Sunday, January 31, 2010

The History and the Future of Har Homa

Although it is really difficult for me to get to the varied and interesting Friday activities at the abandoned Shdema IDF Army Base, this past week, I really planned ahead for Shabbat. I bought take out, finished all my Shabbat shopping early, and we were off to Shdema.
Mayor Shaul Goldstein popped in and told visitors two pieces of exciting news: 1) He had just completed the March of the Lamed Hei.
2) Very soon, a Jewish presence would be returning to Shdema, IY"H, first in the form of an Army pillbox. The crowd cheered.
The morning also included great music by Adam Tzachi, a short address by Avraham Azoulay, the editor of the Le Petit Hebdo French weekly, and an inspirational talk by the head of the Har Homa Residents Committee Herzl Yechezkel.
I remember the Har Homa controversy in the 1990s, but I found out much more about the community from Herzl Yechezkel, who spoke eloquently and with great poise.
Herzl, an eight-year resident of Homat Shmuel (the real name of the Har Homa community, dedicated in memory of former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Shmuel Meir, o'h, who was one of the main proponents of building the neighborhood), remembers the struggles and demonstrations for and against the building of Har Homa in the 1990s. Har Homa was an international incident! It was a neighborhood that Arabs threatened would cause a war, chas v'shalom.
Herzl said, "It was just a simple mountain. Who ever even thought that Jews will live there?" He noted that the biggest voice against Har Homa was Faisal Husseini, a grandnephew of Hitler's best friend in the Middle East, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Husseini was also a member of the PLO, and sat as head of Jerusalem Affairs for the Palestinian Authority. Herzl said, "Husseini led the fight, and the entire world was screaming at us. How could anyone even imagine that anyone would live one day in Har Homa?"
Herzl Yechezkel commented, "In the end what decides, what determines [the outcome] is the deed, the doing! David Ben Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, said, 'It is not important what the goyim will say. It is important what the Jews will do!' The activists in this room know how to do!"
Herzl remembered the first time that he and Yehudit Katzover came to Shdema. "We couldn’t even reach this structure (that we are in today). There were stones all around and there were a Fifth Column here. But the victory is determined by physically getting here and planting roots and struggling until you win. That’s how it was in Homat Shmuel in 1996."
Binyamin Netanyahu was prime minister then, Herzl recalled. When Israel began building Homat Shmuel, they did not anticipate it being a great success. Herzl laughed, "Today the community is populated by about 5000 families - 20,000 residents – and that is only two-thirds of the planned building." The Ministry of Housing had planned for Har Homa to reach that number by the year 2020, and yet it has reach 20,000 ten years early than aplanned. Ultimately Har Homa is supposed to be home to 35,000 residents in the next few years. Long range plans include yet another 3000 residential units.
Herzl noted, "We hope too connect Yerushalayim to Gush Etzion through Har Homa, which sits as a thorn in between the Arab villages of Bet Lechem, Zur Bacher, Bet Tzafafa, Um Tuba, and Beit Tzachur. It is vital to note that if we hadn't built here, we would have lost a lot of land. We would have lost Southern Jerusalem, and that would have been a crying for generations."
Herzl reiterated his goal of connect Gush Etzion and Har Homa through Shdema, and added, "BE"H, with our faith we will do and we will succeed."
After seeing the growth and development of Har Homa over the past years, I have no doubt of Herzl words. And they also remind me of something Chaim Silberstein of the Jerusalem Development Corporation said ten years ago. "Har Homa is part of a ring around Jerusalem that protects the Holy City."
BE"H, may G-d bless the residents of Homat Shmuel, the future residents of a Jewish Shdema and those of Eastern Gush Etzion among all Am Yisrael.

Watch Herzl Yechezkel's address on VoicesTV:

Friday, January 29, 2010

5000 in the Footsteps of 35

On Thursday night, on the eve of Tu B'Shevat, 5000 people - young/old/men/women - marched through the night from midnight 'til morn, in the footsteps of the legendary Jewish heroes whom we call the "35" (Lamed Hei - Hebrew gematria).
The idea of this tremendous chavaya (incredible experience) began seven years ago, when between 100 and 200 Gush Etzion residents and the Kfar Etzion Field School marched southwest of Gush Etzion in order to follow the trail of the 35 valiant soldiers.
Gush Etzion Mayor Shaul Goldstein wanted more people to participate in the march, and encouraged Jews from throughout the country to join in. Numbers rose year by year - 500, 1200, 3000.
This year's participation of 5000 individuals was beyond their wildest expectations. But peoplec came out for the midnight march because the Lamed Hei had inspired them with their devotion to their people and readiness to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of others - qualities that are so needed by today's generation.
Participants gathered at Kibbutz Netiv Halamed Hei (near Bet Shemesh) and walked 13 kilometers through the Eyla Valley, and the Etzion and Gdor River Beds to the hill upon which the Lamed Hei bravely fought the mobs of murderous Arabs from the nearby village of Tsurif sixty-two years before.
The story of the Lamed Hei is known by every school child in Israel. These young men of the Palmach Mountain Division were killed trying to bring food and supplies to the kibbutzim of Gush Etzion, which had been cut off by the Jordanian Legion. Convoys and airlifts could not successfully get through to the brave defenders of Gush Etzion. So the Palmach was the last hope. And the young fighters set out under cover of darkness with heavy packs of life-saving equipment to save their brethren.
Tragically, just as they approached the Arab village of Tsurif towards dawn, an old Arab shepherd spotted them and called out the village. They fought heroically to the death. After the Arabs murdered them, they butchered them beyond all recognition.
Gush Etzion Mayor Shaul Goldstein came to the abandoned Army base of Shdema today just minutes after he finished the March of the Lamed Hei. He described his "chavaya" (incredible experience) for those present.
A video of Shaul's account of the memorable experience can be found on Gush Etzion TV,
May the memory of the Lamed Hei, HY"D, continue to inspire the heroes of the next generation in dedication to the Jewish People and the Land of Israel.

Green is my Valley and my Mountain and my...

Tomorrow BE'H is Tu B'Shevat. We call it the new year of the trees. My grandbabies sang, "Happy birthday, trees," today.
Tu B'Shevat comes in the dead of the winter. It is a time of hope. Despite the cold and freezing temperatures, despite the snow and harsh conditions hammering at nature, trees and plants and grass and flowers everywhere in Israel are getting a wake-up call. It's the first happy reminder that in but a few weeks spring will come.
On Tu B'Shevat, we put on our winter coats and take out our shovels and dig in the frozen ground, showing our faith that the spring will come to defrost our wintery world and let all nature around us rejoice with the warmth of the sun.
On Tu B'Shevat, we watch our children plant their little saplings as we flap our arms like penguins trying to keep warm. We watch our breath whoosh around us as we try to smile with pride at our youngsters attempts to reconnect to our blessed land.
This year we planted too. But we didn't even wear jackets. And the ground wasn't hard. It was mushy from the past rain.
The mountains and the valleys and the hills all around were not covered with frost or brown with winter rest. They were green - green everywhere. There is grass growing as far as the eye can see, even in places that I'd never seen grass before.
Sheep and goats are supposed to be closed in snuggly until springtime. But they were out all over the hills today, taking advantage of the clear blue day and the fresh green shrubbery.
Farmers are supposed to be living off what they have stored away from before the winter. And yet they were in their fields today, plowing and hoeing. As we drove on the Easter Gush Etzion Highway from Shdema to Tekoa, an Arab farmer sat behind his wheelbarrow, which was loaded with heads of cauliflower, the size of boulders.
The patch of farmland near the northern entrance to Efrat has sprouted cabbages that are so big, they look like the vegetables of the giants Sihon and Og.
This would all excite me, and cause me to reminisce about the produce during the time when Moses sent the spies to Israel and they came back with gargantuan fruit. However, all of this makes me feel uneasy. There is something very wrong.
The weather seems wrong. The grass seems wrong. The cabbage and cauliflower seem wrong. The sheep seem wrong. It is supposed to be winter. We're supposed to wake up nature today, but it never went to sleep. I feel that I should worry, or seek deep meaning for the absence of winter.
But I have hope that all will be well, and I have to have faith that this strange weather is for the best. "Call out to Hashem with thanks, with the harp sing to our G-d - Who covers the heaven with clouds, Who prepares rain for the earth, Who makes mountains sprout with grass." (Psalm 147)
So, despite the strange things going on in Mother Nature right now, I pray that Avinu Malkein (Our Father Our King) will take care of the Jewish people and give them the weather, the crops and the seasons they need.
Looking forward to getting back to normal winter weather - "Praise Hashem...He Who gives snow like fleece, He scatters frost like ashes. He hurles His ice like crumbs - before His cold, who can stand? He issues His command and it melts them, He blows His wind - the waters flow." (Psalm 147)
Happy Tu B'Shevat. Happy birthday, trees.
PS - I made a Tu B'Shevat video clip that I hope to post after Shabbat. Stay tuned to VOICES TV on .

