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Creating kindness with Miracle Drive

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Set amidst motorbikes and artworks, the 32nd Chabad Miracle Drive celebrated creativity while cementing the organisation’s commitment to making the world a better place.

This year’s event at the World of Yamaha in Sandton on 2 June was a smaller, more informal affair than the Drive’s pre-COVID-19 gala dinners.

Opening the evening, Miracle Drive founder and Director Rabbi David Masinter paid tribute to Miracle Drive president, renowned businessman, and philanthropist, Meyer Kahn, who had passed away that day. “We started Miracle Drive 32 years ago together with none other than the legendary Meyer Kahn,” he said. “I spent a half an hour with him every week, up until this last Friday. Nothing was a fuss, he was larger than life, he transformed the world, and working with him was an absolute privilege.”

In the spirit of transforming the world, Masinter highlighted three Miracle Drive projects, including a new drive aimed at ensuring that parents spend more time with their children. “Tragically, statistics show that the average South African northern-suburbs parent is spending just a few minutes a week with their kids,” he said. He encouraged people to ask themselves how much time they really spend with their kids away from smartphones and other distractions.

He also discussed the “Grow Your Life” programme, which teaches children in the broader South African community entrepreneurship and reading skills. “We cannot live in a country where 20 million people are living in squalor and it’s got nothing to do with us,” he said. “This year, we’re going to get to 7 000 children in a very real way, and next year, we’ll get to 10 000.”

In addition to this, Chabad aims to uplift 10 000 children through its celebrated “Be Kind” initiative. “The way we bring mashiach is just simply through acts of goodness and kindness,” Masinter said. “We stand at a time where a country is using nuclear energy to invade another country. Let’s use the atomic energy within us to make the world a better place.”

Representatives from sponsors including Balwin Properties, Standard Bank, and Yamaha all expressed pride at making a difference through their association with Miracle Drive. Balwin Properties will be giving away Miracle Drive’s grand prize – a R1 million apartment – in November this year, and Yamaha will give away a piano valued at R125 000.

Mistress of ceremonies Elana Afrika-Bredenkamp, and Chabad ambassador for changing our world for good, also highlighted Miracle Drive’s “Art of Kindness” project, which empowers “ordinary people who with their hands create extraordinary things”. Artworks created through this programme were up for sale throughout the venue.

World-famous Israeli sand artist Ilana Yahav provided the evening’s entertainment. In a show that blended music, storytelling, and live sand art done on a glass table and projected onto a screen, she transported the audience along a journey through love, loss, and miracles.

Yahav told her own captivating story. “I was married when I was 20 and became pregnant immediately,” she said. But, the Yom Kippur War shattered her peace when her beloved husband, Itzik, left to fight.

“On the second day of the war, there was a knock on my door. I was always scared of that knock on the door in the middle of the night, but never could I have imagined the reality of sitting shiva, the desperation.”

Yet in a miraculous turn of events, Yahav realised that her husband may have survived the plane crash thought to have taken his life. A friend who had also lost her husband in the crash called one day to tell her that a relative in Australia had seen a news report of the war in Syria. “In the report, the relative saw a Phantom plane falling down and she wasn’t sure, but she thought she’d seen two parachutes. A wave of hope rushed over me.

“Months passed, and we wavered between hope and desperation. One day, I went to buy a newspaper, and I saw Itzik on the front page of a French magazine! He was dressed in Syrian uniform, and he had a strange look in his eyes. Two days later, I gave birth to my son, and I called him “Dror”, which means freedom in Hebrew.”

Captured in Syria, interrogated, and kept in a tiny dark cell for months, Itzik finally had hope when his captors brought him outside. Here, international journalists took the pictures that ultimately found their way to his wife. “After eight months, Itzik came back, and he met his baby son, Dror. And over the years, we had three more children – we had a wonderful life.” Dror later became a pilot in the same squadron as his father. “I’m in the same place, my foot stuck to the ground, my eyes to the skies above, and in my heart, the same prayer echoes,” said Yahav.

“If you come to Israel, in the street, you can hear the whisper from each and every heart,” said Yahav. “Try to imagine how the world could be – no war, no hatred, a world filled with tolerance, compassion, and love.”

It’s this dream that inspires the Miracle Drive to continue on the path of creating a better world.

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