Visit to the Jewish Federation of San Antonio’s Partnership Region
by Kelly Kremer and Stacey Kline Schwartz
In November, we had the pleasure of representing our community in our Partnership Region in the Western Galilee. The Jewish Federation of San Antonio’s partnership includes Akko and Matte Asher. The region offers ancient history such as the Old City of Akko, strategic borders such as Rosh Hanikra which separates Israel from Lebanon, industry leading medical care in such facilities as the Western Galilee Hospital, serenity in places like the beaches in Akko and Naharia, and agricultural beauty and produce throughout. But the most beautiful part of the region is its people. The people we met are warm, intelligent, interested in Diaspora Jewry, eager to create ties with us and to have more of us visit the area, entrepreneurial, innovative, committed, proud, and beautiful. This is a place where Israeli Arabs and Jews work together, trust one another, heal the sick together, build communities and businesses together. In Akko, Jews and Arabs live together. In Matte Asher, named for the Tribe of Asher, Druze, Arabs, Jews, and Bedouins live amongst one another. In this region, you have some children of the different ethnic groups attending school together and others participating in activities together.
One of the ways we connect San Antonio Jews to those in our Partnership Region is through school twinning projects. Currently, Temple Beth El and Congregation Agudas Achim have twinning programs set up to create bonds between religious school students here and school students there. Other educational opportunities include seminars where our Jewish educators and Jewish educators from Israel come together to learn and to share.
There are opportunities for doctors from here to go to the Western Galilee hospital for specialized training. This hospital, incidentally, is quite an amazing place. It is situated 6 miles from the Lebanon border, so the emergency room has been redone to serve as both a regular ER and as an ER during wartime. The ER is designed to withstand conventional as well as unconventional attacks. The hospital treats 20 Syrians on any given day and half of the staff speaks Arabic. Treating the Syrians is no small task. First of all, they are brought to the hospital by Israeli Defense Force soldiers who rescue them from fatal situations by entering enemy territory. Then, because Syria is an enemy nation, the victims are afraid when they realize where they are and know they cannot contact any family to let them know they are safe. After receiving life-saving treatment, the hospital provides them with a set of clean clothes for their return home and the IDF soldiers cut the tags out to be sure there is no sign that they were in Israel for fear of retaliation by the Syrian army against their families or Israel. All this humanitarian work is done without questions about who is being treated-man, woman, child, kind person or terrorist. They are treated because they are human and in need. What other country would provide medical care to those of a hostile nation?
We hope more members of our community will take advantage of the relationships we have built with lovely people in the region and will make visiting the Partnership Region part of future travel plans to Israel.