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Winnipeggers looking forward to attending 50th reunion of first Canadian group to attend high school in Israel

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By MYRON LOVE
It is with nervous excitement that Pam Bager says that she is looking forward to reconnecting with, most of whom she hasn’t seen in almost 50 years. (*Read more for full photo caption.)

Full caption: Here is a photo of our class,” says Pam Bager, “with a few added people (policemen, a few Israelis from Hadassim, young and older – chaperones, I presume. Our teacher, a Canadian from ?Edmonton, Joe Zeev, is crouching at the bottom left. I can spot all 6 of us Winnipeggers, in part or whole, in this photo. Shawn Zell, organizer of the reunion, is crouching down in the middle, bespectacled, in a light blue shirt with white undershirt, and a camera around his neck. I  am on his left in a white shirt. The other Winnipeggers are Maury Miloff, crouched in front of Shawn and me, in the green jacket and red shirt, Allie Lehmann in the bright green shirt, with her left elbow on Shawn’s shoulder, Jimmy and Jerry Arenson, behind the girl in the pink shirt standing in front (you can see only the face of one of them – I have no idea which!) and Alan Yusim at the back (top) in the middle in the pinkish shirt – the boy with a red t-shirt is half hidden behind Alan. This seemed to be a good photo as it was clearly taken on a class trip to Jerusalem. You can see David’s Tower and the wall of the Old City behind us.”

On Wednesday, June 27, she and fellow Winnipegger Alan Yusim will be in Israel for the 50th reunion of the first group of Canadian to attend a pilot program for Canadian Grade 10 students, courtesy of Hadassah WIZO, at Hadassim Youth Village, just 4km from Netanya. Bager and Yusim were among 19 Canadian students in the program – including former Winnipeggers Jerry and Jim Arenson, Allie Lehman, Maury Miloff and Rabbi Shawn Zell. The other students were from Halifax, Hamilton, Montreal and Vancouver.
Bager notes that Zell, who leads a congregation in Dallas, Texas, is the individual who is organizing the reunion.
Zell reports that about 30 people (including spouses and other relatives) have indicated that they plan to attend the reunion, which will be held at Hadassim. “We are scheduled to meet at 5:00 and tour the village, then sit down for supper at 6:00,” Zell says.
“It sounded exciting,” says Zell of his decision to enroll in the Hadassim program. “It sounded like it would be something special.”

Bager recalls that it was her mother who noticed an ad about the program in the Jewish Post (in 1968) about sending your child to Israel for Grade 10. “Once she got the information, and decided that it would be a good idea for me, the ball was rolling,” she says. Yusim remembers that he also saw an ad about the program in the Post and mentioned to his parents that he would like to go. “I was fortunate that my parents were in a position to pay the $1,500 fee for the year,” he says. “I packed up a large metal crate and a suitcase and off I went.”
The group met in Montreal and flew from there to Israel. They left on July 12, 1968. Yusim still has his passport from that time.
What Yusim remembers about Hadassim are the school, the dormitories (three or four to a room), the central dining room, the swimming pool and the amphitheatre all surrounded by orange groves. There was a store for small purchases and an Arab village nearby.
“Hadassim raised turkeys,” Yusim recalls. “We frequently had turkey schnitzel and our pillows were stuffed with turkey feathers. I still remember the smell and how the feathers would poke us at night.”

As Zell recalls, it was an exciting time to be in Israel. It was just a year after the Six-Day War. Areas that had been occupied by Jordan before the war were now open to Jewish visitors. And visitors could go anywhere in the country in safety.
“The first time that I saw the Wall, there was still rubble to be cleared away,” he recalls. “And there was no problem visiting Arab villages.”
He also remembers meeting new relatives, being hosted by an Israeli family in Petah Tikvah for Shabbat and talking to a young Israel who only the year before had been fighting a war.

Alan Yusim recalls touring the country from one end to the other – largely on foot. “We hiked in the Golan – not that long before a battleground – and stood overlooking the Lebanese border, for example,” he says.
Among his souvenirs are three bazooka shells he picked up on the Golan.
Yusim also recalls sitting by the Dead Sea on New Year’s eve in shorts and climbing Massada.
He further describes a stay on the beach at Eilat. “I spent a few days on the beach with some American kids,” he recounts. “I did some work in hotel kitchens in Eilat in exchange for food.
“One evening, we lit a huge bonfire on the beach. At four in the morning, some rockets from Aqaba flew across the border. We quickly extinguished the fire while Israeli aircraft went into action.
“In the morning, a helicopter landed near us and Moshe Dayan stepped out. I was surprised at how short he was.
“What amazed me was that almost everyone in Israel was Jewish, not only the doctors and lawyers and businessmen but everybody, even the criminals.”