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Dividends in the "Local Economy"

I went to pick up my grandbaby from the local Day Care Center today. Her sister and I lined up behind all the folks rushing in before the 3:40 PM (you'd better pick 'em up) deadline.
I noticed two of my friends collecting their grandchildren as well.
That was very cool. We each made some kind of comment, but what was going through our minds was actually, "Isn't this fantastic, to have this little bundle of nachas so close by that I can even pick her/him up from gan?!!"
Grandchildren are dividends that we've waited our whole lives for. And B"H, it was worth the wait.
And when they live nearby, our dividends really do boost the "local economy".
I'm so thrilled that two of my grandchildren live nearby, but I miss being an active part of the lives of the ones who live farther away. I barely get to see them once a week, and seriously, my heart aches for them. Unfortunately, their parents couldn't afford to live in my hometown of Efrat. Actually, they couldn't even afford to live in my region of Gush Etzion.
The area is just too expensive for young people. Well, real estate is at a premium here, isn't that good??
Um, no! It's not really good, because if young people cannot afford to move here, our communities will get old and eventually die out. A healthy neighborhood should have an area of affordable housing specifically so that the children of the community can move back to their hometown if they wish to.
So, aside from very few exceptions, my children and their friends are living far from Efrat. They're in the Southern Chevron Hills, the Binyamin Region and in the Shomron. One young couple recently moved to the Golan. When I asked them why they moved so far, they said, "It was one of the only places we could afford a lot of land to build a future home."
We might think we're clever, having a real estate market that commands top dollar for local homes, but one day we'll smarten up and come to understand that the best dividends for the local economy are young families and babies in the community, especially those of our own next generation.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

An End to Mottos

Ever since the motto, "Netzarim's fate is the same as Tel-Aviv's!," I soured to mottos and slogans. I also can't stand the "Never Again" slogan that was said about 1000 times today at Holocaust Remembrance Day.
I can't listen anymore to insincere politicians who make those please-the-crowd statements that they really don't mean. I get physically ill from them.
I also am just too tired to be polite when I hear those false yet perfectly-timed soundbites said with such bravado. I have to hold myself back often from saying, "You are full of malarky."
Netzarim's fate might well end up being the same as Tel Aviv's, because if we allow the Arabs sovereignty on several of the areas in the Shomron that they'd like to have under their belt (or suicide belt), then Tel Aviv and that whole Sharon area (no relation) are in deep trouble.
"Never Again" sounds great, but "Never Again" what? Never again killing Jews? By having allowed Gaza and Lebanon to strike at our people for so many years with impunity, Jews have been killed in the north and the south. B"H, last year 2009 saw a drop in attacks from both ends of the country, finally, and we pray it will remain this way. However, by abandoning machsomim (checkpoints) and letting Arab traffic travel freely without any checks endangers Jews every single day. Over the past few months, there have been funerals of good Jews who were killed because a machsom had been abandoned. So, please stop saying, "Never Again," when you really don't mean it.
I am also particularly nauseated by false actions that are clearly for the media and naive unknowing people. And they're so sickening, I don't even feel like detailing them. I'm sure you can fill in the blanks.
Wouldn't it be great if people were honest when they spoke? And wouldn't it be ever better, if the words they said for the cameras and for the video clips were actually acted up and brought to fruition.
Sigh. It's one of those days.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Volunteering to Strengthen the Region and Create Leaders

Reading an article in Fortune Magazine on the way the best corporations in America create future leaders, I wasn’t surprised to find out that the companies send their strongest officers to far away developing countries to work for two years helping the natives (sort of like industrial Peace Corps).
After those two years, they return to home base as stronger individuals, more in tune with society, more in tune with their own souls, and having forged relationships that can never be broken.
Fortune saw this practice as a chidush (newfound insight). I saw it as an ancient one, a foundation of the world. Our sages teach us (Ethics of Our Fathers), “On three things the world exists: on the Torah, on the Avodah (service in Bet HaMikdash) and on Gemilut Chasadim (acts of loving kindness, or good deeds).”
Maybe multi-billion dollar corporations IBM, Fedex and WalMart haven’t learned anything about Torah or Bet HaMikdash yet, but they’re one step ahead of the globe in knowing that great men are created by acts that benefit others and build a better world.
Here in my own little part of the hemisphere, the Regional Council of Gush Etzion has undertaken a project among many of its towns in which adults and youth alike commit a part of their week, every week, for chesed activities (volunteerism).
Thus far, eight towns in the Gush are participating.
At a meeting to launch the volunteer project that will be undertaken in the Southeastern Gush Etzion town of Metzad, Naamah Katz (no relation), director of the Youth Division of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, spoke to a room full of enthusiastic women and teens.
Naamah noted that about a half a year ago, the Gush Etzion Regional Council was looking for something that could be a common project among all the varied communities of Gush Etzion. “We wanted something that would increase connection within our communities. We realized that all the communities have needs – some that are different, and others that are often very similar. We also realized that we are a society that is used to volunteerism.”
“Mostly everyone in our communities has been involved in chesed – giving out food, clothing, visiting Old Age Homes on Purim, etc.,” Naamah said. She added that often, it is easier to volunteer outside [our towns]. It’s easier to see difficulties of places beyond [our own areas].
However, it is more important to launch our volunteer efforts within our own neighborhoods.
Naamah explained that this is precisely the reason the Torah begins with the stories in the Book of Bereishit (Genesis) instead of a list of mitzvoth. She said that a Moetza worker explained, “Everything begins with family, and with the people closest to us. Everything begins in our little environment. It begins with relationships in our families, relationships between our generations, and the foundations of our life are built on a system of family and ethics.”
Naamah noted, “First we must look to the needs of our inner most circle – the needs of our family, followed by the needs of our neighbors, and then our community.”
“This will help us build a healthy society. We will have a Jewish quality of life, and a better quality of life with our families, our neighbors, our school, our world.”
In order to build this healthy environment, we must be in tune with our surroundings, and realize its importance, she noted.
Sometimes when our eyes are not opened to the difficulties in our neighbors’ homes, we might not even realize that there is illness in one family, or another that needs help with its kids. Naamah warned that we do not have to look only at our neighbors weaknesses, but also at their strengths. “And we should think, ‘What can I do to strengthen my community?’”
As she began working with different towns in Gush Etzion, she realized that they were all eager to become stronger, and base that strength on chesed.
“To be based on chesed, you have to act. You can’t stand by and say, ‘Wow, I wish I could do that, but I don’t have time.’ You have to find two hours a week, and it’s not easy. And we adults, if we don’t give the personal example of also finding two hours a week for the benefit of the public, both the children and the youth will say, ‘Why should we do it?’”
Naamah observed, “We are a community based on looking out for the other and feeling a responsibility for one another. We don’t judge others. We just see who needs what, and help whomever we can. When you volunteer, you do it for the sake of volunteering and not for a payback. It’s an honorable thing to volunteer in one’s community, and it adds to the value of the community.”
Naamah concluded, “As a Moetza and as a region, everyone who helps someone else is actually sustaining a Jewish soul that makes it a better place. And we’re all actually benefiting individually and as a community.”
Just as Fortune companies found out, stretching one’s muscles of creativity, sympathy and responsibility through volunteering creates the leaders of tomorrow.
On a Personal Note
I got a lot of nachas at the Volunteerism Program in Meitzad, B"H. My daughter-in-law Sara Yalta Katz is the local Youth Director. Naama praised Sara Yalta's work with the youth, who Naamah said are among the most united and eager to volunteer in Gush Etzion. Naama also lauded Sara Yalta's constant striving to create positive activities for her teenagers, and the determination that she and her co-worker Community Director Esther Tantz show in striving to encourage the Moetza to participate in programs for the development and blossoming of the Meitzad Community.

