ESRAmagazine

The Story of Tiberias / Jordan Valley Branch

Tiberias-199 Members of ESRA Tiberias J Jordan Valley branch enjoying a meal out
It started almost by accident... 

"Thank you so much ESRA for hosting such fun evenings. For the first time in the 40ish years I've been here I feel comfortable amongst people and am enjoying friendships. I feel like I'm starting a new and finally happy and integrated life. When I see you all surrounded by friends and family and how much you enjoy your lives here it's like the last 40 years are impossible to imagine. So honored to feel part of a community, and at home with you all. For the first time I'm not a stranger in my own home."

I made aliyah in 2010 and in July 2012 my husband Neville and I were asked by Nefesh B Nefesh to take part in one of their webinars for potential olim. They were doing a session especially for pensioners and they wanted us to tell our story and answer questions. As I listened to the other stories I noticed a common pattern: every time people were asked how they made friends they answered "through ESRA". I had not heard of ESRA, so I contacted my American friend and neighbor Carol Eisenberg but she also didn't know about ESRA. We checked out the ESRA website and couldn't see anything in our area, so we sent off an email asking if there was anything in Tiberias or the Jordan Valley because, if not, we could start a branch. We went off for lunch and very soon afterwards we received numerous emails from branch chairs welcoming us to ESRA and offering to help.

I had planned a trip to England in August so Carol went to an ESRA North Coast branch meeting which she enjoyed very much. When I returned, we went to another of their meetings and discussed with some committee members their range of activities.

This is still the case; we feel we belong to a new family as all our contacts through ESRA have been helpful and friendly.

Our first formal event was at the end of December 2012, when we had a games evening. This was a huge success. Three couples who lived in adjacent blocks in Tiberias met up for the first time and quickly made friends. I am pleased to say that we have seen many people make friends through our group.

Our famous Brunch Club meets weekly, and many friendships have formed there. We sometimes even have a little French speaking sub-group.

Joanna is our newest committee member and she has taken on the role of English Tutoring Program coordinator. Ruchama coordinates our recently formed knitting club. Its first project was making hats for new-born babies, which were gratefully received at the maternity units in Poriya and Nazareth hospitals.

We cover a huge geographical area: from Ma'alot, Tzfat, Livnim, Amiad, the Golan, Bet She'an, Bet Alpha, Sherona and lots of places in between.

When we established the group we aimed to provide social contact for English speakers in isolated areas. We were never profit-focused but we have managed to raise funds mainly through the bric-a-brac stall held at the annual street fair in kibbutz Degania Bet.

Our latest venture is to adopt a kindergarten in Tiberias which is specialized for children with autism. We sent dreidels for Chanukah and shrubs for the children to plant on Tu'b'Shvat. We are currently working with the ESRA Projects Committee to establish this as a community project together with the municipality.

 

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Wednesday, 20 January 2021

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