Friday, October 30, 2009

Rachel's Children

Yesterday to commemorate the yahrzeit of our Matriarch Rachel, I attended a children's event. I guess I could have joined the 150,000 people who successfully reached Rachel Emainu's resting place, but I commemorated the event with the younger generation instead.
About 100 children gathered in Efrat's Kol BeRamah synagogue on the Zayit for an International Children's Prayer event. Children had gathered in about 300 locations around the world to prayer "together."
They watched a video about Kever Rachel, learned about "Healing and Prayer" together with their friends or parents and then with a live radio hook-up said tehillim and tefillot, and sang with children all over the world.
Zayit's Lionel Amar was the skillful MC (and probably, coordinator) of the afternoon. And Rav Baruch talked to the children about Rachel Emainu. The children's interaction with the rav was very enthusiastic.
The parents of yesterday's attendees should be proud of their children, who were very well-behaved and active in their participation.
Children learn every week at Kol BeRamah in sessions of Avot UBanim - learning Parshat Hashavua from MiBereishit. It's a great program and worthy of each child's and parent's participation.
I videoed the event, and IY"H, hope to post it on .
Added note: The women of Efrat have a particularly close relationship to Rachel Emainu. Every Tuesday for the past eight years, a group of women have been traveling there to pray and listen to a shiur. This activity is in memory of Efratian Sarah Blaustein, HY"D, a Kever Rachel volunteer during those violent days of 2001. Everyone is invited to join Efratians at Rachel's Tomb every Tuesday morning - leaving from the Matnas Efrat at 8:20 AM.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

92 Years to the Battle for Beersheva

In November, Beersheva will be commemorating 92 years since the "Battle of Beersheba". On October 31, 1917, General Edmund Allenby led a campaign to break the Turkish defensive line in Gaza. Gaza was trouble for Eretz Yisrael even back then during World War I. The charge of the Australian Fourth Light Horse Brigade was a major part of that battle. Australian and British forces overran and captured the last remaining Turkish trenches, and secured the surviving wells at Beersheva.
Voices visited Beersheva and looked a bit into some of the military history of the city. First stop - the mammoth Monument to the Negev Brigade, designed by Dani Karavan in memory of the members of the Palmach Negev Brigade who fell defending the Jewish People against the Egyptian onslaught and Arab irregulars between 1947 and 1949. High on a hill overlooking the city of Beersheva, the memorial is a work of art studied by Israel's art and design students. My daughter had to learn all about it for her Design Bagrut.
Completed in 1968 after five years of construction, the monument is a concrete structure with 18 different elements that were symbolic and connected to the Palmach and the War of Independence. Battle plans are carved into the cement. A domed structure contains the names of the 245 fighters who fell in the diffent battles for the Negev. A perforated tower represents the watchtowers shelled by Arab gunfire. A cement "pipeline" recalls the water system of the Negev, which the Palmach defended with their lives. Inside one of the structures is an engraving of a telegram the Palmach sent to Central Command in the heat of battle. Outside of the structure is an engraving of the Palmach badge, as well as diary passages from the soldiers. The memorial has an electronic guide box that tells the story of the place. It is well-worth the visit.
Next, we went forward a bit in time and traveled to the Israel Air Force Museum in Hazerim, southwest of Beersheva. As we picnicked outside the park, colorful Air Force fighter jets flew over head.
The museum has a tremendous collection of airplanes and helicopters that were flown over the past 70 years in defense of the Jewish People. It details the history of the Air Force, from Pre-Statehood until today. The aircraft are lined up according to the era in which they flew, and the museum is a truly impressive site. The most exciting feature at the Air Force Museum is the jumbo jet used to fly the commanders of the Entebbe Raid to Uganda, and later Ethiopian Olim to Israel during Operation Solomon.
My favorite jets were those captured from the enemy by the Israeli Army, fixed and flown by the Air Force. The IAF left the former-country's emblem on the planes, and added the Magen David (Shield of David). Great!
We walked through Beersheva's Old City and drove through its new neighborhoods that sported high ultra-modern tower apartment buildings. We visited the sprawling Ben Gurion University and passed Soroka Hospital. We even took photos by the signs declaring Beersheva a sister-city to Seattle (home of the Boeing AIRCRAFT company).
Beersheva, the Capital of the Negev, is as strategic a site for Israel today as it was 92 years ago. Chazak chazak - be strong - and mazel tov!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Shomron Smarts

