Bridging a Deepening Chasm in the Middle East

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“The only thing that people can’t take away from you is your knowledge.”

That is the lesson Dr. Judith Richter heard from her father and mother throughout her life. Even when people treat you like animals or try to break your spirit, just remember: you have your knowledge, and no one can take that away from you.

Judith’s parents, Kvi and Rachel Spiegel, knew this better than most. They were survivors of the Holocaust.

In 1944, Judith’s Czech father, Kvi, was transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau at the age of 29. As a twin himself, Kvi was put in charge of twin boys being experimented upon by Dr. Josef Mengele.

He risked his own life by speaking up to the fearsome Mengele, in hopes to save the lives of the boys he cared for. Kvi even taught the boys subjects such as writing, reading, geography, and mathematics – anything he could remember from school and that did not require books.

After Auschwitz was liberated by the Soviet Army in January 1945, Kvi led a caravan of 36 freed twin boys across Eastern Europe to ensure they returned home safely.

Just as there are “Schindler’s Jews” who survived because of the help of Nazi-profiteer-turned -rescuer Oskar Schindler, Life Magazine in the 1980’s told the saga of the “Spiegel Boys” – those rescued by Kvi Spiegel. It is through that article Spiegel’s young daughter Judith learned of his heroism.

Judith, in turn, came to understand the power of knowledge, and always sought to increase her own and help others expand theirs.

In 1993, Judith, along with her husband, Dr. Kobi Richter, founded Medinol Ltd., a medical manufacturing company. The company has since expanded to obtain hundreds of patents, and boasts the manufacturing and patent rights of the NIR catheterization stent.

Symbolically and literally, Judith Richter has spent much of her life working to heal the human heart.

Not long after the founding of Medinol, the NIR School of the Heart was also founded, which brings together students from Israel, Jordan, and Palestine. Richter believes in sharing her knowledge and believed she could “do this best within her field”: healing the heart.

The mission of the NIR School is to enrich “the academic cultural, social, and personal development of promising teenagers throughout the Middle East,” according to its website.

Richter explained to us she wants the teens to keep their values and life views, but also strives to teach the students to respect each other, to “listen to others and [speak] from their own heart.”

While the countries from which the students hail are often at conflict, Dr. Richter boasted the continuity of the program, saying the NIR School “never skipped one year” of classes, even when the conflict between the countries was at its hottest.

Judith said the NIR School was a good opportunity for young Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians to learn to “understand each other and find out similarities” between them.

Noa Gur Arie, an Israeli graduate from the NIR School, said, while relations between the Middle Eastern countries show a “great deal of separation and segregation,” her experience at the NIR School allowed the opportunity for the students to “create closeness based on mutual and independent interests.”

Arie is now a physician of family medicine, and said she was drawn to the NIR School for its focuses on science and learning with teens of different nationalities.

Although the countries are often in conflict, Dr. Richter stressed to Newsmax the purpose of the NIR School is not to try to “solve conflict” between the countries, but rather to help the students “cope with conflict.”

Tarek Rabi, a Palestinian graduate, said his experience showed him there is “always a real live person on the other side” that is willing to talk, explain, and befriend. After graduating from the NIR School, Tarek has become a dentist. He has been a lecturer at Al-Quds University since 2011 and has published over 20 articles in international dentist journals.

The NIR School, which Richter revealed she completely funds herself, accepts students from all socio-economic levels. Richter says she looks for teens who are curious and willing to learn from others of differing backgrounds and beliefs, and provides scholarships for all students who enter the program.

The NIR School has become “an island of hope,” Richter told Newsmax, and she wishes graduates of the School will “create new things to [help] improve lives.”

Clare Hillen is a sophomore at George Washington University, and a summer intern at the Washington, D.C. bureau of Newsmax.

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