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In the FACE of terror!

Following the tragic death of Ezra Schwartz, an American student studying in Israel, in a terror attack, his friends created this campaign to send a strong message in the FACE OF TERROR: read what they had to say:

“Ezra Schwartz was gunned down by terrorists after performing a mitzvah in Gush Eztion. He was more than just a friend to most who knew him. He was a brother, someone who you knew you can count on and cared about you. Everyone loved him, everyone considered Ezra their best friend. That\’s who Ezra was. The ability to make so many people feel cared about is really amazing, you would think there were 10 Ezras going around, how can one person have touched so many people? He was always the life of the party, people would just be drawn towards him and the smile that never left his face. Ezra didn\’t reach out to every person to make sure they were happy. He didn\’t have to. Just being around him, it was impossible not to smile, and Ezra knew that. He used it as a way to bring others close to him, to his happiness, to his love of life. Ezra was murdered by terrorists, but terrorism will not prevail!”

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Yoel Sharon- “Believe and you can achieve!”

Yoel Sharon was paralyzed in his lower body after an Egyptian tank hit his APC, during the Yom Kippur War, an attack which killed 19 Israeli soldiers and left three wounded. In spite of the severe physical limitations, Yoel was determined to continue the course of life he took before the war and fulfill his dreams.

He went on to complete his film studies at Tel-Aviv University and started what would become a very successful career in the film industry with offices in Hollywood and Tel-Aviv. He also got married, had two daughters and lived a very social existence. But something was missing.

When Yoel was offered to produce a film about scuba diving around Sharm-El-Sheik, featuring ex-commando veterans and the country’s top instructors, Yoel listed one of his conditions that “Only if I can dive with you during the shoot it’s a deal. If not, I am not interested.” They agreed and he, against the wishes of his rehabilitation doctor, who told him his “nuts” and risking his life, became the first paralyzed person to learn to dive. Yoel describes the shoot as “the most exciting three weeks of his life. “I had simply discovered the underwater world, and as a paraplegic, I discovered the feeling of hovering, weightlessness, this incredible pleasure.” This is when the seeds of his new life mission were sown.

When the first automated 4.4 Jeeps arrived in Israel, Yoel bought one and organized trips for disabled and abled IDF veterans to enjoy nature and camaraderie. Then a good friend of Yoel’s showed him a device from America that allowed paralyzed people to ski, he was convinced and together with a one legged ski instructor organized Israel’s first snow-skiing course for the disabled, in Austria. “Suddenly, I found, the ultimate thing – being in nature as much as one could be, at a sports site with everyone else, reaching enormous speeds, passing skiers on your left and right. Truly an amazing experience.”

They pitched the idea to the disabled IDF veterans association, expecting them to jump on board, but when met with skepticism, they realized that they needed to take responsibility and not be told how to “rehabilitate” and live their lives.

Yoel and his friends went on to found a non-profit organization, The Snow Skiing Foundation for the Disabled. They soon realized that it was too limited for the scope of operation. They wanted to include all outdoor sports. In 1994 Etgarim or Challenges was formed as an official Israeli nonprofit organization

Yoel claims that Etgarim was established long before the snow-skiing trip to Austria, or the cycling trip to Eilat, or the adventures of diving in the Red Sea, and even long before my injury in the city of Suez during the Yom Kippur War.

Etgarim was actually born during World War II. “I am a second generation to the Holocaust, a second generation to “surviving parents,” says Yoel. “My mother is a Holocaust survivor from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. My father is a survivor of the work camps in Russia — an amazing story of eight years in a forced-labor camp near the North Pole, with an escape story that is even more amazing. I think that when you are born to parents like these, even if they don’t talk to you about their past, you turn out to be a “survivor” in your genes. I think that already at Bergen-Belsen or at the work camp by the North Pole, the first seeds of Etgarim were sown.”

Today Etgarim, empowers the special needs population in Israel to get involved in outdoor and extreme sports, allowing them to meet their potential, extend their abilities in all areas of life and be a part of the greater community. There motto is “Believe and you can achieve!”

Edited from Etgarim

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“If you will it, it is no dream”

Only 67 years old, no other country attracts such world attention, than tiny Israel, no bigger then Lake Michigan and sandwiched between hostile neighbors that still deny its right to exist.

