעשותו אין שכרו כשכר המצווה
ואהוב עלי מעל הכל: "כל אחד שיכול להרשות לעצמו רוצה את שמו על כלי המקדש, אבל השמן? לולא המס של מחצית השקל לא היינו יכולים לממן אפילו את "חשבון החשמל" דאז!"

ברגע שבו אני עוזב, לאת עתה, את המרכז הרפואי, ברצוני לברך אותנו שנזכה למצוא ולקבל נכון את ה"תרומה" של כלי המקדש, אבל שגם נעריך את החיוניות והמשמעות של כל מחצית השקל ומחצית השקל, ונזכור לכבד את התורם הקטן ולטפחו, כי אם כן יכול להיות שיום אחד הקטן הזה גדול יהיה.

בנימת ההלכה למעשה של החודש, אתמקד בשמחה שלי שזכיתי לעבוד יחד עם כל אחד ואחת מכם, וכולי תקווה שדרכנו תצטלבנה בעתיד. אשמח לשמור על קשר עם כל מי שחפץ בכך, ואעמוד לרשותכם לכל עניין, מקצועי ו/או אישי, בו אוכל לעזור.

פרטי הקשר שלי לעתיד:
טל: 052-2322336

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Tuesday, 9 February 2010


No, no, don't worry, I don't mean a real divorce, at least not from my wife. (Could you actually imagine either one of us coping alone with 3 offspring??!?)

It has been said - and credit for this saying coming to my ears has been given to my wife - that leaving a place of work is like going through a divorce.

It is!

To be honest, no relationship (except for mine with my wife, of course ;-) ) is perfect. There are ups and downs, times when one partner invests or appreciates more than the other, times when one is required to support the other, times of shared joy or sadness, times of doubt and uncertainty. Through all of the good and the bad, reaching a decision to end it all is an incredibly large leap into the unknown.

Whether you are the dumper or the dumpee, and even if the eventual break-up was looming, the actual *rip* to RIP is shocking.

For years - 2 in this particular case - an ongoing process of intertwined growth has been weaving "me" into the fabric of the organization, and vice-versa, as friendships are made, experiences are shared, and more waking hours are spent in the (tzniusdik) bosom of the workplace than even at home with one's "real" family.

As in anyone's relationship with an extended family, particularly on a spouse's side, there are those with whom the connection is stronger, those with whom you would even share a beer outside the compulsory framework, and the annoying little cousin who just bugs the hell out of you but you can't hit them because your mother-in-law guards them like a jewel - so it is within the bounds of an 800-strong workforce (actually about the same size as my wife's family).

There are friendships that have been forged here that I hope will last for years, those that have been functionally pleasant, and others that I will do my best to quickly put behind me - but even those have been an integral part of my life for long enough to necessitate a mourning process...

..but there is no time!

As I recall, when one breaks up with a girl/boyfriend, obviously from a more meaningful relationship rather than a meaningless fling, there is a need to take stock. As the fable of the scarred heart describes well, if in a very schmaltzy manner, each encounter changes the very essence of our person. I am not the same Jonny as I was before working at Mayanei HaYeshua. My experiences here, and the atmosphere in which I have lived here, have altered the way in which I look at the world, and the way in which I react to it - some of this will wax and wane, but the baseline will have shifted from its place pre-MYMC.

As in the extreme example set by Jewish mourning ritual, the stages of grief and re-emergence into a new reality allow for a gradual understanding that you have suffered a life-changing loss, accepting that this situation is irreversible, and readjusting in order to be able to rejoin society having come to terms with the fact that you have no choice other than to re-find your place and happiness in this new paradigm. This process takes time. If the necessary breathing room is not facilitated, crisis is due to follow - rebound relationships, sudden realization, unrest and inability to return to an effective existence.

Unfortunately, in the separation from a place of employment, most of the time we are not afforded the luxury of proper closure.

This is not the first time I have changed job (stop laughing!!), but it may rank up in the top 3 most difficult separations I will have gone through.

