Hana Hertsman's Blog

Holon’s Digital Vision

Posted on March 19, 2017

Video:Holon’s Digital City Square – Concept

It is over two decades now that both our city and municipal practices are a reflection of a unique vision which sets our long and short run policies and goals. The vision, which was continuously updated over the past few years using a wide public-participation process, is divided to several main chapters relating different aspects of the city life and municipal responsibilities. Among them you can find community, education, industry and trade, culture and leisure and of course – Holon, The Children’s City, our city’s DNA and identity which reflects in each and every one of the city practices.

An entire chapter of the city’s vision refers to the municipality vision, stating: “The municipality encourages innovation, follows the principles of the multidisciplinary management and promotes cooperation, knowledge based decision making and the use of technological means”  This Mission Statement should lay the foundations for our Digital Vision – a necessary organizational tool which will adjust our city’s strategic plans to the era where technology evolvement has a crucial influence on both reality and consciousness, privately and publicly.

Our obligation as the policymakers is to incorporate our citizen’s perspective into the decision-making process, keeping in mind that we are not only providing them with service but also with the best costumer experience possible.

This adjustment of the system, the strategic plans and strategic assets to the digital age will be implemented using our new work method “Collective Impact”, launched earlier this year, which sets the goal of creating a horizontal collaborative platform, promoting a synchronized execution of our municipal goals while considering long-term implications, adjusting our citizens needs and measuring and analyzing results further along. This method allows us to self-reflect by asking a line of questions – what made us choose these specific assets to begin with? What our aspirations are? What are the significant changes we ask to create in our citizens’ lives? What our desired outcomes are? For example – while evaluating our unique assets, identified with the city – The Children Museum, The Mediatheque, The Design Museum and The Story Gardens we must reflect on how these assets benefit our citizens, particularly our children. How can we use them in order to empower our children and transform them into curious skilled citizens of the new world – aware, involved, cultured and enlightened human beings?  One of the first steps towards meeting this goal is training the municipality and the subsidiary companies employees with digital skills being the transformation agents.

 I have no doubt in my mind that the right strategic plan derived from a solid digital vision has the power to maximize these assets value and to march The Children’s City to the next level.

The digital vision is a significant opportunity to take our next big leap forward. In order to maximize its execution level we must define our desire outcomes and to put our joint efforts into an empowering collaboration process while all functions aims towards meeting our shared municipal goals.

What Makes an Outstanding Employee and Why Women are No Longer Afraid to Excel?

Posted on February 7, 2017

Recently we held our annual Outstanding Employee of the Year Awards here in Holon Municipality in which we honored 6 of our outstanding employees in addition to one outstanding staff.

While the average organization usually provides one specific service, the municipality provides a wide range of different services – education, culture, eldercare, family life and private and public physical environment are all just a part of the responsibilities being held by the municipality. Therefore, the city’s both directors and employees represent a wide variety of professions and expertise, despite the diversity we can find a common ground and joint characteristics between those who outstand.

The outstanding employee will be the one you can always relay on, the one doing his tasks to the fullest, a team-player focusing both on the micro and macro. This employee will not break under pressure, he will be an initiative leader for his co-workers and patient and empathic service giver. He will be an inspiration to his colleagues and a good influence to the entire workplace.

These virtues among others were part of the criteria for choosing our outstanding employees. I take pride in the fact that here in Holon Municipality, a lean-management organization with a relatively low number of employees, we are able to find each and every year a large group of employees meeting these criteria. Not only we find these employees to be praiseworthy, It is important for us to honor them since they are a significant part of our success with following the city’s policies and meeting the city’s goals.

This year, accidently or not, all of our Outstanding Employees of the Year were women from across the municipality administrations. Is it a coincident that recently we witness an increasing presence of women getting their appreciation on their work publicly?

Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, in her book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” writes: “Many women prefer to stay put and be safe in their career, which is another effect of gender stereotype. They avoid new challenges because they are unsure that they have the right skills. That can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. A study has shown that men apply for jobs when they feel they meet 60% of the skills requirements, whereas women only apply if they meet 100% of the requirements”

Sandberg calls for a perception change: “Women should not be afraid to take risks, pursue growth and challenges and ask for promotions” I feel as if these changes are already taking place, we can see more young women taking a different approach. They are no longer afraid to celebrate and publicly speak about their performances and their contribution to the system and to take risks and challenges they would not take before.

Congratulations, our Outstanding Employees and thank you for your significant contribution to the Municipality and the City.

Thinking, Planning, and Carrying Out. The Children’s City Has All Ages in Mind

Posted on December 20, 2015

Age Friendly City presentation, held at the 2015 Akko Convention on Urbanism 

Holon has been age-oriented for over two decades now. The Children’s City vision statement is based on the understanding that the residents are the city’s pillar of strength; thus, master plans and work plans have been devised focusing on the younger generation and their families. These programs allow for long and short term planning of the services and physical environment intended for children, adolescents, young adults, and senior citizens, all while constantly seeking the optimal urban mix.
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A model of get-together areas for senior citizens at public spaces. Design: Erez Mulay, social designer. The model allows seating arrangements for large groups (up to 10 people), in a semi-hidden spot. On the opposite side, comfortable seating areas for individuals who prefer to overlook the hustle of the street.

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Over the past two decades, we have realized that devising programs tailored to a specific age group can be useful when doing the same for other age groups as well: for example, the master plan for children and youth has elements in common with the master plan for senior citizens. The endeavors associated with devising master plans for these two age groups, seemingly belonging to one of two extremes, are rooted in the inherent perception that sees residents as customers and partners to the process of city development. Both programs seek to create a friendly environment, which takes into consideration the relatively high dependence of these two populations on municipal services and environment.

