Thursday, November 26, 2009

So Long Arad!

The end of Sections three’s chapter in Arad is now in sight.  The volunteers here for Garin Tzedek are very sad to leave their friends from the Sudanese Community behind. Though Noah and I will be back every now and then to make sure everything is running smoothly, we will miss the day to day connection that we have held so close to our hearts these past three months. Though we are leaving we truly believe that we have made a magnificent contribution to the community, both on a personal and physical level.


Our first day Noah and I knew not what to expect walking through the doors of the first daycare, but now after three months, the Sudanese have become what we all  might refer to as our second family. Their accepting hearts and warm company drove us to work to great lengths to start figuring out how to jumpstart their community.


We are very proud to say after three months with two volunteers, young Judaea has decided that two volunteers is just not sufficient enough. Next semester there will be ten volunteer placements for the Sudanese. It’s hard to believe that two people could muster up enough energy to be the glue that their community needed to run smoothly. Though I (Sean MacDonald) must confess my thanks and undying love for Noah Berman. He has not only put his heart completely into this work, but has dedicated every moment of this program to be available to help. I would not have asked for a better person to work with, and Garin Tzedek would be nowhere today without him. As his reign in Arad ends, he will forever be irreplaceable to the community here.


Check frequently for updates in the Arad community and the work that section two is doing.  We are excited to see what ideas the new group will come up with, and to see the education system we have implemented grow.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Interesting Article On the Save Darfur Organization

The following is from Middle East Online, a far left news website that is often unfairly critical of Israel. While they have an extreme bias this article is still the beginning of a dialogue on how we engage in resolving the crisis in Sudan. Do not take the sweeping generalizations of the article without a grain of salt, but please post comments in response, we want to know what you think.

First Published 2009-10-29

'Conditions on the ground have changed'

Have US activists actually helped Darfur?

Analyst sees actions of US Save Darfur movement have had negative effect on people of Darfur.

NEW YORK - After months of deliberation, the Obama administration unveiled a new strategy for Sudan last week.

The White House plans to offer the Sudanese government a mix of incentives and pressure to urge Khartoum to end the crisis in Darfur and implement the 2005 peace deal between the north and the south.

"The US policy, I think, is first and foremost an acknowledgement that conditions on the ground have changed. It’s as Hillary Clinton said in her speech, the level of mortality in Darfur declined dramatically after 2005," professor Mahmood Mamdani from Columbia University, and author of Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror, told Democracy Now!.

"Second, it’s an acknowledgement that the US needs an integrated Sudan policy, not a separate policy for Darfur and a separate policy for the south of Sudan," he added.

The new policy appears to be a shift in how President Obama regarded the crisis during his election campaign.

Obama then "was responding to the domestic constituency in the US, particularly the Save Darfur movement," said Mamdani.

But "Obama now is responding to the situation in Sudan and to the realization that the ideological nature of Save Darfur demands has made for an extremely inflexible US response to Sudan," he added.

However, there is also a split in the Obama administration: on the one hand, Major General Scott Gration, Obama's envoy to Sudan; on the other hand, Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN.

"Susan Rice has been very closely related to the Save Darfur movement...The State Department has been hugely skeptical of the claims of Save Darfur movement," noted Mamdani.

There is also a deep division between activists who are much more central to the evangelical lobby, which is attuned to the South, and those organized mainly in relation to Darfur.

"The evangelical lobby is also worried that Sudan policy has been driven too much by a Darfur orientation," said Mamdani.

In addition, the Save Darfur movement has had a negative effect on the people of Darfur.

"The point of view of Save Darfur is that anybody who tries to explain the context of the violence in Darfur and to direct attention from atrocities to the issues that have been fueling the violence is doing nothing but apologizing for the violence," said Mamdani.

"My own point of view is that if you are interested in stopping the cycle of violence, you have no choice but to look at the issues that feed that violence. A focus exclusively on the atrocities is like creating and catering to a pornography of violence, which is what Save Darfur has been doing," he added.

"Save Darfur has no interest in teach-in. It has no interest in education, nor in educators. Its interest is in Hollywood celebrities. Its interest is in name recognition. Its interest is not even in the university students, less and less now, much more so in high school students, explained Mamdani.

"I call them America’s counterparts of the child soldiers of Africa: children led into causes without understanding them. I think there has to be a certain degree of critical focus on Save Darfur-type movements, that they do not really strengthen democracy, they weaken it," he added.