”I have so many memories of that year,” says Pam Bager. “it was a life-changing experience for a 14-15 year old. I met many Israeli family members for the first time, made friends with kids from around the world, fell in love with Israel. I didn’t want to come home at the end of our year, but of course had no choice. I vowed to return, as soon as I could.”
She went back to Israel after she had completed her first year of university here. “As a result of the love for Israel I discovered during my Grade 10 year in Israel, I ended up marrying an Israeli, in Jerusalem (my ex-husband, and father of my daughter), living and working in Jerusalem for about 6 years, and being the mother of a young woman with a beautiful spirit,” she says.
“That year was one of the best years in my life,” Shawn Zell says. “It played an important role in my decision to become a rabbi.”
Yusim speaks of the new perspective that year gave him as well as the opportunity that the Canadians received in an era before social media to meet and interact with people from all over the world.
“Israel is a beacon of light in a dark and dangerous neigbourhood,” he observes. “It was clear to me even then that Israel was facing a decades-long war of attrition.
“What I experienced that year stayed with me and played a role in the career path I chose working for human rights.”

Bager notes that while she corresponded with some of her new friends for a while after their year together and has seen a couple of people from the large Winnipeg contingent from time to time, the tangible connections over the years have faded.   Still, she says, “the spiritual and emotional after-effects of that year, for me, remain as strong as ever. Hadassim and the Israel of 1968-69 which I experienced are in my blood and in my soul.”

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Features

New website for Israelis interested in moving to Canada

By BERNIE BELLAN (May 21, 2024) A new website, titled “Orvrim to Canada” (https://www.ovrimtocanada.com/ovrim-en) has been receiving hundreds of thousands of visits, according to Michal Harel, operator of the website.
In an email sent to jewishpostandnews.ca Michal explained the reasons for her having started the website:
“In response to the October 7th events, a group of friends and I, all Israeli-Canadian immigrants, came together to launch a new website supporting Israelis relocating to Canada. “Our website, https://www.ovrimtocanada.com/, offers a comprehensive platform featuring:

  • Step-by-step guides for starting the immigration process
  • Settlement support and guidance
  • Community connections and networking opportunities
  • Business relocation assistance and expert advice
  • Personal blog sharing immigrants’ experiences and insights

“With over 200,000 visitors and media coverage from prominent Israeli TV channels and newspapers, our website has already made a significant impact in many lives.”
A quick look at the website shows that it contains a wealth of information, almost all in Hebrew, but with an English version that gives an overview of what the website is all about.
The English version also contains a link to a Jerusalem Post story, published this past February, titled “Tired of war? Canada grants multi-year visas to Israelis” (https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/article-787914#google_vignette) That story not only explains the requirements involved for anyone interested in moving to Canada from Israel, it gives a detailed breakdown of the costs one should expect to encounter.

(Updated May 28)

We contacted Ms. Harel to ask whether she’s aware whether there has been an increase in the number of Israelis deciding to emigrate from Israel since October 7. (We want to make clear that we’re not advocating for Israelis to emigrate; we’re simply wanting to learn more about emigration figures – and whether there has been a change in the number of Israelis wanting to leave the country.)
Ms. Harel referred us to a website titled “Globes”: https://www.globes.co.il/news/article.aspx?did=1001471862
The website is in Hebrew, but we were able to translate it into English. There is a graph on the website showing both numbers of immigrants to Israel and emigrants.
The graph shows a fairly steady rate of emigration from 2015-2022, hovering in the 40,000 range, then in 2023 there’s a sudden increase in the number of emigrants to 60,000.
According to the website, the increase in emigrants is due more to a change in the methodology that Israel has been using to count immigrants and emigrants than it is to any sudden upsurge in emigration. (Apparently individuals who had formerly been living in Israel but who may have returned to Israel just once a year were being counted as having immigrated back to Israel. Now that they are no longer being counted as immigrants and instead are being treated as emigrants, the numbers have shifted radically.)
Yet, the website adds this warning: “The figures do not take into account the effects of the war, since it is still not possible to identify those who chose to emigrate following it. It is also difficult to estimate what Yalad Yom will produce – on the one hand, anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews and Israelis around the world reminds everyone where the Jewish home is. On the other hand, the bitter truth we discovered in October is that it was precisely in Israel, the safe fortress of the Jewish people, that a massacre took place reminding us of the horrors of the Holocaust. And if that’s not enough, the explosive social atmosphere and the difference in the state budget deficit, which will inevitably lead to a heavy burden of taxes and a reduction in public services, may convince Zionist Israelis that they don’t belong here.”
Thus, as much as many of us would be disappointed to learn that there is now an upsurge in Israelis wanting to move out of the country, once reliable figures begin to be produced for 2024, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that is the case – which helps to explain the tremendous popularity of Ms. Harel’s website.