The master plan for senior citizens was devised through a process of public participation and in collaboration with the Ministry for Senior Citizens. According to the master plan for Holon senior citizens vision statement, “Holon is thankful for its senior citizens’ past and present engagements with urban development. Holon is committed to act in the favor of its senior citizens and provide them with comfortable surroundings during their years of retirement”.

This vision outlines four strategic guidelines on which the master plan is based: offering senior citizens the ability to live in their own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably (Aging in Place); promoting an intergenerational and interdisciplinary overview; implementing a Pro-Active Senior Citizen approach; developing an innovative array of services tailored to the needs of senior citizens.

One example would be the existing project aimed at adapting Holon’s public open spaces to the needs of senior citizens. The project is led by Dr. Rinat Ben Nun from Holon’s Department of Senior Citizens, along with designer Erez Mulay from the social design studio, who mapped relevant needs after touring senior citizens centers across Holon, interviewing senior citizens, and methodically gathering information. Apparently, small groups of senior citizens of homogeneous ethnicity gather in semi-hidden spots, in the vicinity of commercial centers, public toilets, and drinking fountains. It appeared as if they were adapting the public spaces to their own needs.

For example, placing cartons on top of stone benches in order to insulate against cold, and adding extra chairs in seating areas for bigger crowds. The research identified the senior citizens’ need of intimacy, combined with the need to feel close to the heart of the city. Furthermore, at different hours of the day the very same public space serves groups of adolescents, so obviously it should meet the needs of both age groups. Following the observation phase, senior citizens attended the Design Museum Holon exhibition on shading of public spaces, and participated in a design workshop dedicated to get-together areas and shading for the benefit of senior citizens. This way, benches were designed to meet the needs of senior citizens and guarantee shading, comfort, and intimacy.

The master plan for children and youth, which is my brainchild, is led by representatives from the Division of Welfare, Department of Education, Community and Recreation Network, supported by the Strategic Planning Department, all of whom spearhead the program. The master plan for senior citizens seeks to further leverage the city’s investment in the younger generation, so as to implement a comprehensive and inclusive approach which encompasses all aspects of the child’s life. The program addresses all areas of children’s lives (apart from education): health, recreation, and more.

We are currently in the final stages of data collection through:

  • Implementation of a public participation program, with around 3,300 participants, for children and youth ranging from kindergarteners to high schoolers, which reveals their needs and passions.
  • Mapping programs and services, allowing for a more thorough examination of the existing programs and services across Holon.
  • Data collection focusing on children and youth (as documented in city records and in additional records), aimed at forming the average child’s profile.
  • Collecting experts’ information on the important aspects of children’s development (on a global level).

As mentioned above, the master plan for children and youth is underway, and we are currently carrying out several projects. For example, the public participation program has identified the need of residents to use public spaces in their vicinity as venues for children’s entertainment activities. This was the idea behind the Children’s Park Theater project that operates during the summer holiday, offering children’s plays at nine parks across Holon.

An additional matter that was identified during the process of public participation is the children’s desire to expand their knowledge outside of school. In Holon, we seek to implement the City As School approach, allowing children to broaden their horizons at a variety of local facilities and institutions, surrounded by a more enticing environment. This is also a way to make the children feel more connected to the local community, which further enhances their educational experiences. This project is still in its infancy.

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In brief, the Children’s City serves as a social anchor for different social groups; its uniqueness guarantees that it provides the utmost services for the various age groups, each according to its unique set of needs.

Female Executives in Local Authorities

Posted on November 12, 2015

There seems to be a prevalent lack of accurate data and information regarding the actual numbers of female executives in local authorities, probably due to the fact that no regulation exists that requires the publication of such data.

Thus, we have neither a basis for comparison nor an index for improvement.

Nevertheless, based on the unofficial data we have collected, although the rate of women holding positions in local authorities is relatively high, the rate of female executives is rather low.

Data received from the Knesset Research and Information Center in 2011 suggest that in 55 local authorities, the rate of female executives stands at 0% (!), in 8 local authorities the rate stands at 1-9%, and in 48 local authorities the rate stands at 10-19%.

A 2014 study conducted by Adalya Consulting & Management and Dr. Itay Beeri presented the rate of women holding a series of senior positions: the rate of women serving as mayors stands at 3%; the rate of women serving as CEOs stands at 10%; the rate of women serving as municipal engineers stands at 13%; the rate of women serving as legal advisors stands at 24%; the rate of women serving as treasurers stands at around 11%. In the Education Department, the rate of female executives stands at 36% – which stands to reason, since education is perceived to be a more ‘feminine’ field.

In Holon Municipality we get a completely different picture: the rate of female employees stands at 70%, and the rate of female executives is just over 52%, making the majority of executives within Holon Municipality.

The researchers who conducted the afore-mentioned study were seeking to identify the factors that contribute to the exclusion of women from senior positions and from local government decision making processes, and to provide recommendations as to how this situation can be turned around.

Among their recommendations: advertising current data on the rate of female executives in order to raise awareness and turn the situation around, raising salaries of female executives who reside in peripheral areas so as to advance women of lower socio-economic status, implementing a policy of reserved slots while overcoming cultural prejudices, providing incentives to local authorities whose annual reports show a high rate of female executives, integrating women in tender committees, and assigning a dedicated consultant for the advancement of women within each local authority.

Without a doubt, women are just as capable of holding senior positions as men are, and we should find ways to fulfill the great potential that lies among our female employees, while motivating them to pursue successful careers and providing them with all the necessary managerial tools and leadership skills, for the benefit of all parties.

