Ashkelon Mayor Tomer Glam Visits Baltimore: Talks About Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership

Last week, was a difficult week for Ashkelon as Gaza fired rockets toward Israel and the city.

Although 90 percent of these rockets were successfully intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, one rocket did hit a building in Ashkelon, striking an elder care facility. In addition, the impact, once again, was felt throughout the city, with schools closing and residents seeking protection in bomb shelters.

Yet, it was only a week before when Ashkelon was calm and its Mayor Tomer Glam, along with Ashkelon representatives from the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership were in Baltimore to learn about The Associated and its system of agencies as well as deepen the impact of the Partnership for Baltimore leaders, donors and professionals.

And, ironically, one of the areas of concern, that the Mayor touched upon during his visit was the effects that rockets have on the population – and particularly, on the children.

“The aftereffects of these rocket launches are far-reaching,” explained Mayor Glam. “I see kids with post-traumatic stress disorder, children afraid to be by themselves and some who stop talking. That’s why one of my priorities is to establish a Resilience Center to offer support for residents suffering anxiety.”

Children, in fact, are a core part of the Mayor’s agenda. It harks back to his own childhood, growing up in a disadvantaged family. As the eighth of 10 children born to immigrant parents – his mother was from Tunisia and his father from Libya – he worked after school to support his family.

“As a child, I grew up in a disadvantaged family and so I did not get to participate in after-school activities. I remember the feeling of sadness and the hours I spent looking with longing at the community center in my neighborhood that was buzzing with activity. I remember sitting on a bench, watching the other children play baseball,” he recalled. “My family couldn’t afford after-school activities so I couldn’t participate.”

That’s why he promised himself that when he entered public office, every kid in Ashkelon will have access to these programs.

Several of the educational initiatives he is proposing include after-school activities for every child, assistance for disadvantaged families to prepare for their matriculation exams, the opening of a Center to offer activities for teens from disadvantaged families and the establishment of a Preschool Center, catering to parents and children, from birth to six years old.

The importance of helping children was also at the center of Mayor Glam’s meeting with Baltimore City Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young. The two realized how much they had in common – having come from humble beginnings and both focused on helping the children in their respective cities.

Moving the Partnership Forward

The Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership has connected our communities for over 15 years through collaborative projects that build long-lasting and meaningful relationships and a great love of Israel and the Jewish people. From preschoolers to high schoolers, young adults to grandparents, the Partnership fosters connections between groups and individuals in both cities at every stage of life. These relationships are dynamic and bring our Jewish communities closer to one another through a common bond.

“I feel like there is this special feeling of family that we’ve developed with our friends across the ocean,” said Shelly Malis, co-chair of the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership.

For Morry Zolet, who co-chairs the Partnership with Malis, this relationship is so special that he hopes to get more Baltimoreans involved in the Partnership so they, too, can experience the wonderful bonds the two cities enjoy. “It was so rewarding to once again get to see the people I met when I was on the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership mission to Israel. Having them come to Baltimore and spending time with them cements the relationships we began to develop last year.”

Added Malis, “For us to have the Mayor come to Baltimore and take several days out of his busy schedule shows what an important part the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership is to both cities. He elevated the partnership in the eyes of the municipality of Ashkelon. ”Check out this video about the people-to-people connections being made between the two cities.

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