Voices TV presents Naamah Katz's address on video,

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Truth about Israeli Arab Aspirations

I don’t have TV reception in my home, so I don’t watch the nightly television news. But I do have a computer, and I usually catch really important events on one of my favorite websites, .
When I have a very rare free moment, I flip through the latest wejew offerings. Tonight, I caught a clip from a news program two weeks ago, “Shocking Confrontation on Israeli TV News,”
In this news clip, Israeli newsman Dan Margalit interviews Israeli MK Jamal Zahalka (National Democratic Assembly) about his protest against Israel for the suffering of the people of Gaza. (Zahalka is pictured above left with fellow Arab MK Ahmed Tibi.) Speaking of suffering, Margalit brings up the 8000 kassams fired by Gazans on Sderot. It was all downhill from there.
How could an interview between two civilized men deteriorate to shouting and screaming?
MK Jamal Zahalka is a dignified Arab member of Knesset. He lives in Kfar Kara, one of the wealthier Arab towns in the “Triangle”, only 35 kilometers southeast of Haifa inside the Green Line. Jamal is a pharmacist by profession - educated by the State of Israel in Jerusalem’s own Hebrew University. This fine upstanding Arab MK took over his party after Azmi Bishara fled the country. Looking at him, we are assured that he is a reasonable and upstanding citizen, a positive example of all Israeli Arabs. He’s been in the Knesset for three terms already, serving our nation. This year he is a member of the Education, Culture and Sport Committee, so he has influence on what our children are learning in both formal and informal educational venues in Israel.
In the news clip, Margalit and his co-anchor ask MK Jamal Zahalka why he doesn’t demand that Egypt stop the suffering in Gaza. Zahalka comments that Israel has left dead children in its wake, and that Defense Minister Ehud Barak listens to classical music while killing Arab children (a parallel to reinforce the Nazi image Arabs like to portray of the Israeli army and its leaders).
Margalit refuses to let that comment pass, and he and his guest begin screaming at one another, until Margalit asks Zahalka to leave.
But Zahalka demands the last word, and as he is escorted off the set, at 2:40 on the video, he screams, “It’s Sheikh Munis here!”
Margalit fires back, “It's Sheikh Munis here? The truth comes out. Here is the truth. You want to capture the land HERE in Israel.”
Ah yes, the truth comes out. And even Dan Margalit sees it.
(At left, before the Expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif, Jamal Zahalka carries a sign demanding that Israel leave the "settlements".)
While the Israeli media has tried to brainwash the Jewish nation into believing that the only reason we do not have peace with the Arabs is because of those infernal “settlements,” civilized distinguished Arab MK Jamal Zahalka finally reveals the truth to the Israeli public.
“This is Sheikh Munis.” What is Sheikh Munis? Today, we call it Ramat Aviv, that upscale neighborhood in northern Tel Aviv, which is populated by a majority of leftwing Israelis, many of whom demand the destruction of Judea and Samaria for the sake of peace.
Well, my brothers in Ramat Aviv, Jamal Zahalka did not storm off of the nightly news set screaming, “Ariel is Arab. Maale Adumim belongs to Arabs.” He left saying, “This (Ramat Aviv) is Arab!!”
And Dan Margalit picked up on it. The Arabs aren’t burning for Ariel, Tekoa, Maale Adumim or Kedumim. They want Sheikh Munis (Ramat Aviv), Deir Yassin (Har Nof), Haifa, Jaffa, Akko, Lod, Ramla and about 432 other villages, towns and cities in Israel, according to the US Library of Congress.
Israel’s pre-State forces believed that Sheikh Munis had to be taken under Israeli control. It was strategically located near the Sde Dov airport, and armed Arab villagers within firing range of the airport and the Israeli roads and towns in the heart of the country were a security threat to the Jewish State.
Well, today, the government threatens to destroy Jewish towns inside Judea and Samaria, making way for armed Arab villagers to come within firing range of our international airport, Ben Gurion, and our country’s main cities - a danger to our country’s very existence. The media has tried to hide the truth, but in front of the entire viewing public Israeli Knesset Member Jamal Zahalka reminds us of the agenda – not of the Palestinian Authority – but of Israel’s own Arab population – the takeover of Israeli towns in the heart of the country.
Thank you, Jamal, for admitting the truth. Now, it’s up to the Jewish people to admit it as well.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rubble is Rubble

My mother-in-law (may she live and be well until 120) is a very smart woman. She tells it like she sees it.
My mother-in-law came to Israel after the Holocaust ravished Europe. Before she found shelter here, she and my father-in-law, o'h, were thrown in jail in Switzerland and forced into slave labor for trying to escape there from Nazi Germany. Israel was the hope, where Jewish people could pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and together build a future.
This week she watched the news from Haiti. She watched the field hospital, . She watched the care and kindness of the IDF to the victims. She watched ZAKA volunteers helping save Haitians from the rubble.
The Israeli Army has brought the most modern equipment to one of the most backward places in the world. The IDF has sent in the most elite of its medical and rescue teams. ZAKA (I believe it's the American ZAKA) is everywhere helping the Haitians and even singing "Haivainu Shalom Aleichem" with them. What chesed, what kindness, what beautiful sites!
And my mother-in-law has seen the rubble. Mounds and mounds of rubble.
She only has one question:
Is one RUBBLE different from another RUBBLE?
Can rubble, devastation and mass destruction vary in the way Israel regards them?
Israel spends millions upon millions of dollars to save people from the rubble everywhere in the world, to care for them, give them medical care, and even cheer them up.
So, nu...Is rubble at one spot the same as rubble at another spot?
Haitian rubble. Kenyan rubble. Greek rubble. Israel is there. Israel is compassionate. Israel is full of chesed. Israel is ready to rebuild lives.
So, my mother-in-law wants to know, is rubble RUBBLE?
Last week, my mother-in-law watched the news and saw homes and towns turned into rubble, and compassionate Israeli soldiers helping the survivors, while ZAKA volunteers were there to support the survivors, as well.
Four and a half years ago, my mother-in-law watched the news and saw homes and towns turned into rubble. But these homes and towns were Jewish ones from Gush Katif and the Northern Shomron. She said the rubble four years ago looked exactly like the rubble last week. And because of the rubble four years ago, 10,000 Jews lost their homes and were forced to sleep in tents, caravans and cramped hotel rooms.
Where were the compassionate soldiers? Why didn't ZAKA spring into action? Where was the medical treatment for those GK Jews who suddenly had heart problems and post-traumatic stress syndrome? Where was ZAKA when a GK Jew died right after the expulsion AND NO ONE WOULD BURY HIM!!!!
If Israel's most elite soldiers would have acted to the Gush Katif survivors as they did to the Haitian survivors, there'd be less illness in GK refugee towns today, why! there'd be less refugee towns, there'd be more people on their feet.
My mother-in-law wants to know if we have to ship off the survivors of Gush Katif and Northern Shomron to some remote island or a country on the other side of the world in order for Israel and the Israel Defense Forces to reach out to them, show them compassion and heal their wounds. That would certainly be a sad commentary on Israeli society.
But I would like to know too.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Praise from CNN - Ugh!

