Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Musical Hallel - what's that??

Hallel is one of the most beautiful parts of the prayer service on Jewish holidays. Hallel means praise and the hallel service is from the book of psalms.
The Artscroll Women's Siddur says that "Moses and Israel recited [hallel] after being saved from the Egyptians at the sea; Joshua, after defeating the kings of Canaan; Deborah and Barak, after defeating Sisera; Hezekiah, after defeating Sennacherib; Chananiah, Mishael and Azariah, after being saved from the wicked Nebuchadnezzar, and Mordechai and Esther, after the defeat of the wicked Haman." (Pesachim 117a)
Hallel is such a joyous prayer that in many synagogues around the world, the congregants sing hallel with great celebration, and even musical instruments.
After my blog about Efrat's Tiferet Avot Hoshana Rabba service, I was reminded that last year, I had attended two musical hallel services.

Musical Hallel at the Zayit Raanan Shul

Shlomo Katz rocks at the Shirat Shlomo Minyan

These video clips were made in the days when you had to upload a video and then let it sit for two minutes until it was fully loaded. Sorry for the delay. Nowadays, that doesn't happen any more. Lots has changed in a year.
Have a joyous Simchat Torah. Dance up a storm.
From Hallel: "Hashem who has remembered us will bless - He will bless the House of Israel; He will bless the House of Aaron; He will bless those who fear Hashem, the small as well as the great."

The Willow Circle of Life

Today on Hoshana Rabba, G-d's book of judgment is sealed. All we have done from Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur and Sukkot reaches its pinnacle today, as our personal fates are sealed (with G-d's help for good) and the world is judged for water (may it be blessingly abundant) and for the next year's fruit and crops.
Jews in synagogues around the world circle the bima, as they have for the past week of Sukkot, but today even more so.
They call out to Hashem in His many attributes (of kindness, strength, splendor, triumph, glory, foundation and Kingship) and ask for His blessings. We ask G-d for His salvation now.
We ask Him to save us as He saved our forefathers. We ask for the return of the Holy Temple and the services that were performed there for the Jewish nation as well as the nations of the world.
We pray for an end to the Exile.
We especially ask for rain. The hoshana service centers on the aravot, willow, which depends on water.
The Artscroll Women's Siddur says, "The Talmud teaches that during Sukkot, the Heavenly Tribunal judges the world with regard to its water supply for the following year. G-d ordained the water-libations of Sukkot as a source of merit..."
I attended this morning's Hoshana Rabba service in Efrat's Congregation Tiferet Avot. The men circled the synagogue with their four species, including the lulav and etrog. And then at the end of the service, we called out, "Open the gates of heaven, and Your goodly treasure trove may You open for us. Save us, do not let accusations be drawn out and save us, G-d of salvation."
We all took the willow in hand, recited, "Kol mevaser mevaser u'omer...the voice of the herald heralds and proclaims..." and beat our willow bundles to the ground five times.
May Hashem forgive our sins and grant us a blessed new year. As it is written, "May Hashem open for you His goodly treasure trove, the heavens, to give your land rain in its season and to bless all of your handiwork." Amen.
A video clip of this morning's service can be found here:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Parading Love of Israel; Parading History

Sukkot is a holiday that teaches us about the burning hatred of the nations of the world against Israel, and about the burning love of the nations of the world for Israel.
As the holiday of Sukkot comes to an end, we've completed Biblical readings about the apocalyptic international battle of Gog and Magog when Israel becomes the center and the target of the ultimate World War of nations that rabidly work toward our destruction. (Ezekiel 38-39)
Sukkot is also the holiday during which 70 bull offerings were brought up as sacrifices in Bet HaMikdash (The Holy Temple), corresponding to the 70 nations of the world, as per the request of Shlomo HaMelech (King Solomon). Shlomo also asked Hashem to answer the prayers of non-Jews that came to the Temple (Isaiah: a house of prayer for all nations) on Sukkot.
To find virulent hatred of the 70 nations for Israel is not difficult - just open any newspaper on any day.
Finding international love of Israel is not as easy, but it was there today in the Jerusalem Parade. Marchers from all over the world strutted down Rechov Yaffo with blessings for Israel and the Jewish people. In their colorful costumes or t-shirts, they walked through town calling out to the crowd, "We love Israel. We love you. Shalom. Chag sameach."
Every country - Angola, Great Britain, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, South Africa, Germany, Taiwan, Japan, Panama, Bolivia, you name it - paraded with delegations of varied sizes.
You could see the thrill in their eyes as they walked through the streets of Jerusalem. My family imagined that this was an event for which they waited all year long. They didn't just want to walk, they wanted to interact with the crowd, and they did, coming to shake hands and take pictures with on-lookers.