Organizational as well as personal incentives can make a change and allow women to pursue their dreams. As nature has it, all changes begin with one single seed, which sets the stage for all others to come. Once the model puts down its roots, women all over Israel will know that no goal is beyond their reach.

Social Responsibility: It is our responsibility! Thoughts on winning the Ministry of Interior Prize for Social Responsibility

Posted on July 30, 2015

prizeSocial responsibility is based on the moral principle whereby organizations and bodies, even if they were established for profit, have an obligation to improve the society and environment in which they operate. In recent years, we have encountered this concept in the context of commercial companies, which take it upon themselves, in addition to their business activities, to devote part of their efforts to contributing both to society and the environment.

In the case of public bodies, it might be thought that there is no reason to talk about social responsibility, since their very existence and activity derive from the strength of their social responsibility and commitment.

Those of us who work for the benefit of the public in the framework of public service see importance and value in the intent and awareness of our social responsibility, even though, apparently, it is taken for granted as the reason for our existence.

The local authorities are at the forefront of public service and maintain direct and daily contact with their customers in a variety of fields. The quality of this connection, its nature, the variety of fields that it includes, its sensitivity to unique populations and needs, and more, affects the daily lives of millions of residents – men, women and children.

Such, for example, is the service charter, which we implemented 17 years ago in Holon, and which, at the time, was considered innovative. Via this charter, all residents can learn which services they are entitled to receive, at which level of service, and within which time frame. This information is transparent, is published on the municipal website, and is regularly checked by me, with the goal always being: where can we do better, and what should and can be improved? This is also the reason why we have published a booklet, in printed and digital versions, entitled, “There is someone here to serve you,” and why we update the booklet every few years, and republish it. In addition, we publish on the municipal website information about all the Municipality’s spheres of activity and the names of its office holders, and we are opening additional channels of communication with the public, such as on the social network. All these activities, which seem trivial today, were not taken for granted in the past, and, to our regret, even today they are not carried out by every public authority in Israel. The goal is, of course, to make it easier for those in need of the Municipality’s services to receive them, and to improve the technological means, so that, when reporting a problem, they will learn when it is expected to be handled, in accordance with the service charter.

However, we as a Municipality are not satisfied with this, because, for us, the residents are not merely our customers; we regard the residents of Holon as our partners. This is the reason why, since I first assumed the position of Director General, we have been conducting a series of processes for including the public in the work of the Municipality, starting from formulation of the initial vision, during which the public expressed its opinion on a variety of issues, such as: a new outline plan that we were working on, renewing and refreshing the municipal vision, promotion of young people, and a master plan for children and adolescents. Out of a sense of social responsibility, we have attempted to reach as wide a public as possible; all residents are invited to enter a special Internet site that we have set up, and to participate, and to present themselves and their ideas. We also carried out activity to reach special population sectors, such as, parents of children with special needs, as well as the children themselves, on whom we focus our efforts. The feelings, thoughts and suggestions of the participants are taken into account, and have an impact on municipal policy.

The special population sectors are close to our hearts, and we regard as a national mission the need to create awareness of those who are different, through understanding their world and their needs. Our Children’s Museum presents the world of the blind, the deaf and the elderly, by means of a series of activities and empirical presentations, and for this purpose it employs people who are members of these sectors. Blind guides lead the ‘Dialogue in the Dark’ track, deaf guides lead the ‘Invitation to Silence’ track, and elderly people are the wonderful guides at ‘Dialogue with Time.’

Within the municipal framework, we also employ people with special needs, who aren’t accepted by most places of employment, in order to give them a work experience like everyone else’s.

The subject of volunteering keeps me very busy, and it is clear to me that the Municipality’s job is to encourage and guide people in general, and teenagers and children in particular, to take part in volunteer missions in the community – such as: making a connection with isolated people, undertaking maintenance work and gardening at elderly people’s homes, providing assistance through “Shil” (Advisory Services for Residents) for people who have difficulty dealing with bureaucracy, activity by municipal employees as part of ‘Good Deeds Day,’ and more.

As stated, as part of our social responsibility, we are continuously seeking ways to improve our services and to improve ourselves, to streamline processes, and to check which issues can be changed in order to provide optimal internal and external services.

The Ministry of the Interior acted wisely, when it decided to award a prize to the local authorities, in appreciation of the social responsibility that these bodies exhibit throughout their ongoing activities.

I am proud that we have earned such appreciation for a series of activities and processes conducted by the Municipality, among them: Advanced implementation of the Accessibility Law throughout the city, holding cultural events for all residents, promotion of residents’ security and preparation for times of emergency, inclusion of the public in municipal affairs, encouragement of volunteerism, and more.

Project Based Learning – why and how this could work in Israel

Posted on May 20, 2015

My impressions following a visit to High Tech High, which applies PBL.

Today, the advantages of PBL are getting clearer: the traditional learning method simply doesn’t seem to work. The world is changing, the amount of information we can access is practically endless; thus, the required skills have changed, the teacher is no longer the ultimate source of information, and attention deficit disorders are a way of life.

I have recently visited the High Tech High schools in Los Angeles and San Diego. These schools have been applying PBL for many years, and can teach us a great deal about the merits of this learning technique. Following this inspiring visit, I would like to share with you some insights.

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Learning as part of the culture.

