By Donald H. Harrison
If you were a Zoo and you had an anniversary wish list, what would be on it?
Supporters of the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem found out during a Thursday, Sept. 7, luncheon at the San Diego Zoo. The two zoological gardens have a cooperative relationship.
Ranging from $15,000 to $1 million, the Jerusalem Zoo seeks financing for 17 projects. These include “enrichment facilities” for monkeys; a new aquarium tank; a viewing platform for an aviary; the dredging of a lake named for the late Ellen Barnett of Rancho Bernardo; training programs for its animal-assisted therapy programs; classrooms at the animal house; and infrastructure for its Australian Yard, Bible Land Wildlife Reserve, African Yard, Wet Side Story exhibit, and other portions of the Zoo.
Other projects include trains for tourists, including those with disabilities; a veterinary ambulance to whisk injured or sick animals to the zoo hospital; and construction of a Red Sea Living Coral Reef.
The luncheon featured short talks by alumni of the two zoos’ program bringing high school students who work at the Jerusalem Zoo to San Diego to learn about operations at the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park and to visit other area attractions as well. They are accompanied throughout their visit by San Diegans of the same ages.
“One of the most beautiful aspects of this program was the cultural exchange it fostered,” my grandson, Shor Masori, recalled to the luncheon group in the Zoo’s Treetop Room. “It provided us with a unique opportunity to interact with Israelis and Palestinians outside the confines and walls that are so often put between these two communities,” he says.
He says he brought the lessons with him to UC Berkeley, from which he just graduated with a degree in psychology. “It’s clear to me now that true understanding could only be achieved through open dialogue, empathy, and cooperation,” he says. “This mindset shaped my interactions on campus, as I strove to bring the same spirit of unity and cultural exchange to others.”
Mauricio Schwartzman, a vice president of asset management at Goldman Sachs, and Nik Bandak, CEO of Bandak Property Management, both participated in the program approximately 20 years ago. Schwartzman recalled the friendships he formed. Bandak commented, “Now I have three young boys – twin 5-year-olds and an 18-month-old, and I think the things that I have learned in the program are things that I am trying to teach them.”
The luncheon program was emceed by Retired U.S. Magistrate Victor Bianchini, underwritten by Leonard Hirsch, and coordinated by Helena Galper, the San Diego consultant to the Jerusalem Zoo, which also is known as the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem. Among attendees was former U.S. Rep. Susan Davis (D-San Diego), a longtime supporter of the cooperative program between the two Zoos.
Information for potential donors is available via the Jerusalem Zoo website at https://www.israeltoremet.org/amuta/511849937
Donald H. Harrison is editor emeritus of San Diego Jewish World. He may be contacted at email@example.com.