Davis Guggenheim wasn't raised Jewish, and he has long had trouble understanding what Israel means to him. But when he traveled there last month with a delegation of fellow entertainment decision makers, the director-producer realized instantly the centrality of Israel not just to his own life but to all humanity.
The scope and effect of projects in Israel funded by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles have always been broad. But the Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership, with its specialization in hands-on, people-to-people programming seeks to transcend mere philanthropy in order to change the attitudes of Jews in both cities and create a mutual stake in each other's Jewish life.
Ami Ankilewitz, 34, weighs 39 pounds. He is lying on the front seat of car, because he cannot sit without support, and he occupies about half of the space that the seat creates. He is wearing leather pants, and sports a tattoo on his arm of the astrological sign Leo, and another that says, "When love flies, the heart dies."
For the eight Israeli and nine American teens in the Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership program, Project Hevrei Teva, the scene was right out of the movie "Deliverance," only this scene, a campground in Sequoia National Park, was real life, and a real bear was standing before them.
None of the Israelis had ever seen one before. Project leader Josh Lake, head of the Shalom Nature Institute, which helped develop the month-long program, calmly directed the teens to stand together and start waving their arms high in the air. Suddenly, the absent-minded bear stopped slobbering over the teens' backpacks and looked around; something had spooked him. The next thing they knew, the bear was hightailing it for the woods.