PBL goes far beyond learning; PBL is an overall cultural change. It is integrated into the culture of discussion and into codes of behavior, and its success is based on mutual respect, listening, and knowing one’s limits. We had the opportunity to witness how children collaborate on a project. Although physically and mentally each child enjoyed considerable leeway for action – it was quite clear who does what, what role the student plays and what role the teacher plays as a tutor, what is right and what is wrong, and what is the nature of collective responsibility, including that of a young child, to fulfill all personal and group capabilities. Without cultural readiness, PBL is unlikely to succeed.

Interdisciplinary experiential learning.

PBL is the future of education. Why? Because this is our way to foster a curious and productive generation, that learns through interdisciplinary activities. We saw the way young children learn physics through their hands, building an entire model by themselves, from research to implementation. A Shakespearean performance the children put on was yet another example of a way to teach history, literature and language skills, design, and science. The children learned the play, were assigned their roles, made their own costumes, designed the set by themselves, and the result was a performance that completely reflects their characters and their state of mind. Another example is their research on animals, conducted in the aquatic museum. The children study the issue, ask questions regarding the different ways to rescue endangered species, launch a campaign, design and promote it. Another example is the preparation of a diet based meal, which follows the study of nutrition through different aspects of chemistry and biology, including health repercussions. The meal, in the presence of the students’ families, is regarded as the highlight of the semester: this way, learning is a meaningful, experiential, and community-oriented process.

Unique schools with equal opportunity.

Children from underprivileged families were not a rare sight at the schools we visited. The fact that these children take part in this kind of curriculum gives them an excellent starting point despite of their background. This is made possible through charter schools, which are independent and allow for uniqueness: they hire highly professional teachers, and – albeit under cautious supervision – they don’t strictly follow the curriculum set by the Ministry of Education, so teaching methods are varied.

Highly motivated teachers.

Teachers working at the schools we visited are proficient in fields outside their profession. They participate in enrichment courses and workshops that make them competent in other domains. At the same time, a network of support and professional cooperation ensures that teachers give their best for the success of the students. The entire learning environment encourages cooperation and openness. There is no staff room; there are no bells ringing for recess; there are activities and break times when necessary. The teacher provides continuous mentoring during the entire learning process. For instance, we saw how children learn engineering through disassembling and assembling mundane devices, such as cameras. Each disassembled part is measured, registered, photographed, and uploaded to designated software, where it is documented. Later on, the parts are reassembled on a computer screen, and remanufactured through 3D printing. The students find information online about damaged or missing parts. And the teachers? The students’ enthusiasm rubs off on them, and this is where a true joy of creation begins. It may sound almost surreal, but I believe this will become the new reality in more and more locations, including Israel.

A Bond of Hearts: A heartwarming encounter with Jews and Israelis in New York

Posted on May 7, 2015

With Tsipi and Zigi Ben-Haim and Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York

With Tsipi and Zigi Ben-Haim and Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York

The hardships, dangers, and fears involved in living in Israel often make us feel isolated. In recent years, it seems, this feeling of isolation is getting even more intense.

During an exciting encounter held recently in the United States, I was happy to realize an entire community is thinking of us from across the sea, feeling connected to us, empathizing, showing interest, and even willing to pull their weight.

As part of our efforts to bring about an innovative educational initiative in Holon – the Digital Kindergarten Digitaf – I had the privilege to attend an especially heartwarming event and share the latest news of Israel and Holon with members of the New York Jewish community. I felt that I succeeded in laying the foundations for a new perception, a new attitude that places the younger generation in the center, seeking to provide the younger generation with targeted tools and skills required for personal development and success, while creating a powerful values-driven community.

Tsipi and Zigi Ben-Haim, former Israelis, have been living in the United States for many years. Like many of their compatriots, they immigrated to the United States in order to pursue their professional career. Zigi Ben-Haim, a valued artist, has won multiple prestigious awards for his art. His pieces are displayed in prominent museums such as: the Guggenheim and Brooklyn Museum in New York; the Israel Museum and Tel Aviv Museum. The couple had been so kind as to volunteer their house for a special Holon-oriented gala, in the presence of tens of participants from the Jewish and Israeli community in New York.

In addition to Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York, the event attracted a large number of visitors, who expressed a great interest in Israel, who were eager to hear about every piece of information related to contemporary life in Israeli society, and were willing to delve into issues such as Israeli education, culture, zeitgeist, and perceptions among the younger generation in Israel. I was surprised by the young age of many of the visitors, who shared information about themselves and wanted to better understand the meaning of Holon as the Children’s City.

Those young visitors were thrilled to hear about Holon’s unique initiatives, and about our efforts to foster the younger Israeli generation through exposure to culture, which equips them with knowledge and skills that will eventually make them into knowledgeable, curious, moral, creative, and productive citizens. I told them about the special activities held in Design Museum Holon, about the unique workshops for the entire family, about the synergy between our formal educational system and our cultural institutions, and more. Appreciation, fascination, and curiosity permeated the discussion; the participants expressed their willingness to tighten the bond with Holon and Israel, as well as invest in mutual learning.

Acknowledging the importance of sustainability for the sake of leaving a clean and healthy environment for the next generations, they were naturally impressed with the ideas I laid before them: investing in children, instilling values of tolerance, social engagement, and community involvement.

Without doubt, this evening was nothing short of exhilarating. I hereby wish to thank our hosts and all who participated in the event and helped organize it.

Better Days Will Come – The Children’s City Remembers the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and the Victims of Terrorism

Posted on April 21, 2015

 This week is always a highly emotional one: starting on Holocaust Remembrance Day, followed by the Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism, and ending with a somewhat unnatural surge of happiness in the celebrations of Independence Day.

