Wednesday, August 24, 2011
And finally, The Shanti House – You Really Must Go There If You Can
The fourth and final stop on our “I am so proud of Israelis and what they are doing” tour is at Beit HaShanti, also located in Tel Aviv. Beit HaShanti is located in Tel Aviv and a second Beit HaShanti is now located near Be’er Sheva and is named Beit HaShanti BaMidbar. It provides family, warmth and so much else for at-risk youth who had nothing else.
This amazing place began as the brainchild of Mariuma Klein with her three children and her then partner, Dino Gershuni in 1984 with, of all things, a Shabbat dinner. Mariuma, observing the mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim, began to just invite street youth into their home for Shabbat Dinner, and the invitations just kept going out and more and more young people kept accepting and joining this family. The weekly check point of Shabbat Dinner in which all members of this remarkable family talk about their lives, challenges, and strides made remains critically important in the life and rhythm of Beit HaShanti. Through food and stories and hugs and sharing, an amazing magic did indeed begin and continues to cast its glow for so many – both the residents and extended family of Beit HaShanti and all those who have come to know about this amazing place where magic really does happen daily.
To say that this home is beautiful would be a pitiful understatement. It is a home to all who come, whether for a day to a week, as most do, for a week to a month as some do, or for the major part of their growing years from ages 14 – 21 as yet another group does. Oh and by the way, I HIGHLY recommend that you purchase the book Not by Food Alone. My daughter, Talie and I both returned home from Israel with our own copies (a well spent $25 each) and even used several of the recipes for our first Shabbat dinner back in Philadelphia. (I am definitely considering an order for Hannukah gifts for friends and family.) In so doing, we added Mariuma and Michael’s family and warmth and beauty to our own. WOW does not even begin to capture it.
THIS IS HOME in every way imaginable and Mariuma and her husband, Michael, are the loving, doting, caring parents of all those in their charge. To hear Michael with whom we met tell the stories of the youth in his care was magic. To see the beautiful pictures from their wedding which was attended by ALL OF THEIR CHILDREN was beyond belief – I don’t think there was a dry eye in our group!
And the place is breathtakingly beautiful. Really, there is such pride when Michael and Mariuma speak of the home they have built for all of their children. Looking at these beautifully and lovingly decorated rooms and listening to these wonderful parents, one can imagine how a child who is not wanted or has no place to go will feel when coming here. Listen to their painful stories and look at their faces and see the healing process at work.
Go to their web site at www.shanti.org.il It is in Hebrew, but do this. It will inspire you and just make your day. Go all the way to the left at the top where the word GALLERY appears in Hebrew. Choose the video gallery – Galleria Video. Click it and watch the clips. There are English subtitles for some of these videos; others will be self-explanatory if you do not understand the Hebrew. [Remember that your arrow to move up and down the page will be on the LEFT.] Now, enjoy some of these films and pictures. This will give you a sense of Beit HaShanti and the members of this remarkable family. We met some of them and were just blown away!
LISTEN TO THEIR STORIES!!!!!! Look at the faces and hear their voices when you can and notice when both are shielded to protect these children. One particular piece of the puzzle I noticed was that children from Haredi families who are thrown out come here as well. One of the girls from such a family tells her story on the first tape. There is a young man from such a family on another one of these films. There are so many UGLY CORNERS of Israel from which these children come and they just want…. to be children!
In the first tape there are many emotional moments, as there are in all of them. I do want to point to the moment when Mariuma talks about how she chose the place in which Beit HaShanti BaMidbar is located and she explains that it was chosen because it is on a bus line. But, it turns out it is right across the street from Ben Gurion’s grave and she finds this meaningful in that at Beit HaShanti, they are continuing the work of Ben Gurion in a better vision and hope for all that Israel can and should be.
At several points, the members of Beit Shanti invite all of us to come visit them. Next time you are in Israel and can do so, GO, I promise, you will not be disappointed. At another point in one of the videos, there is a statement by one of the members of this incredible family that “we want to be part of our people, our nation, OUR ISRAEL!” And they are … and I felt so proud of Israel and Israelis and what they are accomplishing here!