They say the air of Eretz Yisrael makes one wise. That is especially true of the Shomron (Samaria). The folks in the regional council of Samaria are really smart cookies.
They've got lots of clever ideas to build their towns. They even learn some of their lessons from the Arabs and the leftwing.
You know how Arabs are always walking around with still and video cameras so that they can DOCUMENT the supposed-evils of Israeli soldiers and "settlers"? Their well-planned footage is available all over the internet.
Well, the folks of the Samaria Regional Council figured that if you can use videos to spread lies, you can also use video to spread the truth. They gave courses last year to Samarian residents to teach them how to use their video cameras effectively. THAT'S INNOVATIVE THINKING!!
Recently, Peace Bloc came out with a comprehensive list of Jewish "settlements" in Judea and Samaria and the products they manufacture. Peace Now wants Israelis and citizens of the world to boycott these Israeli goods.
The Shomron Council took the same list and distributed it to lovers of Israel the world over, encouraging supporters of Eretz Yisrael and the heroic pioneers that live on its hilltops, in its valleys, across its deserts to BUY BUY BUY those products and strengthen the pioneering settlement throughout the country. SHOMRON, YOU GUYS ARE GREAT!!
Here are some of the products, thanks to Peace Bloc for the info, that you'll want to buy: Ahavah (natural cosmetics), Mitzpeh Shalem; Amgazit (gas equipment), Kfar Etzion [it's really in Bet Shemesh now, but okay...]; Beigel & Beigel (pretzels), Barkan; Beitili (furniture), Barkan; Har-Shefi (boxes), Beit El; Keter (plastic furniture), Barkan; Mei Tzurim (water purification), Rosh Tzurim in Gush Etzion; Mitkanei Psagot (playground equipment), Psagot; Orli-Print, N’vei Daniel; Palphot (photography products), Karnei Shomron; Tefillin Beit El, Beit El.
In our desire to build up our nation and all our communities and hilltops, we must look everywhere for inspiration and clever ideas. and when we find them, we should act. Here's to the folks in the Shomron who have learned from everyone - including the Arabs and the leftwing - to do something positive for their region.

My Son the Rabbi

After long years of study, my son Moshe Eliahu gave us tremendous nachas tonight when he received his rabbinic certification - semicha.
Almost twenty members of our family - from his two grandmothers (may they live and be well until 120) down to his youngest nieces and nephew came out to honor our first Rabbi. The only child in the family who was out of town tonight even called his brother to wish him mazel tov. So everyone was represented.
My granddaughter Rivka asked her mother if "Tatie", Moshe Eliahu, was going to spring a large beard right after he received his semicha. She was disappointed when the answer she received was "no".
Moshe Eliahu wasn't the only new rabbi. There were actually 11. And the women's section was filled with the wives, mothers and children of these young men. One young woman cried from emotion as her mother comforted her. Our family was just so excited, it was hard to quietly sit still.
How will the world change with another 11 rabbis? I guess we'll have to wait and see. But if they can embrace their fellow Jew, as did Avraham Avinu, answer his questions, encourage his belief in Hashem, and foster ahavat Yisrael (love for one's fellow Jew), then these rabbis will make a positive difference for the Jewish people both today and tomorrow.
Mazel tov to all the new rabbis and rebbetzins and their families. May they be blessed with the wisdom and ability to guide our people's future.
In the next few days, IY"H, I'll be uploading a video on "The Next Generation Rabbis" to . Please stay tuned.