My friend from America forwarded me an email that includes a video clip of CNN's coverage of the Haiti earthquake. In this particular clip, the CNN reporter is stunned by the Israeli field hospital, which is the most advanced at the earthquake site, and includes a medical lab, pharmacy, x-ray center, and operating room. She is amazed that Israel's Search & Rescue, Armed Forces and doctors came from "the other side of the world" to save Haitian lives. In the CNN clip, Israel's facilities are repeatedly lauded while America's inadequate response is criticized. American aid personnel repeat, "I'm embarrassed to be an American."
My friend and everyone forwarding the clip are so thrilled that CNN finally has something good to say about Israel.
Praise from CNN? I don't want it and I surely don't need it.
Flashback: Unwanted Praise
The CNN clip reminds me of another sort of clip, a short meeting more than three millenia ago, between our forefather Jacob and his father-in-law Lavan. Lavan was a thief, a liar, an evil man, who swindled Jacob into years of work under the most difficult conditions.
When Jacob finally hastens to return home with his wives and children, Lavan chases him and finally overtakes him.
Lavan approaches Jacob, and says, "It is in my power to do you all harm, but the G-d of your father addressed me last night, saying, 'Beware of speaking with Jacob either good or bad.'"
Now, what's that all about?
The immortal commentator Rashi states, "G-d warned Lavan not to speak [even of doing good] to Jacob, because the good of the wicked is bad to the righteous. Righteous people despise any benefits they may derive from the wicked; their benefits are not truly good."
Throughout the years, CNN has been anti-Semitic and hateful to the Jewish nation. It has used every occasion possible to distort the truth when it came to Israel. And now suddenly, CNN is praising Israel for its chesed, one if the foremost characteristics of the Jewish people.
Haiti, Turkey, Sri Lanka, India, Greece, Kenya, Rwanda...
Why does Israel run around the world saving lives? Because we are bnei rachamim - sons of merciful ones. It is in our national DNA to show chesed to our brethren and the stranger. (The IsraAID site, , will give you a clear picture of the countries Israel has helped throughout the years. Unfortunately, many of these nations have voted against us in the UN, have said terrible things about our nation, have acted to us scornfully, and yet we have never denied our life-saving aid to anyone.)
Some people say that our rescue efforts around the world make the nations more sympathic to Israel. I have my doubts, but I understand why others might think so. This week the Israelis delivered a baby in their Haitian field hospital. The mother named the baby, "Israel." Who knows, maybe at least we are changing people one baby at a time.
But CNN?? Don't be fooled by today's praise. Lavan never changed. Neither will they.

Hail to the Chief and to You Too

Okay, if you read yesterday's and today's blog, you'll get the idea that weather is a big deal here. Yes, it is.
When it's dry and hot, we worry that our water supply is evaporating (and it is).
When it's wet and what you'd call nasty, we're all jumping for joy. We're praying that some of that rain will make it into the Kinneret, the Jordan River, and the underground acquifers.
Yesterday we had a gorgeous and fabulous rain -
Today we had terrific rains and even hail. I was driving home two of the boys from my Cartooning Club, and it began to hail. We all started screaming with delight. The hail tap tap tapped on my windshield and the noise was so loud, it sounded like background music for an action-adventure movie. One of the boys said, "Yeah, hail. Next is snow." I think that was a little optimistic, but then again, "Ya neva know."
Although the forecast for my area tomorrow is just heavy winds, Mt. Hermon is expecting a heavy winter storm, B"H. Yes! And may the waters from that storm splash right into the Kinneret.
Today as we were in the thick of the rainstorm, the electricity in all of Efrat went out for quite a while. I was in my Cartooning Club, and suddenly all the kids and I were sitting in the dark.
You'd think that pandemonium would break out. It didn't. Everyone just stayed in his seat while my teacher, the fabulous Shlomi Charka, went to the office to find out what the procedure was for a blackout.
Meanwhile, the kids had their own ideas. Emergency lights were on in the hallways, and everyone just picked up his papers and went out into the hallways to draw. Cartoon and Comics artists are serious people.
B"H, the lights came back and the rain continued.
The streets were rivers (and that's the way we like it) and tires made high TV commercial-like splashes as cars drove down the roads.
I am sorry for any of the hikers or drivers that were hurt or frightened by the sudden flash floods and ultra-heavy rains. We want you safe, AND we want the rain.
May Hashem watch over our people rain or shine.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Incredible Light Show

My husband and publisher, Israel Katz, and I were on our way home tonight from a very joyous Bar Mitzvah celebration, when exactly at the Gush Etzion Junction, the sky lit up with the most fantastic lightning I had every seen. It was the biggest and most interesting shaped bolt. It showed off across the entire sky in every direction - a special effect that would make Steve Spielberg jealous. It was followed by another and another and another.
We simultaneously recited the blessing, "Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the Universe, Who makes the work of Creation." And then suddenly a humongous and harmonious set of thunder claps, and we said, "Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the Universe, for His strength and His power fill the Universe."
The lightning and thunder continued and I tried to photograph the light show outside my car, but I failed dismally. I just kept missing it. The photo at the top is a long lightning bold, but it does not have as much personality as the ones that Israel and I saw tonight.
We drove home and B"H there is a river on the main street of my town. The water is rushing down the hill, a few inches thick. Hooray, B"H, let it continue.
My friend Yossie Baumol, who is a director of the Chevron Jewish community, said that the rain is a positive reaction to today's ruling by the High Court of Justice that the Jews living in the Army base in Chevron may continue living there, as they have for the past 20 years.
Well, that is indeed a reason for the skies to rejoice.
Let us keep giving Heaven reasons to rejoice and send down Blessed Rain.
Wow, listen to that!!! It's lightning and thundering again.
Enjoy the rain!!!!!!

What makes us dance?

In another six weeks, IY"H. about 100 women will take the stage in both the Gush Etzion and Efrat Community Centers to dance their hearts out - tap, jazz, modern, 60s, hip hop, Israeli, Mediterranean, ballet, African. You name it, they'll dance it.
By the time the lights go up on stage, they'll have rehearsed for more than three months. Some rehearse twice a week, some four times and some five. Some (like me, who just cannot get out of bed in the morning) are in their dancing shoes in the dance room at the Efrat Matnas at 8:30 AM.
Some (like my friends, who are early to bed-ers) are in the dance room in Alon Shvut until after 10 PM.
What makes these wonderful women work so hard to perfect their dances? What makes the choreographers give their personal time to bring perfection to their troupes?
It's not because they're hoping to get to Broadway, or the American Ballet Theater, or the Israeli Batsheva Dance Troupe. It's not because they're expecting talent scouts to find them. It's not because they'll get a raise if they're in top form.
And yet we do paradiddles at 8:30 in the morning (you try to paradiddle at 8:30 AM!!) and leap and turn at 7 at night. We crouch like a lion and rock like Elvis at 9. We do the hora at 10 PM.
It's a busy week, and a very busy few months.There are no salaries here, no egos, no theater future.
There are just 100 women who love to dance, and decided that if they're lucky enough to have this talent, that they'd like to dedicate it to a higher cause. Our choreographers, who are magnificent and professional dancers, are amazing role models for their dancers, and use their talents and love to encourage their dancers to reach heights they've never dreamed of. B"H, it's a great feeling to be able to help others with our dance.
And so, now for the third year in a row, we're dancing to raise money for Pesach food for the needy. It's called KIMCHA D'PISCHA. Our monies go to the Gush Etzion Foundation, which is routing everything we raised to the needy.
And we welcome women from all over Israel to our audience. They tap their toes and dance in their seats. And together we raise dance to a mitzvah.
This year's show, "DAMES of the DANCE 3" is The Seven Days of Creation.
It's going to be unbelievably exciting and fun, and you're invited.
Sunday, March 7
Thursday, March 11
Monday matinee, March 15
To find out more information, click here: .
You can buy tickets on line, or call one of our ticket sellers. (And while we're talking about ticket sellers, our hearts go out to our tickets sellers and their families who endure almost 24 hours of telephone calls and emails for six weeks. They do it with their whole hearts. Our gratitude to them.)
And may you always be blessed with wonderful reasons to dance, dance, dance.
A PS - One more note: It's not easy to find place for 30 women to practice dancing. No one's living room is big enough. No one has a basement for rehearsals. But rehearse we do, and we really have to thank OUR COMMUNITIES for their participation in our Mitzvah. Specially special is the kindness of the Matnas of Efrat and the Vaad of Alon Shvut who go above and beyond to enable our women to keep doing their dancing mitzvot. Kol hakavod.

(Photo above by Rebecca Flash Kowalsky.)

