Archive for May 15th, 2012

Revisiting Shuk Machaneh Yehuda

You may recall my photos from last year’s blog post about my visit to Machaneh Yehuda, which you can see by clicking here (note:  the kipas in last year’s picture are now 10 shekels  each – talk about inflation!)   No matter how many times you visit, no trip to Israel is complete without a frenzied stroll through Jerusalem’s produce market during the Friday rush before Shabbat.  Here are two photos from my current trip which really convey the mishmash of “kibbutz galuyot” – the ingathering of diaspora Jews from around the world to Israel (click on each to enlarge):

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Dignity

note: you can click on any of the photographs to enlarge

“If you are going to Jerusalem, you have to go to Yad Lakashish (Lifeline for the Old),” my daughter insisted.  She had bought a magnificent wall-hanging at Yad Lakashish.  “Not only will you find some beautiful souvenirs, you will actually feel good about spending money there.” (Please go to http://www.lifeline.org.il/ to find out more about this wonderful organization!)

Imagine this:  an older person not ready to retire makes aliyah, and soon finds himself unable to cope with learning Hebrew proficiently enough to be able to pass licensing exams or attract clientele or simply negotiate the Israeli business world.  Suddenly a once-vital and successful person feels old, tired, depressed, useless and hopeless.

Yad Lakashish was founded with these immigrants in mind.  The idea was to have a place where older immigrants could come and do work and feel productive, in a safe, social and enjoyable environment that would also provide remuneration and restore their sense of pride.  Select artisans and craftsmen from top academies and design schools throughout Israel would teach and retrain older immigrants (mostly from the Soviet bloc, Ethiopia, and yes, even a smattering of native English speakers) to become artisans in their own right.  A monthly bus pass would be provided.  Dental and health insurance would be guaranteed.  Cash bonuses would be presented before holidays.  And their artwork would be shown and sold in Yad Lakashish’s gallery and retail store.

Artisans range in age from their 60s to their 90s.  Currently Yad Lakashish serves 300 elderly male and female artisans.  There is a long waiting list to be accepted into the program, and Yad Lakashish is hoping to add another floor to their building so they can create even more workshops and include still more people in their program.  The administration, tour guides and teachers all work on a volunteer basis.

There are all types of workshops:  metalworking, paper-making, printing, silk dying, textiles and jewelry-making, to name a few.  The workshops hum with activity from 8:30 – 12 noon, during which time guided tours go from station to station and visitors can meet the artisans (most speak no Hebrew at all) and see first-hand how the objects for sale in the gift shop were created.  Each workstation has a photo and name of the particular artisan manning that station.  Such a small detail; yet by making it personal, it becomes a point of pride.

About 20% of the funds generated for Yad Lakashish come from gift shop sales; other expenses are met through private funding, donations, and grants.

As their brochure states, Yad Lakashish isn’t only about providing employment – it’s about fostering and preserving dignity.

Yosef, an immigrant from Ethiopia, shows off his paper mache cats

This man creates silk-screened greeting cards in the printing workshop

A paper-fiber bird, in the Ethiopian style

Decorative painting on a kiddush cup in the ceramic workshop

This will be a hand-painted silk scarf

Hand-painted paper-fiber beads

Mezuza covers embroidered in the Ethiopian style await buyers in the gift shop

Ceramic menorahs in the Ethiopian style await glazing and firing

Metalworking shop

Painting hamsas

Above each workstation is a photograph and the name of the artisan

These will be bent and rolled into napkin rings and tea-light Shabbat candle holders