Thursday, May 27, 2010

Efrat Elementary School Honored by President

Yesterday, for the second time in a dozen years, the Aseh Chayil School of Efrat has been honored as one of the top schools in the country. The honor itself is a tremendous mark of distinction, and to be cited twice is very rare.
President of the State of Israel Shimon Peres and Minister of Education Gidon Sa'ar congratulated Aseh Chayil Principal Mrs. Miriam Vangrover, Rav Bet HaSefer HaRav Aharon Falk, teaching staff, parents committee, pupils and their families for this unique achievement. All of Efrat joins in their joy. Mazel tov to Mayor Oded Revivi and Education Director Tali Cohen on this tremendous occasion.
HaRav Falk told Voices that the school was honored on several fronts. Firstly, it was praised for its "integration of olim (new immigrants) from Western countries, and for its fostering the acclimation of special needs children, as well."
Rav Falk noted the school's "exceptional investment" in developing a personal relationship with its student families that address their broad educational, social and family needs. The elementary school was recognized for its developing unique programs that enable each child to experience success and achieve his maximum.
In a time when violence in schools is one of society's worries, Aseh Chayil was acknowledged for cultivating an upbeat and calm educational atmosphere that has influenced the positive behavior of its pupils. The Ministry of Education noted the school's emphasis on derech eretz and mutual respect, and its plethora of social programs aimed at teaching and elevating social values and achieving educational goals.
The Ministry of Education also congratulated Aseh Chayil for fostering a positive dialogue with parents and the community at large. Its innovative programs, like the Cheder Tanach, which incorporates art into learning Bible studies, and its special programs on the Holocaust, especially the "Million and a half Button" project in memory of the children murdered in the Holocaust.
Rav Falk added that more Aseh Chayil programs were lauded, including the Musical Mishnayot of Pirkey Avot, "Chavruta learning" between fifth and second graders, as well as fourth and first graders in an experiential way, plus the very popular "Veshenantam Levanecha" parent-child after-school project.
As children today spend more time inside with their computers and modern technology, Aseh Chayil was applauded for its petting zoo, which allows all its pupils to reconnect with nature, and especially, which serves as a therapeutic environment for special-needs children.
Also honored yesterday were schools in Ashdod, Rishon L'Tzion, Baka El Garbia, Kiryat Ono, Yavne, Maalot, Netanya, Kibbutz Shoval in the Negev, Herzelia and Kfar Majar.
( Photos by Yisrael Weiss. http://artframe)

Setting a Precedent for Future Destruction

There has been a lot of debate on my community email list about the possible destruction of the synagogue/yeshiva in Yitzhar.
Of course, some people agree and some disagree with the message that the Rav of the yeshiva proclaims, but as one writer (perhaps David Bedein) explained, "The punishment should fit the crime," if there is indeed a crime. (You don't destroy a school building, because you don't like the speeches of one of the teachers there.) Every yeshiva has different kinds of rabbis in it, with varied messages. There are, after all, 70 faces of the Torah.
PRECEDENT 1
Punishing a yeshiva for its rabbi's point of view is a terrible precedent. Today a left wing Defense Minister wants to punish a yeshiva for X. And tomorrow, a different official will want to punish another yeshiva for Y. Is that the way we want Am Yisrael to live??
Will Rabbis and Roshei Yeshiva no longer feel free to teach their students, for fear of punishment?
Are we in Communist Russia?
And if Israel punishes rabbanim for their opinions and teachings, we are opening the door for any country of the world to punish the rabbis of their countries for their teachings as well.
PRECEDENT 2
Destroying a synagogue is a horrific thing. It is not just a building. It is a symbol of Judaism itself. And don't say, "Well, it can be explained away. This particular synagogue/yeshiva was used to speak against the …"
If this shul in Yitzhar is destroyed, NO SHUL IN THE WORLD will be safe. And I'm not talking only about destroying synagogues/yeshivot because they supposedly "teach treason against the government of" whatever country they're in. I'm talking about destroying a shul, because a road has to be built there, because a mall has to be built there.
Once a synagogue has been destroyed, the precedent INTERNATIONALLY is set, "IT IS OKAY TO DESTROY SYNAGOGUES."
Have we already forgotten the trauma that our entire people experienced when we saw the yeshivot and synagogues of Gush Katif burning after the "Disengagement"? We were upset, but our government didn't do anything about it. (Another precedent! Not only can any country destroy a synagogue, but they can do it without fear, because the government of Israel will stand idly by.)
If the State of Israel destroys this synagogue/yeshiva, it is opening a Pandora's Box that will have ramifications for Jews worldwide. Please don't say I'm exaggerating. You cannot read the future.
PRECEDENT 3
When the cemetery of Gush Katif was uprooted, many people screamed, "You cannot uproot Jewish bodies for this 'Disengagement.'" The government disagreed, "We are doing this for peace," and unburied the dead of Gush Katif, reburying them elsewhere. (In a peaceful situation, couldn't the bodies have remained there, and the the families would get special permission to visit their loved ones on their yahrzeits and holidays, etc.?) Uprooting the graves set a precedent that has already been applied in Europe.
I read a few weeks ago in "HaModia" that a Jewish cemetery in Europe is being uprooted to build a mall on that spot. (Sorry, I can't remember the city. I'll try to find it.) Progress must take precedence over the past. The Jews in that town were infuriated. But there was no way to really fight. They were told that Jewish graves could be unburied and reburied as long as it was in a respectful manner. It had been done not long ago in Israel itself, in Gush Katif.
PRECEDENT 4
Precedents go in every direction and there are tons more. Here's just one:
When Joseph reigned in Egypt, he made all the people pay him for his grain, and he had everyone working, except the Priests of Egypt. He had set a precedent that the priestly class is not treated like others and is not subjected to the same harsh demands. So, when the slavery began, thanks to Joseph, the Levites were not enslaved.
We all have our different political ideas. Don't try to punish someone else for his ideas, because one day, it might bounce back at you. Don't be so eager to destroy shuls and schools and whatever to "teach those people a lesson", because one day, chas v'shalom, someone will try to teach YOU the same lesson.
Am Yisrael has many different faces, but we are ONE PEOPLE. We have ONE LAND. We've got to stick up for one another, because we're all we've got.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

We Cannot Let A Yeshiva/Shul in Israel Be Destroyed

This is the first time that I am including almost in total someone else's email, but it is so important, I could not let it just pass by. Rabbi Pesach Lerner is one of our generation's great Jews. Whenever there is a cause that is vital to the Jewish people, Rabbi Lerner takes up the mantle. A friend to Jonathan Pollard, to the people of Gush Katif, to the needy, to settlements throughout Israel. B"H, I have had the zechut to work with him on chesed campaigns. Bli ayin hara, he is tireless and fearless. He is not afraid to speak out for the benefit of Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael and Torat Yisrael.
From Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Executive Vice President, National Council of Young Israel

We cannot let a yeshiva/shul in Israel be destroyed.

