Sunday, June 2, 2013
The bomb shelter is like many which are about The Negev community of Yeroham, a small structure with extra thick concrete walls meant to protect civilians from some of the hideous realities of life in the Middle East. Yet those inside the structure have the idea of preserving the people many steps beyond physicality. For this shelter with its bee hive of activity is the source of programs which bring a honey to much of the Negev. The bomb shelter is the current home to Atid BaMidbar. Not content that the image of development town remain but a dropping off point before moving into the center of the country, Atid BaMidbar, which means “The Future in the Desert,” is the source of educational programs which are truly making a difference.
Larry and Debbie collaborate
For example, Atid BaMidbar’s programs for Russian immigrants enable these individuals to feel a sense of pride in themselves, their community and Israel. The programs teach about a Jewish heritage that some never knew, and pass on what they learn of our millennia-old people to their children in their native language. So too, Atid BaMidbar in an earlier incarnation, responded to the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin with programs to promote pluralism that our shared past might speak more loudly than that which divides. Today that effort continues through dialogue groups and more.
But most important, these and a myriad of additional programs, too many to describe, have been transformational, enabling the town of Yeroham to blossom in the wilderness. Yerucham is much more than a place for dropping off new Olim who lack the basic skills needed in a modern state like Israel.
Today’s Yerucham is new housing starts and outstanding schools. Yerucham is the new pluralism. It’s a town that can boast of in-migration – from its children returning after the army, to professionals, who choose to move here from Israel’s major cities. Moreover, beyond the incredible Atid BaMidbar, there are other organizations and programs working to meet other needs within the town.
Soon Atid BaMidbar’s staff shall move to a new facility – a bright and shining new building. The organization’s new physical location will, no doubt, spawn even more great programs as Yeroham moves steadily, but rapidly, from the periphery to the center of Israel’s life.
What is amazing is that our little band of five volunteers gathered and supported by the Greater Miami Jewish Federation in collaboration with Atid BaMidbar and Skilled Volunteers for Israel, have been invited in, not only to witness but to add our skills to those of the locals. Hopefully with our Federation, we will continue to be part of this incredible development of Yeroham and all of the Negev in fulfillment of Ben Gurion’s dream – “the future,” really is happening, in the Negev.
Rabbi Larry Halpern