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Documentary will show the post-Holocaust miracle in Israel as an inspiration to the Indigenous people of Canada

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Don Barnard (left) and Prof. Solly Dreman with wife Orly flank Eliezer Shkedi (second from left), former commander of the Israeli Air Force | Photo supplied

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I am a native Winnipegger who made Aliyah in 1964 and has lived in Israel ever since – although I did spend time in the United States when I was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of California Medical School in San Francisco in 1977-78. I am now retired from my post as a full professor of psychology at Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva and live in Jerusalem with my wife, Orly.

Since retirement I have been actively engaged in extensive volunteer work with the elderly, with ultra-Orthodox youth who have become secular, serving on a mental health hot-line (Eran) and also helping youth with severe learning disorders.  I have also been actively involved with Ezer Mizion, the largest non-profit organization in Israel who are actively engaged in diverse area of social welfare such as dealing with victims of the Corona Pandemic, the elderly, victims of cancer and the mentally challenged. 

In September, 2016 in Winnipeg, I gave a lecture on “Immigrants, Refugees and Terrorism” sponsored by the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba and other organizations. At that time Orly and I also hosted 60 friends and family members at a reunion luncheon. Don Barnard, a professional photographer who is an indigenous native was recommended by Yolanda Papini-Pollock, a filmmaker who is executive director of the grassroots organization “Winnipeg Friends of Israel”. As co-sponsors of my lecture, they would film the lecture and the reunion.

Though Don is multi-talented, being a videographer, filmmaker and actor, he has not had an easy time of it during his 50 years. He is on the autism spectrum which has caused him considerable hardship. Also contributing to his plight is the fact that he was born into a Metis family, his father being a residential school survivor and has experienced considerable discrimination over his lifetime. Coming from a disadvantaged background, at the age of 12 Don was placed in foster care where he was exposed to considerable physical and psychological abuse.  On top of this, he was held back in his schooling even though he had an IQ at the genius level of 157 – which was only recognized in his later youth when he was subsequently advanced several grades.

With difficulty finding steady employment he was living in a Manitoba Housing Unit in Fannystelle, a 45-minute drive southwest of Winnipeg and he did not have a car, which made transportation for professional and personal purposes very difficult.  For example, while he was relying on a charitable food bank located in the city for subsistence purposes, he had to hitchhike to the city in order to save money to purchase a camera.

Don is a staunch supporter of Israel. “I used to go online and post in favour of Israel,” he notes. “I came to my own conclusions about that country” – ones that, he is quick to admit, are often at odds with the prevailing views in the aboriginal community. Don says that he views the Jewish people in Israel as an indigenous displaced people – much as he perceives himself as a displaced First Nation survivor.  As you will see a recent trip to Israel had a profound effect upon his views of that country.

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I was deeply moved when I heard Don’s story and my heart went out to him.   One of the keys to what transpired after that September meeting, is that Don was and has remained a staunch supporter of Israel. On a personal note, I have always had a profound interest in people. In fact, my Master’s and Doctoral theses were on the subject of “Altruism” – which perhaps reflects my own penchant for giving and living.

I told Don that I planned to invite him to come to Israel, all expenses paid. In February, 2018, Don arrived. “The prospect of seeing that part of the world was a pipe dream for me’” Don remarked. “I was disadvantaged – and needed someone to give me some hope.”

And so it came to be with Don flying to Israel in February, 2018. Orly and I hosted him in our Jerusalem home for one week and along with Orly’s son Oren Cytto  (my stepson, a licensed tour guide),  we travelled extensively  in Israel, and visited both its holy and secular sites. Don made a documentary movie about his trip which he shared with my friends in a reunion held in 2018, when I was again invited to lecture in Winnipeg by the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba and other organizations.

Don was enthralled by Israel and summed up his first visit with the following observation: “It is a country with a number of distinct societies pushed together … I can’t think of another place in the world where in such a short distance   you’re walking from one world into another.”

Orly and Solly Dreman, photographed in Israel in February 2020 with Yehuda Meshi Zahav and Don Barnard | Photo supplied

There was one more gesture toward the tail end of the trip that really floored Don, when I bought him a professional-level video camera. I also contacted Larry Vickar and other prominent members of the Winnipeg Jewish community, to try and obtain some more help for him.  Larry arranged for Don to get a car on very reasonable terms, which included the provision of photographic services to Larry’s car dealership enterprise.

Ultimately my only expectation from Don was that he would spread the message about Israel as he had already been doing for years prior to his first trip.  

“I’d like to counter the message that aboriginal youth are getting in the prisons and the mixed martial arts clubs” where, Don says, they typically hear a completely slanted pro-Palestinian point of view. “If the opportunity ever came for me to speak   with aboriginal youth or to the community at large I would gladly share my message with them about Israel. “

Recently Don received a grant from the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba to make a documentary movie about Israel and his special relationship with my wife Orly, Oren, and myself. Yolanda Papini-Pollock, the aforementioned filmmaker, is collaborating in the production of the film. One of the major themes is about how Jews, an indigenous first nation people in the land of Israel, have survived the Holocaust and transformed Israel into a gem of nations, excelling in such diverse areas as academia, agriculture, medicine, high-tech, the military and many other fields of endeavour.

Dan Brom, Ph.D., a renowned clinical psychologist in Israel refers to this phenomenon as “post-traumatic growth”. The film will compare the survival from the Holocaust of the Jewish people to the cultural genocide which has occurred in the aboriginal First Nation people in Canada who have been oppressed for decades and still have not managed to recover from the trauma precipitated by their treatment by the Canadian government and society at large.  

Orly and I arranged for Don and Yolanda to interview a number of Israeli dignitaries including prominent people in the military, mental health, immigration, an organization dealing with non-natural disasters such as terrorism as well as with Holocaust survivors. This documentary will be screened locally and internationally in early 2021.

Solly Dreman is Professor Emeritus in Ben Gurion University of the Negev’s Department of Psychology. He was a Fulbright Scholar at the Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco in 1977-78.

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We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

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Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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