Dance Mall

Once upon a time, you could go into a dance hall and pay your dime for hours of fun jitter-bugging, waltzing, or doing the tango. I don't know if there are any Dance Halls any more, but there is definitely a Dance Mall.
My family went to dinner in Café Rimon in Jerusalem's Mamilla Mall tonight. As we approached, music flowed from nearby and we noticed a big crowd.
It was Monday night dancing on Alrov Mamilla Avenue, led by Moti Kozer. Every Monday night Jerusalemites have been gathering to trip the light fantastic.
There were line dances and partner dances, Israeli dances, salsa, rock, cha cha, and more. There were old people and young people. Everyone seemed so in synch with one another. I didn't realize that many of these folks have been dancing together for months.
My grandbabies loved watching the dancing. So did I.
After dinner, we strolled through Mamilla and saw a number of street performers entertaining the crowd. Folks were standing in little clumps, swaying with the beat.
There was something for everyone. A night of culture and fun in the big city.
In the next few days, I'm going to put up a video of Dance Mall on my website, . Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Cleaner Greener Town and World

I had the opportunity to interview Efrat's Mayor Oded Revivi today. We chatted about Efrat's participation in an International Environmental Day that's happening, IY"H, "this weekend" October 23 and 24.

Oded said that he's sure the world didn't plan this, but the Jewish people know there is nothing by chance, and it happens that there can't be a better day to think about the environment than this Shabbat, Parshat Noah. Five thousand years ago, Hashem destroyed the world and began again. It has been up to man for all those centuries to protect the world that Hashem gave us. (Sadly, we haven't done such a great job.)

Well, Efrat wants to help make a tikkun (correction) and do its part to help the environment.

The Teva Ivri (Hebrew Nature) Association is working to set Parshat Noah as the "Shabbat of Sustainability" among the Israeil public. Efrat is planning on joining in the observances.

On Friday at the Te'ena Shopping Center, there will be all kinds of environmental activities. There will even be workshops and displays in people's homes around Efrat, dealing with different issues like composting, saving water, and solar energy.

On Shabbat, there will be environmentally related shiurim.

The entire project is very fascinating - and a cooperative effort by the Efrat Local Council, its religious council and its community center. Kol hakavod.

To find out more, click on these two videos:

Efrat Green City Event - Friday, Oct. 23 (Hebrew)

Efrat Green City Event - Friday, Oct. 23 (English)

We only have one world, and we should each do our best to keep it green and clean and safe and sustainable.

The SKYPE's the Limit

I had a very nice face-to-face conversation with my sister today, and then tonight she came over. That sounds pretty regular, but today my sister was in ROMANIA and tonight she was in my office in ISRAEL. And you know what? When she walked in, it seemed very natural, and very, "So, as I was saying, etc. etc."
We were talking across Europe today on SKYPE, videotelephoning. She told me all about the Eastern European countries she had visited, and about the rainy and miserable weather in Europe (don't you wish we had some of that "rainy miserable" weather here!!!!). Then after a full day on the continent, she and my brother-in-law caught a plane and popped over to my house.
Is this 21st century stuff, or what?
I'm listed on SKYPE with four friends - my Voices webmaster, my videography teacher, my fellow committee member from the Committee for Gush Katif Bridal Showers, and my sister. When I see one of their names light up, I just send a quick message, "Hope you're having a great day." If they're not busy, we usually share a video call for a few minutes, or we just write, "Hi. Glad to see your name on my screen."
Tonight, my niece CB, whom I wrote about yesterday (see blog below) was home (where else should she be with a broken ankle??) in her wheelchair. She SKYPED me for the first time. That was cool. My dearest mother ad 120, my lovely daughter-in-law and sweet daughter joined me at my desk. Everyone was on screen. CB saw us all on the computer screen and we saw her. We had a 40 minute GREAT conversation. What fun! We really felt like we were just sitting together shmoozing.
CB showed us her purple cast (can you believe casts can come in colors??). She showed us the couch that she sleeps on in the den. She showed us her wheelchair tricks (wheelies and 360 turns).
So, earlier today, I SKYPED to Europe and tonight to the US. It's a new world in which we really can stay together (no matter the distance) with very little effort. Just press a button and you can visit with friends and loved ones anywhere anytime. Yes, the SKYPE's the Limit!!

