13 June 2008 Israel mission inspires World ORT delegates Despite the hot weather it was inspiration rather than perspiration that characterised the World ORT Solidarity Mission to Israel last week. More than 110 people from more than 20 countries flew to Israel from the World ORT General Assembly in Warsaw to visit World ORT projects in the Jewish State. They were accompanied by some 160 students from ORT schools in Europe. In the north, participants attended the launch of smart classes at Shifman High School in Tirat HaCarmel and spoke to students, teachers and community leaders during tours of the multicultural Kadoorie High School in the Lower Galilee and the Druze Horfesh High School. In the south, they visited Shikma High School at Hof Ashkelon and Shaar HaNegev High School, both of which are subject to rocket attacks from nearby Gaza. I loved being on a mission with the whole world of World ORT, said ORT America President Doreen Hermelin. To hear about World ORTs activities in different countries is one thing but to meet people from Europe, from India, from South America who are actually doing it is another. And to share with them the excitement of seeing what World ORT is achieving in Israel was amazing. For people who had never been on a World ORT mission it was extremely informative and exciting to realise the scope of World ORTs work. Among those first timers was Justice Sandra Chapnik, the President ORT Toronto. A relatively new member of the ORT family, Justice Chapnik found the mission very enlightening. Its interesting to read about what World ORT is doing and to see the pictures but when you see the sparkle in the eyes of the students, you watch their progress in their love of learning, you see the respect engendered in the school environment between students and teachers, and you hear the gratitude they and the mayors have for what World ORT is doing, thats really quite amazing. You can see that youre making a difference, that whatever you do in this organisation makes a huge difference in peoples lives. On her return to Canada, Justice Chapnik wrote to friends and family: The positive effect that World ORT technology labs, Teacher Empowerment Centres and the teaching of tzedakah and other Jewish values, engenders in the students, many of whom are immigrants, is beyond words. World ORT truly does make it possible for individuals, many from disadvantaged homes, to gain confidence, rise to their potential, realise their dreams and lead successful, productive lives. ORT South Africa National Executive Committee member Martin Behr added: It was very moving and satisfying to see World ORT projects at work. And everyone we met was so positive that you felt that your efforts are worthwhile. Mr Behr, who is also a World ORT Officer, was among those who visited Shifman High School, the latest school to have 10 of its classrooms transformed into high-tech smart classes as part of Kadima Mada (Science Journey), World ORTs programme to raise the level of science and technology education in Israel. It was fantastic how quickly the teachers and students had adapted to the smart classes; I found that very exciting, he said. We watched them [using the interactive white board and connected laptops for] teaching physics and geography and it was brilliant, just brilliant. At Kiryat Yam, Mr Behr was excited to see the remarkable speed with which progress was being made in implementing the Science City mega-project, which will see three acres of public land in the city centre transformed into a beautiful and practical communal resource featuring a sports centre, an open air science park, and a social, educational and cultural centre for Ethiopian Jewry. And he paid tribute to the mayors in whose municipalities the Kadima Mada projects are being implemented. Their enthusiasm is what I found to be very infectious. Weve picked marvellous partners in these mayors and school principals, he said. Ariyeh Fahrjoun, the Mayor of Tirat HaCarmel, was in turn impressed by the World ORT delegates he met. What struck me was their spirit and their will to act, and to act without delay, Mayor Fahrjoun said, adding that the World ORT professionals he had dealt with strove for excellence. It would be very good for the Israeli public sector to learn from World ORT. The new smart classes at Shifman High School were a great leap forward, he said. The students finally have a different educational experience. They cant forget lessons conducted with this technology: they can see it, hear it and it doesnt leave their minds, Mayor Fahrjoun said. This is a new age. Those who dont learn on this new technology will be left behind. Without World ORTs input we would have lost a whole generation. Maybe 10 years down the line we would have been in the place we are now. It has been the greatest gift that my municipality was among those recommended to World ORT. Whoever it was that made the recommendation, Id like to thank them! Both Mr Behr and Mrs Hermelin were impressed by the high morale and determination of the communities on the front line of the rocket attacks from Gaza. The Mayor of Shaar HaNegev, Alon Shuster, was such a vital guy he was inspirational. They are so marvellous in their approach, their determination to carry on regardless. And whatever we have been able to do for them is so incredibly valued. It was tremendously moving, Mr Behr said. Mrs Hermelin noted that Shaar HaNegevs students wanted to come to school, despite the constant risk of rocket attacks (a barrage from Gaza hit the area 15 minutes after the World ORT delegation left). They are on the front line for Israel but its their land and they dont want to be chased away, she said. When we spoke to the children it was unbelievable. They are learning Arabic because they want to be able to get on with their neighbours one day. David Woolf, a Vice President of British ORT and World ORT Trustee, was another delegate for whom the Israel mission was the first visit to Kadima Mada projects. Im very positive about this trip, Mr Woolf said. My overriding impression is that this is a very interesting moment for World ORT; its a major opportunity for us to roll out smart class technology.