Arutz Sheva, May 9, 2010: The IDF's Civilian Administration issued a demolition order Sunday against the spacious building that houses Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva at Yitzhar, in Samaria.Local residents believe that authorities are purposely punishing the yeshiva because of a confrontation with the IDF that took place on Independence Day, and also because security forces hold the yeshiva's students responsible for various attacks against Arabs in recent months and years... “It turns out that the authorities are making special efforts to hurt the yeshiva in an unfair and vindictive way,” a yeshiva spokesman said Sunday. “It should be noted that the building is an ornate permanent structure, with an area of 1,300 square meters, which was built with the aid of the Ministry of Housing and was approved by the various authorities to serve as an educational institution.”
The destruction order, the residents said, cited an 11 year old work-stoppage order – one that they had never heard of until now. The building took years to build and cost over $1 million.

I could not believe what I was reading...In Israel, Jews were going to destroy a yeshiva/shul building? As I researched the situation...it seemed obvious that the Israeli government was using the pretext of a seemingly 11-year old building violation to punish the yeshiva and its students who seemingly have become a nuisance to the government.
But to destroy a yeshiva - a place of Tefillah and Torah study - in Israel? ...The individuals responsible should be held accountable, but to destroy a yeshiva is quite excessive. Besides the Chilul Hashem, which is severe in its own right, what will we tell the Europeans the next time they want to destroy an old shul, for whatever reasons they may have? Does the Israeli government destroy a public school in Tel Aviv when its students are involved, chas v’shalom in some sort of wrongdoing?
...I contacted the Rosh HaYeshiva of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva, which has been in Yitzhar for almost 10 years, since its original home, Joseph's Tomb in Shechem, was abandoned by the Israeli army and destroyed by the Arabs. Rabbi Yitzchok Shapira, the Rosh HaYeshiva, told me that the yeshiva had in fact received a demolition order, based on a violation from 11 years ago - a violation which they knew nothing about.
I was picked up by Rabbi Dan Marans, whom I personally know in his capacity as the director of the Zomet Institute in Alon Shvut. We drove through the Shomron to the community of Yitzhar, which is on a strategic mountaintop, overlooking Har Greizim, quite a distance from the main road. The yeshiva building, a beautiful multi-floored structure, stood away from the community, in its own space. ...I met with the Rosh HaYeshiva, Rabbi Yitzchok Shapira and the yeshiva director, Itamar Pozen. They shared with me the tzav harisa, the destruction order, and a package of documents proving their legal status, and the fact that numerous departments in the Israeli government participated in the building of the yeshiva.
... Rabbi Shapira told me that the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva has been teaching its students for many years that every Jew must be “mutually responsible” for every other Jew. This movement of “mutual responsibility” threatens the government. ...The idea that Jews would destroy yeshiva/shul buildings under any circumstances is reprehensible. If a European country threatened to destroy a shul under the pretext of a building code violation, Jews from all walks of life – Orthodox and non-Orthodox – would demand that the order be cancelled.
...I spoke to numerous roshei yeshiva and community rabbis in Israel, and they all agreed that Jews must not destroy yeshivas/shuls. I spoke to various Israeli government officials, all of whom could not understand how such an order could be given.
...We have a responsibility to do all that we can to ensure that this order gets overturned. We must publicly urge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to forcefully and publically rescind this order. We cannot sit back and allow a yeshiva, a beautiful center of Torah and Tefillah, to be destroyed.
Each of us must send daily emails, send daily faxes, and make daily phone calls to the Prime Minister of Israel protesting this inconceivable action. People need to send letters to the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC and to the Israeli Consulate in New York.
We must demand that our community organizations, our rabbis, our entire community, speak out. We cannot allow this Chilul Hashem, this desecration of G-d’s name, to take place. Please send an email, send a fax, and make a call, now.
Tell the Prime Minister to protect the yeshiva building in Yitzhar and prevent it from being destroyed. And, in the merit of our speaking out, of caring for our fellow Jews and our Torah institutions, may we merit Shalom al Yisrael, peace in Israel.

Contact Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at:
Telephone - 011-972-2-670-5532 (attention: Tzvi Hauser, Cabinet Secretary of the Israel government)
011-972-2-675-3227, 011-972-2-640-8457
Fax (send to all three numbers) –011-972-2-563-2580 (attention: Tzvi Hauser, Cabinet Secretary of the Israel government), 011-972-2-670-5369, 011-972-2-649-6659
Email (send to all three email addresses) –
For the contact information of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC or the consulate office nearest to you, please click here

Which Crisis Comes First

I start out each work session at my desk by reading the news on the web. Oh my gosh!!! What's the world's horoscope today? What crisis should we handle first????? (In no particular order....)

  • A couple in Tel Aviv apparently attempted a terror attack on a Dan Bus. - Jpost
  • Obama wants to welcome Bibi to the White House. You might think this is great, but chas v'shalom, who knows what Bibi might be forced to do to get back into Obama's good graces. I was happier when they weren't pals.
  • The 443 is opening to Arab traffic endangering the lives of tens of thousands of Jews in the Modiin region, and with threats that this is a precursor to opening the Betunia-Ramallah bypass road, which would threaten the towns of Dolev, Talmon, Nachliel, Halamish.
  • Bet Yonatan is going to be sealed and then....
  • Israel National News reports that Jews for J are making a big missionary push this summer, chas v'shalom, the biggest since 1948. Right now they're making a concerted effort to missionize to Jews in Ramat Gan, Petach Tikvah, and Herzliya. There's so much more missionary activity in Israel, as we speak, it's frightening. - http://www.jewishisrael.com/
  • World-wide anti-semitism is on the rise, big time - http://myrightword.blogspot.com/2010/05/hate-thats-out-there.html In fact, blogger Yisrael Medad points to another blog on the subject. This week, I wrote about the Jewish-Israel connection to the Israeli Day Parade. Well, Atlas Shrugs saw a different angle - Muslims at the Salute to Israel Day Parade. She wrote, "Annihilationists. Notice how this is becoming more common. More mainstream. Jihad and Islamic anti-semitism and kuffarphobia should relegated to the very fringes of society, as the KKK was in the early twentieth century, instead of the tacit approval being given to these barbarians and savages with silence and apology. This is the road to hell. We must change the culture, and fast."

Well, if Israel keeps apologizing for being alive, for fighting its enemies, for closing its borders to Jew-haters and Israel-inciters, for trying to encourage the message of Zionism and a connection to Jewish roots, then of course, haters of Israel will be emboldened and accepted!!

  • They not only hate us, but the world is sailing against us, as "100 boats from Gaza set out toward an international anti-Israel flotilla from 40 countries that aims to end the blockade on Gaza. - INN - http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/137704
  • Caroline Glick wrote something amazing just today on the two topics directly above, because indeed there is a major correlation between Israel's wimpihood, anti-Semitism and the flotilla. - JPost - http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=176343
  • I'm behind in my deadline on the next issue of Voices. Maybe I should stop reading the paper and get to writing one.

Equal Privileges for Gilad Schalit and Hamas?

