Back in 1970, when I was a visiting student at the Hebrew University. thanks to the initiative of Hebrew University educator Mike Rosenak, Prof Nechama Leibowitz was the first teacher whom I met in Israel.

She gave her model Bible lesson, and gave us the ground rules: bring a full Bible to every class, do not chew gum, ask lots of questions, and “call me Nechama”, she would often say, with her perennial smile, beret, and good humor.

“Nechama”, as she indeed preferred to be called, gave lessons in the Great Book to anyone and everyone, always ready to receive invitations to speak, at schools, youth clubs, or in your very home.

Nechama synthesized two worlds as a teacher.

Nechama relied on all the traditional sources – Abarbanel, Ramban, Rashi, and more, yet she made the Bible story come alive with a potpourri of modern analogies, always to make her point.

Who will ever forget Nechama’s unique way of introducing the “Joseph Story” – “Now what was that ‘Jew-boy’ doing in the palace of a king and how did he get there?”

As she did with Joseph, Nechama made each significant figure of each character in the Bible. Often, I would watch her sip tea in the Hebrew University and seek out students to talk with and teach. It didn’t matter who the student was or where the student was from. And outside the University, Nechama made herself wecome in kibbutzim, in Mea Shearim, and in every walk of Israeli life.

Something refreshing at a time of increasing internal Israeli religious strife.

Two experiences with Nechama tell something about her.

Many years ago, when I went to work at a Jewish summer camp in the US, I asked Nechama for advice about preparing the Bible curriculum at the camp. She asked me to meet her right away. I thought that a busy lecturer and author like this would not have the time for such things. Nechama spent the better part of four hours helping me create a curriculum that transformed what might have been a bunch of boring lectures into what we today would become an interactive Torah theatre for children, and the kids loved it.

The other experience that I had was much more personal. I had long ago made a quiet prayer that if I were ever to have a daughter, that they would be able to understand and teach the Torah with the love and the vigor of Nechama.

So, when we had our first girl, eleven months after our first boy, I called Nechama and asked her if she would come and give a shiur in honor of our baby Rivka, on the subject that I had heard her speak during my first week in Israel: Rivka and the attribute of hesed.

At the same time, I asked Nechama if she had any objections to us adding a name in her honor, so that she would be Rivka Nechama. I knew that Nechama did not have any children. Nechama did not hesitate to give her agreement to the gesture, and she also agreed to come to Tzfat for Shabbat.

After word spread in Tzfat that Nechama was coming, more than three hundred people showed up on the lawn of the Wolfson community center, carrying Bibles – at Nechama’s request.

David Bedein
Media Research Analyst
Beit Agron International Press Center,
Jerusalem, Israel
e-mail: media@actcom.co.il
Fax: (+972-2) 623-6470

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.

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