There are two sides to Rehovot (population 114,000). The side that is well known includes the Weizmann Institute of Science, home of three Nobel Prize winners, and the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Agriculture.
The neighborhood of Ushiot (“foundations”) is on the other side of town. It’s a Project Renewal neighborhood.
It’s the kind of neighborhood where some families are struggling – either to make a living or to escape domestic abuse. And in the midst of this there are kids who have to try to create a life for themselves.
That’s where OU Israel’s Makom Balev (“a place in the heart”) comes in.
Ariel Cohen Vaza, 22, grew up in Rehovot and has been a madrich with Makom Balev for three years.
“What these kids need is love and attention,” he says. “In school they get yelled at and at home some of them have abusive parents or siblings. They may even have a police record themselves.”
Madrichim for Makom Balev in Rehovot (from left): Abebas Stato, Ariel Cohen Vaza, Dan Bibas, Kobi Ziat and Maor Meir Zada.
Makom Balev in Rehovot has groups for each grade from seven to 10.
About half of the group of 60 came together this week for a Tu b’Shevat seder. An interesting choice for a group where many of the kids aren’t from religious homes.
As is the tradition for the Tu b’Shevat seder, each group made a bracha on a fruit that grows in Israel. There was no carob. They wouldn’t have eaten it even if there were. They had apples, bananas, dates and a variety of other dried fruits. After the seder they had pizza.
“What we hope they’ll take away from the seder is the brachot on each fruit that they see the madrichim making,” Cohen Vaza says.
Read more on the OU Israel website.