I read on JPost this morning that Hamas warned that if Israel toughened the conditions of Hamas prisoners, they would toughen Gilad Schalit's conditions.
Well, it was good to know that Gilad Schalit has good conditions. Or does he? Perhaps the Red Cross should go into Gaza and see if Schalit's conditions equal those of Hamas prisoners in Israeli jails.
Right now Hamas prisoners (among them, terrorists) in Israeli jails have "family visits, television, books, newspapers and the option to pursue academic studies."
Hamas is upset that Israel might take those privileges away.
Does Gilad Schalit get family visits? I haven't heard that Noam Schalit has been able to visit his sun since Gilad's kidnapping in 2006.
Does Gilad get TV in his Hamas prison? It would be interesting to know what his jailers' favorite show is? The Deadliest Warrior? (http://www.spike.com/show/31082) Dancing with the Stars? (http://abc.go.com/shows/dancing-with-the-stars)
Does Gilad Schalit get to read books? In what language? Does he have access to the Hamas prison library?
Is he able to pursue his academic studies? If so, four years in captivity means he should be just about finished with his college courses. Arab arch-terrorist and mega-murderer Marwan Barghouti of Fatah got his PhD in prison, and many Arab prisoners get their bagrut (matriculation) and higher degrees in Israeli prison, courtesy of the Israeli taxpayer. http://voices-magazine.blogspot.com/2010/03/prisons-and-phds.html
By virtue of Hamas' latest protests, we must assume that Gilad is also spending his time studying for a Bachelors Degree from University of Cairo. We pray for his imminent release, IY"H, and hope to attend his graduation.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Efrat's Mini Hospital? Maxi Enthusiasm!!

I took a tour yesterday of the new Efrat Emergency Medical Center, Efrat's new medical services supermarket (my description, not theirs). Yes, it's going to have everything residents of the Efrat/Gush Etzion region need for their daily regular medical care - general and specialty doctors, x-rays, therapies, urgent care, after-hours-care. It's also going to be a place where medical knowledge can be updated and intensified in workshops and a special program, named in memory of Dr. David Applebaum, HY"D. (More about that in the next issue of Voices Magazine. Stand by.) In fact, the Efrat Emergency Medical Center is patterned after the Terem Emergency Medical Center model, which was founded in 1989 by Dr. Applebaum.
My guide at the Center was the dynamic EEMC Executive Director Rabbi David Marcus. His enthusiasm was absolutely contagious. The building and all its medical possibilities came alive in my eyes. I was so excited about what I saw - not just the building, but the vision behind it - that I went right home, wrote an article about it for Voices Magazine, and immediately began editing a movie about the Center, which will celebrate its Grand Opening on June 20, IY"H.

I wrote:

** "It's our own mini-hospital."
** "It's got oxygen in the walls for every doctor's room."
** "It's got its own birthing room."
** "It's going to have radiology all night."
** "We're hiring a doctor and a nurse for the after-hours care."

I was absolutely bowled over by the facility, which will service patients from Kiryat Arba to Jerusalem. You will be excited too.
Then this morning, Dr. Yitz Glick, Chairman of the Board of the Emergency Medical Center, and a guiding light of the facility, read my first draft. Yitz, who's winner of the President's Prize for Volunteerism, is a very simple and humble guy. "Just the facts, Ma'am." No sparkles. He doesn't like to brag, although there's so much to brag about in this beautiful new facility. He doesn't put on airs. I mean, he wouldn't even put on his doctor's coat for his official portrait with Rabbi David Marcus. He's not so into the PR thing, although he realizes that some is needed in order to fund a modern medical facility.
"Mini-hospital???? A hospital is $300 million. A small hospital is $30 million. Oy, journalists like cute phrases, like mini-hospital. We paid over $3 million. Sharon, it sounds good, but it's not actually reality. This is an urgent care center. Urgent care, not mini-hospital, but okay, leave it if you like it."
"Oxygen in the walls? Of course it's got oxygen in the walls! That's like saying that the house you're building has water in the sink." "But Yitz, I said, 'Wow,' when I heard you had oxygen in the walls. I thought that was fabulous." "You said, 'Wow,' but Efrat's medical personnel will groan. Of course, we've got that!!" "I don't care. About 150 medical folks will groan, but everyone else will say, 'Cool!' I'm writing for folks like me. Let them see how cool the Center is." "Okay, write about the oxygen if you want."
"Birthing room? Okay, we've got a place for birthing, but women should go to the hospital for their babies!! We don't want to encourage women having babies here. That's only in case of emergencies - e-m-e-r-g-e-n-c-i-e-s." "Message received!!" Women, please leave enough time to get to the hospital to delver your babies. :)
"Radiology all night? We didn't even start yet. Let's say we open the radiology department first. It's going to be a great service, but let's start first before we announce all night hours."
"Hiring a doctor and a nurse for the night shift? Well, of course we'll have a doctor. We've already got a doctor. And now we're adding a nurse. You don't have to write that." "Yes, I do, Yitz, that's a wonderful addition to the Center's after-hours care." "Okay, whatever."
"Listen!!" Yitz said, "We're going to have an Urgent Care Center, and when the health services of Maccabee and Meuchedet move in here, they're going to be significantly expanding their services, their specialty doctors and what they can offer members locally. So this Center is greatly adding to the every day medical care of the residents of the region. Residents will be getting as much as they possibly can from their regular and specialty doctors and an urgent care center. That's what's exciting."
Well, I think it's all exciting. The upcoming Voices story, IY"H, will give you loads of details. And, wait until you walk in those doors for the first time (hopefully in good health, and just to look around). You'll be excited too.

In showbiz, when we want to wish someone good luck, we say, "Break a leg." In this case, we'll skip that salutation, or you'll end up in the Efrat Emergency Medical Center as a patient instead of a visitor.
Oh, you want to know what happened to the movie that I worked ten hours on. Well, I think it's got a few changes, if I follow the lead of understated Yitz. We'll keep you posted when we upload a new version.

