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רשימת תפוצה

A Moment Before July 7th - farewell journey from the Davidson Institute, #1


Nine months. Alongside words that we are tired of hearing, such as "unimaginable," "unbelievable," or "together we will win," we feel time ticking every day. Had I been asked nine months ago what timeframe is possible for the situation we were all thrown into, I would never have imagined that it would reach such proportions. But time goes on. Two weeks, a month, two months, three. Six months. Nine.

Many have asked me why, since October 7, my "Moment before Shabbat" has almost gone silent. A kind of paralysis that I still don't really know how to explain. All I know is that today, just before we mark nine months to 7.10 and two months before my journey at the Davidson Institute ends, my "word muscles" are beginning to stir.   


I flipped through some of the WhatsApp messages that I still have from 7.10 and the days that followed. They reflect a picture that is still—sorry for the repeated use of this battered term—incomprehensible. Nine months ago, on the evening of October 7, while under continuous missile attacks, ongoing news, the immediate-deployment orders that had already arrived recruiting family and friends, Davidson's senior executives gathered on Zoom. We were determined to try to understand the situation: who was accounted for, who was hurt, who was recruited, who had immediate family members recruited or in dire need, who is evacuated, who is in distress; What is the status of each of the active programs – where the participants are, how they are doing, what is planned. What do we know, what must be checked. We knew that our annual work plan, which had begun only a week earlier, was no longer relevant.


It quickly became clear that we needed to rebuild plans, taking people, budgets and especially adapting action to provide some kind of response to the chaotic situation, to the needs that were becoming clearer and to the many calls for help that began arriving as early as 8 October. We knew that we have the experience, resources and lessons learned from dealing with the COVID-19 crisis as well as from the fact that our daily occupation is to make science accessible to everyone – including children and youth at risk and in distress. We realized that now, we are all at risk and in distress; And we know how to use scientific topics as a healing tool - for relief, empowerment, competence and confidence, even joy. This is our profession. It's what we excel in. We also knew that we were leading an organization whose employees would not hesitate to act and contribute to whatever was required. We acquired the necessary and highly appreciated support from our "mothership", the Weizmann Institute, in order to move forward and first of all, provide the responses, be on the ground, do what is required; and in the process, mobilize the necessary resources to do so in the best possible way. 

 

We set up an "operations room" that coordinated the many calls and activities. Teams traveled all over the country, from Eilat to the Galilee, with equipment and especially a lot of capability, desire and determination to use science as a tool for emotional support, empowerment and moments of normalcy that were so lacking. Displaced families and affected communities also came to us, on campus, for the same goal – finding a normal atmosphere in a reality where nothing is normal. We continued to monitor the situation and adapt our actions to it – The words "flexibility in agile reality" never had a truer and more important meaning; For example, we never knew how many participants would actually attend the activities we offered; Many times we changed the duration of the activity, especially in light of the restlessness of the participants; Everywhere we went, we made sure to know where the safe spaces were and that everyone participating, including our staff, could reach them in time when the sirens started blasting – which they always did; We changed the language we used when we realized that we had no idea what our participants situation really was - we could no longer tell them, as we usually did, "You did the task very well, take it and show it to the parents!", because we have no idea if they have parents any more. Phrases like "try it at home" were erased from our vocabulary.


After a few weeks, we realized that one-time activities were no longer enough, and that the presence of regular, ongoing and stable encounters and professionals were needed. We built ongoing programs for different groups; At the same time, we started working with educational teams – teachers, training guides, etc. – who were sometimes themselves displaced in various parts of the country; For youth who are required to take matriculation exams in the sciences in the absence of a suitable learning environment, such as a laboratory, we started offering seminars: to date, groups come to us for a few days of research and study. We discovered that the important and exciting power of these seminars is the encounter between teenagers and teachers, who sometimes have not seen each other for a long time; We began working with communities, municipalities and organizations that have been affected and continue to be affected, even though they have not been evacuated, building long-term strategic plans with them to help build community resilience during the next coming years. Our scientific pre-military gap year program (in the southern town of Ofakim), whose graduates, trainees and staff themselves underwent turmoil during and following the events of 7.10, joined forces and acted as "Davidson's spearheads" in many activities, from Eilat to Netanya; And so on. Some of it was published in various media, but most of the time we were too busy with activities than with the media; regardless, notice of our activity passed by word of mouth like wildfire, and requests continue to come to us to this day.

 

Altogether, we worked during these months with more than 7,000 children, youth, teachers and families; reached more than 60 different locations; more than 40 Davidson employees worked dedicatedly throughout the country and at the Institute itself; and along the way, we also continued to take care of each other – following those who were recruited, whose families were affected, who needed something we could help with, how to help the professionals who came back with heartbreaking stories from the activities, and generally how to get through this period that I can't even find a proper name for.


Nine months. The time necessary to give birth to a whole new life. Who would have thought that this sentence, which is supposed to be filled with hope and joy, would ever give me shudders.


In about two months, I will end my tenure at the Davidson Institute. My "Word muscles" will probably find ways to refer to other things that Davidson's excellent, professional and dedicated staff have done and are doing over the more than seven years that I have been privileged to lead it; But just before July 7, the date that marks nine months since that horrific and day that hasn't ended, it's OK to look back at these past months, feel pride and be grateful to each and every one of them – they are the unparalleled asset on which this work was possible; Work that we all would have gladly given up the necessity of doing.


Please join me as we pray that everyone – the abductees, the soldiers, the displaced communities in the south and north, all of them – return home quickly and safely.


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