Ashkelon celebrates a very British love affair
AS IN most Israeli cities, the junctions in Ashkelon are named after former prime ministers and army generals. But as of last week, one bears the name of a British family.
City officials dedicated “Sherman Junction” last Tuesday in honour of the Shermans of Leeds, who have donated large sums for facilities and communal projects in Ashkelon, where there are significant social problems. Members of the family watched the d e d i c a t i o n with emotion.
The ceremony was part of a day-long event to celebrate three decades of British philanthropy in Ashkelon, by the Shermans and others. A s h k e l o n ’ s mayor Benny Vaknin said that he was “thrilled” to pay tribute to British Jewry.
One of the event’s organisers, Seth Davis, who grew up in Ashkelon during the early years of British involvement there, said: “What is special about Ashkelon is that we have had a true partnership between families, British and local.”
British Jews have donated more than £50 million, enabling the city to build and improve medical centres, schools and community centres. More than 10,000 Brits have visited Ashkelon to volunteer in projects there.
Tuesday’s celebration was open to all Brits holidaying in Israel, and 100 attended. It was organised by the Marjorie Sherman Israel Tennis Centre (ITC), which was set up in 1981 with a donation from the Sherman family.
After seeing the junction dedicated, guests went to ITC for a presentation by membersandgraduates,whichfocused on how t he centre instils confidence in its members, many of them immigrants and some of them with special needs.
Dvora Mash, a 25-year-old woman, spoke about how the centre and the British philanthropy that brought it in to existence changed her life. She grew up as a poor Ethiopian immigrant in Ashkelon, developed a flair for tennis at ITC, and now is now an in-demand professional tennis coach in Tel Aviv
Mr Davis, a senior official at ITC, said that her story is a testament to the centre’s social agenda of “shaping lifelong champions off the court as well as on it”.
Set up by UK donors: Israel Tennis Centre