A View from Afar - Israeli Day Parade

All-round internet guy Jacob Richman sent the Efrat email list a series of photos from yesterday's Salute to Israel Parade in New York City. While I don't have the time I'd like to view all the great shots that Jacob seems to have time to take and send, I stopped work to see what our brethren in America are doing to celebrate Israel's Independence...so I clicked: http://www.jr.co.il/rally/world/2010/r0031.htm
Lots of interesting stuff there. Each photo is an anthropological study on the way American Jewry relates to Israel. One man's poster says, "I love America! I love Israel! I love Yankees!" There ya go, one segment of America - American as apple pie, American as baseball and red, white and blue, but they still love Israel in their way. I think that's great.
Made-It In America
Then there were a bunch of cars with signs touting Israelis that had actually "made it" - like First Israel NBA Basketball Player Omri Casspi, WBA Boxing Champion Dmitriy Salita, Israeli Supermodel Adi Neumann, and First Israeli World Boxing Champ Yuri Foreman. I'd get a bit critical about their criteria for "making it in America", but, ya know what, American society needs "movie stars" and "Mickey Mouse." It thrives on famous people and glamour. So to whoever set up these specific cars, Omri and Adi, etc. are the closest thing we've got right now to "stars."
Banner Bearers
Then, there were the traditionally sweet sneaker-clad paraders behind their banners: the seniors in their army medals carrying their Jewish War Veterans Banner; the proud Public Safety members of the National Conference of Shomrim; Shomrei Tzedek Court Volunteers; yellow t-shirted kids from HAFTR High School of the Five Towns (my old hometown), and "Skating &Blading for Israel" (now that's unique, but I was disappointed to see that they were walking, not roller blading); black shirted-beige pantsed Rambam High School. Casual folks in white shirts and jeans walked behind an unimpressive white and blue sign reading, "Government of Israel". I mean, couldn't we have done a little better? Okay, some carried white and blue balloons. Let's tear that $73 expense out of our budget from the multi-billion shekel Wall.
These Kids are Educated Right!
One school marched under a banner called "Notes in the Kotel." And along the way, they displayed giant notes, "Jewish pride," "Make the world green," "Elevate us among people" (hmm?). Bruriah's banner read, "Bruriah takes action for the missing in Action", as girls carried photos of MIA soldiers. Good for you, Bruriah!! Purple t-shirted Yeshiva of Flatbush marched behind a banner of "Mitzvot that are Dependent on Eretz Yisrael" Great! And the red shirted Frisch School under a movie banner, crediting the Divine Director on Location in Eretz Yisrael.
Floats with hearts and flowers and fun: Yad Sara, Bank HaPoalim, even the National Yiddish Book Center, 92nd St. Y, the Jewish Channel (I love their motto - a Light Unto the Stations :) ). Hillel Yeshiva of Deal, NJ, JNF Brings Water to all of Israel, (I was proud ot read 250 million trees, 209 reservoirs - yay for good news from JNF). ElAl (It's not just an airplane, it's Israel.), American Friends of Magen David Adom, "Israel: 100 Years of Green" displaying a mini-Golan windmill, an electric car "soon to be featured in Israel", IDT Energy, Nefesh B'Nefesh (Live the dream) together with Tzofim, Israel Scouts.
Small Town Fun
Folks with sashes, just like in the small town-set Music Man movie, fire engines with waving children, dogs wearing Israeli flags.
The marching bands - Jewish, non-Jewish, civilian, police, black, white. Plumes in their hats, bass drums on their shoulders, and even batons twirling. Yesh!!
And of course, the mandatory politicians with megaphones, B"H calling out their support for Israel. Let's give a cheer to NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congressman Anthony Weiner, and Senator Chuck Schumer.
Okay, there were no big messages, like "Jerusalem is ours forever." "Keep the Holy Land Whole." "Defrost the Building Freeze."
But there were thousands of people watching marchers who smiled about Israel. There were folks who were proud to show they were Jewish. There were old folks remembering the day Israel became a state. There were little kids saying "oooh" at the Israeli floats. There were kids identifying with Israel on their own level.
Some might try to criticize the yearly Salute to Israel Parade as superficial and transitory. I wouldn't.
The Parade is a fun, flashy, huggy, hand-wave-y way to celebrate Israel in a non-threatening, not too serious way. No debates. No protests. No fights. Just fine. "Hey, I'm Jewish. I love Israel." "Hey, way cool, me too."
And that's fine too.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Alone in Pina Chama

I had Pina Chama today. That means I volunteered to serve coffee and cake for two-and-a-half hours to Israel Defense Force troupes. Pina Chama, the Soldier's Hospitality Hut, is located on the Gush Etzion Junction.
I volunteer on a regular basis with my friend, Jill, an olah (immigrant) from Australia. We're a great team! Together, we make between 40 and 80 cups of coffee on a Monday morning, and cut up about five cakes. The soldiers come in for a hot cup of coffee on a cold morning, or a cold cup of Slush on a hot morning. But they're always thrilled to see the home-baked cakes provided by hundreds of volunteers from communities throughout Efrat/Gush Etzion.
Teaming up from the Start
Jill and I have been partners in Pina Chama since it began in 2001, as a memorial to two Gush Etzion residents who were killed on the way home from work by Arab terrorists. Dr. Shmuel Gillis was a hematologist, killed a few hundred meters passed the Gush Etzion Junction, near his home in Carmei Tzur. Tzachi Sasson was killed right on the bridge that connections Jerusalem and the Gush.
Both of their wives wanted to do something to remember their husbands in a living and positive way. Since Dr. Gillis and Tzachi Sasson both served in the Army reserves, and they were close to soldiers in so many ways, their wives wanted to dedicate a little corner to show our appreciation to our servicemen for putting their lives on the line to protect our communities and our families.
Volunteers poured in to help with this project. And now, about 300 men and women volunteer every month to host the soldiers.
In the course of the day, we volunteers make a total of about 200 cups of coffee. We serve dozens of cakes and hundreds of cookies. And when the machines are working, we've got fresh hot popcorn and freezing cold Shlush.
Soldiers from all over the region take their break with us, or pop in as they're driving down Route 60. They read the papers, play foozball or backgammon, they rest their heads or they pray. Pina Chama is a place where soldiers can be safe and comfortable. It's also a place where we pamper them with the yummiest of goodies and the warmest of smiles.
They drive up in their jeeps, their Armored Personnel Carriers, or hike in with 100 pounds of equipment on their backs.
They come in to warm up, cool down, dry off, rest or call their Moms/girls/friends. They appreciate us, and we adore them. They present us with their hats, their pins, their epaulets and all kinds of souvenirs as a "thanks". Really, walk in to Pina Chama, and it's an absolute museum of Army memorabilia.
The soldiers call us, "Dodot" (aunties), and wherever we are around the country, if we tell an 18-40 year old guy that we volunteer in the Pina Chama, every door is open to us.
Volunteering at Pina Chama is the highlight of everyone's week.
In fact, today was a really special day - I got a "hat" and a "diskette cover" from the soldiers as a gift today (not for me personally but for Pina Chama).
So what's the problem??
Today, my partner was unavailable and I wasn't organized enough to get a replacement. (Usually, I ask my friend, Sue, but, it's been such a busy week....) So I had to serve in Pina Chama alone. Before the shift started, in order to get a head start, I lined up 15 cups with one teaspoon of coffee in each. I immediately began cutting cake and made a second layer of brownies, double-fudge cookies, banana cake and gooey-chocolatey-something just in case there'd be a rush. (Jill would have been proud of me.)
And rush there was! In my two-and-a-half hour shift, I served about 60 soldiers. (My record is 90, but that's with Jill together.) Sixty alone is nearly impossible - coffee for everyone, cake, slush, special-orders of Turkish coffee and hot cocoa. Extra plates so that soldiers could take cake to their buddies, coffee with caps to take out to the jeeps.
Not so bad? In between, the floor's got to be swept, the tables dried from those spilled coffees, the counters wiped down to prevent ants, the dishes and knives washed, the cold juice machine filled (did I put enough mix in it??), the kumkum (percolator) filled, the slush machines regulated (too icy? too loose? too sweet? too bland?) and the newspapers refolded. And don't forget the coffee cups have to be ready with one spoon of coffee in each, and the cake tray has to be filled to capacity with lines of contrasting-colored cakes.
I had great soldiers today - from posts in Hebron, Carmei Tzur, Shavei Shomron, the Gush Etzion base. They were Israeli, Ethiopian, American, Russian and French. Privates, captains, colonels. Regular forces and reserve soldiers. Religious, secular, traditional, curious. One sugar, please, two sugars, no sugar, three sugars, and Sukrazit.
But there was no time to shmooze today, because Jill wasn't there!! And no time to sit until a sudden quiet about 15 minutes before the end of my shift. I did my best to leave the Pina Chama clean and the trays attractively full. But Jill's really the make-the-cake-tray-look-great expert.
I did my best, but it ain't easy to serve alone in the Pina Chama. I appreciated my partner before, but I really appreciate her now!! Still, I stood up to the challenge!! I just hope I won't ever have to do that again. Forgot to tell you, the shlush machine is making noise. Well, that will be the worry of the next pair of volunteers.
Shalom.
If you'd like to peek in at Pina Chama, here are some clips:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kinneret All-Women Swim for Sadnat-Shiluv

