Jerusalem (Jul. 12)
Project Renewal, which has suffered from painful teething problems, has come in for a great deal of adverse publicity here and abroad as a result of them. The media, naturally, zero in on problems and arguments when these are in evidence — and as a result, the progress and achievements tend to lack “coverage” and tend therefore not to win their fair share of the publicity.
The objective fact is, though, that despite the teething problems and bureaucratic snafus, Project Renewal has made significant strides forward in depressed neighborhoods all over Israel, benefiting and improving the lives of many thousands of families. The project has also inspired grass-roots-level contact and cooperation between communities in Israel and communities throughout the diaspora.
EXAMPLES OF SUCCESS
Here are some examples of Project Renewal successes, collated by the Keren Hayesod:
The Hatikva quarter of Tel Aviv had no bookstore, apart from street-corner newspaper and paperback vendors. Project Renewal staffers took an interest in the subject. A prominent Israeli book company was offered premises rent-free if it would open a shop in the quarter, selling books at reduced prices. Today the Hatikva branch store has been reporting higher sales than the company’s main store in Tel Aviv.
The Weisgal Center in Rehovot supplies cultural and sports facilities to the surrounding neighborhood. But a nearby Project Renewal neighborhood, Kiryat Moshe, was not receiving the center’s benefits. This was the case until Project Renewal officials stepped in and bought $85,000 worth of subscriptions, which were sold to residents of Kiryat Moshe at a reduced rate.
Dora, a neighborhood in Netanya, used to make newspaper headlines almost daily in Israel–always for stories of crime and juvenile delinquency. Not any more. This sort of headline has now given way to Project Renewal headlines of a brighter nature.
Recently Haaretz, the leading Israeli daily, carried a story on Dora: “Disadvantaged neighborhood changes its face beyond recognition — residents of Dora join ranks with Project Renewal authorities and achieve remarkable results.” The story went on to describe the complete face-litt, which included painting and clean-up campaigns and small renovations which were carried out entirely through the initiative of local residents and Project Renewal supervisors.
A NET GAIN
Twenty-four hours of non-stop tennis was recently played in the modern 17-court tennis facility near the Project Renewal neighborhood of Neve Golan. The idea of the marathon originated with Australian volunteers living temporarily in their Project Renewal “twin” neighborhood. Their goal: to raise neighborhood awareness of the tennis court and of the tennis programs being offered there. After the marathon, more than 100 Neve Golan children enrolled at the center’s afternoon tennis course.
22-year-old Julia Hillman from England, a graduate of the World Union of Jewish Students in Arad, went to volunteer in Ashkelon. Her unique contribution: making use of empty bomb shelters for educational activities. The plan was so successful that it was adopted by other volunteers throughout the city. Julia also ran a dental education program in Ashkelon schools and sewing classes for out of work young girls. Postscript: Julia decided to make aliya and settle in Ashkelon.
After more than 16 months in operation, with a rotation of 64 dentists (all volunteers), four per month, and the treatment of more than 13,000 local residents, among them 8,500 children, it is fair to say that the English-Ashkelon Project Renewal dental clinic is among the finest successes of renewal countrywide.
The women of Yavne (a Project Renewal township), proud of their ethnic heritage, wanted to share something in their way of life with their Project Renewal partner communities in the diaspora. And what better — and more useful — gift, they decided, than giving them their favorite recipes, all drawn from Mideastern lands. The result: a soon-to-be-released Project Renewal cook-book.