February 23, 2009
Israel Diary – The Fruits of our Labors
We have been in the â€œmitzvahâ€ business for more than 16 years. It is not often that we get to see the fruits of our laborsâ€”tangible evidence of just how critically important our efforts can be. On this Israel trip, that message came through in the most unexpected, but powerful way possible.
One of the stops on our itinerary was in Beit Shean where we made a few visits before going on to Kibbutz Merav with Yitz Feigenbaum, one of the founders of Beit Hayeled (see Tzedakah Diary, April 4, 15, 2008, July 20, 2008). Beit Hayeled is a very special home where kids who are removed from their parents by the courts have a chance to live in a loving, warm and supportive environment. The kids are given everything that we would give our own childrenâ€”love, discipline, a new bike, new clothes, toys, games, nourishing foodâ€”a warm home. The problems these kids were exposed to prior to their placement at Beit Hayeled are the very things we read about in the newspaperâ€¦severe abuse, parents with drug or alcohol addiction, imprisonmentâ€¦a sad and sorry combination of circumstances that rarely allow for a â€œnormalâ€ upbringing.
In all of the years we have worked with Yitz we know that he has never exposed the kids to visitors who might want to see the program first-hand. The kidsâ€™ privacy is zealously protectedâ€”they are never used to help further Beit Hayeledâ€™s purpose. Knowing this, it was a bit of a surprise when Yitz asked us to lunch and to "meet someone". After a sumptuous meal complete with delicious Israeli salads of all kinds, a handsome young man appeared who immediately embraced Yitz and joined us at the table. Sitting in front of us was "Shimon", a Beit Hayeled graduate, now a young man in his early 20â€™s. Shimon explained the circumstances that brought him to Beit Hayeled while he was a youngster and how he spent many of his years there just â€œsitting aroundâ€ sullenly on the very couches that abutted our dinner table. It was only Yitz and Iritâ€™s unconditional love and firm hands that brought him to where he was todayâ€”married, attending college and the father of a young baby himself.
Sitting at that table and maintaining our composure was impossible. We were suddenly overcome with tears of joy as we saw first-hand just what our involvement in Beit Hayeledâ€™s work had helped to accomplish. Here was living proof that a life could not only be saved but could go on to flourish, give back and bring new life into the world. As we left Beit Hayeled that afternoon, I asked Yitz why he and Irit had broken all of their rules and brought Shimon to lunch with us. With just the hint of a glimmer in his eyes, Yitz explained that sometimes you have to break the rules and let someone share in the joy and naches that they have helped bring about. It was a lunch that will never be forgotten.