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Features

Message from a Palestinian in Gaza to protesters: “You’re hurting the Palestinian cause”

Protesters at McGill University

A very brave Palestinian who was willing to put his name to paper and write an article for Newsweek Magazine has exposed the utter hypocrisy of all those students – and others, who have been setting up encampments across the U.S. – and now Canada, too.

You can read the article at https://www.newsweek.com/message-gazan-campus-protesters-youre-hurting-palestinian-cause-opinion-1894313

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Features

The Most Expensive Israeli Soccer Transfers

Eran Zahavi

Even if Israel isn’t known as a world soccer power, it has produced plenty of talented players who have made a living in top European leagues. On more than one occasion, an Israeli international has commanded a rather large transfer fee. But who are the most expensive players in Israel’s history? The answer could be a little surprising. We took a look back to find the most expensive Israeli soccer transfers of all time.

Tai Baribo

In 2023, Baribo made the move to MLS, signing with the Philadelphia Union. The reported fee was around $1.5 million, which is one of the highest transfer fees the Union has ever paid for a player.

Omer Atzili

Throughout his career, Atzili has played for a variety of clubs, including stops in Spain and Greece. In 2023, he joined Al Ain in the UAE for a transfer fee of $2.1 million.

Maor Buzaglo

Now retired, Buzaglo was briefly the holder of the richest transfer deal for an Israeli player. After a couple of successful seasons on loan, Maccabi Tel Aviv paid $2.7 million to rival Maccabi Haifa for Buzaglo in 2008.

Dia Saba

Saba made history in 2020 when he joined Al-Nasr, making him the first Israeli player to play for a club in the UAE. At the time, it was a big deal for relations between the two countries. Al-Nasr also paid an impressive $2.9 million transfer fee for the midfielder.

Tal Ben Haim

On multiple occasions, Ben Haim has been sold for more than $1 million. First, there was his move from Hapoel Tel Aviv to Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2023 for close to $1.2 million. A few years later, Sparta Prague came calling for him, spending $3.1 million as a transfer fee for the winger.

Itay Shechter

During the prime of his career, Shechter was the type of player who warranted a seven-figure transfer fee. German club Kaiserslautern paid a little over $2.6 million in 2011 to bring Shechter to the Bundesliga from Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Daniel Peretz

When Peretz was sold to Bayern Munich, it wasn’t the most expensive deal involving an Israeli player, although it was arguably the most important. He became the first Israeli Jew to play at Bayern, which is one of the biggest clubs in the world. The transfer fee for Peretz paid by Bayern Munich to Maccabi Tel Aviv was around $5.4 million.

Oscar Gloukh

Gloukh is one of the best young Israeli players right now. He already has three international goals in a dozen appearances to his name. Somehow, Gloukh is already one of the most expensive players in Israel’s history. After coming up with Maccabi Tel Aviv, he moved to Austrian giant Red Bull Salzburg in 2023 for a transfer fee of close to $7.5 million. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him top that number one day.

Liel Abada

Abada has been a part of two huge transfer deals in his young career. In 2021, Scottish club Celtic paid $4.8 million to acquire him from Maccabi Petah Tikva. However, that number was topped in 2024 when Charlotte FC of MLS paid a fee of $8 million for Abada.

With Charlotte FC, Abada competes in North America’s top league, facing teams from both Mexico and Canada. Throughout North America, sports betting has taken off in recent years. That includes betting in Canada, where there is a large collection of trusted sports betting platforms.

Eran Zahavi

To date, Zahavi holds the record for the most expensive transfer fee paid for an Israeli player. It’s fitting for Israel’s former captain and all-time leading scorer. In 2016, Chinese club Guangzhou City paid $12.5 million to get Zahavi from Maccabi Tel Aviv. That record was nearly broken later that year when another Chinese club offered $20 million for Zahavi, who turned it down and stayed with Guangzhou City.

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