Let’s help Vivienne Glaser fulfill her million shekel dream. Vivienne wants to build two hostels in Gush Etzion for special-needs children (with learning disabilities or Down’s Syndrome).
Vivienne is so serious about making this happen, she’s already planned her first major fundraising event – An All Women’s Swim in the Kinneret on Wednesday, June 16, IY”H, to benefit Sadnat Shiluv in Rosh Tzurim .
Everyone reading this article can make this swim a success by sponsoring: a swimmer, transportation, or anything from sun-tan lotion, liquid high-energy food, or towels to long T-Shirts for the women swimmers. Together, we can make Vivienne’s dream for a better life for at least a dozen special-needs children come true. Contact Swim4sadna@gmail.com.
What's it for?
Sadnat Shiluv encourages maximum integration of special people into the community. It works with children from kindergarten and elementary school until young adulthood. Currently, its only hostel houses six young adults and offers them a place to live, work, study and lead an independent life while being an active part of the Rosh Tzurim community. Vivienne has made it her personal goal to try to build another two hostels.
Vivienne told Voices that there’s usually an Annual Swim across the Kinneret in the middle of September, “but it’s a mixed swim and it’s always on Shabbat.”
Women who have always wanted to participate in a Kinneret Swim, but were unable to do so because of the mixed swimming or Sabbath scheduling, can now join in. Of course, the event is not only for religious women. Vivienne said, “Today 30% of sports in Israel are women only. It's become very trendy.”
Vivienne’s weekday swim will have two courses – Maagan to Tzemach, 1.5 kilometers (60 lengths in a 25 meter pool); and HaOn to Tzemach, 3.5 kilometers (you do the math).
Sadnat Shiluv Hostel
Vivienne’s dream took shape when, her son Elchie, 19, entered the Sadnat Shiluv hostel in Rosh Tzurim after having been educated in its school. Five other young people, aged 17 to 23, live there too. Vivienne commented, “It proved fantastic for Elchie. It's five minutes from home. I haven't sent him away. I can pick him up for a simcha, the dentist, and he can pop home to be with his friends too.”
Vivienne wants to give the same happiness to other youngsters. There are currently seven young adults, mostly from Gush Etzion, on a waiting list to enter a hostel.
The Sadnat-Shiluv under the direction of visionary Noa Mandelbaum and educator Tamar Hechsher has created the most unique institution, Vivienne said. “They need to be empowered. There's nothing like the Gush for an area where chesed, ahavat chinam (uncompromising love) and everything else good can be showcased.”
In the elementary school 400 kids learn with about five special kids in every mainstream class of 20. The special kids can have any combination of disabilities, she noted. “It’s an interesting combination per class. And the whole idea is that they become part of society.”
More about the school, IY”H. Meanwhile, register at http://www.shvoong.co.il/ or email Swim4sadna@gmail.com.

Shwekey in Efrat

It's not often that you get to see a real superstar up close. Well, my town of Efrat's going to have that opportunity on Wednesday, 20 Sivan, June 2, when Yaakov Shwekey takes the stage for his first ever concert in Gush Etzion.
The excitement in town over Shwekey's upcoming concert is gigantic. In fact, I feel ShwekeyMania overcoming my own family, and it's spreading into the streets. Folks that heard about his concert in Latrun - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlMsRaBAfsE - or Caesaria know that everyone present will always remember those concerts as two of the most exciting and moving performances of their lives. My kids attended the Latrun concert, and said that the evening was so electric, the audience audience was on a humongous high and would have stayed for another two hours if it were possible.
Now Efrat is going to host Shwekey. Yay. He'll be performing in the giant area where we celebrated Efrat's 25th anniversary. Thousands of people can sit comfortably there, so we know it's going to be a B-I-G night to remember.
SHWEKEY
Shwekey, 33, was born in Jerusalem and lived in Bayit Vegan until his family moved to Lakewood when he was eight years old. He's released about ten albums since his first song, Shomati, in 2001. He's performed in some of the most important concert halls/stadiums in the world.
And thanks to two years of determination by Efrat's own superstar-person Yechiel Fishman, Yaakov Shwekey is performing here. What an incredible coupe for my town!!
Tickets are on sale now by clicking on Efrat Matnas at http://www.matnasefrat.org.il/ or via telephone at 02-993-2935/6 or through Makor Rishon, http://www.makor1.co.il/.
I can't wait!!!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sharon Katz Meets Sharon Katz

Just after the holiday of Purim, I produced a dance extravaganza called DAMES of the DANCE. This was actually, our third season, and the the show portrayed "The 7 Days of Creation."
My choreographers gave me a very unique present after the show - a reflexology appointment with reflexologist Sharon Katz.
She always says that she's THE OTHER Sharon Katz. I'd call her The British Sharon Katz.
Many years ago, at a Women's League meeting I was chairing, a woman came up to me and said, "See you at 9 PM." I said, "What do you mean? The meeting will still be going on at 9 PM." She responded, "What?? I made an appointment with your secretary for 9 PM."
Since I don't have a secretary, and folks are welcome to my office whenever I'm around, this was a confusing conversation. I finally understood that she had a reflexology appointment with someone named Sharon Katz.
I said, "I'm so busy with work and my chesed activities, I surely don't have time to learn reflexology. But that you for thinking I am so talented."
The British Sharon Katz
Well, Sharon Katz really is talented. She's been doing reflexology more than a dozen years in the Wolfson Medical Center. She also volunteers once a week with chemotherapy patients. The reflexology lessens their tensions and their nausea.
While I was lieing on her reflexology table, she told me remarkable stories about how reflexology can help people with tension, back aches and opening their energy channels. It gives one a sense of well-being. And I have to say that as I lie there, I felt very comfortable and calm. (That's a switch for go-go-go-go me.)
She also told me some "Sharon Katz" stories. Like the time someone called her and began going a mile a minute about some important issue, and she kept trying to break in, "You've got the wrong Sharon Katz." She couldn't stop him until he finally took a deep breath.
She also presented me with a receipt that she got many months ago for a bill I had paid. She was saving it for me.
Getting my feet reflexologied by Sharon Katz was a terrific experience, and it was nice to know that (just in case folks confuse us again) that British Sharon Katz really is a terrific woman.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Completing the Count

With a real sense of regret, I completed counting the 49 days of the Omer. We began on the second night of Passover, and continued until tonight, the night before Shavuot.
B"H, I am grateful that I had the opportunitiy to count every day.
I am thankful that I was able to use this Sefirat HaOmer period to reflect on the day behind me and look forward to the day ahead. This made every single day so much more meaningful. I will miss that fullness that I have felt at the end of every day for the past 49.
I even did my best to follow the suggestions made in the very worthwhile book, Sefiros by Rabbi Yaacov Haber with Rabbi David Sedley. I tried to better my behavior toward my fellow man, my G-d and myself through the guidance of Sefiros. I might not have totally succeeded, but I do feel I have improved in my interactions with others and in my appreciation of the world that I have been granted.
Now the Omer period is over. I can't wait to turn on some music!!! But I will miss the Omer when every day counted in a very special way.