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These days make each and every person who grew up in Israel look into their souls and their memories. Born in the year of the Suez Crisis War, I reminisce upon those who have been taken from us, those lives that were cut short. First, my close family members come to mind, then my circle of friends, and then all my acquaintances. Those memories take us back to the stories of all those people we know only from TV screens or newspaper cuttings; we are overwhelmed by our thoughts of those who can never be forgotten…

Unfortunately, last summer brought upon us yet another cycle of grief, bringing us back to the harsh reality of our nation. Three sons of our city were killed during the Protective Edge Operation. On this Day of Remembrance, three more families joined the family no one wishes to be a part of: the family of bereavement.

For the past two decades, I have been engaged all year round in developing the Children’s City and creating a better world for our children, providing them with the intellectual food and the cultural and educational infrastructure that will allow them to thrive. On this day, my thoughts are: what are we, as humans, need more than peace, quiet, and the joy of creation?

Is there anything we – especially the parents among us, and I believe among our hostile neighbors as well – want more than to see our children and grandchildren grow up to become confident and happy?! What could be more natural than that? I have always believed peace is within reach.

These days, my thoughts fluctuate from sadness, despair, and frustration to the strong and basic belief that we cannot give up hope, we can never stop believing and acting on our hope, simply because there is no choice. We will keep investing in our children, exposing them to a world of thinking, curiosity, awe-inspiring creation. We will allow them to become better people, we will do our best to contribute our small part to their big future, and we will keep on hoping for better, peaceful days.

Choosing Good over Evil, Light over Darkness – Holocaust Remembrance Day in Holon

Posted on April 19, 2015

Holon teenagers at the memorial service by the Six Million Lights monument, sculpted by Rachel Caspi

Holon teenagers at the memorial service by the Six Million Lights monument, sculpted by Rachel Caspi

Holon’s Holocaust Remembrance Day started with a memorial service held by teenagers who lit the memorial torch at the Six Million Lights monument. Later that day the municipal ceremony took place, in a hall full of Holocaust survivors, members of the second and third generations, soldiers, teenagers, and residents.

In addition, open house events were held in over 30 private houses, including Beit Lehiyot – the Center for Holocaust Awareness, and in additional community centers across Holon, where people of all ages, particularly young adults and teenagers, met with Holocaust survivors or second generation members, who told them their life stories and engaged in intergenerational discussions as well as joint cultural activities.

Holocaust Remembrance Day is an emotional time of year for many of us, a day where personal and national stories find expression through mixed feelings of both grief and joy of living in the revived State of Israel.

I would like to share the address I gave by the monument, directed mainly at the younger generation:

As of every year, Holocaust Remembrance Day brings us together with the young generations of Holon, in order to light the six torches of the monument, created by sculptor Rachel Caspi, symbolizing six million lights forever extinguished.

The theme of this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day is the anguish of liberation and return to life, marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Throughout the entire history of the State of Israel, a large number of Holocaust survivors have sought to create a better world for themselves, for their children, and for the next generations, those who are not directly familiar with the terrors of the Holocaust. In the words of one of the survivors, who had lost dozens of her family members in the Łódź Ghetto and in Auschwitz, “If my Passover Seder includes more than 20 people, second and third generation members, I know I’ve done my part.”

At the memorial service, with Holocaust survivors, Holon residents and winners of the Holon annual citizenship prize Bat Sheva Dagan and Malka Rosental

At the memorial service, with Holocaust survivors, Holon residents and winners of the Holon annual citizenship prize Bat Sheva Dagan and Malka Rosental

In Holon, we feel it is our obligation – as well as our privilege – to commemorate the dead, to remember them and to retell their stories and the story of our people, to honor the survivors who live among us who are living a life of incessant activity, always eager to contribute to the State of Israel and to Israeli society.

The message we wish to send across to you, the younger generation, is the following: we should always remember the past, know our history and learn from it.

Each and every one of us must understand, learn, and assimilate the lessons learned by the greatest Holocaust known to mankind, and create a different and better society: a society that is humane and enlightened, that respects all people for who they are and is compassionate toward foreigners, underprivileged people and people in need.

My thanks go to each and every one of you for being here tonight, and on behalf of you I wish to address the Holocaust survivors who live among us and say: you are forever in our hearts.

I thank you all, and my wish to you is that you always know how to choose good over evil, light over darkness.

Digitaf – An Innovative Kindergarten in an Advanced Digital Space

Posted on March 16, 2015

I often mention that my mother was a kindergarten teacher, and that early childhood education had been integrally woven into my childhood upbringing. Despite having chosen a different career path as an adult, I have always been devoted to cultivating the young generation, constantly striving to realize the vision of Holon as The Children’s City.

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In recent years, I have been feeling the need to broaden my knowledge and specialize in the area of early childhood education, and I have recently completed my Master’s degree in this field. I have undertaken to adapt the pedagogical principles to the vast technological possibilities that are today available for all, without allowing the means to obscure the end. I always keep in mind the main goal: recruiting modern technology for the benefit of cultivating a curious, creative, and innovative generation, while not neglecting to focus on social skills such as cooperation, acceptance of others, and empathy – which are equally important.

Kindergarten is one of the earliest pedagogical institutions children encounter in their lives, and its influence on their future development is paramount. Some claim that kindergartens should preserve the traditional educational processes, which are based on social and sensual experiences, and should avoid the penetration of innovative technologies which, one way or the other, overwhelm children from the day they are born. I believe that meaningful learning cannot be disconnected from modern society, from the world children live in and from the experiences they encounter along the way. My aim is to find the golden mean that appropriately combines technology with the aforementioned traditional educational processes.

