Good Deeds Day – a day dedicated to volunteering to help the less fortunate in society – originated in Israel in 2007. Since then, the event has been adopted in over 50 countries across the world. Israel starts early – on 5th March, whilst the rest of the world waits until the 10th. But as you will see below, good deeds are certainly not restricted to one-day-a-year in the Jewish State.
The organization ALEH runs Israel’s largest network of facilities for children with severe cognitive and physical disabilities. It has pioneered a unique use of virtual reality (VR) at ALEH’s Moriah facility in Gedera where residents go on field trips in simulated environments. Another charity, the Institute for the Advancement of the Deaf, together with the national-religious rabbinic association Tzohar held the first ever sign language reading of the megila (Book of Esther) for the deaf and hard of hearing during the Jewish festival of Purim. More than 600 people attended the reading at the Tel Aviv International Synagogue. Finally, only in Israel would you find an annual music festival that charges an entrance fee of one shekel (around 25 US cents). Festival Bashekel allows residents from marginalized communities to enjoy top Israeli bands. A nominal fee is charged to highlight that that the event does indeed have value.
Israel’s neighbors also benefit from the Jewish State’s good deeds. The ex Finance Minister of Turkey, Kemal Unakıtan, spent nearly two-and-a-half months at the International Center for Cell Therapy & Cancer Immunotherapy in Tel Aviv. He received groundbreaking stem cell treatment to wean him off dialysis and avoid the need for a kidney transplant. Meanwhile, 42,700 tons of goods (1,397 truckloads) were delivered to Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing, before it had to be closed due to the resumption of terrorist rocket fire. But your really must see what Israeli volunteers from www.il4syrians.org are doing to help Syrian regugeeshurt, hungry and homeless from the civil war in their country.
The Israel Defense Forces seldom get the credit they deserve for their good deeds. For example when they airlifted a Sudanese refugee and her two premature babies (weighing only 900 grams each) from Eilat to Assaf Harofeh hospital in Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, although they were exempt from combat duty, three women volunteeredto stand up and be counted when presented with the opportunity to join the IDF and defend their country. And like the brave Jewish Queen of the Purim story, their first names are all Esther.
Israeli hi-tech innovations often have a good deeds “flavor”. Jerusalem-based UIU encourages individuals who shy away from smartphones to join the technological revolution. Both the elderly and those with visual impairment will appreciate the large fonts and enhanced security features. Busy shoppers will benefit from the app from Haifa’s WiseSec to prevent them getting lost in massive shopping malls. And where in the world is this technology being introduced? In Moscow’s huge 5000-store city mall.
Israel performs many good deeds for the environment with its Clean Technology. Israeli wind sensor company Pentalum Technologies is expanding production of its sensor that allows wind farms to improve electricity production by up to 10% - equal to millions of dollars. In another example, Israeli farmers in the Negev have cut their use of chemical pesticides by about 80%. They use natural predators – bugs that don’t harm the crops – to get rid of the pests. Eco-conscious Israelis can now receive comprehensive informationabout recycling centers, air and water pollution, cellular antennas, open spaces, beaches and various environmental hazards from the new online website www.svivati.org And the Israeli Transport Ministry is replacing a dangerous section of Route 1 between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with a 16km new road. The NIS 2.5 billion cost includes an eco-friendly bridge, indistinguishable from the surrounding forests, which will allow animals to cross the highway in safety.
Israel performs good deeds by financing people to come to the Jewish State. The appropriately named “Israel Give & Tech” is a brand-new Taglit-Birthright Israel trip, in conjunction with Israel Free Spirit. It's designed for people interested in experiencing how Israel uses its technological innovation for tikkun olam, or repairing the world. The free 10-day trip will depart from New York in early July. Then the charity Shavei Israel has brought seven descendants of Kaifeng Jews, an ancient community from China’s Henan Province, to Israel to reclaim their Judaism. At its height, 5,000 Jews lived in Kaifeng. Today, about 1,000 Chinese can trace their roots to them. Finally, the Hebrew University together with the Israeli Government sponsored 250 of the most talented science students from all over Asia, Australasia and Oceania to Asian Science Camp Israel - a six-day program, learning, touring and enjoying the unique atmosphere.
Finally, Iranian-born Israeli diva Rita did her own good deed by performing “Tunes for Peace,” at the UN General Assembly Hall on Mar 5 in a first-of-its-kind event organized by the Israeli Mission to the UN. Just days after her father passed away, Rita sang in Hebrew, English and Farsi (Persian) in front of UN chief Ban Ki-Moon, diplomats and Iranian community leaders. "I believe that if we, the people, will try to reach each other, something will happen," she said. From her mouth, to the Ayatollah’s ears.
Indeed - let’s hope he isn’t UN-grateful.
Michael Ordman writes a free weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.