As a witness to the anti-Semitic Dreyfus Affair, in France 1894, where Alfred Dreyfus, a young Jewish officer in the French army, was falsely accused of treason, Theodore Herzl, a journalist, ignited the modern Zionist movement and led a revolution, by daring to START-UP the Jewish people’s oldest dream – the return to their homeland, following 3500 years of exile, after the destruction of the second temple and expulsion of the Jews, by the Roman Empire.

And it happened!

Today, Israel is a beacon of light in an increasingly dark region. One of the freest democracies in the world, certainly in the Middle-East, it has survived over 5 existential wars and build a thriving economy, society, culture and military. It absorbed immigrants from every corner of the earth and grants full rights to all its citizens, including the Arab population who are fully represented in government, business, academics and all facets of life. It has a superb record on religious freedoms, woman rights, journalistic freedom, gay rights, environmental protection and many more rights. Short on natural resources, it relies on ‘Human Capitol’ and has become a world leader in technological, scientific and medical innovation.

Certainly not an overnight success and far from perfect, Israel’s accomplishments come with many hardships and it, like all other countries, face challenges, both internally due to growing socia-economic gaps, immigrant absorption, political tensions etc. and externally, from the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians; the threat of Islamic terror on all fronts and a totalitarian Iranian regime, with nuclear aspirations, who repeatedly threaten to “Wipe Israel off the map.”

Imbued with Herzl’s “against all odds” vision, Israeli’s, inherently take on this reality with a resilience and energy that keeps your heart beating at a fast pace. The country is growing quick and what was five years ago, is no longer today…

and perhaps, somewhere in the above, exists a message or two, for anyone looking to turn his or her dreams into a reality…??

 

 

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Israeli Aid in over 140 countries

On April 25, 2015, a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, killing over 7000 and leaving 8,000 wounded and tens of thousands seeking shelter and food. Israel was one of the first countries to respond.

According to CNN, the Israeli aid team to the Himalayan nation was one of the largest in manpower, numbering 260 people, more than all the other aid efforts examined by CNN combined.

The Israeli mission comprising of doctors and search and rescue personal, set up a 60 bed field hospital and treated 1600 patients, carrying out 85 life-saving surgeries, and delivering 8 babies. It also included members of Israeli organizations Magen-David Adom, ZAKA, Israel-Aid and Dream Doctors, who contributed their experience and assistance on the ground!

The story of Israeli humanitarian aid is not a new one, as Israel has always been amongst the first countries, offering international aid, following global natural disasters and accidents.

Back home, Israel has over 32,000 non-profit organizations, more then any country per-capita, in every field possible, and it tackles the complexities of defending itself against Palestinian terror organizations, that seek to destroy Israel, while providing humanitarian assistance to the general Palestinian population. Click here to learn more!

recent campaigns

2015 off with a bang!

January is a busy month as we meet with awesome student leadership groups from all over the world, here in Israel. Each group was assigned with the task of creating their own apparel campaign for something of importance to them and it was amazing to see the diversity of opinions and ideas.

We met with a group of multinationals on the day after the Paris terror attacks and we experienced the shock and vulnerability of the event together. The group were motivated to come up with a message that offered a positive response to the attacks and this campaign is currently in the works.

We met with a group who had been hit with a personal tragedy as a close friend had recently taken their own life. The group discussed the pain and confusion in not knowing what another person, so close to you, can be going through and tried to convey a message to other people who might be in a similar position, in that ‘You are not alone!’

We met with a group who had recently encountered the work of Israeli humanitarian organization Save a Child’s Heart, who improve cardiac care for children in developing countries. They felt their ‘Wear your heart on your sleeve’ was an important message to get behind and they have brought this campaign back to their campuses in the UK.

Finally we also met with a group of Israel Teaching Fellows, who want to bridge gaps in the Israeli educational system and bring supplies to underfunded schools throughout Israel. Their ‘Education Matters, I Matter’ campaign has just launched on our site, and is getting strong traction. What’s innovative about this campaign is that for every shirt you buy, they donate school supplies to kids in need. Check it out!

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Sderot Young Leaders!

Last week we ran a campaign building workshop with a group of young leaders (SYL) in the Southern Israeli town of Sderot, bordering the Gaza Strip. We were amazed to see the positive attitude, tolerance and motivation of these teenagers, who after enduring years of terror rocket attacks against their city (over 14,000 since 2001,) have emerged strong and resilient…gives us a lot of hope and inspiration to see the next generation of leaders coming through!

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