These days, we are planning the establishment of Digitaf – a digital kindergarten. Digitaf will constitute an experimental innovative educational approach, which perceives children as both consumers and producers. Digitaf’s pedagogical learning environment will be based on pedagogical approaches of early childhood education, while naturally incorporating innovative modern technological devices into different areas, such as art, design, music, and sciences. Technology will serve as the means to achieve troubleshooting, creativity, team work, and additional skills that are required in the Information Age. Digitaf will include didactic interactive tables, a recording studio, 3D printers, and more. This way, children will be able to experiment with using 3D printers in order to design and produce toys, parts, and tools – all by themselves.

Digitaf is intended as a compulsory nursery school; it will include learning centers in the following fields: literacy, arts, mathematical thinking, crafts, theater, audio centers, nutrition, and sociodramatic play centers which are available in all kindergartens. The unique and innovative nature of the kindergarten finds expression in the complete integration of digital technology across all kindergarten activities, while preserving the spirit of the traditional kindergarten.

Digitaf will maintain a relationship between the inside and outside structure: the design of the courtyard will be based on the principles that are maintained within the interior structure. The aim is to establish an environment which encourages a high level of physical activity. For example, a unique adventure park will offer challenging activity spaces, a cave to crawl into, a hill to climb, etc. Children will also experiment with using a variety of building materials.

Digitaf will be located at the Jesse Cohen Quarter, as part of a technological community center, and will collaborate with digital centers adjacent to it: the Israeli Center for Digital Art and the digital manufacturing laboratory (FabLab).

The construction of the kindergarten will take place in a hall sized 200 square meters: 170 square meters are intended for the kindergarten area, while 30 square meters are intended for a joint center which will collaborate with the digital manufacturing laboratory (Fab Lab). The joint space will serve kindergarten children by day, and host afternoon activities for Jesse Cohen residents and for Holon residents in general. The modern architectural structure of the kindergarten will reflect the combination of early childhood education and technological innovation.

These days, we are concentrating our efforts on raising funds and resources for realizing the notion of Digitaf and for equipping it with the necessary technology. Hopefully, our efforts will bear fruit, and Digitaf will serve as a model pedagogical framework that demonstrates a harmonic adaptation of the educational system to the technological advancements of the 21st century, which have become inseparable from our daily lives.

Toy Visit – Toys and Childhood Games from a Nostalgic Contemporary Perspective

Posted on February 24, 2015

“Give your child endless opportunities to develop, so that together with you he could live a full life and a better one. Give yourself the opportunity to invest in your child and enjoy the time you spend together”… Prof. Pnina Klein

A new exhibition is like a new journey: across galleries and far distant collections, across workshops, across the entire country: across cities and rural areas, north and south, inside the world of artists’ imagination, which turn dreams into reality. This time, more so than before, this is a self-reflective journey as well: a journey to long forgotten memories, recalling all those magical moments of our childhood. Suddenly I am there again, a young girl in a Moshav, holding five jackstones, a pointy stick, wooden dominos and homemade dolls, sailing between past and present, personal and universal, in search of long forgotten memories, yet rejoicing over the power of the here and now, over the sights, the feelings and the scents that will be engraved in the minds of today’s children.

The Toy Visit exhibition, which I had the honor to curate, is the product of my own nostalgic longing for toys and childhood games of my generation, made out of simple materials, produced and reused by crafty people, without being officially labeled as “green” or “recycled”. Those included carts and rickshaws built out of orange crates found near the orchard, an improvised wooden horse with a handcrafted head and a body made of broomstick, as well as toys and didactic games my mother, who was a kindergarten teacher, purchased but also handcrafted on her own for her kindergarten children and for her daughters. Big hollow cubes, colorful puzzles, cards carrying photos of local Israeli sites and flowers, miniaturized musical instruments, a toy kitchen built out of old stoves, unused kerosene burners and obsolete pots. These simple items had created an entire world for us to play, share, experience, and develop, preparing us for the real world. In the words of Maria Montessori: “play is children’s way to learn what cannot be taught”.

It is only natural that Holon, the Children’s City, will openly display nostalgic as well as contemporary toys and games. The journey I made across the country in preparation for the exhibition made me realize how immortal toys are; as long as new generations of children exist, those unique, heartwarming items will be there to enable them to explore themselves and the world around them, to expose them to the joy of searching, experiencing, and sharing in a whole wide world, sometimes created around one small item, in a relaxed individual play or in an enthusiastic group play. There comes a time when even today’s children of the “screen generation”, who supposedly ignore their surroundings, come up with creative ways to share experiences, even through online games or virtual multiplayer games… What counts most is the basic desire to share feelings, to discuss achievements, and to give tips to friends: how to proceed, what are the best ways to win, etc. For what is the point of success if we cannot share it with our friends?

Undoubtedly, the scenery of our childhood is immensely different from that of today’s children; however, basic human needs actually remain unchanged, and toys and games – even if they take on a different look – remain the key to a world of imagination, senses, social experiences, cooperation, motion, challenge, patience, negotiation, ambition, and more.

Toys and games, it seems, are indispensable. As adults who experienced a different kind of childhood as children, and to a certain extent re-experienced childhood as parents, we are given the chance to get a rare glance at toys and games, this time from a different angle, an experienced, curious and joyful one, along with the members of the next generation, our grandchildren. So… who goes first?

For further information about the exhibition, please click here.

Holon Municipality has launched a public participation website, calling upon its young residents to log in and speak their minds

Posted on December 30, 2014

Over twenty years ago, when we first set upon formulating the vision of the Children’s City in Holon, one of our most prominent purposes was to keep young population inside the city, as well as to attract young population into the city. A large population of young residents is a source of new energies; it breathes new life into the commercial and professional activities, the community experience, the physical cityscape, and the human fabric across the city.

