Beit Shemesh Chair: Gideon Even Ari
I was born in Ramat Gan in 1965. My parents made aliyah from South Africa in 1959. My wife Naama and I, and our five children, have lived in Beit Shemesh for the past 14 years. I attended educational institutions in the state-religious sector, including the Kfar Haroeh yeshivah high school where I had my first encounter with Diaspora Jewry as part of a Ministry of Education mission to Jewish schools in the United States.
I started out in the Bnei Akiva youth movement as a group member, and later became a youth leader and a coordinator. These were very meaningful years in terms of developing my personality – as well with regard to ethical-religious aspects, my belonging to the state of Israel, my commitment to it etc.
I joined the IDF in 1985, in the Intelligence Corps, where I served for 25 years in various command and central command positions. I left the IDF with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
During my military service I took a sabbatical of six months, when I studied at the Har Etsion Yeshiva at Alon Shvut. During this time I became acquainted with new approaches in the Torah world, and new attitudes towards different issues on the public agenda. I also got to know students from different communities around the world who came to study at the yeshivah, some of whom decided to make aliyah.
As an IDF officer I understood the importance and the necessity of the existence of a moral-conceptual base among youth growing up in the country, which could provide them with the understanding and the justification for our being a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, and not just a state that provides safe refuge for the Jews of the world.
During my military service I gained a bachelor’s degree in social sciences, from Bar Ilan University, and a master’s degree in business studies from Ben Gurion University.
When I left the army I opted to work in education and, today, I am deputy principal of a high school in Beit Shemesh, and teach civil studies. I joined the Partnership around 3 years ago, when I retired from the army, and I consider my role in it both a privilege and an opportunity to act and to impact on the consolidation and advancement of the Jewish people. The wish and need shared by all the Partnership communities, to forge a meaningful Jewish identity, the common initiatives and activities for the advancement of the communities, and the mutual guarantee between them, for me reflect the fact that we are a single family in a single nation.
Yehuda Plains Chair- Roi Sofer
My name is Roi Sofer. My parents, friends and colleagues call my Ruku, and that’s how I prefer to be known. I grew up and was educated in Arad, in a warm, rich, enriching and involving community. The intensive activity in the (Hanoar HaOved VeHaLommed) Habonim affiliated youth movement continued on into the army, as part of a Nahal unit, following which I was a member of Kibbutz Almog for 11 years. From there I resumed my involvement in the movement, as the Haifa district coordinator. When I returned to Almog I was appointed to the position of treasurer of the kibbutz, and, at the same time, took a degree in geology, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. My role as treasurer brought me into contact with the Mishkei Harei Yehuda cooperative, where I am still employed, and through which I came to know our region.
In 2001 I moved with my family from Almog to Srigim. There we found a warm, rich, enriching and involved community and, in addition to my daytime job, I filled various positions in the Srigim community and in Mateh Yehuda.
At the end of 2006 I was asked (and I agreed) to take on the role of chairman of the Partnership’s Economic Development Committee. This work allowed me to get to know the region, Beit Shemesh and the people in the two communities better. I found that there are many people in these communities who want to contribute to the general good, and to the advancement of the community: the Partnership is a means of realizing these wishes while making the best possible use of the human potential. I am also getting to know the communities of South Africa and Washington and, despite the differences and gaps between us, I am endeavoring to develop a warm people-based relationship with them.
In my life, I have discovered the world of mountain biking and I have become “an addict”. This addiction offers good company, health and an intimate knowledge of beauty spots and natural treasures in our region. I was recently asked to become chairman of the Partnership on behalf of the communities of Mateh Yehuda. I feel I have been given an opportunity to lead a process of renewal in community activity in our region, to deepen the relationship between the community of Mateh Yehuda and Beit Shemesh, and to build a bridge across the distance between Washington and South Africa. Change and renewal can only exist with the good will of the members of the four communities, and a deep understanding that when a person gives of himself he also reaps the rewards. I am grateful for the opportunity I have been given to be a partner in building the community in which my family lives.