I receive Google alerts. One of them is for “Israel girl orphanage”.
It often does not result in many posts, but yesterday I was alerted to the following article: An Orphan in Pre-State Palestine
The Israeli film industry is growing in popularity, and this latest film by well-known Israeli film connoisseur Dina Zvi Riklis, entitled The Fifth Heaven, is a period piece set in 1944 Palestine at an orphanage for girls.
The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Rachel Eytan (1931 – 1987; b. Tel Aviv, Israel) who spent part of her childhood in children’s homes and later moved to a border kibbutz. The movie’s tragic story focuses on Maya, a 13-year-old girl whose mother deserted her and fled to America. Maya’s father is remarrying and decides to place her at an orphanage.
Here is a clip from the movie of Maya’s arrival at the orphanage…
I am always impressed by how the visual medium of film can portray a story and tug at your heartstrings. This film is set in an orphanage outside of Tel-Aviv in the years leading up to Israeli independence. I think about how it was around this time of turmoil that the founder of the Rubin-Zeffren Children’s Home, the Grand Rebbe Yekusiel Yehuda Halberstam, after losing his wife and 11 children to the Holocaust, took it upon himself to help the orphaned survivors, first in displaced person camps and then in Israel.
When I saw this movie clip I immediately thought of a new girl arriving at the Children’s Home in Netanya. How lost and confused, how scared she must feel. And if she still has a living parent, how abandoned!
So I asked the question, “What are the first days like for a new girl at the Home?”
Chava Yelloz, the Editor of our monthly e-newsletter, Inside Our Home: News from Lev LaLev, was able to help me find my answer.
The Home gets a few weeks’ notice from a family court or the welfare department about preparing for a new arrival. Many times however, a girl arrives at the Home at the last minute, with only the clothes on her back, taken from emergency situations such as abuse, parental incarceration, hospitalization or sudden death where there are no relatives capable of caring for them.
Within the first few days, they are evaluated by the Home’s educational director who reviews records from their previous school in order to place them in an appropriate local community school to start right away. They meet with and are welcomed by a professional therapist who talks with the girl about how she is feeling about the transition and together they develop a strategy to ensure that all her emotional and mental needs are met. She is placed in room with a roommate close in her age and temperament.
Then it is off for a shopping spree for new clothes, shoes and all her other wardrobe needs. For many girls, this is the first time they have ever had something new to call their own. She is also taken to the pediatrician to make sure that any medical needs are attended to. Most importantly, from the moment she steps foot into the Home, all her new big sisters help her acclimate herself to her new life.
She experiences only warmth, love and acceptance from all the girls, who best understand what she is going through, as well as from the house mother, staff, and counselors at her new Home. For a first hand observation of this, read about when our Director of Development, Rachel Weinstein, was visiting the Home and a new girl arrived while she was there: Time to Meet the Girls .
Unlike in the film, modern day Israel does prefer this type of communal care, which I described above, over adoption. I wrote more about it in a prior blog post: Childcare in Israel: Adoption, Foster Care and Orphanages.
Well, I know I was happy with the answer to my question, and also that I would really like to watch The Fifth Heaven, mostly to see what other differences I can find in comparing our orphanage to those of Israel’s past. Thank you Google alerts!