Together. Think. Young – the facebook cover of the campaign

Throughout the years, as the positive image of Holon grew stronger, the number of children in the city has increased. These children have turned into young adults, forming a new generation that faces a wide array of possibilities and opportunities. I can personally attest that as chairwoman of the municipality’s tender board, I often come across these young adults, many of whom have an impressive educational and personal potential. Despite the lack of work experience and personal experience characterizing their age group, they are capable of absorbing large amounts of diverse information, thoroughly understanding matters from different perspectives. They are highly cooperative, and naturally they are highly motivated, eager to prove themselves and do well.

However, notwithstanding the great promises and the open horizons, these young adults are facing rather complex issues. On the one hand, there is a wide range of educational and occupational possibilities in this era of globalized markets; on the other hand, the labor market is constantly changing: new occupations arise while others vanish, and there cannot be any promise of economic security. This amounts to confusion, fear, and uncertainty. As a municipality, we have the ability to help this population, which is normally less reliant on municipal services. For this reason, over a year ago we established the Department of Young Adults, whose purpose is to promote the interests of this crucial segment of population.

Among other initiatives, we settled upon adjusting the public space for the needs of young adults: we designated a special area of the central library as a study space for students, we provide a free counseling service for young adults who are undecided about study paths or career options, we hold discounted cultural events and leisure activities which are oriented at young adults, allowing them to spend time around their peers, we operate special gymborees during the burning hot summer days, we hold discussion meetings with young adults at local bars. In addition, a designated center for young adults is currently under construction. Hopefully, this center will become an attractive hub for this age group as of the summer of 2015.

At the end of December 2014, the first phase of an online public participation procedure was concluded. Young residents were called upon to log in to a designated website and post their ideas, needs, and expectations from the municipality and from the city, all pertaining to the lifestyle of young adults in Holon. This way, we can lay the foundations for our future plans based on a genuine understanding of the needs and desires of this population.

The online discussion was open to the public for three weeks, during which 350 users were registered to the website, 212 new ideas were raised, and 483 comments were posted in the different discussions. Nine users who posted the most “liked” ideas were awarded valuable prizes. The next phase is collecting all the ideas and comments, analyzing them and drawing conclusions for the future projects of the Department of Young Adults, always seeking to maintain a constant dialog with the public.

The Future Town Square: a Real Experience in a Virtual Reality

Posted on November 27, 2014

A while ago I received a letter from a girl, a Holon resident, where she told me that on their free time she and her friends hardly ever go out: they stay at home, chat on Facebook and WhatsApp, and keep chatting on their mobile devices even when they meet face to face. Her parents, she wrote, keep nagging her to go outside and play – like they had used to do back in the day – but there is nothing to do outside. “Maybe at City Hall”, she was asking, “you would think of a place where we could play outside?”

This letter, which follows other requests of the same nature, has reaffirmed my longtime feelings and thoughts: the virtual world cannot be the only option. Even in our digital era, people are still seeking social connections, yearning for unmediated face to face encounters. A study has been published recently on the importance of social connections in the maintenance of mental and memory-related skills at an advanced age. If social interaction is beneficial to this extent with adults, then clearly it is crucial for children, who are constantly developing physically and mentally. Prolonged sitting in front of screens is undoubtedly one of the causes of early age obesity, which has become worryingly prevalent.

An American study has identified 200 social street games in the United States in the 19th century, compared to today’s 30 at best. Apart from the physical activity, the benefits of outdoor play lie at their contribution to the development of social skills, leadership and cooperation skills, and to the understanding of rules and boundaries.

Drawing inspiration from Children’s Games, I believe people in general, and children in particular, should regain their hold of the squares. This can be done by using innovative technological means which are suitable and attractive for today’s younger generation.

In my vision I can see a square, our Mediatheque Square for example, which is active throughout the day and changing according to the different crowds.

This way, for example, in morning hours the stone floors show different shapes, while music plays in th background (possibly only through headphones that are connected to a mobile device), and a virtual guide conducts a gym class for senior citizens. Later in the day, in late morning hours for instance, the floors of the square turn into a giant Checkmate board, and pensioners meet in order to enjoy this challenging thinking game. During afternoon hours, the square can become a playground for parents and young children, who gather and play age-appropriate games. Obviously, evening hours are dedicated to teenagers, when the square turns into a colorful disco party. One of the advantages is that players get to customize a certain area of the square using their mobile devices: they get to choose games and activities according to their preferences. Visitors can watch and participate, and enjoy newly discovered connections with members of their community.

כנס ערים חכמות ברצלונה 2014

The technology is already here: the challenge is to implement it according to our needs. Of course, the project is yet in its conceptual stage, seeking a technological/entrepreneurial partner, but I believe that in this case we can harness technology, which has long been notorious for making us alienated and estranged, for the purpose of promoting the opposite process of bringing people together and strengthening the sense of community, while breathing new life into the town square and the public space it provides.

What do you think?

Is Sport Becoming Elegant or is Elegant Becoming Sport? Sport Elegant – a new exhibition as part of the Holon Fashion Week

Posted on November 5, 2014

Fashion in general and fashion design in particular have always intrigued me. Gladly, the new Sport Elegant exhibition has given me the opportunity to fulfill my love of design and my knowledge in the field of curatorship. The exhibition will open at the Beit Meirov Art Gallery, as part of the 2015 Israeli Design Season in Holon.

As we all know, fashion expresses and reflects a period, a social stance, a zeitgeist. Elite fashion, “elegant clothes”, has been the masterpiece, the most expensive part of one’s wardrobe. Throughout my childhood in Israel, formal wear had been treated with a sense of awe, while everyday clothes had been basic and practical. The expensive clothes of high quality, meticulously sewn in the style of Western journals, had been reserved for special occasions.

As for myself, I have always been attracted to unique clothing items and accessories. Luckily, I was able to showcase my love of elegant clothes right at the beginning of my professional life. As a young hotelier, I had been expected to show up for work wearing meticulous – even formal – clothes: tailored skirts, suits, and jackets. I had become accustomed to it and had actually been enjoying it. Years later, I had my first interview in the Holon Municipality. True to my habit, I showed up wearing a formal outfit, only to later realize that it had caused quite a stir. The municipality’s veteran ladies had been dumbfounded by the girl who walked the City Hall corridors on her elegant high heels, wearing a red tube skirt, a matching red jacket and a white top…

Obviously, apparel has changed over the years: gradually, pants have taken the place of skirts, no-need-to-iron shirts have taken the place of tailored tops, and the elegant heels have cleared the way for much more comfortable shoes. And yet, I will always take a moment to mix in some uniquely designed accessory that cannot miss the eye… even when it is made out of inexpensive materials.

Throughout the years, along with my own personal taste, fashion has undergone changes: the boundaries between elegant clothes and everyday clothes are not clear cut. On the one hand, the elegant style does not have to adhere to strict Dos and Do Nots; on the other hand sportswear, which had been based solely on comfortable, light, and practical clothes, had been influenced by elite fashion. Nowadays, joggers at the jogging trails along the beach and trainees at the fitness center present the most cutting-edge selection of sports fashion, made out of high quality fabrics. The sporty clothing item sends a message of who I am, what I want others to think of me, what my social status is, and so on and so forth.

More of a fashion buff than a sports buff, I nevertheless find this combination stunning. I have chosen to present this combination at the Sport Elegant exhibition, which seeks to examine this mixture between Sport and Elegant while looking at their mutual influences.

A variety of Israeli designers will be displaying their interpretations while using unique technologies and materials that put sportswear functionality in question.

Everyone is invited to this special experience. Entrance is free.

For further information on the featured designers and on the items on display, click here.

For information on the 2015 Holon Design Week, click here.

Tif-Taf: A New Place that Turns Parenthood into a Rewarding Experience

Posted on October 30, 2014

“I love him so much, but he won’t stop crying, I’m not sure why and I’m trying to understand what it is that he wants. I offer different toys, I talk to him, I try to make him laugh, and eventually we both end up crying together.”

These are the words of a young mother. She waited so much for her baby to come into her life, she was excited trying to imagine how he would look like, how they would spend time together, hugging, cuddling and laughing – but something just isn’t right.

Today, there is no shame in admitting: being a parent takes learning. Those parental instincts aren’t always there to guide us; parents can hone their skills of this seemingly natural craft, and truly savor the time they spend with their children.

A new center for parents and toddlers (aged 0-3) has recently been launched in Holon. Together with educational experts, I listened to the lecture given by Prof. Pnina Klein, a renowned researcher in the field of education, at the opening ceremony. Prof. Klein’s philosophy of early childhood education constitutes the foundation of the new center.

One of the most important principles Prof. Klein mentions is treating parenthood as an enjoyable, joyful and enhancing experience for both parents and children. My own experience as a mother and others’ experience has taught me that, all good intentions aside, the reality is not always what we had in mind or what we were aiming at. Upon the birth of their firstborn, many parents enter a world of uncertainties and questions.

During her lecture, Prof. Klein highlighted some of the dilemmas and challenges young parents face, alongside the methods and solutions the center will be offering them:

How to encourage the parent and enhance his sense of capability? How to enhance the child’s sense of capability? How to set boundaries while still making the child feel loved? How to plan ahead before spending time with the child? How to tell which activities are suitable for the child? How to make the most of our time with the child? What is a Mental Menu? How to teach children new things at their own pace, without forcing them to use certain ways of action, in a way that allows them to make mistakes? How do we, as parents, act as mediators between realities or games and our child? How much time do we dedicate to focused activities with our children, barring distractions and other parallel actions? How to plan activities with our children? How does our conduct with our toddlers influence development and success in the long term? What are our ambitions with respect to our children? How to do the right thing at the right time without putting the cart before the horse in terms of the child’s needs? How to prepare the child for a competitive, high-achieving and sometimes disappointing reality, without subjecting him to a similar reality ourselves?

During the lecture we were shown several videos that follow the process of mentoring parents according to Prof. Klein’s method. The videos show clearly and visually how the behavioral patterns of both parents and children change through learning. The videos illustrated some of the principles Prof. Klein’s method is based on.

Following is a taste of Prof. Klein’s principles:

All babies need to be loved; they need to be around a person who is happy to be with them. Let your baby know and feel that you love him, hold him close to you, treasure your time together.

Give yourselves the opportunity to enrich your child and rejoice in him. See how important and special you are to him; acknowledge how much he needs you and loves you in a special way.

Positive feelings open the door to emotional, social, and mental growth, through feelings of trust and attachment to people.

Allow your children the opportunities to develop, so that they would live a better and more fulfilling life – and so would you.

In the short period the new center has operated in Holon, it has already attracted thousands of young parents who enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and the innovative equipment, and benefited from the high professional level of the mentors onsite. It is my hope that these mentors will provide more and more parents with important tools and insights that would contribute to enhancing young parents and nurturing a new generation of happy and thriving toddlers.