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Family Dance

Last night, B"H, my family celebrated the wedding of my nephew Dovie to Naama. Mazel tov to the bride and groom, to my brother and sister-in-law, my dearest mother ad 120, and the entire family.
The simcha was humongous, leibedik (full of joy), and so spirited that celebrants were literally flying around the dance floor. Every single member of my family danced all night (until about 2 AM) - everyone, even my niece CB who was in America with a double-broken ankle.
Well, you might think that someone in a wheelchair can't really dance, and she especially can't, if she's in America, and we're "hulya-ing" (celebrating) in Israel. Well, think again.
After the bride and groom, the MVP of last night's wedding was my own son Micha. Micha brought his laptop to the wedding and hooked it up to internet. He set up a station right next to the chuppah, and held up the laptop throughout the whole ceremony so that CB wouldn't miss a thing. And so it was that every member of our family stood together at this beautiful chuppah, even my niece in the US.
Actually, CB wasn't alone in America. Her sister-in-law's parents from Chicago were on the east coast, and drove over to be with her for the ceremony and part of the party. Together they watched and waved and swayed, sang and laughed and cried. So, while we had our entire family here, she had family there as well.
When the meal began, Micha set up the laptop right next to his dinner table. CB watched and chatted with the family throughout the night. And when the dancing began, at first she watched the groom's friends whirl in a frenzied "Siman Tov UMazel Tov" dance. And then every family member from our family's matriarch (may she live and be well until 120) down to our youngest baby took turns dancing for and with my neice via the laptop.
We bopped, moonwalked, jumped, tapped, clapped and twirled. CB never missed a beat. She was almost holding our hands through the screen. We were connected for six hours, and she was never alone for a minute.
Micha's act of chesed wasn't anything special for him. To Micha, it was just natural that his cousin should be on the scene when her little brother started a new life. He made the hook-up happen, and every single family member made sure that it was meaningful, magical and an evening to remember forever FOR EVERYONE.
Mazel tov to Dovie and Naama, and everyone. Refuah shelaimah to CB. May our family stay "connected" forever.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Remembering Shimon HaTzaddik

Last night (Friday night), 29 Tishrei, was the yahrzeit of Shimon HaTzaddik, the last of the Great Assembly and the Kohen Gadol during the reign of Alexander the Great. Everyone remembers the story of Alexander's march to Jerusalem. Hearing that the Emperor was going to destroy the Holy City, Shimon HaTzaddik dressed in his priestly garb and traveled to meet Alexander.

When Alexander the Great saw him, he dismounted from his horse and bowed to Shimon HaTzaddik. Alexander explained that Shimon's face was the one he had seen when he went victoriously into battle. On a tour of the Holy Temple, Alexander told Shimon that he wanted his statue to be placed in Bet HaMikdash. Shimon talked him into a different tribute - all the Jewish boys born that year would be named Alexander. The Emperor was very pleased.

Shimon HaTzaddik said that the world depended on three things - on Torah, on the Temple Service and on acts of loving kindness.

The High Priest is buried in Wadi Joz, near Sheikh Jarrah, on the road leading to Mount Scopus. Since last night was Shabbat, thousands of Jews came to the grave of Shimon HaTzaddik tonight (motzei Shabbat) instead. They prayed, lit candles, lit a fire, danced and even held "chaluka"s at which they gave little three year old boys their first hair cuts.

The crowd at Shimon HaTzaddik's burial place varied from chassid to Sephardi, and all the families of little boys were equally joyous. They held little chaluka ceremonies, and then danced with the children in circles of celebrants. A band played and the atmosphere was very joyous.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rotem's Park

I just got back from the dedication of a park - ROTEM'S PARK - in the Gush Etzion Early Childhood Center. The park is really a play area for the first and second graders of the Gush Etzion regional school. It has a beautiful green hill (perfect to tumble sault down - remember when we used to do that?), a small playground, and a gorgeous new wall of mosaic flowers, designed by Sharon Brand.
All the early childhood classes of the Gush Etzion school participated, as did Mayor Shaul Goldstein and other area dignitaries. Also present were the parents who dedicated the park - the parents of Rotem Jacobs, o'h.
Rotem Jacobs, o'h, was a first grader who passed away more than a year ago of cancer. She was bright little ball of sunshine that loved her family, school and her friends. Her parents could see no better way to perpetuate her memory than at the school she loved so well. Her picture is on the monument at the top of the park - forever young and sweet.
May Rotem's memory be for a blessing. And may many children find happiness and friendship in Rotem's Park.
A video of the dedication ceremony will be up to view in the next few days at .