100 Years of Transportation
The Jerusalem Parade also celebrated 100 years of transportation in the capital with a procession of vehicles from horse drawn carriages through the steel sided buses that Jews rode in from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv during the British Mandate to the first Egged buses through...bam ba bammm....the Light Rail.
Mayor Nir Barkat and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (no relation to my Israel Katz) led the way. Then each of the vehicles passed to the oohs of the crowd, but when the long-awaited train came riding down the tracks of Jaffa Road, onlookers gave a thunderous cheer. My eyes actually began clouding up. Could it be that this ideal mode of transportation for which we had waited for so many years would one day become a reality? The train was sleek and beautiful. To the delight of the crowd, it clanged like a once-upon-a-time trolley as it inched down the street. (More on Voices' ride on the light rail here:

Blue and White Marchers
In addition to our international guests, seemingly-random Israeli groups marched in the parade: an IDF Nachal unit, Border Police, the IDF canine unit (including the canines), Beinleumi Bank, the pilots and stewardesses of Elal (it's kinda wierd to see your pilots singing and dancing down the avenue, but boy, did they have great rhythm), volunteer fire fighters, Bezek workers, the Regional Council of the Jordan Valley (at left, they did a terrific dance), Unilever, Kav LeChaim, along with many more.
In the I-wonder-why-they-did-that department, one bank had its employees dress up as Kohanim (High Priests of the Temple) - men and women alike.
The marchers were really into it, and that gave on-lookers the ingredients of energy and excitement that you need for a great parade.

As the Jerusalem Parade continued, Israel National Radio host Walter Bingham (pictured here with Voices Publisher Israel Katz) interviewed dozens of marchers, one after the other. We watched with amazement as Walter popped up in so many international groups, his microphone always ready.
Another curiosity was the Rafel Missile manufacturing company. The employees sang down the street as one of its employees carried a company sign, and another carried a "missile." The sign was in fact fascinating. Its name Rafel overlaps a photo of David's Citadel. Its missile logo seems aimed at the Golden Dome on the Temple Mount. (Hm, I couldn't help but wonder if that had been purposeful.)
We watched until the very end of the parade, and then left Rechov Yaffo along with everyone else humming hora music.

A Heavenly Night over Israel

Four hundred years ago, Galileo Galilei built his first telescope and got himself in really bad trouble with the Pope. Galileo, an Italian astronomer, physicist, mathematician, inventor, and philosopher studied the skies and realized that the earth revolved around the sun. You might be saying, "D-uh," right now, but that discovery caused Galileo to be put on trial with the Inquisition in Rome for heresy, actually imprisoned, later remanded to house arrest and then forced to announce that all his findings were wrong. If not, he would have joined some of our Jewish brethren, and been burned at the stake. (Top left photo from astronomyonline)
What was Galileo studying up above? The planet Jupiter! In fact, he was the one who discovered four of its most prominent moons. Some people say there are 16 moons, and others say upwards of 60. But it was the first four, which in his honor are called the Galilean satellites, and which are the most prominent. (Left photo from NASA)

Jupiter Dazzles Us
On Monday night, as the Chol HaMoed Sukkot sky was clear, about 50 adults and children from Efrat/Gush Etzion and beyond gathered in a quiet spot, atop one of Efrat's parks and watched the earth's moon, Jupiter and its moons, and the rarely-seen planet Uranus. (Jupiter, at left, shot through the lens of a telescope, but I couldn't pick up the moons.)
The tour guide for this trip to the stars was Efrat's favorite astronomer Astro-Tom Rosenfeld (in hat at left). (Previous Astro-Tom adventure: )
Varied sized telescopes were set up all over an empty parking lot by a forest-play area, a perfect spot for star gazing. Most of the telescopes, like ours, were meant for fun family viewing. Then again, others, like that of Efratian Daniel Jackson (at left) looked like the real thing. Daniel explained that the larger the telescope, the larger the mirror to catch the image. Some of us had to stand on step ladders to reach his view finder. He added that the biggest injury to an astronomer is from falling off ladders. :)
Kids and adults walked from telescope to telescope (each one set at a different heavenly site) and listened to explanations about the craters of the moon, how we know we're looking at Jupiter (Tzedek in Hebrew), how to tell the difference between a planet, a moon and a star, and how to find Uranus (a tiny elusive planet).
Efrat's former Mayor Yinon Ahiman chuckled that he found a new understanding of the phrase "Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof." (Justice, justice, you shall pursue - Deuteronomy 16:20) A play on words: "Jupiter, Jupiter, you shall seek."
Through the lens of the telescope, we felt we could almost touch the heavens and their inhabitants. It really was a thrill for everyone. The biggest word of the evening, "Wow!!"
To keep everyone in the starry mood, Efratian Lenny Ben David shared sparkly wine with everyone.
The moon ultra-shined upon in the shape of Mork's egg-saucer. (Please don't tell me you never heard of Mork.) Its craters were clear and bold (except in my photo, of course).
It was a Heavenly night over Israel. Our multi-generational astronomers took in all the sites they could, and packed up their scopes hoping another heavenly show would be scheduled soon.
Thanks to Astro-Tom Rosenfeld and Daniel Jackson. BTW, just heard that Astro-Tom has started an astronomy chug. His club members were very obvious at the park. They actually knew which way to point those telescopes.

