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Children Sending a Gift to Israel

Celebration: Jewish students present ambulance on country's 54th birthday.


On the other side of the globe, Israel was consumed by war. But in Encino, Jewish schoolchildren were dancing.

Dressed in blue and white, children at Valley Beth Shalom Day School frolicked and sang to mark Israel's 54th birthday Wednesday.

They also presented an ambulance they had purchased to American Red Magen David Israel, or ARMDI, Israel's version of the Red Cross.

"This is a way kids can see the culmination of their work do something tangible--like save a life--whether it be Jew or Gentile," said Avery Greenberg, president of Temple Valley Beth Shalom.

Throughout the midday ceremony on the school's playground, speakers repeated the wish that the ambulance be used to treat anyone, regardless of their ethnicity or religion.

Rabbi Harold Schulweis said the ambulance would bring comfort to "Jews and Palestinians alike."

The rabbi praised the children's efforts in raising the needed $67,000.

"What you are doing is a godly thing," he told more than 300 students and family members. "It is for the sake of peace. It is for the sake of healing. And it is for the sake of the country.

"May we have peace in our time," Schulweis said.

The boisterous celebration began with younger pupils whirling in circles and dancing arm in arm to traditional Hebrew songs broadcast over loudspeakers.

Donna Bender and Scott Howard, the parents who approached the school's student council in the fall with the idea of raising money for an ambulance, presented the truck.

The ambulance was emblazoned with a red Star of David and a Hebrew message meaning, "Presented to the People of Israel With Love and Blessings."

It will be transported to Israel in the next few weeks, organizers said.

David Alpert, 12, the school's student body president, said he and his fellow students were well aware of the violent events that have unfolded in the Middle East.

He said that buying the ambulance was the students' way of helping out, if only "in a small way."

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