Ashkelon cel­e­brates a very Bri­tish love af­fair

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - BY NATHAN JEFFAY

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

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