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Thursday, December 18, 2003

A really worthy cause

via Naomi Ragen

The problem with Jewish fundraising is that many causes that really need the money, and many people who really deserve to get it, don't know how to ask for it. They aren't plugged into the big, well-oiled funds like Shefa, who pay men in expensive suits executive salaries to hold fundraising dinners honoring well-heeled donors. They aren't sophisticated mailing- list buyers, and don't know how to sell themselves. So they sit back and work their hearts out, doing amazing things, until they wear themselves out and/ or go bankrupt.

I'd like to tell you about one such enterprise. It's a pre-army preparatory course("Mechina" in Hebrew) called Karmei Hayil that takes in boys facing army service, strengthening their bodies with combat training courses, their faith with ethical and religious studies, and their minds with an understanding of what it means to be a citizen and a soldier in the only Jewish country in the world.

There are a number of such Mechina programs in Israel. So why am I telling you about this one? Because, this one is special.

Someone I know had a son who was in a terrorist attack. He wasn't physically injured, but something happened to his spirit. He was in tenth grade, and he dropped out of school. He enrolled in a private tutoring program to learn for his matriculation exams, but it was in the center of an Israeli town that had one terrorist attack after another. So he dropped out of that too. He struggled for two years on his own, to prepare for his exams. And he passed them all. When the notice came from the army, he was happy. But he was still young -- only seventeen. He realized that he needed to prepare -- to build up his strength, to hone his skills, to prove that he could be an active participant in the life of the country. He tried to get into some of the other Mechina programs. But when they looked at his school records, all they saw was :drop out... Sorry, they said. No room. Besides, they had six hundred applicants and only one hundred openings. And they were looking for a different 'type' of boy...

He gave up, his new spirit fading. His parents were devastated. But then someone told his mother to call Rav Ran, head of Karmei Hayil. "Let me talk to your son..." he told her. And she did. And Rav Ran took the time to see what others hadn't bothered to see: that this was a good boy, who needed a chance to prove himself so he could become a fine Jewish soldier; so he could protect other people's children from the terrorists who had ruined his high school years.

He's been there several months. And he's happy at last. And the staff at Karmei Hayil are very happy with him, too. It's got a wonderful staff, this little Mechina on a windswept hill in the Galilee at a yishuv called Beit Rimmon. Jewish scholars, an instructor for army service who was an officer in Sayeret Matkal, the army's most elite unit. A physical education instructor, a combat training instructor and an administrator. And I'd like to tell you something else about these men, something I know but few others do. Certainly not the boys: None of the staff is taking a salary. Because, right now, there is no money for salaries.

So, what money do they have? Well, the boys' parents pay a nominal sum that just about pays for the three meals a day the boys eat, and their electricity and water and housing. And the government used to chip in. That is, when the land of Israel had a government that had money for such projects. But those days are over.

Which is why I've decided to try to let all of you know about this place. Before they wear themselves out, and have to close down and send the boys home. And that would truly be a disaster, because most of their students have made long personal journeys before finding this home where they are happy at last.

They need money for everyday expenses. Money to fund scholarships for boys who can't afford to come. They could use a new study hall, instead of the old, rusting barn they have. And it would be great if they could fix up the boys' rooms and keep out the cold winters in the Galilee. And audio visual equipment for the lectures, and yes, Torah books, and a Sefer Torah for their synagogue...And maybe, just maybe, some money to pay their teachers so they won't have to work two and three jobs....

So, if you want to help Israel, and you want a really good cause, one that won't be getting money from the Shefa Funds, one that will really change the lives of young boys and enhance the lives of young soldiers, some of whom have been through so much already, please send them whatever you can. I know I will. Because if we don't, no one else will, because there isn't any director of development, and no PR department. Just a bunch of men and a bunch of boys on a windy hilltop in the Galilee, trying to do something wonderful for the Jewish State and its children.

If you want to make a money transfer from your bank account, here are the details of Karmey Hayil's bank account::

Mizrahi Bank
Branch No. 441
Hadar, Haifa
Account No. 635507

Another way of sending donations is to mail a check made out to Karmey Hayil to: Karmey Hayil, Beit Rimmon, HaMovil Mail, Zip 17950, ISRAEL. All donors who wish to recieve receipts for tax purposes, please request them.

And if you know something about fundraising, and would like to help this place organize something in the States, or Canada, or Europe, or South Africa, or Australia, contact the Sagi ben Yaacov at sagiby@yahoo.com . Or write me. You can count on me to help you help them in any way I can.

Love you all. Happy Chanukah.