Ra’anana is known locally as ‘Little America’ because so many settlers came from New York. By the 1947 War for Independence, it was a village of 3,000 residents. In the 1980’s, Ra’anana was declared a city and occupies six square miles.
Ra’anana’s industrial zone in the north of the city is home to the Renamin Mall and many hi-tech companies that include Emblaze, Hewlett-Packard, NICE Systems, SAP, On Target Communications and Texas Instruments.
Microsoft’s head office in Israel and Amdocs are located in an office complex at the eastern edge of the city, close to the Ra’anana junction. Ahuza Street, Ra’anana’s main boulevard, runs through the city from east to west and is lined with shops, restaurants, and a cultural center.
Ra’anana is renowned for its excellent school system – there are twelve elementary schools, ten middle schools, and eight high schools. The world class K – 12 Music Conservatory nurtures young prodigies; Aviv High School has one of the world’s best robotics education programs. Ra’anana is also home to the Open University and Ra’anana College.
Ra’anana Park is the largest and most beautiful in the Sharon District – it offers walking and bike trails, sports fields, a zoo and petting center, and a lake which is surrounded by a botanical and other special gardens. The Founder’s Museum presents the story of Ra’anana’s original settlers in dioramas that capture the city’s frontier spirit.
Ra’anana is home to Lowenstein Hospital, a national rehabilitation center. The main soccer club of the city is Hapoel Ra’anana – Briel Hasharon is the best basketball team and plays in the Metro West High School. With a large America expatriate population, the Ra’anana Express competes in the fast developing Israeli Baseball League.
Ra’anana is also home to Beit Issie Shapiro, an institute dedicated to providing innovative therapies and education to people with special needs that is a model for the world. The Atlanta – Ra’anana Sister City proposed that a Friends of Beit Issie and Atlanta’s Marcus Center for Autism (Children’s Healthcare Network) Committee be established and sponsor the sharing of best practices, information, and technologies.
The Atlanta – Ra’anana link
The Atlanta – Ra’anana Committee formed out of student exchange between North Atlanta High School and Ostrovsky High School Nov. 22 – Dec. 1, 1998. At that time, Dr. Arnold Heller applied to the Atlanta Sister Cities Commission for Ra’anana to become the seventeenth sister city partnership.
Nov. 22 – Dec. 1, 1998 North Atlanta – Ostrovsky student exchange pictured with Israeli Arab business students in Nazareth.
The first twinning mission took place from May 11 – 17, 2001 – Councilwoman Cleta Winslow represented Mayor Bill Campbell and was accompanied by Ass’t. Marketing Director Sheila Jack and Dr. Arnold Heller, ARSCC Chair.
The second took place on July 27, 2001, when the proclamation was signed as a highlight of the 2001 Sister Cities International Convention in Atlanta. Mayor Zeev Bielski and former Mayor Bill Campbell are featured signing the proclamation.
The Atlanta – Ra’anana link will celebrate its fifteenth anniversary on July 27, 2016.
Atlanta – Ra’anana activities
Themes and objectives:
The main focus of the Atlanta – Ra’anana Sister City Committee – ARSCC – has been to nurture friendship and economic development between the peoples of the two cities, and facilitate social, cultural, educational and athletic exchanges.
In the area of economic development, the ARSCC works closely with Conexx (Atlanta – Israel Chamber of Commerce Southeast Division) and Director Guy Tessler; Israel Consul General Mrs. Judith Shorer, the Atlanta Mayor’s Office, and the Georgia Department of Trade to strenghthen economic life in both cities and regions. There are currently six Ra’anana-based companies – Amdocs is the largest – that have made an investment impact in Atlanta that is estimated at more than $200,000,000.
The 2014 re-election of Zeev Bielski re-invigorated the partnership and led to 2015 being a year of triumph and resurgence.
The highlight of 2015 was ARSCC collaboration in Conexx’ March 21 – 27 Georgia Cyber Tech Mission to Israel led by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (see above group picture). The mission included representatives from the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, leading Atlanta corporations, the Mayor’s Office of International Affairs. The cyber-security theme brought together Israeli hi-tech executives with Georgia’s technology leaders to foster joint ventures. For more details, accesswww.arnoldheller.org/Rededication & Renewal – The Two Mayors Meet.
On March 24, 2015, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was hosted by Ra’anana Mayor Zeev Bielski, the highlight of fifteen years of program building. As part of the meeting held in Ra’anana’s Beit Yad LaBanim, Mayor Reed visited the Commemoration Room and laid a wreath in memory of the fallen IDF soldiers; the mayors discussed strengthening the sister city relationship in a conference that included Deputy Mayor Eitan Ginzburg, CEO Michael Hirsch Negri, CFO Amir Bartov and Spokesman Yaoz Sever.
Mayor Reed was accompanied by Mrs. Judith Shorer, Israel Consul-General in Atlanta; Anna Torres, Director of Communications; Claire Angelle, Director of International Affairs; Samir Saini, Atlanta Chief Information Officer, Craig Richard, CEO Invest Atlanta and Dr. Arnold Heller, ARSCC Chair.