Friday, January 15, 2010


In America, if you wished, license plates were totally personalized and totally fun. The saying, "I am my license plate" really fit!
Folks can have their name on their license plates or their favorite fun words, or even descriptions of their job. More or less anything goes: MYCAR, MOMOF4, IDOC, BOBSWIFE, BOSSMAN, etc.
The license plate on our first joint-car when Israel and I got married was "Oh how cute!" because Israel said that I used that phrase all the time. On our second car, he put "AizehMotek."
License plates in different states have the state flower, the state bird, scenes of famous landmarks.
Yesterday my front license plate fell off my car. I had to go to the police station to file a report, and get permission to have it replaced.
I would have loved a personalized plate. I'm not sure what I'd have said, but I would have loved it. DARLING? CHESEDMOM? DO-GOOD? VOICES? STAGESTRUCK?
Well, I didn't have a choice, of course.
In Israel, license plates are more anonymous - one of the crowd. We don't really have a chance to express our individuality on our plates. Chaval.
I went to the license manufacturing place, which ended up being a tiny room in the back of DYNAMETER, and a little guy got my plate ready. There's a simple dye on which he lined up the letters, then laid down a yellow plate (you get three choices - blank long yellow rectangle, long yellow rectangle with Israeli flag, short yellow rectangle), and brought down a handle that squeezed the letters on the dyes on to my new license plate.
It took ten seconds.
Then he put black ink on a tiny ink roller (like a mini-printing press) and passed my license plate through. Done.
I stood watching - amazed. Amazed, because I did not know how simple it was to make a license plate. That didn't seem right to me.
If it's so easy to make, there must be a billion knock-offs in this country, chas v'shalom. And that's not a good thing, especially with thieves and terrorists running around.
I assume that the police are often spot-checking license plate numbers just to make sure they're for real.
And if Israel ever comes up with a more complicated and involved license plate, I hope they personalize them. I'd love a scene of Har HaBayit on mine. Maybe I'd print, "MRSKOHEN."

Solar Eclipse over Israel

I don't usually get out early in the morning, but today I popped out of bed to race over to join other Efratians to "watch" the solar eclipse. The sky was colored with a bit of a brown tint today. (Did you notice it?) And I was very excited to "see" this amazing phenomenon. Well, you can't really see it, because you're not allowed to look directly at the sun. It can seriously damage your eyesight. I didn't look up, but I got the feel of the eclipse nonetheless.
Between 14-25% of the sun was covered this morning, and we got a vivid look through special viewers and the old-fashioned way, as a reflection on white paper.
The solar adventure was led by Efrat's own astronomer Tom Rosenfeld, .
Tom explained to the dozen or so lucky folk present how the moon passes in front of the sun every month. That's the molad and that's when we have Rosh Chodesh. Usually the moon is a little more south of the sun, and so there's no eclipse, but sometimes, it partially or fully blocks the sun. Tom said that there are total eclipses (where the moon passes directly in front of the sun) every month, but usually they're over water or in some remote place.
Total eclipses are very rare in places where folks can actually see them. In fact, fellow Efratian Paul Shindman told me that people travel all over the world to see total eclipses. Cool.
When I got home all enthused about the eclipse, my husband and publisher Israel Katz told me that he knew all about the partial and total eclipses because of his Takachinsky Calendar of Eretz Yisrael (which has been printed for the past 150 years). Tachachinsky said that there will be "a total eclipse of the sun on Friday, 29 Tevet, in Africa: the Congo, Uganda and Kenya, on Southern tip of India and over the southeastern part of China." He also said that in Israel, we would be able to see portions of it from 7:15 AM to 9:10 AM. Correct!
Parents brought their children to witness the event, and passersby picked up viewers to get a peek at the sun and the moon's short pas-de-deux.
Anyone who's ever witnessed an eclipse told about their experiences, and it was a pretty interesting morning.
Thanks to Tom Rosenfeld and his wife, Sue, , for letting us know about this event and making it so meaningful.
I made a video of today's Solar Eclipse over Israel. See it here on VoicesTV . Chodesh tov.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

FLASH - The economic crisis is over

I have major news for everyone. THE ECONOMIC CRISIS IS OVER!! The world of money is soundly revolving once again. Everything is great. "Happy days are here again, the skies above are clear again, let us sing a song of cheer again, happy days are here again!!!"

How do I know???
Well, there are a few Sharon Katz Economic Indicators that I can report.
1) I went to the supermarket to do my Shabbat Shopping and found that PRICES HAD GONE UP quite a lot. Price after price (that I could remember) were higher. For this particular supermarket, juices went from 4 NIS each to 4.95 NIS. Cottage cheese that was something like 5.25 NIS was now 6.19 NIS. Yogurt was higher. Cereal was higher. Meat was higher. EVERYTHING was higher.
I complained. The store manager, who is very lovely, said, "But we're having a sale."
"Yes,"I said, "You're having a sale so that folks think you're doing them a favor, but you're having a sale from the HIGHER PRICES."
Well, it seemed that I was the only one bothered by the price hikes, because I'm the only one flipping out in the supermarket, so folks must be doing better economically and not mind too much.
2) The price of water has gone up and might well go up again. I was just looking for my recent notes, but I believe the water bill went up 40%. FORTY PER CENT. And I think they're trying for another 18% rise on top of the 40.
Okay, so we'll take one less shower a week (and stay at arm's distance from one another), but besides that, what can we do? All our gardens are dead already. There's nothing to give on the gardening aspect. We can wash our floors as infrequently as possible, but when your shoes start sticking to the kitchen floor, hey, you gotta wash the floor!!
We've got to wash laundry and dishes. We've got to wash "al netilat yadayim." We've got to put water in the soup.
What more can we stop in reference to water?
So, since I seem to be the only one totally hysterical about the new higher cost of water, folks must have all gotten raises and can afford the new astronomical water bills. (Someone please contact my boss.)
3) The Arnona (real estate tax) has gone up. Arnona went up (in my neighborhood, anyway) and although I'm screaming, "You're choking me. You're choking me," I haven't heard anyone else complain. Therefore, I guess all my neighbors are getting cost of living increases or they're the only ones in the universe who have won on the stock market. And...the economy is doing great.
4) Lastly for now, Lord of the Dance performed in Israel these past two weeks. INCREDIBLE riveting performance. I don't have enough superlatives as to the excitement, the breathless precision and the magnificence of this performance. Actually, see for yourself (and this isn't even the best clip, but it was indeed from the show - start watching at 4:49).
I was sitting in the bleechers, but I heard that ticket prices for Lord of the Dance started at 600 NIS in the orchestra. 600 NIS!!! and the Binyanei HaUma was P-A-C-K-E-D. Not a seat to be had, and I didn't hear anyone sqawking about the price of tickets. Folks came with their entire families and no one said, "They're fabulous, but tickets are 600 NIS!! Oy vey." No. Folks paid the money and were grateful they were able to get in. Then t-shirts sold for 100 NIS. Two color t-shirts. 100 NIS.
So, all these factors and more are SK Indicators that all's right with the world. No one has to worry about the economy any more. We're on solid footing, B"H.


Meanwhile, four months ago, VOICES went to a smaller print format and an expanded web format, , because we thought that we'd make it more economically viable for advertisers to buy space in our newly formatted magazine and on-line. We didn't realize the economic crunch would be so short-lived. B"H, we're happy for the Israeli economy, and we bless everyone with prosperity and good cheer always.
We are pleasantly surprised that all is so well, and we hope that it will continue.
I thought times were tough. B"H, I guess not. Maybe someone should tell the folks on line at the soup kitchens.
As Hashem provided for the needs of our people in the Wilderness, so may He continue to provide for all the needs of our people today.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Benny Katz 1,2,3, next