New Voices

This week, VOICES came out with a newly-formatted magazine. And B"H, we got a lot of good feedback. Someone told me she thought it was "classy" and then someone else said that it seemed very "friendly". Someone said, "Yeah, I got my Voices just in time for Shabbat." And someone else told me, "I can fit it in my bag for the bus."
So, B"H, it seems that the newly-formatted VOICES has something for everyone.
Then, there's the website, . Hooray to the fact that so many people love the new website. They enjoy watching the videos, and although the quality decreases on the web, the videos are fun to watch, and I'm working on trying to make them better all the time.
Last night I uploaded the latest video column from Batya Medad, "VOICES from Shiloh," , and there's much more coming next week, IY"H.
Writing/editing a magazine AND website is the job of ten people, and yet my office is pretty lonely. I do thank all those people who send me great ideas. You can too - . And if you've got something great that you've videoed and would like to share, then please send it alone.
It's a New Voices with new and endless opportunities.
Thanks for being a part of it all.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Flying High in South Eastern Gush Etzion

We had the most amazing time in South Eastern Gush Etzion on Thursday. First we went to the annual kite festival in Pnei Kedem. It's INCREDIBLE how hard parents tried in order to fly their kids' kites. Well, the kids were involved too. They cheered or cried.
The main idea of the day was to get those kites in the air and create hundreds of smiles. And that's just what happened.
Our family had four kites - each a different size and cost (we were experimenting). And you know what?? In the end, when the wind rose at 3 PM, all our kites were in the air. Thanks to the ingenuity of my "fab" nephew Arye, my granddaughter Shir Tehilla's kite was just about the highest flyer of the festival. He had tied three lengths of string, plust ANYTHING else he could find to the line to make it longer. He earned his medal as VIP of the day.
Besides the kite flying, there were loads of other kids' activities, plus vendors and food and meeting friends and plain fun.

After we succeeded in flying our kites in Pnei Kedem, we headed next door to Meitzad (the southernmost town of Eastern Gush Etzion) for our Annual Family Barbecue. Meitzad is a quaint little town with a petting zoo, two parks, creative gardening and the nicest people ever. It really should be the solution for the Chareidi housing shortage. Send those young couples who can't find homes in the traditional Chareidi cities out into the country.
Meitzad overlooks the Dead Sea, and has such delicious air, it should be a summer vacation paradise (if they had summer bungalows there).
The parents ate tangy barbecued chicken and meat as the kids played in the park.

It was fun to be together with the family, but the thing that REALLY made the day perfect was the appearance of Meitzad's pet donkey. The kids had donkey rides and were flying (even without kites).
They took a few turns around Meitzad's little cement paths and then back again. My niece Farrah clapped for the kids, and admitted, "You can't make a day like this in Far Rockaway for any money." Totally.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dancing Again!!

One would think that when Simchat Torah was over, we'd be all danced out. Hakafot (circles around the synagogue) with the Torah go on for hours. Circle, circle, jump, jump, cheer, cheer, candy, candy, jump, candy.
Little children sit on their fathers' shoulders and wave their flags and plush Torahs. Mothers dance, shmooze or stand on the side waving at their nachas as they go around and around, kind of like a human carousel.
So, after hours of that, wouldn't you think everyone would just want to put up their feet and enjoy a little quiet time.
Well, no. The moment the holiday is over, every neighborhood has something called "Hakafot Shniyot" (Second Circling). Usually, there's a great band and everyone comes out, still dressed in their holiday clothing and the whole town dances up a storm.
Tonight after the holiday of Simchat Torah ended and we said good-bye to the beloved Sukkah, the band started playing. In Efrat, folks gathered at the Ohel Shimon and Esther synagogue to hear Mordechai Baumol Yitzhar and his band rock the town. The music was jumpy and so was the crowd.

It was a wonderful energized send off for the holidays, and now it's back to work! Acharei hachagim has officially begun.

You can see a video of the hakafot on .