Mayor Bielski thanked Mayor Reed for his visit and presented him with a plaque of appreciation in the name of the city’s residents. In attendance at the meeting were Ra’anana residents born in Atlanta and people with relatives living in Atlanta who were excited to meet Mayor Reed and were warmly received by him.
In the April 15, 2015 issue of the Atlanta Jewish Times, journalist Joe Sterling documented Mayor Reed’s mission to Ra’anana and the goodwill that was generated. The ARSCC recognizes Conexx, Director Guy Tessler, and Israel counterpart Bracha Schlomo for their great support for the Mayoral visit to Ra’anana and inclusion of Dr. Heller in the Cybertech gala for Mayor Reed and welcoming party in Old Jaffa.
Ra’anana is first city in Israel to plant a Holocaust Memorial Daffodil Garden.
The Daffodil Project is a global effort to plant 1.5 million daffodils worldwide in memory of the 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust. ARSCC member Rena Kahn serves on the Am Yisrael Chai Atlanta Committee, the group that created the project and is pictured planting daffodil bulbs with Mayor Bielski. Michael Hirsh Negri, Vice President of Administrative Faculty of Bartov Elementary School and his sixth grade students planted the 80 bulbs in the Ra’anana Botanical Garden.
280,000 daffodils to date have been planted; Atlanta was the first city with 30,000 bulbs. Music students from the Ra’anana Music Conservatory performed traditional songs to mark the 10th of Tevet – the International Day of General Kaddish commemorating the victims of the Holocaust. 200 flowers were also presented at the Warsaw Ghetto Fighters Museum and the Alexander Muss High School in Israel.
AM Yisrael Chai Sandy Springs.
On Jan. 25, 2015, Rena Kahn and AM Yisrael Chai remembered the Holocaust by presenting Dr. Benjamic Ferencz, the only living prosecutor from the Nuremberg War Tribunal. At age 95, Dr. Ferencz is still an electrifying presence with an extraordinary memory that powerfully transmits a message of peace through law.
On October 20, 2015, Dr. Heller met with Rabbi Ed Harwitz, Headmaster, Weber School, and teacher of Hebrew, Alon Fein, who is from Ra’anana and working at Weber this year. Various forms of collaboration between Weber, a Jewish high school in Sandy Springs, and Ostrovsky, Aviv and Metro West High Schools in Ra’anana were discussed – some have been employed. The ARSCC looks forward to assisting Weber in developing school to school joint projects that provide our youth with wonderful learning opportunities such as a basketball or baseball exchange.
Rabbi Ed Harwitz, Weber School Headmaster
“We stand with Ra’anana and Israel.”
On Oct. 13, two terrorists carried out two stabbings and one car ramming attack that injured three people in Ra’anana. Nearby civilians subdued the terrorists, the first attack since the city was established. The ARSCC, on Oct. 14, emailed Mayor Bielski and the Municipality of Ra’anana that the people of Atlanta stood with them during this tragic moment.
On Oct. 22, Mayor Bielski, on behalf of the people of Ra’anana, thanked the ARSCC and the people of Atlanta for their support. “The courage and resilience exhibited by a few good residents of Ra’anana on that day, helped avoid a much bigger disaster. Your friendship is deeply moving and a great source of pride for me. With sincere gratitude and appreciation; Zeev Bielski.”
Atlanta and Ra’anana – moving forward together.
The triumphs of 2015 produced a resurgence that envisions for the future a number of amibitious projects that reflect both short and long term goals.
1. Establish a Friends of Beit Issie Shapiro and Marcus Center for Autism Committee to promote the sharing of best practices, information, technologies, applications for special therapies and education. An annual gala would raise money to sponsor joint programs and projects to advance education and therapy for special people. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta manages the Marcus Center and supports a Beit Issie – Marcus Center partnership.
2. Sponsor a collaboration between the Atlanta Youth Symphony Orchestra with Ra’anana’s Music Conservatory Youth Orchestra. The ARSCC’s supports Director Limor Akta and Ass’t. Director Guy Porat’s wish for the two youth orchestras to play and learn together; we hope Robert Spano, Atlanta Symphony Director, will join with us in this endeavor. Phase 1 of the Music Center’s master plan (see below rendering) is complete; phase 2 will include a coffee shop for the school’s talented performers to exhibit their talents and earn money for their programs.
3. Joe Barry Carroll Artists in Residence Program is collaborating with the Atlanta Sister Cities Committee to sponsor artists from their respective cities. The former basketball star will open his home to visiting artists from participating sister cities to produce great art. Sessions may range from 14 – 30 days. Sean Atkins, Atlanta – Nuremberg Committee Chair worked with Mr. Barry to create this vision. The ARSCC looks forward to sponsoring interested artists to take advantage of this creative opportunity.
Mrs. Myrna Cohen, ARSCC Vice Chair, who annually provides a great Israeli spread adorned with related artifacts that heightens the festive ambience of ASCC holiday parties.