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Only in Israel: WeWork and the Hebrew Hammer
How a WeWork event in Tel Aviv led to an "only in Israel" encounter.
On Monday, May 2nd, I ventured into my office at WeWork in the south of Tel Aviv. What I thought would be just another day at the office, as they say.
When I walked into the massive lobby, I saw four long tables connected into a single row, on top of them a lavish spread of hummus, falafel balls, pitas, and Israeli salads, with Israel’s Independence Day decorations to boot.
WeWork members were making their way into the lobby of the five-story building, standing around and anxiously awaiting a complimentary lunch that, on occasion, is customary at WeWork.
One of these members, a burly man — likely in his late 20s or early 30s, standing around 183 centimeters tall, with a scruffy beard — was holding a large inflatable hammer designed with the Israeli flag.
“The Hebrew Hammer!” I said out-loud from about seven feet away, chuckling, as I walked over to him, a complete stranger to me. “Yeah, that’s right!” he replied.
“You know, it’s funny,” I continued, “because I’m actually making a video right now called What would a Jewish Disneyland look like? — and I’m putting the Hebrew Hammer in it as one of the mascots who would be roaming around the park.”
We then talked about the once-upon-a-time actual plans to build an “Israeli Disneyland” in Dimona (a city in the south of Israel) — plans of which I later discovered only after coming up with the concept for this aforementioned video. Turns out, Mr. Hebrew Hammer’s friend works for the Israeli government and told him that the “Israeli Disneyland” never got off the ground due to funding issues.
But here’s where the story gets interesting: Mr. Hebrew Hammer (his name is actually Roy, which he later told me) asked what I’m doing working from WeWork (a common question among WeWork members who don’t know each other). So I told him that I’m being an app that connects people around the world to Judaism.
“No way!” he said. “Do you know Reut?”
“You mean, the Reut Institute?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he clarified.
Long story short, Roy is the director of Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) in Israel, as well as the head of R&D for TOM Global. Apparently their office is at the same WeWork as mine, fittingly in the Impact Labs section of the building.
If you haven’t heard of TOM, I think it’s one of the coolest initiatives in the Jewish world today — a global movement of communities that creates and disseminates affordable solutions to neglected challenges of people living with disabilities, the elderly, and the poor.
Roy started at TOM as a volunteer some four years ago, while he was studying Plastic and Polymers Engineering at Shenkar College in Israel. As a student, he founded the TOM community at Shenkar to act as a bridge between the campus’ innovative environment and its surrounding community’s social needs.
During his time at TOM, he led a group of engineers and surf instructors to develop the first surfboard for people with disabilities, and later co-founded Wave Ability, a nonprofit organization that offers access to beaches and surfing experiences for people with disabilities.
Roy invited me to come check out their offices, and he showed me one of his favorite projects: a toy designer who worked with a disabled high school student to design a prosthetic that would help her play the violin.
Check out this video to learn more about TOM’s amazing violin prosthesis project:
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