First Unity Present Money to Qiryat Gat

First Unity Lodge Make a Presentation to Qiryat Gat

Report by George Summerfield

Bnai Brith UK has been involved for many years in providing support to the Development Town of Qiryat Gat in Southern Israel.   First Unity Lodge,UK, regularly sends funds and in particular has helped with donations towards the Feeding Programme and also for Musical Instruments at Herzl Primary School.   In August this year a Special Appeal was launched for additional support for 5 main projects.   This appeal was sent out to all UK Lodges on the 3rd September.

The Appeal was discussed by the Board and Council of First Unity Lodge at their Committee Meeting on 6th September..   There was a unanimous decision to donate our usual amount of £2000 for the Feeding Programme, and also this year to support the additional appeal for the air conditioning units.   We later learnt that this involved a further donation of £3500.   The details of this project were circulated and I approached the Committee members and was given approval by all, including our Treasurer Tony Sinclair, to offer the extra donation.   I had a special interest as, together with my wife Marion, and also our Secretary, Margaret Arenias, we were visiting Qiryat Gat in October as part of the BB UK Tour of Israel. A cheque for £5500 was sent from the First Unity Lodge Trust on the 27th September for both the Feeding Programme and the special air conditioning.   The need for the air conditioning was described as follows:

The volunteer organisation Mashbir Le`Gat stores dry goods and prepares the food packages in a warehouse that urgently requires air conditioning and repairs to the ceiling and toilets to improve the safety and conditions for the 70 volunteers who make up and distribute the weekly packages.   Their first priority is for air conditioning, the cost of which would be covered by your donation.

Our BBUK Group consisted of 26 members, including Alan Miller, President BBUK.  We were on an 8 day tour with stays in Jerusalem and in the Golan Heights.   On the 18th October our coach took us from Jerusalem to Qiryat Gat where we received a warm welcome on arrival from Yitzak Abt, Chairman and Debbi Regev, the Administrative Manager for the Board of the Qiryat Gat Foundation. as well as Walter Breindel.  We spent the greater part of the day visiting the Herzl Primary School. the After School Project and the Feeding Programme.

At the Herzl Primary School we were greeted by two lines of children handing each of us a red rose.  We were also welcomed by the friendly Head teacher and some of her staff.  We learnt that one third of the children are new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, one third Ethiopian immigrants and one third children born in Israel.   A large proportion are from low socio economic homes.  Next we were  seated in the main hall where we were treated to a musical performance by the pupils.   A group first played classical music on violins and then the rest banged away at percussion instruments.   The Head teacher gave a talk and spoke of the gratitude of the school for donations received towards the purchase of musical instruments, including the donation from First Unity    More was still needed so that they could form a full orchestra.   Finally all of us landed on the stage showing off our prowess on the percussion instruments.   Behind us a huge poster stated “Together we will create music and the music will bring the change”   

Next we spent time at the After School Project.   We were told that the children selected for this project were those who were most in need of extra attention for their school work, and who would otherwise spend their time roaming the streets. We were given time to visit the children in the classroom and get to know them.   The children have strict instructions to speak only Ivrit at school, and not their home languages, so some were hesitant to try to speak their broken English.

Finally we arrived at the rather dilapidated warehouse in time for the weekly food distribution.   The warehouse itself was fairly large with two rooms.   The main part in the front was full of volunteers organising the  distribution of the food.   The volunteers were mainly young people who were filling 70 large cardboard containers.   We all joined in to help and gradually these containers filled up.   Once a week these parcels are taken round to families chosen for their need.   They are just left outside the homes on the same day each week at around the same time to avoid embarrassment.

Once the work of filling the containers was completed the talks began.  Walter Breindel on behalf of BB UK, presented a cheque for £10,000 for the Feeding Programme.   I then told everyone present the background to the donation from First Unity Lodge UK  and  handed over the cheque for £3500.   There was no doubt that the provision of air conditioning would make a big difference both in storing the food and in the working condition for the volunteers.   Our gesture was praised by Alan Miller, Yitzak Abt and the main Project Manager in charge.

Within a few weeks we received the news that two air conditioning units were already installed.   Within a month the plaque with the description suggested was placed on the wall between the two conditioners and photographs sent..   The inscription says:   “This air-conditioning unit has been donated by BB First Unity Lodge UK to commemorate 50 years as a lodge 1967 – 2017”

We have received letters from Walter Breindel, thanking us for our “generous donation” and also appreciation from Debbi Regev.  On the 9th November First Unity Lodge received a letter from Yitzak Abt saying:

The Qiryat Gat Foundation and the young volunteers of Ha`mashbir Le`Gat are very grateful to have been chosen as the recipient of your donation celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of First Unity Lodge.   The air-conditioning units have been installed which allow all the packaging to take place inside the warehouse even during the hot summer evenings when previously everything was taken outside.   It is a very appreciative gesture that recognizes the wonderful spirit and dedication of these young volunteers.   Wishing you all good health and continued good works for your community and the projects your lodge supports.

For the 26 members of the BB UK Tour and especially for the three of us present from First Unity Lodge, our time spent in Qiryat Gat was definitely the highlight   The numerous photographs received will serve as an important reminder that our efforts have been well worthwhile.