In the region of Halutza, in the town of B’nei Netzarim, Marc Feinberg has brought to life an Israeli Field of Dreams.
Inspired by his love of lacrosse and a long-held desire to do something meaningful for Israel, Feinberg, Vice President of Business Development for NFP, an insurance brokerage and consulting firm, resolved to build a sports field for the children of Halutza – a town developed from empty desert in the farthest corner of Israel, just two miles from the borders with Gaza and with Egypt.
Feinberg and his wife, Mindy, along with generous contributions from friends, family, Jewish National Fund-USA, and the Israeli government, built a fund to construct a brand-new sports field, a center of recreation and community for the youth of Halutza.
“What’s going on in the area of Halutza is unbelievable,” says Feinberg, beaming with pride. In a place as distant as one can get from any kind of society, the people of Halutza, along with Jewish National Fund-USA and their Negev Community Development program, have, over the past 15 years, built a medical center, a daycare, and a thriving agricultural program, growing crops for global export and raising hundreds of dairy cows. Farmers in Halutza have also stepped into the world of high-tech agriculture, growing collagen on tobacco leaves to be harvested and used to create 3D printed organs that may one day be implanted in human beings. From 30 families living in trailers in open desert, Halutza has now grown into a thriving community of 500 families.
Sixty percent of the booming population of Halutza is under the age of 18. “They don’t teach these kids hate even though they live in an area where they are targeted,” says Feinberg. “They’re taught to love and they have such a good outlook on life – it’s unbelievable, really uplifting.” The sports field is located 450 feet from the Egyptian border and a single mile from the border of Gaza – in fact, standing on the field, one can see thick, black smoke from the Egyptians fighting ISIS in Egypt. In the event of an alarm, the kids have only 15 seconds to make it to a bomb shelter. The closest bomb shelter now is one minute away – too far. Feinberg posted online about the need for a closer shelter and raised $45,000 in just two days.
In the literal shadow of a deadly conflict, the children of Halutza need somewhere to be joyful. Many of the children of Halutza suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and coming together to play sports is an invaluable therapy. Feinberg set out to organize a coalition of generous donors aligned with his vision of a sports field in Halutza. More quickly than he ever expected, Feinberg raised the total sum needed to build the field. “There was an outpouring of support – I think it was a combination of (people being) impressed…and just the heartwarming story; They couldn’t believe what was going on there, and it was incredible.” With the delays of COVID-19, construction of the field took three years to complete. Feinberg and his family visited Halutza for a ribbon cutting ceremony in March of this year.
The field was built, and now more is to come – Jewish National Fund-USA has organized other donors to build tennis courts, a basketball court, and a ninja obstacle course beside the sports field, as well as field lighting and seating for up to 300 spectators. When all these projects are completed, Halutza will have a complete sports complex to call its own. Feinberg also expects enrichment opportunities in his beloved sport of lacrosse, and hopes through his relationships with the Israeli Lacrosse Association and other lacrosse contacts to bring clinics and coaches for the kids.
“I can’t describe the feeling of seeing these kids, who live in such a precarious area, playing and laughing with total disregard of the scary world immediately around them,” said Feinberg. “To see the kids running on the field, the culmination of all the hard work just made us all feel so good.”