Passport Poses

I took one of my daughters-in-law and a granddaughter to get passport pictures tonight. My granddaughter went first. The photographer put her on a box, pulled out his digital camera and "snap". Okay, for good measure, "snap" again. The pictures were adorable, gorgeous, whatta smile on that kid, bli ayin hara.
Then he snapped my daughter-in-law. She whooshed her hair, flashed a smile, and the camera flashed too. "Click," okay, "click again." "Click," "click." She could have picked any of the photos. They could have been in Cosmo. She was gorgeous in them all, bli ayin hara. Both my daughter-in-law and granddaughter have these giant wanna-hug-you smiles that make you just love them. So, while most people have dorky passports that they want to hide, theirs will be uncommonly lovely. I'm happy for them, truly.
Next, I was up. I had to stand against the white backdrop. I gave my biggest (as my daughter calls it...) fake smile. He snapped. No good. I looked like a giant face with tiny eyes. Again, "snap". The light glared on my glasses. Again...oops. More glare. He turned the camera upside down. Glare still.
I took off my glasses and still tried to smile. I looked more bizarre than ever without my glasses. It was evident, I couldn't even see the camera that had been aimed at me.
Glasses back on, I tilted my head this way and that, trying to avoid the glare. I smiled. I stayed stone faced. I smiled w-i-d-e-l-y. I smiled coyly. I laughed. I almost cried. He shot the camera one way, then the other, right side up, up side down. He banged the camera. He changed the batteries. He changed the memory card. He snapped again. He turned on the lights. He turned off the lights. He snapped and snapped.
Finally the good-natured photographer handed me the camera and said, "Pick one." Oy vey. Despite his most valiant efforts, the photos were all the dorky kind.
My daughter-in-law tried to make me feel better. "You almost never travel. Almost no one will ever see your passport."
Hm, yet another incentive for never leaving Israel.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sick in Bed - Mental Vacation

I was feeling a bit under the weather today - so much so. that I decided to lie down and take it easy for a few hours. Some folks, when in this situation, would pick up a good book or turn on an old movie. I grabbed a copy of a recent New York Times, left behind by one of my visiting American relatives.
What a mechaya (a pleasure!!).
I got a real look into American society in this Sunday issue, and I felt like I was on vacation all across the USA.
Firstly, I must point out that there was NO news about Israel - none. Four sections of the paper and nothing at all about Israel. That itself made the read worthwhile. The newspaper just focused on wild and wacky America.
Wet & Wild USA
A full third of the front page talked about the desire and need of surfboarders to do wild aerial stunts. The paper also discussed the growing number of senators, coaches and sports figures, students, motorists, musicians and even police officers who are "flipping" an annoyed finger at authority figures or anyone else for that matter.
Jay Says
A full half page was devoted to what TV's Jay Leno said the night before, and what David Letterman thought was important. A large part of their monologues were quoted. I kid you not.
There was an article about Mommies who blog, and another about Mommies who raise chickens, instead of fighting the rat race in the corporate world. And then there was advice to other women to jumpstart new careers by marrying celebrities and then dropping them.
Not a Word on Israel
The closest news about Israel didn't actually talk about Israel. It was about the thousands of "Palestinians" who are being stripped of their Jordanian citizenship so that they will not be able to vote any more in Jordan. It seems that Jordan is split almost exactly in half - 50% of their population was born West of the Jordan and 50% were born East. And the government doesn't want those Westerners ("Palestinians by birth or by grandparents' birth") to have any power in Jordan. It seems King Abdullah is terrified of a possible push for "Jordan is Palestine."
Making It in America
With a US President that possesses a golden tongue, many books are now pushing Americans to increase their vocabulary. Folks that want you to buy their vocabulary books say, "Size matters." Folks that want you to know the truth say that while it's important to sound smart to get ahead in this world, you shouldn't sound too smart.
Dreams and Deals
The last, but most interesting article, I read was on President Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. In about 1nine pages, the writer follows around ruthless Rahm and his friends/co-workers and watches him try to make the President's dream happen by cutting as many deals as possible. This must be one tense guy. Called a "Malcolm X Democrat", Emanuel is always in the hot seat, expected to produce for Obama. Unfortunately, he hasn't made the magic. Seems that he's dammed if he does, and dammed if he doesn't. But of course to me, the most important point of the story was that the author spoke about Rahm's pushing on issues of health care, banking, housing, big government, etc. etc. and not a word on Israel.
We in Israel are so obsessed with the thought that the whole world has its eye on us. Well, it simply ain't true.
Tonight, some judge in Tulsa Oklahoma is holding his arresting officer in contempt for improper hand motions. A Mommy is blogging about being a "tomato-canning feminist." America is settling down to watch Jay Leno. And Rahm Emanuel is worrying about his job. But no one is talking about Israel. Isn't that great? And with that comfort, I bid you all a peaceful night.

Dead Sea - Israel's Natural Wonder of the World

I received an email to vote for the Dead Sea as one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. Having recently seen it on a tiyul to the Jordan Valley, I concur that it is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen.