Without a doubt the breakup that had the most profound effect upon me was the untimely end to my Shlichut. That my family had changed their life-plans in order to go and temporarily resettle in the frozen tundra of Western Canada only amplified the pain of having the ideological professional position of my dreams cut short by a budget cut caused by a political rift 6,000 miles away. The disappointment was overwhelming, and the loss of potential will be something that I will mourn for a long time to come.

The fairly cataclysmic end to my period as CEO of the World Union of Jewish Students is another wound that has left a painful and visible scar. At the turning-point of a process of organizational overhaul to be told by a new political leadership that your services are no longer required, and to spend the next three years in lawsuits just trying to get some of the salary and other payments that were illegally withheld from you, was a trauma that has definitely left me, and all of those around me whether directly or indirectly affected, with a "healthy" dose of PTSD.

The political maneuvering that led to the end of the WUJS upturn was a sad thing to see. I see quite clearly the fundamental flaws in the system of the organization that made such a happening possible. Although I am called a fool by some for the way I view the actions, I fully accept that it was the right of the new elected officials to do WHAT they did, but HOW they did it - criminal! Disgustingly criminal! (See: Of innocence, ignorance and downright cruelty) The phrase that sums up that period in my career is that of John Kenneth Galbraith: "Never underestimate the power of very stupid people in large groups."

In stark contrast to that organization, and that behaviour, the phrase that sums up my time at Mayanei HaYeshua is the popular mantra: "The boss is not always right, but he is always the boss."

Mayanei HaYeshua Medical Center is not a place I would ever have imagined myself working, much less so growing to love.

As it happens, this 20-year-old, ultra-orthodox, 800 staff-strong hospital is an incredible place to have spent the last two years. The rich tradition of a warm, caring family atmosphere is given the sharp focus of groundbreaking forward-thinking halachik rulings on practical medical issues, and the vision of a hospital that may not solve the shortage of hospital beds soon to become apparent in central Israel, but it will do more that any other hospital capital project is doing today to improve the situation.

My "State of the Union" report on fundraising at MYMC I will post after I have actually taken my leave at the end of the month, but let it be said that I have never seen an organization with more potential, a more powerful cause, and more readiness for action than this... but...

"The boss is not always right, but he is always the boss."

I wish the next person to take the position luck - he'll need it. I will pass on all of the information I can, and will do my best to persuade others to accept him, in spite of the logical conclusion to his efforts. He, like me, will eventually understand that there is no way to make that damn horse drink! I didn't believe it when my predecessors warned me, and I am sure that all but the smartest of those who come will fall into the same trap of believing the impressive promises of support, cooperation and available resources.

When the time comes, and the management (I can't bring myself to type leadership) constellation changes, I will definitely be one of those most actively willing to jump back on the horse and realize the potential of this place.

But until that day comes...

As I mentioned, in the separation from a place of employment, most of the time we are not afforded the luxury of proper closure.

With the everpresent responsibility to provide for mortgage, education fees, bills and taxes... and food, time to go through a proper process of closure is never really an option.

Ah well, as they have been heard to say in the Israeli OCS: "This is what there is, and so we will succeed with only this".

I look forward to writing about the new place when the ink is dry, and this place is behind me, and may the move be free of personal "baggage", rebounds, and the like.

Monday, 8 February 2010

New Year, New Child... New Job

Wow! Talk about new beginnings!

The obviously good things first...

Yarden Avia was born on Sunday, January 17th, in Mayanei HaYeshua Medical Center. Shlomit received the best treatment possible (and believe me that it makes a difference that they know who you are!). All are fine, and it is a great trade off: sleep for a tiny new person.

The new year really didn't make any impression whatsoever. It was a regular day at work, and almost went by totally unnoticed.
Strange, but I suppose Tisha B'Av doesn't affect most of China that much, either.

New Job? Now here's a juicy item. Let me get my head around it, and I'll tell the story.