But despite official American rhetoric, US governments have had steady relations with Sudan on the war on terror.

"Relations between the two intelligence services have been strong," said Mamdani.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Videos From Sudanese Cultural Celebration

In Mid-October the Dinka tribe held a gathering at the Hotel Inbar to celebrate the forming of the new Sudanese committee of leaders for the community. There were more than 100 Sudanese in attendance and 20 other guests including 6 Garin Tzedek members. The celebration consisted of tasty foods and drinks, optimistic speeches, and energetic cultural dances. Here are some videos from the festival.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Arad Community Forging Ahead

In recent weeks there has been a lot of activity in the Arad Sudanese Community. As Garin Tzedek finishes construction on the new Community Center in Arad's industrial district English Classes have already begun for elementary school students, taught by Garin Tzedek members. Three days a week Yearcoursers spend an hour of their evening teaching the ABC's, reading, grammar, and vocabulary to 25 Sudanese Children. So far the program has been a great success and we hope to expand it in the near future.

In addition to the Childrens classes and the aduly classes soon to follow in the new center the Garin has been working on a number of other projects. We will be painting murals around Arad with Sudanese volunteers and are openning a clinic in December to deal with minor illnesses, first aid, and pregnancy and neo-natal health and education. Donations have begun to arrive, but we still need your help. Our goal is to have 3,000 NIS, or about $800 by December to pay for two months rent on a new daycare building. Look for pictures from all of our new projects soon and keep following, donating, fundraising, but most importantly TELLING YOUR FRIENDS about the Garin.

Shavua Tov, Noah

Friday, November 13, 2009

It's On!

Garin Tzedek has had an intense week in Bat Yam:

On Sunday, we began an exhilarating game of assassin.  For a meager 5 shekels, any Year Course chanich in Bat Yam could join in the game and help support the Darfuris in Tel Aviv.  In case you're not familiar, assassin is a game where each person has another person assigned to them with a specific task they have to get them to do in order to assassinate them.  For instance, if someone wore a hat all the time, the task to kill them might be to get their permission to wear their hat.  Once a person is killed, they must pass on their task to the person who killed them, until there is one ultimate victor.  In one short week, something like half of the participants have already been eliminated!  The conclusion in the next couple of weeks promises to be thrilling.

On both Tuesday and Wednesday night, many Garin Tzedek members went to the Darfuri family center in Tel Aviv to help teach the adults English.  This was done through personal and frank discussion, that was just as interesting for the volunteers as it was helpful for the Darfuris.  We hope that, through these triadic encounters, we can help the adults improve their spoken English and have more knowledge about their situation.  Many times, the adults have chosen to discuss Darfur, or their journey to and opinion on Israel, or even their future plans.  We also hung up some more signs for the gan!  The experience this past week has been a fulfilling and enlightening one, and we hope to continue it as our time ends in Bat Yam:


In addition, Wednesday night, the African Refugee Development Center (ARDC) in Tel Aviv held a benefit party at the Dancing Camel Brewery and Bar.  It was a fundraiser to send several African refugees to college at IDC Herzliya.  Garin Tzedek, along with many Year Course chanichim, attended in good fun:

If you're interested in hearing more about Garin Tzedek activities in Bat Yam, or would like to make a donation, please send an e-mail to  Shabbat Shalom!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"Dessert and Discuss"

This past Thursday, Garin Tzedek managed an event in Bat Yam that occurs weekly within the Year Course program, simply known as "Dessert and Learn."  Much of the time, Year Course arranges for people to come to the Ulpan and speak to chanichim about different issues, such as the water crisis in Israel or the Iranian nuclear threat.  This time, however, Garin Tzedek gave it the new, more alliterative name ("Dessert and Discuss") and invited two speakers: Nic Schlagman, a British man working with many African refugee communities in Tel Aviv, as well as Adam, the English teacher for adults at the Tel Aviv Darfuri family center:

Above, Cera Merrick talks to Nic and Adam about the refugee situation.

According to Nic, out of 17,000 African refugees in Israel, only about 300 of them are legally considered refugees and receive the rights associated with such a status.  The situation is a very controversial one, as many Israelis feel negative sentiment towards the refugees because they're not Jews.  Regardless of whether one thinks refugees should be here or not, however, it's our responsibility to help them.

If you're interested in donating to our hearing more about Garin Tzedek activities in Bat Yam, please send me an e-mail (