The Fieldman Family Visits Beit Shean

Tags: Federation, Israel, Overseas, Family, Education, PJ Library

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Check out the blog below written by the Fieldman family, local Jewish Clevelanders who spent one month visiting Israel, including our sister city of Beit Shean. To learn more about Israel and overseas travel, contact overseas@jcfcleve.org or visit us online.

As a member of the Federation's Overseas Connections Committee (OCC), and former Roslyn Z. Wolf JDC International Fellows stationed in St. Petersburg, Russia back in 2006-2007, my husband Matt and I have seen first-hand the life-changing work that the Cleveland Jewish community conducts through its partnership overseas in Russia. However, we recently had a chance to see first-hand the work that our community does to support our other sister city in Beit Shean, Israel.

Let's rewind a bit... Back in late August, our 5-year-old daughter Liora received the book Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride from PJ Library. We didn't think much of it, as Liora and our 7-year-old daughter Eliana have each been receiving wonderful Jewish books monthly since they were toddlers. We were rather distracted, actually, by the arrival of our new baby boy Aryeh and our upcoming month-long trip to Israel which we planned to coincide with our paid parental leave in September.

Shortly after we arrived in Israel and we got settled into our Jerusalem apartment, friend after friend suggested that we check out Tachana Rishona, the first train station in Jerusalem, which has been renovated into a hip destination filled with restaurants, shops, activities for kids, and live entertainment. It was an easy 20-minute walk from our apartment and it was made easier by “Derech HaRakevet,” the beautiful walking path that has been created atop the old train tracks. We ended up spending so much time there that Eliana likened it to the Beachwood playground, where we often meet up with friends back home.

A few weeks later, we jumped at the opportunity when we were invited by the Beit Shean community to tour their local attraction Gan Garoo, and be their special guests for their community’s Rosh Hashanah celebration. Much like a PJ Library event here in Cleveland, there would be a book reading at the library, followed by arts and crafts and other seasonally-appropriate activities. Matt and I offered to read and translate Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride from English into Hebrew during the event. How appropriate that the story depicts one of the early rides from Jaffa to Jerusalem via the old train system in time to deliver apples, honey and other treats for Rosh Hashanah! Our children immediately identified that the Jerusalem train station in the book was our very own Tachana Rishona! During the event, we learned that the story was also timely in another way: the Jezreel Valley railway that runs between Haifa and Beit Shean was set to open in the next two weeks and has since started running.

We figured maybe a handful of kids would show up....after all, Beit Shean is a small town and this event was on a weeknight. So you can imagine our surprise when over 60 kids and adults attended the event! During our visit, we got a unique chance to see the vitality, beauty, and diversity of the Beit Shean community, despite its reputation for being a sleepy town in the middle of nowhere. It was fun (and challenging!) for Matt to translate the story into Hebrew, and a family-friendly way to get into the spirit of the holidays. Above all, it was incredibly gratifying for us to see our daughters, Eliana and Liora, seamlessly integrate themselves into the activities alongside the Israeli kids, thanks to the Hebrew education they've received at the Mandel Jewish Day School and through the JCC's Hebrew Immersion camp.

While Beit Shean may not be on everyone's itinerary for their next Israel trip, might we recommend that you stop by the library, or the town center, or the train station to see for yourself what Cleveland's impact is making on one small town in Israel?

Shana Tova, from the Fieldmans... and Engineer Ari!

Matt & Alyson Fieldman recently took their three children to Israel for the month. Matt is the VP of External Affairs at MAGNET: Cleveland's Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network and Alyson is Account Director at the Chicago-based digital agency One North Interactive. The Fieldmans are both active volunteers in the community: the couple is part of the Young Leadership Division's Ben Gurion Society, Matt helped co-found EDWINS Restaurant & Leadership Institute and Cleveland Codes, and Alyson is active in the Federation's Overseas Connections Committee and is on the executive board of Congregation Shaarey Tikvah.

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Learn More: Federation, Israel, Overseas, Family, Education, PJ Library