SEVEN MAN-MADE WONDERS

I went to the site to vote, http://www.new7wonders.com/en/ , and I read up on the last vote that they held for the 7 man-made Wonders of the Modern World, which were named in 2007 after millions of votes were cast. They included: Chichenitza, New Mexico, JC Statue in Brazil, Colosseum of Italy, Taj Mahal of India, Great Wall of China, Petra in Jordan and Machu Picchu in Peru.
I had remembered as a child learning that King Solomon's Temple was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – lauded for its magnificence and masterful building. But after delving further, it seems that the original list was made by one man as a kind of travel guide for Greeks, "Plato, don't miss this." And the second wonders added the Holy Temple for a while when it added other non-Greek structures.
This new contest for natural wonders is in its third stage in which the wonders will be chosen by about 1 billion votes. The Official Declaration of the New7Wonders of Nature will be on 11.11.11. It features forests, cliffs, volcanoes, waterfalls, canyons and remote islands all over the world. They are each a reason to bless the Creator of the Universe for the breath-taking phenomena that He crafted.
Israel's wonder, the Dead Sea, is currently ranked #9, so it needs your help to move up on the list.
MEANWHILE...TOPPING THE LIST
Thus far, the top nine are:
Kilimanjaro - inactive strato-volcano in north-eastern Tanzania. It is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world.
Milford Sound – beautiful site southwest of New Zealand’s South Island.
Mud Volcanoes – a gloopy site in Gobustan, Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea.
Vesuvius - volcano east of Naples, Italy - one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world.
Great Barrier Reef - planet’s largest coral reef system, Papua, New Guinea
Matterhorn/Cervino - most familiar mountain in the European Alps. On the border between Switzerland and Italy.
Black Forest - wooded mountain range in southwestern Germany.
Uluru - one of Australia's most recognizable natural icons.
Dead Sea -This is its description: The Dead Sea is a salt lake between Palestine and Israel to the west and Jordan to the east. At 420 metres below sea level, its shores are the lowest point on Earth that are on dry land. With 30 percent salinity, it is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean. – The campaign says that voting for the Dead Sea is a vote for Peace.
Well, I'm for peace (I don't even mind shopping with Arabs in Rami Levi), but I was taken about when I read the description of the Dead Sea, as lying between Israel, Jordan and Palestine. First of all, as far as I know, there's a Palestinian Authority, but no Palestine. Secondly, unless Israel is planning to give away the strategically vital Jordan Valley, just where does "Palestine" fit in here? The Dead Sea lies between Israel and Jordan and doesn't touch any area that could be called Palestine, unless the government is planning yet another surprise for the Jewish People.
A MEDICINAL WONDER
Anyway, despite this incorrect reference, I'm still voting for the Dead Sea. Unlike any of the other wonders listed, the Dead Sea has medicinal powers that cure people of all kinds of skin diseases. Swimming with giant turtles off the Galapagos Islands is thrilling, exploring the Great Barrier Reef is uplifting, climbing Kilimanjaro might be the experience of a life-time, but none of these can cure a person's health problems.
The Dead Sea waters helped the eczema on my sister's elbows and the psoriasis on my grandbaby's bottom. The waters cure tens of thousands of international visitors every year. From a sea of "death" comes enlivening properties that cure terrible skin ailments. That truly is a wonder.
OTHER VOTES
I'm also voting for some wonders NOT in the top ten:
Colorado's Grand Canyon, Ecuador's Galapagos Islands, and the Komodo Islands of Indonesia.
Cast your vote for the Dead Sea and other wonders at: http://www.new7wonders.com/community/en/new7wonders/new7wonders_of_nature/voting
All the wonders represent G-d's artistic tapestry, incomparable to all other things in the world. King David states in Tehillim (Psalms), "Ma Rabu maasecha Hashem Kulim Be'Chachma aasisah - How many are your works - they are all made with Wisdom."
If we could only appreciate and care for these beautiful works, the entire planet would be a safer place.

Friday, May 14, 2010

AFSI Showers a Groom from Gush Katif

On all their trips to Israel, AFSI (Americans for a Safe Israel) give support and encouragement to Jews of Yesha (Judea, Samaria and Gaza). They visit vital Jewish locations, like Hebron, Samaria, Gush Katif building sites, and Eastern Jerusalem, as well as small hilltop outposts. Their positive strengthening attitude is refreshing and enlivening. Their first-hand identification with their brethren in Israel enables all AFSI members to speak out for Israel from personal knowledge and experience.
Led by Executive Director Helen Freedman, whose burning love for Israel and its people is very evident, AFSI tours are meaningful for those visiting the sites, as well as those visited.
Last night, AFSI took some time out to make a bridal shower. Yes, a bridal shower! After a full day in Sde Boaz, Hebron, Negohot and Maaleh Hever, the indefatigable AFSI group stopped in Efrat to shower a young couple from Gush Katif. The chattan (groom) was from the community of Netzer Chazani. His father was one of the founders of the Gush Katif enterprise. Since the Expulsion, Netzer Chazani has been in temporary dwellings in the Kibbutz Ein Tzurim. Netzer Chazani has excellent relations with its host Ein Tzurim. Now those relations are going to be even closer, since the new bride is a daughter of the Kibbutz.
AFSI partnered with the Committee for Gush Katif Bridal Showers to bring great joy to this young bride and groom. This shower was extremely exciting for everyone present because it represented the 501st couple showered over the past four and a half years. The Committee for Gush Katif Bridal Showers reaches out to all of Gush Katif's brides and grooms with a beautiful package of small appliances, linens and housewares, in addition to a monetary gift for the couple's first joint purchase. Their bridal showers have given a hug to all Gush Katif families, who see in the warmth and caring of those involved, a positive light shining forth after the terrible trials they have suffered over the past four and a half years.
Present at the AFSI shower were members of the GK Bridal Shower Central Committee, as well as representatives of the shower committee of the Efrat/Gush Etzion region. Among those on the Central Committee is Moskowitz Prize for Zionism winner Mrs. Anita Tucker of Netzer Chazani.
The Committee for Gush Katif Bridal Showers has succeeded, B"H, in showering so many young couples, thanks to the help of women throughout Israel and the Diaspora who have hosted bridal showers in their homes, organizations and synagogues. A GK Bridal Shower is a very joyous experience, and anyone can host one and help a young couple begin a positive new life.
With 22 more GK couples currently getting ready for their weddings, the Committee for Gush Katif Bridal Showers is grateful to all those who want to participate in this mitzvah of "tikkun olam" (fixing the world) and repairing some of the damage done to the heroic families of Gush Katif.
To find out more about making a bridal shower, or helping to contribute to a shower, email izzy@actcom.co.il.

Farmers' Market Highlights Local Produce

Just got back from the Gush Etzion Farmers' Market near Kfar Etzion. The tented outdoor area featured a fascinating array of homegrown products, boutique handmade goods and delicious treats made by creative folks from the Southern Hills of Hebron through Gush Etzion to Maaleh Adumim. Before I even begin to describe some of it, I'd like to voice my admiration for those people who had a dream to create a product and forged ahead. The love and care that went into everything from saplings to cookies to honey and pottery is very evident.
I didn't have time to visit everyone's tables, but I was fascinated by what I did see.
In Maaleh Hever, Joe Zander makes organic chocolate straight from the beans - Holy Cow-coa. He grinds the cocoa beans and processes them himself. Instead of making quick-chocolate, as many other companies do, he processes his cocoa over a period of months. I found out that the longer chocolate is processed, the better it is (kinda like wine). I tasted all kinds of chocolate combinations. I think they were 70% chocolate, 56% chocolate and 52% chocolate with nuts. I bought the latter (OU kashruth certification). Holy Cow-coa is sold in the Duvdevan health food store, Gush Etzion Winery and discrimating chocolate shops.
The Lone Tree Brewery is the beer business of the Levins and Shires of Neve Daniel. I toured the brewery, and got a quick lesson in manufacturing beer from barley. I even got to peek into their "cellar" where the beer is stored. Lone Tree Beer comes in several flavors and is sold straight from the manufacturers and one day soon in fine restaurants everywhere (if they're smart).
Reuven "Titch" Cohen is a man of "spirit and spirits". He's a backbone of the Temple Institute and also has returned Jewish wine to the Old City's Cardo. At the Jerusalem Wine Store, Titch sells wines from boutique wineries (especially those from throughout Yesha). On his table at the Farmers' Market were wines from wines from Shiloh, Pesagot and Tzuba. His store carries dozens of other boutique wineries, including the Gush Etzion Winery. Each one is as different as the climate, altitude and weather of the region in which they are made.
Also at the Farmers' Market were delicious smelling spice plants of all types from Southern Hebron Hills, honey from Sde Boaz, raw food desserts from Maaleh Adumim, jams from Bnei Darom, cookies from Neve Daniel, and much more.
The Farmers' Market returns on Monday, and hopefully throughout the summer. It's a perfect family summer outing. You can even buy lunch.
Voices TV video to come. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Magnificent! Moskowitz Prize

