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Thank You, Ben Guttman

By Lauren Mescon on April 5, 2011


Nofei Prat is a beautiful neighborhood situated outside of Jerusalem, in what we would consider a suburb.

It is a neighborhood of about 700 with 70% children sitting on a hill between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. It is the place where Jeremiah walked 2700 years ago. It is a place Jews have long called home.  To the west is the Judean desert, 20 kilometers away the Dead Sea and 5 kilometers away you can see Jerusalem. It is a place located in an area in the West Bank that its residents believe will remain a part of Israel.

This is a unique community that was started by a group of students from Hebrew University that wanted to create a secular and religious community.  They religious and secular share activities together; the children attend school together.  The Bedouins and farmers coexist with no problems between them. 

No wonder this was the place that Ben and Susan Gutman decided it would be the perfect place to build a playground.

Ben was visiting some cousins in Israel shortly before his 55th birthday. They had a memory album that contained pictures of his family and he was struck by a caption of those that “disappeared in Auschwitz”.  From that moment he decided he wanted to go to Auschwitz to see where his grandparents Benno and Hedwig had been murdered.  When he walked on the same walkway that they had travelled to their deaths, he realized he had to do something for them…they did not even have a tombstone to commemorate their passing.

Enter Talia Tzour, JNF professional who consulted with Ben and together they concluded that a living memorial would be wonderful.  After reviewing several projects the decision was apparently sealed when two years ago the Gutmans visited Nofei Prat and the 3 year olds greeted Susan with flags and beautiful faces.  As Ben said, they had her at "Shalom!"  The mother that told them her son was the third from the right (in the singing group) and needed a park was just the icing on the cake.

When Ben and his family returned to Nofei Prat for the dedication of the park, his granddaughter, who had been cranky all day, bounded out of the bus and immediately began to play on the beautiful brightly colored playground.

Ben came to Nofei Prat today to say thank you to his grandparents and to say thank you to the children of Nofei Prat as he remarked that those children who sang to him 2 years ago will be in the army in 14 years defending this state’s right to exist.

While Ben watched his granddaughter play on that new playground, he was struck by the realization that there was now a connection between his granddaughter and his grandparents 5 generations apart. The Gutmans had been thrown out of Germany, but they now have found a home, a legacy, a future in Israel.

Thank you Ben and Susan, for such vision and generosity.  Thank you Nofei Prat for your dedication to the land of Israel and Jewish people everywhere. Thank you Ben for sharing today with your Makor family.

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