Thursday, October 8, 2009

BARBY? Braii? Anyway you say it, it means Aliya

Okay, I ate a boerwor (actually, I don't know exactly how you say it or how you spell it) yesterday. It's a kind of spicey meaty frankfurter. It means farmer's sausage in Afrikaans. It's dark reddish brown, and it is BELOVED (I mean, they really really love it) by the South African expatriots living here in Israel and I guess just about everywhere else.
Well, it was good and spicey, but I guess you have to be raised on it to really really love it. I hear that South Africans will travel really far to find butchers that sell their childhood food. Hmm. I can't think of anything I'd travel miles for, not even an Entenman's donut.
The South Africans got to gether in Kfar Etzion's giant Sukkah for a meeting to encourage Aliya, actually it was to encourage one another to encourage others to make Aliya from South Africa.
There are currently 100 South African families living in Gush Etzion. In all of Israel there are 20,000 South Africans. But there are still 100,000 living in South Africa.
The GEers want them to come and come soon before it's too late. Former South African Yoana Yehudah organized the BRAI (which means barbecue, or more rightly "Barby") and it was great fun. One after another SA ex-pats told their early Aliya stories, which were very inspirational.
South Africa's Aliya organization had a hand in beginning more than 20 communities, including Efrat. That's pretty terrific.
At the end of the afternoon, I was urged to taste a boerwar (sorry for the mispelling), and you know what, IT WAS LEKA!!! (That means terrif in Afrikaans.)
What do we want?? Aliya from South Africa!!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Musical Day

This morning on the first day of Chol HaMoed, I had the privilege of attending a musical hallel in Bet Knesset Shirat Shlomo of Efrat. The baal tefilla was the popular music man Shlomo Katz. Shirat Shlomo (named in memory of Rav Shlomo Carlebach, ztz'l), under the leadership of Rav Zvi Leshem, is a very welcoming place, and therefore residents from all over Efrat come to participate in this special Hallel. In other words, the shul was packed, S-R-O.
Shlomo Katz and Ben Katz (no, not brothers, but friends) sported two of several guitars in the room. Maayan Leshem beat the darbuka. Other folks (women too) had musical instruments like drums, percussion, tambourines.
The Hallel was spirited, exciting and inspirational. I videoed 35 minutes of it, but cut it down to 2.5 minutes so that YOU can take a peak at the joyous prayers.
You can find the clip in the Gush Etzion/Efrat TV videos at .

After a delicious family breakfast, my clan drove over to Shdema (an abandoned IDF base, in danger of being turned over to the Palestinian Authority). A Jewish presence is vital there!
The Committee for a Jewish Shdema organized the must terrific day - something for everyone, really. Hundreds of people turned out to participate. We heard: Colonel (res.) Moshe Peled talk about the plans for Gush Katif towns, Rav Dov Lior encourage those who are struggling to save Shdema, and Rav Yosef Mendelovitch speak about his arrest in Russia before he was allowed to emigrate to Israel.
There were donkey rides for the kids, inflatable castles and entertainment.
A photo exhibition lined the walls of the main building. The photos, taken by talented photographers Rivkah Ryback, Gemma Blech and "Abigail" documented the past year in Shdema - the speakers and supporters, the events and activities.
And then there was music. I missed Moussa Berlin, but I had the opportunity to hear Avi Schmell and Benzi Thee of the Me'Shir Zion band. Folks started dancing and they sure kicked up some dust.
Congratulations to Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katzover of the Committee for a Jewish Shdema, as well as all those on the committee who worked so hard for today's success. Yashar kochechechem.

I'm hoping to have a Shdema video up very soon too. You can check 's VOICES TV for the Shdema video and the latest clips from Voices.
Moadim le'simcha.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Mitzvah Etrog Continued!!

Chag sameach. Happy Sukkot holiday to all. If you've been reading this blog, you know that we harvested our etrogim and after distributing them to our family members, we auctioned them off for tzedakah. (At left, HaRav David Marcus looks with delight at the tzedakah etrog that he chose.)
IY"H, we will be sending tzedakah checks to tzedakot of all kinds to help promote the unity of Am Yisrael.
Tomorrow (Sunday) will be the first day of Chol HaMoed Sukkot and folks will be using our etrogim. We're very excited. We wish everyone a chag sameach. Make great memories with your family and friends.