I'm not sure how many MKs and Ministers fly into our local councils and pull up their sleeves to do real work, but yesterday's meeting in Efrat of Limor Livnat, Minister of Culture and Sport, was the first time I'd ever seen a top Minister in action.
Truthfully (for those of us who work on community projects) ... it was a thrill.
Preparation Makes a Difference
It was clear from the first moment that Minister Livnat had done her homework and was very well informed about every project to be presented. Any questions she had were answered immediately by one of her aides (at left). Immediately!
If all the other ministries in the government were as on-the-ball as Minister Livnat's we'd be in good shape.
Let's Talk Culture
The Minister visited Efrat to observe the local cultural and sport activities and projects, and to see how her office could help them grow and develop. Minister Livnat began by viewing the areas in Efrat that are affected negatively by the building freeze. Then she visited the Aseh Chayil School Cheder Tanach and the local library, among other stops.
Her working meeting at the Efrat Matnas (Community Center) began with an introduction of everyone sitting around the large table, including Minister Livnat's staff members, who are the contacts and hands-on-movers of the different projects in question.
Perhaps when these "Star Tours" are underway, we don't think the "Star" can really pick up any information on-site, but when Minister Livnat spoke before a room full of Community Center and Local Council staff members, she summarized her findings in the library very precisely.
Library: While it's a very large and impressive building, the state of the library itself is terrible. She remarked that the amount of activities in the library was indeed impressive, but the books are in a wretched state and the computers are old. The Minister instructed her staff right then to see if more monies could be allocated toward renovation and upgrading.
She suggested that Efrat apply to the Mifal HaPayis to build a second floor onto the existing structure. Minister Livnat also added that the Ministry of Culture would try to give more money, some of which would have to be matched by the Moetza.
Youth Film Festival: The Matnas Director Neta Magen told Minister Livnat about Efrat's Annual Young People's Film Festival, called Kol Noar. http://voices-magazine.blogspot.com/2010/03/youth-film-festival-in-efrat.html More than 600 high school students from 130 different schools in 27 cities came to Efrat to present their 150 films for competition. The festival is one way Efrat breaks down barriers between young people. They may have varied backgrounds and lifestyles, but they've got the common interest of filmmaking. Ms. Livnat showed great interest in the Festival, and explained that even though the Ministry of Culture and Sport does not fund projects aimed for youth under 18, she would have her staff investigate a way that she might help.
Choir: The of the Matnas' very unique activities is its choir. Okay, a choir itself is not so unique, but Efrat's choir, which began in order to perform at its 25th anniversary two years ago, has continued and grown. Its members are mainly grandparents. And while it's common in Efrat to have parents and grandparents come to see their kids perform in a Matnas end-of-the-year performance, the choir's end-of-the-year show in the Music Department, brings out children and grandchildren to see Sabba and Savta on stage. Ms. Livnat commented that funding had already been approved for this project, and had her staff immediately find out where the "check was stuck". The answer came in just a few moments, and the Matnas was informed exactly how to complete the necessary procedures to receive the choir's money.
Dash to the Chayalim: While the Matnas didn't ask for anything for its Dash to the Chayalim program (regards to our soldiers), Matnas Director Neta Magen and the program coordinator Ayelet Avrahami told the Minister about this special Efrat project that keeps all post-high school youngsters (Army, Mechina, Yeshiva and Sherut Leumi) connected to the community. This connection, Neta commented, makes our young people know that we care about them. And when they complete their national service, they still feel tied to Efrat. Read more here: http://voices-magazine.blogspot.com/2010/02/sharing-purim-with-our-children-in.html
Ayelet also mentioned the Soldiers' Bus that leaves the Matnas on Sunday mornings to go to bases in the Negev, past Beersheva. She credited soldier Matanya Greenwald for coming up with the idea for this popular bus.
Raise Your Spirits: Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi kindly introduced the Minister to the Raise Your Spirits Theater Company, called Teatron Romemut in Hebrew, and he gave me the opportunity to give a short explanation of the women's community theater company. (In the photo above, I am wearing my JOSEPH T-Shirt - JOSEPH was our first Raise Your Spirits production nine years ago. To my right is our director Toby Klein Greenwald.)
I founded the Raise Your Spirits company in 2001 when Efrat/Gush Etzion (like the rest of the country) was rocked by terror. RYS was our way to stand up to the Arab terror around us, to overcome the suffering that everyone was feeling, to give ourselves something wonderful to look forward to (a show), and to support one another through a very difficult period.
Besides the psychological support we gave and received, we put on a darn good show. In fact in the past nine years, Raise Your Spirits, http://www.raiseyourspirits.com/, including this year, will have taken the stage in six different products that have been seen thus far by 35,000 women.
Minister Livnat said that the Ministry of Culture would try to help Teatron Romemut through the offices of the Local Council.
Efrat has the incredible statistic of having 1300 people involved in sports and dance through the Matnas. Of course, there are more people that take outside chugim (activities), but that makes it even more incredible.
Although our Matnas building seems very large, there's not much space for all these activities. Five-and-a-half days a week (not Friday afternoon and not Shabbat) every single Matnas room is filled with a sport, dance, art, or music activity. While we have a small addition on the Zayit, there is just not enough room for all the sports and cultural activities demanded of the Matnas.
Efrat requested help building a proper stage and more sports facilities. The Minister agreed that the need was obvious, but once again, she reminded everyone that the Ministry of Culture doesn't build. Her office would try to help in other ways, but actual building was the job of Mifal HaPayis.
Before the meeting was over, Minister Livnat said that she could not end this meeting with out talking about the building free. She said, "That's the issue that's really on top of all of our minds." She said that even though this was not a political meeting, she wanted to state that when the September 26th deadline came for the end of the building freeze, she would not agree that the freeze should continue one more moment than was mandated. Let's hope the other Ministers feel the same.
At the end of the meeting, Efrat's Council Head Oded Revivi presented Minister Livnat with a framed Megillat Ruth, the Biblical story that took place right here in and near Efrat.
A Private Performance
When the meeting concluded, all the men present were invited to leave, while Minister Livnat, her aides, Matnas Director Neta Magen and her staff, and other community Matnas members were treated to a private performance of two excerpts from the upcoming Raise Your Spirits production, Judge - The Song of Devorah. Judge was written by Toby Klein Greenwald and Yael Valier with music by Mitch Clyman.
Members of RYS (child and adult) took the "stage" in Biblical costumes and sang Tomer Devorah, and then Judge. The cast was thrilled to have performed for the Minister, and an incredible phenomena occurred. The stars shined during the day in Gush Etzion.
Devorah premiers in October.
Devorah premiers in October.
Efrat thanks Minister Livnat and her staff for their attention and interest. It was a productive, exciting and great day.
All photos by Batia Katz.