Yom Yerushalayim was a gorgeous blue and white day. The clouds were perfectly puffy to accentuate their white lines against the clear blue sky. Adults and children marched and strolled through Jerusalem in white shirts and blue pants/skirts. Every hundredth teenager wore the mandatory Israeli flag draped over his shoulders.
Music filled the streets, as did excited people of all ages/cities/types. As the dancing continued at the Kotel (Western Wall) and throughout the city, the excitement level was rising down in the Shiloach Valley (Silwan).
The Third Annual Moskowitz Prize for Zionism brought together the who's-who of Zionism today (not the politicians - although there were some - but those who give of themselves above and beyond). The presence of so people who are dedicated to the betterment of Israeli society, the good of the nation, and the unity of Jerusalem and the Land of Israel created a positive electricity that could be seen and felt by all. The leaders/staff/volunteers that labor to strengthen Israel and the Jewish people. Truthfully, my lipstick wore off from kissing so many good and devoted Jews. (Women only, of course. :) I just nodded smilingly at the men.)
The evening, coordinated by Moskowitz Prize Director Ruthie Lieberman of Jaffee Strategies, was just magnificent. The atmosphere was perfect - there in the valley (in Ir David, the City of David), below the palace of Israel's ultimate King - David. The guests were the best of the best. And the honorees were people who will forever be heroes in our eyes and in our hearts.
More about the winners of the Moskowitz Prize later...but for now, just a quick word.
Leadership and Inspiration
Each of the winners of the Moskowitz Prize is a leader (true leader, not an elected leader) who has put himself forward, regardless of his personal welfare, in order to benefit the community. We pray for those kind of people every Shabbat morning (those who give wholeheartedly, and usually thanklessly, for the benefit of our nation).
And behind those people stands one woman who understands that Am Yisrael needs those kind of heroes. Am Yisrael needs people who care more about their community, their country, and the eternity of their nation than about themselves. The person who essentially realized that is Cherna Moskowitz. I had never seen her before, and when she stepped up onto the podium, I felt I was seeing a real superstar (not the Madonna kind, G-d forbid, but the Esther or Devorah type).
When the inspirational Avigdor Kahalani (a Moskowitz Prize committee member) spoke, he told the audience that all around Jerusalem, you can see the footprints of Cherna and Dr. Irving Moskowitz (until 120). Everyone cheered, because thanks to them, many Jewish homes in Eastern Jerusalem have been redeemed, and many new Jewish neighborhoods are taking their place on the landscape of our Holy City, ensuring the unity of Jerusalem.
Far-Reaching Vision
I've toured many areas in Yesha in which countless schools and preschools were made possible by Cherna Moskowitz's long vision and kind heart. I have spoken to people whose projects would never have come to fruition without the backing of the Moskowitz family.
As a member of the Jewish Nation, as a Lover of the Land of Israel, I can only thank Cherna and Dr. Irving Moskowitz and their family for realizing that Zionism has many faces, that the strengthening of the Jewish people is both one brick at a time, and one heart at a time. The Moskowitzes have the foresight to support and encourage those true leaders who inspire the hearts of the Jewish people (and the world) to step out beyond their own homes/selves/comfort to do great things for the future of our nation in our land.
To view some of VOICES-TV video clips of the Moskowitz prize, click here:
** Nahal Hareidi's got rhythm:
** Moskowitz Prize musical tribute to Jerusalem - 5770
** Avigdor Kahalani introduces Moskowitz Prize winners of 5770

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Birthday Gift Like No Other

Moshe Rabbeinu was almost 120 years old when Hashem commanded him to write a Sefer Torah. “Now, write this Song for yourselves and teach it". (Devarim 31:19)
Uri Pearlman didn't want to wait that long to write his Sefer Torah. When he turned 40, three years ago, his wife Tali wanted to throw him a party. Uri told her, "If you'd really like to give me something special, then let us write a Sefer Torah for the health and well-being of our family."
They commissioned the devoted sofer (scribe) Yisrael Shiran to write the Torah, and after creating a magnificent Sefer, tonight the Torah was dedicated to the Orot HaZayit synagogue on the Zayit Hill of Efrat.
I had the opportunity to attend this beautiful Hachnasat Sefer Torah, and I walked in just when my own husband was being honored with writing a letter in the Torah.
Parties are great. Birthday presents are terrific. Dedicating a Sefer Torah for one's birthday is the most meaningful present a person can have.
Rabbi Nathan Lopez Cordoza says, "...the Torah is called a Song. 'Now write yourselves this Song' means that it needs to become one’s ongoing Song of life and not just an inheritance."
I am sure that the Pearlman family will sing the mitzvah of this Song of life always.
Mazel tov.

Bike Trek in Memory of Yitzhak Buanish, HY"D

Every Yom Yerushalayim, I find myself looking out to the road in front of my home - Route 60 - to watch all the bikers from Kiryat Arba to Jerusalem pass by. That's a 30 mile trek. Wow! The bikers - young and old - begin in Kiryat Arba and take a rest at Gush Etzion's Pina Chama (Soldiers' Hospitality Hut) until they start again for the final leg of their journey to Jerusalem.
I always admired those bikers. Today I finally found out what it's all about, thanks to Efrat's own security department, which gave our town's residents traffic info for tomorrow's Bike Ride. The Security department said that the Bike Trek was in memory of Yitzhak Buanish, HY"D.
I investigated further. According to the government website, Yitzhak Buanish was killed on November 15, 2002 between Kiryat Arba and Chevron.
He was much beloved by his fellow Kiryat Arba residents, and this incredible trek is in his memory.
Yitzhak Buanish, 46, of Kiryat Arba, was one of 12 people killed -- nine soldiers and three civilians from the Kiryat Arba emergency response team -- and 15 wounded in Hebron when Arab terrorists opened fire and threw grenades at a group of Jewish worshipers and their guards as they were walking home from Sabbath Eve prayers at the Cave of the Patriarchs.
Security personnel came immediately to the scene and were ambushed. They battled for 90 minutes. Three of the Islamic Jihad terrorists were killed, and the Kiryat Arba community lost its most devoted residents and dedicated soldiers.
Buanish was Kiryat Arba's security officer for 12 years. He had set up emergency response units in dozens of settlements. OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky called Buanish "a pillar of the region's security."
Also killed was the legendary commander Col. Dror Weinberg, 38, of Jerusalem, Border Police officer Ch.-Supt. Samih Sweidan, 31, of Arab al-Aramsha; Sgt. Tomer Nov, 19, of Ashdod; Sgt. Gad Rahamim, 19, of Kiryat Malachi; St.-Sgt. Netanel Machluf, 19, of Hadera; St.-Sgt. Yeshayahu Davidov, 20, of Netanya; Sgt. Igor Drobitsky, 20, of Nahariya; Cpl. David Marcus, 20, of Ma'aleh Adumim; and Lt. Dan Cohen, 22, of Jerusalem; and Kiryat Arba emergency response team members Alexander Zwitman, 26; and Alexander Dohan, 33.
If you're home tomorrow around 11 AM, drive out to the road and cheer on these wondering bike riders, who are memorializing the name of their devoted security officer.