WEST ORANGE, NJ — Members of the Livingston Robotics Team Firestorm, who traveled to Israel over the summer to form an international FIRST robotics team with Israeli students, recently welcomed the mayor of Arad, Israel to their homeland during a special reception held at Temple B’nai Shalom in West Orange.

The reception was open to all middle and high school students, who listened to Mayor Nissan Ben Hamo speak about the Jewish National Fund and its goals for the city of Negev. At the invitation of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) Central New Jersey chapter, Livingston Mayor Al Anthony and Councilman Michael Vieira were also in attendance.

Livingston High School students Aden Vishnevsky, Ally Mintz, Shourya Bansal, Revant Maridi, Pierce Rubenstein, David Samolkin and Aryan Bansal—along with coaches Jeanne Ziobro and James Novotny—are working with students from the Arad, Israel Phoenix Team to plan an alliance to build an international robot for the 2019-2020 FIRST Robotics FTC season. Click HERE for the full story.

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The members of Firestorm will reunite with their Israeli teammates when they visit Livingston in December to assemble the international robot and then compete at a FIRST Robotics FTC tournament.

In addition to collaborating on a robot, the goal of the partnership is to foster a “Living Bridge” between the team members and communities so that the students develop an understanding of different cultures as well as skills to be able to interact in a positive and productive manner.

Novotny, now retired from Livingston Public Schools, noted that this will be the first truly internationally robotics team to compete in the FIRST Robotics FTC competition.

Chairing the event were Rabbi Robert Tobin, Phyllis Bernstein, Randi Brokman, Jeri Kimowitz and Michael Landau.

They explained that Mayor Hamo, born and raised in Arad, is a descendent of one of the Israeli city’s founders. He served in the Israel Defense Forces from 1992 to 1998 and now serves as a commander in the military reserve unit.

From 1999 to 2001, Hamo served as a security emissary in South America and earned his degree in law and business administration upon is return to Israel at the Herzilia Interdisciplinary Institute. He was elected mayor in June 2015, winning with 72 percent of the votes.

During the reception, the mayor explained how JNF is transforming the city of Arad as part of “Bluepring Negev,” which aims to bring 500,000 new residents to the Negev, revitalize the area and relieve the population around Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa.