Tag Archive | Israel

Stuck on Israel

detroitsolidarity

Last night, I volunteered at Detroit’s evening of Solidarity with Israel. After attendees passed through a strict security screening process, I gave them each a sticker bearing the logo shown above. Fellow volunteers gave out over 2,700 stickers to Israel supporters.

While the world looks bleak now for all world Jewry, and while radical Islamists spread their fiery hatred for Jews just like the Hitler Youth did in the 1930’s, it soothed my soul to see so many: Jewish, non-Jewish, black and white, coming together for a few hours to support the United State’s biggest ally in the Middle East in her war on terrorism.

By the way, my daughter is still on her trip in Israel. She just returned safely to Jerusalem after a sea-to-sea hike in the North.

 

Last weekend, she did spend some time in a bomb shelter. She heard the Iron Dome obliterate an incoming misile.  But then, after they got the clear, she and a family she was staying with went on with life.

Here is my most recent piece published in the Detroit Jewish News.

A few weeks ago, my parents, husband, son and I were riding down the Belt Parkway in New York to take our 17-year-old daughter to JFK. She was about to embark on Ramah’s six-week Israel Seminar, a trip she knew she wanted to do since she was about nine years old. The news that Hamas murdered the three teenaged boys was less than 24 hours old. Seated in the middle row with my mom, I curled my hand into hers. I just kept squeezing it.
The scene at the departure terminal, though chaotic, was almost healing. Hundreds of Jewish teens about to leave for Israel on one trip or another greeted each other with smiles and hugs.
Expressions on the faces of the parents revealed one thing: we all knew our relatively carefree Jewish American kids were headed to Israel in a time of national mourning. Who could predict that a war would unfold in just days after their arrival?
What have I been doing since she left?
It has been a surreal time. While the program posts photos of the kids having fun on hikes and gazing over the Haifa skyline, while my daughter calls me from Jerusalem telling me about the fantastic time she had working with the children at the Ramah Israel Day camp in Jerusalem, friends in Tel Aviv, Ra’anana and Be’er Sheva post on Facebook about dashing for stairwells or shelters when the sirens blare.
On my wrist, I wear a blue Stand With Us rubber bracelet showing my support for Israel. My watch is set to Jerusalem time so I know the best time to call my daughter. My cell phone has become an appendage to my body. I pray daily for her safety, for all of Israel and her Defense Forces.
I thank Ramah Seminar in Israel for their tireless efforts of keeping our kids safe and having as an enjoyable and educational experience as possible while constantly keeping parents in the loop of the changing security situation. After an extended stay in their northern base in the Hodayot Youth Village, the “seminarniks” finally traveled safely to their home base in Jerusalem on July 15. In fact, a parent conference call to update us on the matzav started just as the IDF launched their ground offensive into Gaza.
But life goes on. I have taken the cue from my Israeli friends who endure this daily threat to keep moving on through routine and simple distractions. If my Israeli psychologist friend, an olah from New York, can help spread calm by teaching Yoga to women in a bomb shelter in Sderot, I too will try to find Zen on my mat. I work in my garden and take walks.
Even as the bombs fall, and the inevitability that she may spend some time this summer in a bomb shelter is very real, I have no regrets that my daughter is in Israel. I will not deny the danger or my worry. I know that this time in Israel will be a transformative one for her that can only strengthen her understanding of what it means to be a Jew and never take our Jewish homeland for granted.
When midnight here rolls around, my mind is already seven hours ahead wondering what the dawning day on the other side of the planet will hold for Israel. If you too have a loved one in Israel and find yourself up in the middle of the night, I’m sleepless right there with you.

Just another rocket fire-free day in the Motor City

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Summertime is usually a carefree time.

Not this summer.

This summer, it has been hard for me to focus on anything that is not Israel. And usually I love thinking about Israel – all the great things it gives the world , memories of my four visits there, and now living vicariously through my daughter, who is spending her summer in Israel.

That’s where the carefree element of my summer has all but disappeared.

It started with the kidnapping and murder of the Israeli teen boys. It was followed up with the equally horrible murder of that baby-faced Arab boy.  Then the increase of rocket fire. And now, our soldier’s putting their lives in jeopardy to protect the lives of all living in Israel.

That includes my daughter. And people I met through a sister-city educator program. And my daughter. And friends who now live there. And my daughter.

The news has been all-consuming. Other news is barely registering with me. Was there some ruling on Hobby Lobby that I should be all fired up about, or sending unaccompanied children back over the border to Central America? What was that again? But, oh, another rocket has been fired into Israel. Another Palestinian child has been used as a human shield by Hamas. Oh, am I supposed to be packing my youngest up for camp?

Over Facebook, I see my Israeli friends posting about running to a bomb shelter, or a miklat,  a safe room,or when there are neither of these things, a bathroom or stairwell shelter.

Some darkly joke about what are the top 10 essential things you need in a bomb shelter. Topping that list includes flashlights, water, ice cream, wine, and chocolate. LOTS of wine and chocolate.

This week, I had to ask the surreal question to my daughter, who wished to visit her friend for Shabbat in Ra’anana.

“Can you please find out if your friend’s family has a bomb shelter?”

Can you imagine asking your American friend such a question before visiting?

Do you have cats, ’cause my kid has allergies.

What can I bring you for dinner? Wine? A salad?

Oh, and does your house have a bomb shelter?

In more peaceful days in Israel, I remember spending a summer working on a kibbutz up near the Golan Heights. I didn’t think twice about going into a bomb shelter, but they were pretty much used as “disco” shelters back in the 80’s. The shelter was a cool place to hang out at night after working. I never associated it as a place to take cover from an attack.

In more peaceful days in Israel, I gave my daughter about 50 shekels for the evening as she set to hang out at night in Tel Aviv with her friend, the one from Ra’anana. They roamed freely the streets of Tel Aviv, got pizza and gelato, and hung on the beach until 11 at night.

Fear free.

Care free.

This Shabbat, my daughter, my intrepid and strong daughter had her first taste of what it is like to sit in a bomb shelter.  She heard the boom of Israel’s Iron Dome shoot down a rocket aimed for where she is, a suburban town near Tel Aviv. In her nonchalant manner, she said it was like going to hang out in our basement.

Last weekend, I tried to snag some of my own carefree moments. My husband took me on a bike ride along West Bloomfield’s trail system.  I felt carefree and peaceful. But every now again, a dark thought crept into my mind. If a siren went off along the path, and we had 15 seconds to take cover, where would we go?

Last weekend, friends who, most likely sensing that I really needed a night out, invited us out to Detroit’s Concert of Colors. Among the many free acts who played at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall was the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars  group that came out of the horrors of war in their native country and helped heal with music.

Indeed, the infectious music was healing and joyful.  Everyone, in every shape, size, color, religion was dancing in joy to the music. I also let myself feel some joy and danced with my husband. The leader of the band was right. He was no doctor, but he said dancing a little bit every day gets rid of all the toxins in your body and makes you feel good. After every song, the leader of the band just wanted to know one thing from their audience: Are You Happy?

And I was.

But there was one guy at the show with a smug look on his face. He wore a beat up T-shirt that read “Free Palestine” in English and I guess Arabic. He didn’t look happy. But I refused to let him make me not feel happy that very moment. Even though, I felt like telling him, that cause he holds dear, well, some of the people who are so dedicated to that cause would have no druther about strapping a bomb to themselves underneath their clothing, walking into that concert hall where we were all dancing in joyous unison, and blowing us all to pieces.

 

A Mother’s Love. Too many Questions, no Answers.

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Summer in our house means that the kids in my family get a break from their usual surroundings and, though we will miss them, we the parents take a short break from parenting.

I know that sounds bad to some, that we need a break from parenting so we ship them off to camp. But a wise woman, a mother of five boys, once told me when my children were very young, that one day I will understand: summer is a good time for everyone in the family to have some time on their own in a different place.

Last Friday night, our family of five had our last Shabbat dinner together before we headed to the separate destinations of camp and Israel. And New York. And Italy.

I lit three more Shabbat candles than usual and said an extra prayer.

Eyal, Naftali, Gilad, where are you? Who is watching over you? Who is feeding you? Who is clothing you? Gd in Heaven please give them strength and keep them safe until they are rescued. Please. 

My husband and I held hands with our three children and sang the blessings. We blessed our children. I now have to rise up on my toes to kiss the top of my fifteen-year-old son’s forehead. He has to bend down to put his head on my shoulder when he hugs me. I can feel his shoulders getting broader. Looking down, I wonder how those feet which were once so tiny got to be the size of a mans, with no signs that they have stopped growing.

As much of a man he is turning out to be, I still dote on, and nudge my teen-aged son. A son who can’t seem to eat enough though he remains thin as a bean pole. A son who plays guitar, has formed a band, and has introduced me to a lot of cool music

The kids that night ate heartily. They enjoyed the last homemade challah they would have until the end of August.

We are not Shabbat observant. After dinner, Broadway show tunes played on the Sonos. My children sang and danced loudly together around the family room.

I tried to soak it all in and be joyful, but having the knowledge that across the sea, there were empty places at the Shabbat tables of three families in Israel, my joy was tinged.

We are going on the third Shabbat in which these families will not have their sons home. Kidnapped by terrorists on their way home from school, Gilad, Naftali and Eyal have not been heard or seen since in spite of a vigorous search and investigation from the Israel Defense Forces.

I don’t know what is sustaining these families.  Think about when you lose sight of your kid in a shopping mall or at a carnival. Those few moments are agony. For two weeks, every moment for these families has been agony. Every night their beds are empty must be agony.

I have so many questions.

Where are they being held?

Why is there NO coverage of the kidnapping of these boys in the US media, even though one of the boys has dual US-Israel citizenship?

Why has our President been so silent in this matter?

How could the United Nations be so cruel as to mock the pain of the three mothers, who went to Geneva to testify and plead on behalf of their sons, only to get a response from the UN that there is no evidence of an abduction, that perhaps these “settlers” went on holiday and didn’t tell their parents?

 

Where are they?

Where are they?

And, what can I do?

What else can I do?

I follow every bit of news coming out of Israel on my Facebook feed, sites like the Times of Israel and Israel365

I say special Psalms

Ribbons tied to my tree for the boys? Check.

Create a sign with the hashtag #BringBackOurBoys? Check.

There is one woman I know who is doing more to help the boys more than anyone else I know.

Remember the woman with the five boys? Almost a decade ago, she and her husband and five boys made aliyah. Now, she works as an educational psychologist and is on the ground in the very town from where the boys families live and is helping schoolchildren there cope with this crisis that has taken away their friends or their siblings. You can listen to her being interviewed on a local Israeli radio show.

Therein lies the difference between one side and the other.

We as Jews when it comes down to it, we really care for each other and will support each other because we are responsible for each other. All of Israel is responsible for each other. In the end, it is something we must stand by to know that it will be all right in the end because we care for each other, and we place the value of life of any living human in the highest regard.

It is sad to say that on the other side, that is clearly not the case.

Shabbat Shalom.

 

 

How to Stand Up to BDS at U of M tonight, even if You’re not a Wolverine.

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Let’s get something straight.

The anti-Israel  “Boycott Divest Sanctions” movement hitting campuses across the globe is nothing more than a new fangled incarnation of simple Jew hatred.

In advance of tonight’s Central Student Government hearing tonight to reconsider its decision to table a vote to approve a resolution asking the University of Michigan boycott and divest from academic and business dealings with Israel, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit sent out the following email:

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To Our Friends and Supporters:

As you may know, the Central Student Government (CSG) at U of M last week rejected an anti-Israel divestment resolution. However, due to pressure from an anti-Israel campus group, CSG will reconsider the resolution at its meeting tonight. We want to bring you up to date on developments surrounding this resolution and how you can best support efforts to convince the CSG to sustain its initial rejection of it.

Federation and JCRC work continuously to advance the interests of both Israel and the Jewish campus communities. Tilly Shames, the Executive Director of U of M Hillel, serves as our agencies’ eyes and ears on campus and has been keeping us well-informed on developments related to this proposed resolution. With her many years of experience fighting anti-Israel activities on campus, she knows what tactics work and don’t work with college students. Her most important advice is to ensure that it is students who remain most visible and vocal in the fight against the resolution. CSG is an organization of students serving the needs and wishes of students, and is not likely swayed by older adults, especially if they are not part of the campus community.

Rather than show up at tonight’s meeting with calls or demands that CSG again reject the anti-Israel resolution, the most effective way you can affect the vote is to contact the university administration asking that it issue a statement calling for its rejection and expressing concern on how the issue is polarizing the campus. You can do this by emailing U of M President Mary Sue Coleman at presoff@umich.edu or calling her office at (734) 764-6270. Your contact will be most effective if you convey your message respectfully.

Scott Kaufman spacer Robert Cohen
Scott Kaufman
Chief Executive Officer
Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit
Robert Cohen
Executive Director
Jewish Community Relations Council
of Metropolitan Detroit

Please know that the BDS activists have been threatening and intimidating Jewish students at the University of Michigan. BDS is nothing more than intellectually disguising age-old Jew hatred in the name of “human rights.”

if you are at a loss of words at what to write to President Coleman, I suggest you may want to take an excerpt from LA radio commentator  Ben Shapiro‘s statement at a similar hearing at UCLA, where they voted against the resolution 7-5.

Here is the full transcript of his statement:

My name is Ben Shapiro. I’m an alumnus of this university. I’m also a local talk show host on 870 [AM] in the morning, and I got out of bed and left my one month old baby there when I saw what was going on here tonight. I’ve never been more ashamed to be a Bruin. I’ve never been more ashamed to be an alumnus of this university than to see this divestment petition being considered at this level.

To pretend this is about occupation, to pretend this is about peace, to pretend that this anything other than vile, spiteful Jew hatred is a lie!

There is only one reason we are discussing Israel and not discussing Saudi Arabia. There is only one reason we are discussing Israel and not discussing Iran. There is only one reason we are discussing Israel and not discussing Palestine. There is only one reason we are discussing Israel and not discussing the vast bevy of human rights violations that happen every day in the Middle East, exponentially worse that what happens in Israel.

Any gay or lesbian that is targeting Israel in this room seems to have forgotten how high they hang gays from cranes in Iran. Every person of liberal bent who suggests that Israel is the problem in the Middle East seems to have forgotten that there is only one country in the Middle East that actually has any sort of religious diversity in it. The countries that are apartheid countries are those that are Judenrein – like, for example, Palestine.

So, for us to sit here and pretend that Israel is somehow on a lower moral plane is a direct manifestation of anti-Semitism. And to hold Jews to a different moral standard than any other country or group on the face of the earth represents nothing but an age-old and historic hatred for the Jewish people. All the folks here who are pretending that the B.D.S is about anything other than that, I would like to see a poll of those folks, and see how many of them actually believe in the existence of a Jewish state, qua-Jewish state, not as a state like any other, but as a Jewish state. They don’t. They don’t acknowledge that existence. They don’t believe in that existence. They don’t believe in peace. All this is about, pure and simple, is a desire to target the Jewish people.

Please do not be silent. Please write the UM president at presoff@umich.edu and stand for Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East which supports freedom of religion, gay rights, educational opportunities for women, and freeedom of expression,

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France Can Take A Lesson in Religious Tolerance from Detroit’s Interfaith Council

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On these snowy days I admit I have done way too much trolling on my Facebook news feed. One alarming video clip that came across my newsfeed was a very disturbing video of Fascists in France waving a red swastika flag, shouting Jews Out! Jews Out!

Do they have the right to march peacefully and express their views in a democratic society? Maybe. Have these French citizens forgotten the history of WWII when the Nazis themselves goose-stepped through the streets of Paris shouting the same hatred? Absolutely. 

Today’s Germany would not stand for such hate marches, free speech or not. In fact, it is illegal to fly the Nazi Flag anywhere in Germany or have a Nazi rally. 

I wonder, in this country which proposes to ban the wearing of any religious symbol or clothing, what they teach their children about religious tolerance. 

A few weeks back, I had the honor of attending and covering a “Face to Faith” Journey to Judaism sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Greater Detroit. Sitting in the massive sanctuary of Temple Israel of West Bloomfield with 150 seventh graders, I felt right at home. And you know something, so did the kids. Even if they never set foot in a Jewish house of worship. Even if they never had a Jewish friend. 

Cynics might wonder if such interfaith explorations organized by Detroit’s Interfaith Council really teach tolerance. But, after you watch the disturbing and disgusting video of Fascists marching down a street of what is supposed to be the world’s most civilized city shouting “Jews Out!” consider the alternatives.

Here is the article which ran in the Detroit Jewish News

What does a rabbi look like?  To the uninitiated, a rabbi wears a long black coat, grows a long beard, and therefore must always be a man.

Temple Israel rabbis, teachers, and other volunteers at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield helped to dispel this and many other misconceptions about Judaism as they guided a diverse group of 150 seventh graders from six school districts through a “Jewish Religious Diversity Journey.” The trip was part of a series of explorations into different religions created by the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit.

According to the council’s administrator Meredith Skowronski, Religious Diversity Journeys for the past 11 years has taken young leaders  – 25 handpicked students from each school district – on six trips to a different house of worship to foster understanding and a celebration of cultural differences.  Participating school districts include Berkeley, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Clarkston, West Bloomfield, and Walled Lake.

Gail Katz, a retired Berkeley teacher and the director of Religious Diversity Journeys, explained that the program fits in perfectly with the World Religions unit of the seventh Grade curriculum.

“The Journey only extends what they are learning beyond the textbook and the classroom,” said Katz as she mingled with the students during a morning icebreaker. “We strive to increase respect and understanding among all students.”

Rabbi Josh Bennett – who is clean-shaven and does not wear a long black coat –  kicked off the formal component of the day of learning in the temple’s large sanctuary. Students, impressed by the large golden ark on the bimah, learned about the three different branches of Judaism and the belief in one God, learning Torah and the connection to Israel, which unites Jews across every level of observance

Later in the morning, groups of students took turns touring the building and listening to Rabbi Ariana Gordon explain the cycle of Jewish holidays, the complexity of having a Hebrew calendar that is both lunar and solar, and the odd phenomena this year that was “Thanksgivingkah.”

The students also visited the building’s mikvah and viewed an open Torah Scroll with Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny.

“These trips are an invaluable lesson where kids get a hands-on learning experience and are made to feel welcome in different houses of worship,” said Kaluzny after teaching a group about how a Torah scroll is made and written.

Over a Mediterranean vegetarian lunch prepared by Mezza of West Bloomfield and sponsored by Temple Israel, students expressed their appreciation for the program, which allows them to explore other traditions and pose questions that would seem inappropriate or uncomfortable in a classroom setting.

Ben Johnston of West Hills Middle School came away from the program with a better understanding of the different branches of Judaism and the customs and holidays his Jewish friends celebrate.

“This program is important to me because we have a diverse society,” Johnston said. “We go to school with different kinds of kids, and as we get older, these are the people we’ll go to college and work with. We must have the knowledge of their backgrounds so we can be more tolerant and understanding.”

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Ben Johnston, a student at West Hills Middle school, learns about the role of a mikvah in Jewish life during a Religious Diversity Journey.

Ashley Liles and Maddy Merritt, both of Sashabaw Middle School in Clarkston, do not go to school with many Jewish kids.  The program allowed them to peer into a Siddur and not feel embarrassed to ask why it opens up backwards or why the letters look different than English.

templeisrael 008Maddy Merritt left, and Ashley Liles, right, seventh graders from Clarkston’s Sashabaw Middle school, examine Hebrew letters in the sanctuary at Temple Israel at during a Religious Diversity Journey.

The “journey” gave them a better perspective of the history and origins of the Jewish people.  Not only did it widen their understanding of Jewish holidays beyond Chanukkah, but the lesson with Rabbi Gordon also gave them a broader understanding of a holiday they would otherwise only know as a “Jewish Christmas.”

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Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny of Temple Israel, West Bloomfield, displays a Torah scroll to seventh graders on a Religious Diversity Journey with the help of parent volunteer Janet Cummins of Birmingham.

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Don’t Forget to Dance

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I hate ends.

I don’t like when books, or series of books, end.

Ask my kids about this.

Just last week,  after years of them prodding, teasing, begging and bribing me, and even going through lengths like borrowing books on CD from their school libraries.  I finally, finally finished the entire Harry Potter series.

I don’t even like to eat the ends of a loaf of bread.

Even when it comes to one of my favorite activities in the world – dancing – I prefer not stay for the last dance.  Call it a Cinderella syndrome, but I hate when the music ends.  I leave about 10 minutes each week before the session wraps up. As the music lingers in my head while I start up the car in the parking lot, I envision my folk dancing friends dancing on into the night, so the dance is never over.

But end it did, for me, at least in Rochester.

I have been taking Israeli Folk Dancing on Sunday nights at the Rochester Jewish Community Center for about 10 years now. When I first started I knew nothing about Israeli Folk Dancing outside of Hava Nagilah. Seriously.

But Israeli Folk Dancing is not your Bar Mitzvah Havah Nagilah. Blending music with Greek, Latin, Middle Eastern and the random Irish (yes IRISH)  influences, Israeli Folk Dancing has something for everyone. At every age.

And you don’t have to be Jewish to do it. There are Israeli Folk Dance sessions held the world over, including places like Tokyo and Beijing.

At first, Israeli Folk Dancing can be frustrating.  All these people whirling and jumping around you are having all this fun and really know what they are doing. And the beginner, well, the beginner fumbles. And watches.

Week after week I went.  I made sure I got there for the beginner hour. I watched feet. I danced on the outside of the circle not to get in the way of the experts. Then, with increased confidence that I would not crash or trip anyone (or myself) I moved in. I’m grateful for great guidance from the teacher to long timers who called out steps for me.

I have gone from stumbling through each dance, to learning the steps, to a point where I’ve actually become pretty good! Good enough to call the steps to newcomers who give it a try. Good enough to teach it to children in area Hebrew schools and camps.

Here are reasons why dance, any dance, but particularly Israeli Folk Dancing is good for you:

  • It’s a  great cardio workout. Dancing burns on an average of 375 calories per hour.
  • IFD is also great for your brain. Each dance is a sequence of choreographed steps. All this memorization improves brain function, especially for some of us who are, emmm, getting up there in age.  It takes about six lessons and going on a consistent basis to get the basic steps down. Before you know it, your feet are moving to each familiar dance without even giving it much thought, which comes to the next benefit….
  • Israeli Folk Dancing is a great social outlet. While your feet are moving, catch up in conversation with friends old and new.
  • If you are Jewish, or simply have a love for Israel, IFD connects your feet and ears to the Holy Land. During Israel’s peaceful times, dancing to the latest Israeli dance is a dance of celebration. In times of war or terror, the dance becomes one of solidarity.

And now, now that I am leaving town, the JCC of Greater Rochester offers Israeli Folk Dancing FREE to members, $6 per week for non members.

Last Sunday was my very last dance session, for now, with my dear friends from Israeli Folk Dance in Rochester.  It was a big part of my life and brought me happiness each Sunday night.

And last Sunday, I managed to make myself stay for the very last dance:

Do you dance regularly? What does it bring to your life? Leave a comment below, and don’ t ever stop dancing.

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Here is why I didn’t buy that sweet little bouquet of Daffodils at Trader Joe’s

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In my blog posts, I am trying to avoid having a bitter tinge in my writing.

I’ve heard advice to avoid politics in my blog, unless I want to have a political blog.

I want to write about happy things, like the anticipation of spring in this very cold corner of New York.

When you live in Western New York, winter can drag on until mid April.

When you live in Western New York, you hang on to your “sleeping bag” puffy black jacket until Mid-April.

“Spring” sports have begun in school.

Youngsters at this very moment are at an ultimate frisbee match.

Outside temperature right now is 28 degrees.

And it’s still snowing.

And when you are a Western New Yorker, a yearning for spring makes beautiful, sweet bouquet at Trader Joes – prices at $1.49 for 10 flowers – extremely hard to resist. 

So I picked two bunches and carefully placed them in my cart, as to not crush their happy yellow heads.

As I got on line, I happened to check the label of the flowers.

“These flowers were proudly grown for you in England.”

England. A product of England, eh?

Nope. I put them back.

Wanna know why?

Because my love for Israel is stronger than my desire for a floral impulse buy.

The UK, in the past decade, the anti-Israel atmosphere has only thickened and intensified.

In the UK, it is just fine and socially acceptable to call upon the boycott of Israeli products, Israeli-created technology, and even Israeli intelligence all under the guise that Zionism= racism. 

Zionism, by the way, is no way related nor does it ever condone discriminating one because of one’s race, religion or sexuality. Zion comes from the Hebrew word “excellence” which is what Theodore Herzl dreamed about – the creation of a homeland that would be for the Jewish people but would also serve as an example and a resource of excellence for the rest of the world.

At Oxford University, students are set to vote whether or not the university should boycott all products and companies that have ties to Israel.

In the UK, academics at top Universities call for a boycott of collaborating with universities in Israel. At one point, there was a petition to arrest any Israeli academic visiting England upon landing for war crimes. 

And finally, I thought about England’s Chief rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks address at last month’s AIPAC conference, which he referenced how anti-globalisation protests in England quickly devolve into anti-Jewish protests.  You can check out the video here:

All these thoughts swirled around my head as I admired the daffodils.

i didn’t start a protest to boycott Trader Joe’s, as many Arabs have done outside TJ’s around the country for daring to carry Israeli products.

No. I just had my own personal boycott.

No England. You can keep you daffodils. I’ll boycott you back. And I’ll wait for my own flowers to pop up in a few weeks, thank you very much.

Israel ministry of Tourism: Don’t cancel your travel plans to Israel this winter

Got plans to visit Israel this winter?

I am so jealous … I mean….you are so lucky! So happy for YOU! 

A year ago Chanukkah I was there, with the whole mishpucha (family). We toured, we ate falafel, we hiked, we sang and we cried.

We enjoyed every minute (okay, maybe not the flight…)

One of the worst byproducts of when Israel is embroiled in conflict with her neighbors is that tourism drops.

Israel’s Arab neighbors know this. Israel’s neighbors want this.  Don’t give them what they want.

I’ve been in Israel in 1982 during their invasion with Lebanon. In 1989 during the first intifada. I did not notice the conflict.

I know several families who are planning a trip to Israel this summer with their children. I can’t wait for when they return to hear all about it and how this trip transforms your life and perspective on the Jewish people like no other.

So Go! And take lots of pictures.

But don’t take my word for it. Here is the official statement from Israel’s ministry of tourism:

Dear Friends and colleagues,
I am writing to update you on the current situation and to thank you sincerely for standing with us during the recent challenging period.

During the last week, and despite the headlines, thousands of tourists continued to arrive in Israel undaunted. No airline flights were cancelled and while certain tour itineraries were necessarily adjusted to meet the exigencies of the situation, there was neither panic nor overt concern. Altogether, some 100,000 tourists continued traveling in our country and we in Israel were honored by their presence.

Moreover, we were deeply moved by how the travel industry worldwide displayed admirable confidence in Israel tourism. You trusted our country’s ability to keep our travel industry operating, safe and intact. And, most importantly, you showed faith in our determination to ensure the security, safety and well-being of our visitors. We sincerely appreciate this trust.

As we move ahead, please be assured of the commitment of the Israel Ministry of Tourism and the Israel travel industry to maintain the momentum that, with your dedication, has made 2012 the best year ever for tourism to Israel.

Shalom,
Stas Misezhnikov
sarm@tourism.gov.il

When you’ve got Friends in Holy Places


The year mark of my most recent visit to Israel quickly approaches.  It was my fourth journey to the Jewish state. It won’t be my last. In fact, if I could, I’d have no hesitation to go there on the next plane.

A few things made last year’s trip during Chanukkah very special.

The first is family. Unlike my first two trips to Israel, this time I went back as a wife, a mother of three children accompanied by their grandparents, both sets. Seeing Israel’s historical and religious sites through the eyes of three generations was once-in-a-lifetime goosebumps every single minute.

Secondly, we have Israeli friends. Friends from teaching. Friends made in summer camp. These friendships deepened our connection to the land of Israel more strongly than any tourist or archeological site.

Nearly every day of our trip, friends met us for dinner or lunch in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. My son reconnected with his friend, son of two rabbis, who met us for lunch after we celebrated my son’s Bar Mitzvah.

Friends came and met us wherever we were on tour.

They hung out with us on the beach near our hotel.

My good friend from Modi’in met up with our group not once but twice.

She’s An artist. A teacher. A true intellect. We have shared our different perspectives and deepened our understandings of what it means to be a Jew in America and what it means to be  a Jew in Israel.  I’ve connected with few people in my life as I have with her, though we will seldom see one another face to face. On a wintry day by Tel Aviv standards, we chatted on beach chairs with our spouses and watched our daughters play in the waves.

two friends: one American, one Israeli, play at the beach on Tel Aviv

Or they accompanied us to the Israel museum in Jerusalem.

There are the friends we did see and the friends we couldn’t see. I spent one night on a very long phone conversation with a friend from high school now living in Modi’in. At the time, she was newly diagnosed with breast cancer. All the plans we made almost a year in advance to get together, to spend time, to celebrate Shabbat, were reduced to that one phonecall.  I was thankful just to be in the same time zone as her as I listened to her talk about the hard choices and treatments that lay ahead.

Now. Now the bombs fall.

When you have friends and family in Israel, focus on anything else has been nearly impossible. Eating? Making meals? Even taking walks? Just a temporary diversion until I can get back on the computer again and check in.

I read an update from my tour guide who heard the bomb sirens and made it on time to the nearest shelter.

I read updates from people who sleep with shoes on and who get tips on how to get to sleep again after they settle into their cot in their safety room.

I read an update from my Modi’in friend, now done with chemo treatments but who must now train her daughters how to run to safety depending on where they are when the siren sounds.

I read an update from my neighbor, now visiting in Israel describing what it was like to see the Kotel plaza evacuated.

Is this any way to live a normal life? What is normal? Why must this be accepted as the status quo?

What to do? Whether you’ve been to Israel a dozen times, or have never been there, whether you can name dozens of Israeli friends or never met anyone from the Middle East’s only true democracy, there is something we as freedom loving Americans can do.

We can tell the world the truth. We can expose Hamas for their lies and their brainwashing. Social media can expose how Hamas truly operates as nothing more than a brain-washing hate cult that glorifies death enough to seduce its women and children into becoming human shields.

When you have Israeli friends and family, the latest flare up between Israel and her Arab neighbors is not just a news story, it’s a personal attack.

I know I’ve been posting about this nonstop if you follow me on Facebook. But please, don’t ignore Israel’s fight for hearts and minds. Their war on terror is ours. Do what you can do from far away to defend her.

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It’s Time to get all Israeli on our Water

Tal-Ya Water Technologies (Tal means dew in Hebrew) developed reusable plastic trays to collect dew from the air, reducing the water needed by crops or trees by up to 50 percent. (photo from israel21c.org)

.Tal-Ya Water Technologies (Tal means dew in Hebrew) developed reusable plastic trays to collect dew from the air, reducing the water needed by crops or trees by up to 50 percent. (photo from israel21c.org)

While gardeners and farmers feel the drought first, it won’t be long until we all feel it. No one, not even your neighbors who keep watering their lawns despite the news that more than 50 percent of the country is facing a drought not seen since the 1950’s is immune.

This summer has been brutal on our water supply. Newspapers and media reports are full of the plight of the farmer as they watch crops wither because most are at the mercy of rainfall for water.

But perhaps this drought is waking us up to appreciate the most precious resource we all take for granted. And it may be time to rethink and apply some extreme agricultural practices as the earth heats up.

In times like these, we can take a lesson from Israel.

Israel is one of the driest countries on the planet. On average, it receives only 19.4 inches of rain annually. Yet, thanks to cutting edge technology, and even more, the stubborn willingness of a people who know that in order to practically live in Israel, you have to believe in miracles, Israel blooms.

A lustrous display of pomegranates in an Israeli market.

This tiny country has learned to efficiently use every drop of water that falls from the sky in the summer or coats the mountains in the north in winter to grow some of the most beautiful produce in the world. Check out this photo of huge greenhouses growing vegetables like eggplants, tomatoes and peppers in the Negev Desert. Check out this photo courtesy of Daniel Lawrence’s blog:

Hundreds of greenhouses line the Negev Desert and grow crops year around. The greenhouses are completely computerized so as not to create any error in the cultivation the plants. Peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes are the main crops grown here.

Israel not only makes the desert bloom, but it has developed technology and methods that the rest of the world can use to reverse and prevent desertification, as noted in this post from israel21c.org. Israel21c.org is an online magazine that offers topical and timely reports on how Israelis from all walks of life and religion, innovate, improve and add value to the world.

So here are a few tips we can learn from Israel to conserve our water resources not only during times of drought, but for the long haul:

  1. Stop Watering Your Lawn. Right Now. – You! Yes, you, the suburbanite! Fuggetabout your lawn. (okay, fuggetabout it is technically a Brooklyn/New Jersey and not an Israeli term, but let’s get back on topic) Israelis don’t have silly things like lawns. Lawns are nothing but vanity.  I’ll say it again: STOP WATERING YOUR LAWN NOW. Your brown lawn has gone into dormancy and watering your lawn artificially just puts more of a strain on its root system. It will come back soft and green when the rains return.
  2. Use drip irrigation – Did you know that agriculturalists in Israel invented drip irrigation technology? Instead of wastefully watering your garden through a sprinkler, where most water evaporates into the air, use drip irrigation to deliver the water right to where the plants need it – the roots.
  3. Save that H2O from your A/C – As shown in the photo above, Israel has developed technologies that draw humidity out of the air for irrigating crops. On a smaller scale, you can do the same by catching water runoff from your central air conditioner (my hose empties into the slop sink) to water plants and vegetables
  4. Less Wasting Water at Restaurants –  When you sit down at a restaurant in Israel, don’t assume that the waitress will automatically fill your glass with endless glasses of water. No way are they just giving water away if it’s not asked for.  You have to ask for the water, sometimes twice – in two different languages, until the waitress gives you a glass of water. So, next time you dine out, if you are not going to drink the water, tell your server not to pour, or refill your glass.
  5. Selective Flushing – Here is a picture of just one type of toilet flush in Israel:                                                                                                                                  The flush mechanism is divided into a big section and a small section.  If you are reading my blog, you are indeed a very intelligent person, so I’ll let you figure out what purpose each section serves.
  6. Shower Shorter, or Shower with a Friend – a drought is a great excuse to share your shower.
  7. Rejoice in the rain: Finally, instead of getting all bummed out when your ball game or picnic gets rained just be thankful. Think of the farmers who need the rain for their crops and livestock (a.k.a. your food, right down to that box of Cheerios and glass of milk at the breakfast table). Any event, even a wedding, can have a postponement, a change of venue or a rain date. But there is no substitute for the blessing of rain.
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