Hana Hertsman's Blog

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.