I just returned from the brit of my newest great-nephew, Binyamin.
He's also the nephew of my nephew, Binyamin.
And he's the cousin of my grandson, Binyamin.
All these little boys bear the name of my dear father-in-law, Binyamin Katz, o'h.
My father-in-law was a lovely quiet man, a gentle man who was also a gentleman. He always had a nice thing to say to each person he met - a joke, a compliment, a smile.
So, it was only natural that after he passed away, his children and grandchildren, all of whom loved him dearly, would want to remember him by naming a child after him.
[My father-in-law Binyamin, o'h, is pictured above with his family (May they all live and be well until 120.) FYI - the baby in his arms is the grandmother of the family's newest Binyamin and bli ayin hara many many other little tikes. Also pictured are my husband and publisher - the little boy on the right - his older sister on the left, and my mother-in-law, may she be blessed with good health ad 120.]
Right now, B"H, bli ayin hara, I have a bevy of beautiful granddaughters and one delicious little grandson, Binyamin.
IY"H, when my children are blessed with boys, I am sure each family will have a Binyamin, IY"H. So, I'm just wondering how that will work. Will we call them Binyamin Katz 1, Binyamin Katz 2, etc.
Will we call one Benny, one Binny, one Benjy?
Or will we call them by their father's name Binyamin Natah, Binyamin Mati, etc.?
Or by their age - Binyamin 6, Binyamin 3?
Or by their home - Binyamin Yehuda, Binyamin Shomron, Binyamin Binyamin?
It should be interesting. And IY"H, I look forward to finding out how we'll deal with a den of little Binyaminim running around. May Hashem allow us, IY"H, to see that day, and watch all of them grow up to Torah, chuppah and good deeds.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


January?? Are you sure??
** My friend from America just emailed me, "What's with the rain?" B"H, for an understanding friend, who isn't emailing, "What's with the Prime Minister, the government, the freeze?" Like many of us in Israel, my friend is in tune with our lives here, and he's got his mind on important stuff, "What's with the rain?"
** On Sunday, my friends and I went out to lunch together for the first time in ages. Sitting by the window, we gazed outside and watched folks walking past in light clothing, no jackets. The sky was blue, a little wispy, but not a hefty cloud in sight. Everyone looked outside and say, "Wierd."
** On Monday, I was driving through town and saw one of my friends. Opening the window at a red light, we both greeted each other and simultaneously said, "Gorgeous day, I'd rather have rain!!" Later that day, I came out of my comics club with two of the boys in my group. The sky was totally overcast. I said, "Maybe it will rain. Yay." One of the boys cut my hopes short, "No, Sharon that is just fog. There is no rain in the sky."
** Tonight, Tuesday, I went to the wedding of my childhood friend's daughter. We stood outside at the beautiful chuppah, and no one was shivering as they usually do. They were just standing, watching, smiling and wondering how we could be standing outside in mid-January without even a sweater.
There is something majorly wrong. I asked my friends, "Anyone praying for rain yet?? Shouldn't we be praying for rain? What's the rain story?"
B"H, i just got home from a very leibidik wedding, entered my office to close my computer and I noticed that reported that Israel's Chief Sephardi Rabbi HaRav Shlomo Amar, shlita, said that we must begin praying for rain.
Finally. I'm ready.
We should remember that it's not just about praying for rain. We must look into our hearts and souls and see how we can improve ourselves so that we should deserve the rain!
INN's Malkah Fleisher quoted the Rav, "It is our obligation in this situation to look inward and to actualize [good] deeds, to draw near to G-d with all our hearts, and to pour out our pleas to Him with a broken and forlorn heart."
So, that is the message today. Israel doesn't get its water from mighty rivers or melted mountain snows. Our water comes from the Heavens, and we must do we what we can to reach the Heavens with our prayers and open those Heavenly rain spouts, so that our Land can once again drink in the life-giving waters from Above.
Let us influence all those around us to be good to one another, and sincerely look to Hashem for His help. May you and your family have a down pour of blessings, and may the Jewish Nation call out to Hashem and be answered.
Speaking of HaRav Shlomo Amar. I was at the Kotel when the Chief Rabbi lit the Kotel's Menorah on Chanukah. HaRav Amar blessed Am Yisrael with great abundance. You can read it here:
Or watch the Rav giving his blessings here:

443 - Why Wait for Disaster?

Everyone who lives in the Modi'in area, has family or friends there, or is simply concerned for Jewish life is very upset (Please replace with a stronger word!) that Highway 443 is going to be open to Arab traffic.
I don't think anyone has forgotten that 443 was a death trap before 2002 when Arabs shot and killed Jews driving on that highway. Since then the IDF has closed the highway to PA Arab traffic. The 14 miles connect Jerusalem to Modi'in, Chashmonaim, Kiryat Sefer, Talmon, etc. All of Israel agrees that this lifeline to Modi'in must not be turned into a death trap. Unfortunately the High Court of Justice does not agree.
They have ruled that the road will open in five months, Heaven help us (and I mean that literally).
Many authorities are screaming that Jews will no longer drive on the 443, and opt to use Route One (the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway), which will put so much pressure on the Highway, that it might chas v'shalom collapse in tremendous traffic jams that will paralyze the entire route.
Well, my question/suggestion is: WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR??
Instead of driving Highway 443 until the day five months from now when it is opened to PA Arabs, chas v'shalom, and then switching to Route One, why not SWITCH TO ROUTE ONE NOW, and let the public, the government, the High Court, the IDF see what Route One will be like with the overflowing traffic. This action might change the High Court's mind.
Instead of waiting five months and reacting, LET'S BE PROACTIVE. If you drive on 443, drive on Route One instead - thousands and thousands more cars on Route One.
The traffic will be unbearable.
The High Court might unfortunately not care if Jewish lives are endangered by opening 443 to PA Arab traffic, but perhaps it will care when the Route One is brought to its knees with overcapacity traffic.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Efrat Businesspeople Go SOCIAL

Social media (internet stuff like blogs, facebook, twitter) are quickly becoming a vital part in our personal and business lives. Our kids sit on facebook whenever they're not in school. Folks opt to watch internet clips more often than reading print info. 96% of the "Y Generation" has joined some sort of social media. And there are about 200,000 bloggers in the world. I'm one of them.
So, tonight, Avi Abelow, co-founder and head of NEW ISRAEL MEDIA, taught Efratians how to connect via social media. Tonight's meeting focused on Efrat businesspeople, teaching them how to use the newest social media that's popped up today, TWOOZER, . It's a Jewish Twitter. Instead of a kazillion messages and members, right now it has hundreds and will soon have thousands. It gives you news in mini-blogs, short concise comments, instantaneous postings. It's more focused than Twitter, and Efrat businesspeople are learning how to focus it even more - first, on Israel and further, on Efrat's local news, local environment and local business.
The Bagel Place in the Te'ena hosted tonight's meeting, co-sponsored as well by New Israel Media and our own Voices Magazine,
It was a gorgeous night (of course we would have rather had rain), and we sat outside as Avi walked us through the use of Twoozer, and explained how it can generate business and interaction between people, neighbors, customers/businesses, etc.
Avi taught everyone how to sign up for Twoozer, send a message, and join an Efrat and/or Gush Etzion group. He also sent out the following five tips to using Twoozer, - how to conduct yourself online to develop and maintain a relationship so that people are interested in hearing what you have to say:
1. Add Value
2. Be Real
3. Do Good Things
4. Listen
5. Respond
If you want people to connect with you personally, as a fellow resident, or through your business or organization, you've got to interact with them in positive ways. As Avi said, "People buy from people, not businesses."
The first step is to develop a personal relationship with others on social media. Some of these will be friends, become friends, and also be your customer.
That's what we learned tonight - interacting on Twoozer.
This was the first evening teaching Efratians about social media. Avi will host one in the future in Hebrew as well.
Meanwhile, our founding Efrat/Gush Etzion Twoozer group would like to invite our fellow Efrat/Gush residents and friends to Twooze with us.
You don't have to stop reading/writing to the Efrat Email list. You don't have to close your facebook. You don't have to quit anything. All these are complementary, interconnected media, and each has its purpose.
Join Twoozer, . (I just checked the site and there are already Efrat messages up there. COOOOOL. A new toy.)
It's a new world, and we should all try to be a part of it.
A VOICES TV video clip will be up in a few days. You can check www.voices-magazine before the end of the week to see more.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Rockin' for Our Brethren

Okay, okay, for the benefit of others, I'll sit through a fabulous rock concert, clap my hands until they're red, and sing along until my throat is sore. I'm big hearted, so I just had to do it.
So did about 400 other folks.
Tonight, a terrific cover band, THE SIXTIES, had a whole audience in Gush Etzion enthralled with an evening of really great (I kid you not) music - the Beatles, the Monkees, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Elvis, Roy Orbisen, the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones. The adults loved it and even the teenagers were jumping around in front of the stage and swaying, and later shining the lights of their cell phones at the crowd as the band played John Lennon's "Imagine" and Paul McCartney's "Hey Jude."
While you might think we Gush Etzion/Efrat folk are not the rock concert type, or maybe not the rock concert type NOWADAYS, we all came out for the benefit of JOB KATIF, which has been working to find employment for the folks of Gush Katif for the past four years. Its motto is "restoring lives one job at a time."
As I wrote in a previous post, , over the past four years, JobKatif has found 1300 jobs for GKers, helped create 175 businesses and sent 250 people for retraining. There's still much more to do. And the government of Israel has realized that only JobKatif has proven successful at this task.
So, they've given JobKatif a matching grant to make it happen. But that means that JobKatif has to bring in the money to be matched. The profits from tonight's concert count in that matching, so B"H, it was a super successful evening.
Thank you to Alan and Risa Schuman, Valerie and Yehoshua Pessin, and Elana and Gershon Adams and everyone else who made this evening such a smash hit. What a team!!
A Who's Who of JobKatif
Some JobKatif superstars were present at the concert, and that was a big thrill for JobKatif supporters.. Firstly, HaRav Yosef Tzvi Rimon, founder and head of JobKatif, addressed the audience. While he has so many other responsibilities as a rabbi, teacher and author, Rav Rimon said that he cannot turn his mind to other projects until he has gotten the people from Gush Katif back on to their feet. He said that he doesn't listen to non-Jewish music, but if hearing a rock song will help the people of Gush Katif, well, ....
The evening was dedicated in thanks to one of JobKatif 's original dynamoes Ruthie Schwartz, whose hard work and burning devotion were the impetus to putting so many GKers back to work. In addition to her many other responsbilities, I remember that it was Ruthie who set up my first interview for Voices with Rav Rimon long ago. Ruthie sat right upfront at the concert, and beamed at the progress being made by JobKatif today.
JobKatif Executive Director Judy Lowy was on hand as well. Judy's been on the radio quite a lot lately trying to garner more support for JobKatif and encourage people to help now, especially during this period of the Matching Grant.
Acharon acharon chaviv, Mr. Avery Harris and his wife sat right in front of us. I will never forget those days right after the destruction of Gush Katif. Avery got in his car every single day (I think from Petach Tikva) and drove from one expelled community to another, trying to find out what they needed and how he could help them. He knew what was doing in every single family's home. And he still does. He remains in daily contact with the folks from Gush Katif. Today, he is a tireless volunteer for JobKatif.
JobKatif has come a long way in finding employment for our brethren. But there are so many that remain unemployed and underemployed, there is still much to do. And as Gush Katif expellees begin rebuilding, JobKatif's involvement will become even more vital. Let's all do what we can to help and encourage others to help as well: , 072-212-7121.
IY"H, there'll be a video of the concert up on VoicesTV in the next few days. Keep your eyes on .
Every day, JobKatif tells ex-Gush Katif ers, "I wanna hold your hand." Kol hakavod and much hatzlacha to JobKatif until the job is done!

Friday, January 8, 2010

I've Been Invited to Lebanon

Business and new technologies have always been of interest to me, both as a hobby and a way to enter the future along with the rest of the world.
So, when there's a seminar or workshop on new media (like there is on Sunday night,
January 10th, in Efrat, I'm in!!! Sometimes we feel like a slave to new media, but when it can actually help us, I am intrigued and I want to be a part of it. On Sunday night, Avi Abelow, president of NEW ISRAEL MEDIA, a parent company of,,, etc., will teach a lucky group of business people how to use the new media to help their business grow! Voices Magazine, , is a co-sponsor of the evening at the Bagel Place.
And when someone wants to teach me more about Time Management, Negotiation Skills or other business skills, I am ready to join in.
So, when I got an invitation today to attend a series of seminars offered by GMTDC, General Management Training and Development Consultant, I was very interested. They're going to be teaching Presentation & Speaking Skills, Project Manager Skills, Writing a Marketing Plan, Leadership Skills Development, Advanced Selling Techniques, Time Management and Negotiation Skills. This seminar series is for me!!
The topics are just right. The dates are good for me too.
The only problem I see (and I'm not sure how to overcome this) is that the seminar is in Beirut, Lebanon. I was invited to a seminar in Beirut, Lebanon. I would love to go. I want to go. Beirut is only about 95 miles from the Israel-Lebanon border, so I wouldn't have to travel so far. And they have their own Starbucks (as pictured at left), so it's not a backward place.
But I don't think it would be a very friendly environment for me. Actually, the seminar would probably be great, but would I feel safe going to the corner supermarket for rice cakes??
I've been thinking it over, and I've decided that although I am very attracted to the seminar, I think I'd better skip it, until it's in a more sympathetic location.
Actually, I've already check to see if GMTDC was offering their seminars anywhere else. They are - KSA (I didn't know what it was, so I looked it up - Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Turkey.
Big disappointment. Although I'm curious to see those countries, I think I'll have to catch a glimlpse of life around the Middle East on YouTube or FoxNews.
I thank the GMTDC for the invitation, and I truly hope that one day the world will be a sincerely peaceful place, and I'll be able to attend one of their seminars safely and securely.


When I opened Christina Pirello's website, I was captivated by the positive energy that can be engendered by this blast of "well life". Christina Pirello is a healthy eating guru, known throughout America and beyond for her books and fun TV series, Christina Cooks.
Over the past week, Christina has been cooking in Israel. Today, she brought her team to my hometown of Efrat and had a cook-in at the home of Drs. Michael and Lois Feinerman. The Feinermans started cooking macrobiotically a decade ago, and at a healthy food seminar in Boston, Christina Pirello taught Michael had to cut vegetables to perfection.
More than 50 people gathered in the Feinermans' living room/dining room to listen and watch as Christina prepared (what she promised would be delicious) food that she said would make them feel better, live longer.
BTW, animal fats are a killer, she says.
Christina taught and talked. Her bubbly personality and good humor are just the combination needed to coax the meat eaters around us to try something new - like soy, tofu, miso.
Shulamit Slotki, owner of Maaleh Adumim health food store Chalav U'Dvash, which provided the ingredients for the foods today, told me news that shocked me. She said that today's younger generation may have a shorter lifespan than their parents. All kinds of disease and illnesses in children and young adults are a result of poor eating habits in your people today – prepared foods, take out, white bread, hot dogs. It is vital that you read this article, After reading it, you will see that in order to save our children's very lives, we must teach them to eat healthy.
Today's food is genetically engineered, tainted with growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides and toxins that put our long-term health at real risk.
Christina, who comes from Philadelphia, said that all of America is in a health crisis. "We’ve been facing an epidemic in food-related diseases for over fifty years. We’re obese, diabetic, and dying from heart disease, cancer and a myriad of other illnesses." Christina's books, TV show and website guide people to make healthy eating fun and delicious and easy to do.
She came to Israel on the invitation of Sheldon and Ginat Rice, leaders of Israel's macrobiotic community. The Rices teach, inspire and support an entire population of people wishing to attain a healthier life. See
I stood in the Feinermans' kitchen this morning as five people helped prepare for the program - chopping or grating mushrooms, onions, kale, squash, carrots and green apples. There's a lot of chopping that goes into healthy eating. Bags of organic whole wheat noodles, rice milk, avocado oil (avocado oil???) and other healthy ingredients stood ready.
Christina spoke as she chopped, "Healthy food doesn't have to be weird or something your family turns their nose up." She suggests making small changes so that your family won't revolt.
If she only had one piece of advice, Christina said she tell people to Eat More Vegetables! "I don't care how you cook them or juice them or step on them. Your life will change completely."
After that, switch from processed grain to whole grain. "If you're eating white rice, change it up to brown rice, and add things like quinoa, barley, whole wheat and teff. Change from white bread to whole grain bread, and your life will change."
She laughed, "If people would just buy peanut butter without sugar, I'd die happy."
Christina said, "Very often people come to macrobiotics when they're sick. There aren't a lot of people walking around today saying, 'You know, life is good. I think I'll give up everything I love and go eat this vegetarian diet, where I will be in the kitchen for hours and hours and hours.'"
"Usually people come to us when they have one foot on the banana peel and the other one in the grave. And they say, 'By the way, I've got three seconds to live. Will broccoli save me now?"
Christina noted that even if you eat well for one meal, your quality of life changes. "So I advise people who are healthy, without a serious condition, to do the best they can. Make little changes. You will see the effect, which will inspire you to make more."
* Brown rice is the foundation of a meal. "The best of the best."

* When you make brown rice, which has very important nutrients, you should soak the rice, throw away the soaking water, and cook the rice. You can soak it for ask little as an hour or all day.
* Cook with sea salt, not processed table salt. "Your blood is the same chemistry as sea water. You need salt, but only in cooking, not on the table."
* When you bake a cake without eggs, you need both baking powder and baking soda, or it won't rise. The baking soda is that extra push of leavening.
* Rinse quinoa with water before cooking.
Christina continues her Natural Food Classes until Tuesday, January 12.
To find out more, contact Sheldon and Ginat Rice, 02-566-9367,

IY"H, I'm going to post a video of the program on Voices TV in the next few days. It will be worth watching, .

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

No Building No Israel

It is a Middle Eastern trait to NEVER accept what you originally asked for, and always ask for more. When we first moved to Israel, we saw a property that cost $40,000 for the land. We agreed. As soon as the handshake was done, the owner called us back and said, "For me, $40,000 is good, but now my partner wants $45,000." This kind of Middle Eastern negotiating continued hourly with the price rising every time we said, "It's a deal," all the way up to $100,000. Our last response was, "You know what greedy people get? Nothing!"
Don't worry. B"H, we later bought a different lot and built a house that we love, surrounded by neighbors that we love, respect and admire.
It has always been evident that as soon as Israel agrees to the Arabs' demands, they demand more. Just like with our "house" story.
Israel has agreed to freeze settlement in Judea and Samaria (and who knows if it will end up a freeze or a total halt, chas v'shalom). Israel has begun destroying homes in different Yesha towns, and who knows if chas v'shalom, this is not a prelude to destroying towns altogether.
Well, all of this is not enough. The construction freeze is not enough. Israel's renewed hateful attitude toward the "settlements" is not enough. Today, the JPost reported that PA President Mahmoud Abbas said he would only return to negotiations if before negotiations, Israel agrees to give up all of Judea and Samaria.
Well, if they do that, what's left to negotiate?
Actually, quite a lot. The Arabs are not interested only in Judea and Samaria. If you read any of their newspapers, watch their TV, or even look at their children's text books, they want more. They want ALL of Israel.
You might say, as some of our Prime Ministers have, they can want whatever. What they get is a different story.
That reasoning might be good for regular people, but for, they usually hold out for what they want. They are a very patient people, they're willing to wait for years and even generations, while they have some terror, murder, bombings, stabbings on the way just to remind us, that they're not waiting THAT quietly.
Itamar Marcus' site, "Palestinian Media Watch" is a lesson in Middle Eastern reality. In an article on the site, by Vincent Carroll - Nov. 22, 2009, Caroll writes, "[Marcus] will show you snippets from TV quiz shows for Palestinian kids predicated on the non-existence of Israel."
"Host: 'Which mountain is the tallest in Palestine? ...' Child contestant: 'Mount Meron (in Israel).' On another show, a host asks, 'Which Palestinian city is called 'the flower of Galilee'?' and then names three Israeli cities! Then Marcus will show you school geography lessons that use maps on which Israel is missing. Do any Palestinian textbooks acknowledge the existence of Israel, I wonder. 'No,' Marcus replies."


The goal of the Palestinian Authority, as its predecessor the Palestinian Liberation Organization, is simple - NO ISRAEL. Not, no Gaza, no Judea, no Samaria, no Eastern Jerusalem. The goal is NO ISRAEL. They want Jaffa and Haifa, Lod and Pisgat Ze'ev, Katamon and Ramat Aviv. They want it all.
But they are very smart. They know how to play us against one another, and have us do their dirty work, breaking up a town here and a town there. Dividing us physically and emotionally until the day that their plans come to fruition, chas v'shalom.


The only antidote we have to the loss of our Land and our Existence is unity. Unity despite our differences. Unity at every level. Honest (not lip service) unity.
And unfortunately, that's no easy task. Really, it's harder to smile at the person (who's a little different from you) on the other side of the bus, or waiting on line at the check-out counter, or sitting behind the desk in some office, than it is to stand out in the cold at a demonstration.
But this ahavat chinam (wholehearted love of other Jews) is the only hope. United we stand. Chas v'shalom, divided we are destroyed.

Building Bet Orot and All Israel

When my nephew learned in the Bet Orot Yeshiva many years ago, he showed us plans for a new Bet Orot housing where he would live one day with his future wife and family, IY"H. At the time he was sleeping in an old building in the most spartan circumstances. I was excited about his future home.
The residential zoning of the Bet Orot area was approved in 1990. This particular Bet Orot building project was approved in 2003, so when he spoke about his future home, we were confident it would happen.
It's seven years later. My nephew's not married yet (anyone got a fabulous girl for a fabulous boy??), but the Bet Orot project isn't built yet either.
Now it seems the PA's Mahmoud Abbas and US President Barack Hussein Obama don't want this project built. They don't want any projects built in Eastern Jerusalem.
Well, what did we expect? I wrote about it in Voices,, several times already.


Israel makes a distinction between Eastern Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria. Eastern Jerusalem is the Heart of Israel. Judea and Samaria are the Biblical Heartland of Israel.
They both pump life into Israel and the Jewish people. They are both vital for our existence as a a people and a nation. The Temple Mount, the Kotel, the Old City, the City of David, Avshalom's Tomb, the Mount of Olives Cemetery, the graves of Shimon HaTzaddik and the Sanhedrin, and more and more treasured sites are in Eastern Jerusalem.
The site of the Tabernacle, the place of Jacob's Dream, the Cave of the Patriarchs, Rachel's Tomb, Joseph's Tomb, the graves of Ruth and Jesse, the place of King David's first reign, the Bar Kochba Caves, the sites of the battle of the Hashmonaim, Herodion, Sussia, the Path of the Patriarchs and more and more treasured sites are in Judea and Samaria. An even superficial read of the Bible (which the entire world accepts) produces the names and locations of all the Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria.
And yet, Judea and Samaria are pejoratively called, "The West Bank", "the settlements", the wrong side of the Green Line. Furthermore, no Israeli government ever said (as the Arabs do about their sites), "You must refer to these places as Judea and Samaria." In fact, Israel looks upon its own heartland with disregard, or sometimes worse, disdain. So, it's no wonder that Jewish construction has been so limited in Yesha, and now completely halted, although Arabs continue to build unchecked.


Israel might make a distinction between Yesha and Eastern Jerusalem, but to the Arabs and their supporters, it is all the same. Maps of "Palestine" do not just NOT include Judea and Samaria. They DON'T include ISRAEL altogether!!!
Israel foolishly agreed to stop building in Judea and Samaria, but that is not enough for the Arabs or the rest of the world, because they don't want building anywhere, unless it is Arab building.
So, what's going to happen to my nephew's future home? IY"H, it will be built. It might shlep on or be postponed yet again, G-d forbid, but it will be built, because building Jerusalem doesn't depend on Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Abbas or Obama. "Boneh Yerushalayim Hashem, nidcheh Yisrael yekanes." (The builder of Jerusalem is Hashem, the outcast of Israel He will gather in.) - Psalm 147
And what of the rest of Judea and Samaria? The ten month freeze will take much longer to thaw then ten months. Once the freeze is in place, it is very simple to just not approve any future building, even without formally declaring another freeze. The government's building freeze is a freeze of foolishness and fear, as are so many of the moves made in Yesha by the government. If Israel (its people and its government) would only appreciate the eternal gift it has, no frost would have power here and the entire land inside, outside, alongside the Green Line would blossom and grow.
If only the government of Israel would have faith in G-d, who gave us this land, and work to build the land instead of stifle it...
"For He (Hashem) has strengthened the bars of your gates, and blessed your children in your midst; He Who makes your borders peaceful...He scatters FROST like ashes." - Psalm 147