Monday, September 27, 2010

If I Were on a Desert Island...

It's been more than a week since I last posted a blog. WHAT A WEEK!!
Unfortunately, I've been busy with some NOT fun stuff. Last Monday morning, our car broke down. I love our car. It's not too big when I'm driving alone and not too small when I'm driving with the family. We've gone all over the country in that car, and shared many simchas (happy occasions). It gave us so many wonderful memories.
Well, after 235,000 kilometers and lots of go go go, it's starting to go...but in a bad way.
This past Monday, my husband Israel drove my daughter back to her sherut leumi (national service) post, and on the way back, the car broke down. Not that I wanted him to break down, but I'm glad it was him instead of me. I would have just flipped out. He was cool as a cucumber as he called me (to bring him water) and the towing service to take the car to the garage.
My friend drove me to bring him some food, water and a sefer (book) to learn while he waited. And then I decided to wait with him.
The towing service told us they'd arrive within an hour and a half. They came in exactly an hour.
The tower told us to get out of the car and climb into his truck. He was going to take away our car. And then I realized, I'd better take my most prized possessions from my car.
Did you ever play the game, "If you were on a desert island....what two things would you want to take along?" I've played the game many times through the years, and it was always difficult to think of two things. Last Monday, I had no trouble.
I jumped back into the car and camera tripod and my tap bag (with my daughter's and my tap shoes and latest costumes).
There you go. If I were on a desert island, I'd want my tripod (I hope I'd have been wearing my camera at the time) and my tap bag (I hope there'd be a big piece of wood to tap on, or else, it would be a lot of sloshing in the sand).
Anyway, the car's been worked on, on and off for a week, and that's an unexpected aggravation that has been keeping me pretty busy. And it's still not up to snuff, but the garage is not open again until after the holidays, so I'm staying close to home.
Appreciate your cars now! And keep them in top shape. A well-maintained car will last longer for your family.
Moadim lesimcha.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Harvest Time 5771 in the Etrog Orchard

Sukkot is only a few days away, so it's harvest time in the Katzes' etrog orchard. That's always an exciting and emotional time for us.
My husband Israel has been growing etrogim (citrons for Sukkot) for the past 13 years. Etrogim are one of the four species that Jews take together for a blessing on the holiday of Sukkot. There's also the palm branch, myrtle twigs and willow branches. We read in Vayikra (Leviticus): 23:40 "On the first day you shall take the product of citron trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before your G-d seven days."
Our mighty etrog trees were actually begun in our dining room, as teeny seeds nestled in cotton, in little egg containers. My husband babied those etrogim every step of the way. Today, B"H, he reaps the fruits of his labor, literally. (Background:
Our etrogim were originally grown for the unity of the Jewish people. That was our children's idea. We try to keep them doing mitzvot. A tree that does mitzvot?? If you don't know how that's possible, you can view the whole story in this video about last year's harvest:
We had so many etrogim in 5770, B"H, that we were able to give our friends and family Katz Etrogim, and still had enough to auction off again for charity.
This year while we didn't have as large a crop, we had, B"H, quite a number of beautiful perfectly-shaped etrogim (and some cute individualistic ones too).
Join us (virtually) for our etrog harvest. We had quite an adventure just taking the etrogim off the trees, because many of them were difficult to get to, and required near acrobatics to reach them. Bli ayin hara, we succeeded in harvesting about 20 fruits for the holiday.
Put on some sleeves (etrogim have a lot of thorns) and come along,

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Suits & Sneakers

Saturday night - We usually say Shavua Tov on Saturday night (Motzei Shabbat). This year we also say Shana Tova, because today was the Sabbath of all Sabbaths.
Jews the world over have just completed their holiest of days, Yom Kippur, a day of prayer, supplication and fasting. Every synagogue was a wintery scene of waving white. Men and women alike were decked out in their most topping white kittels (coats), suits, skirts and sweaters. Little children ran in and out of the synagogue in little Pollyana white dresses. White, as white as a lamb, as white as the purest soul, as white as a new sheet of paper for a new year.
Everyone looked beautiful from head to toe. Actually it was the toe that was most interesting on Yom Kippur. Since Jews do not wear leather shoes on Yom Kippur, the holiday's innovation is what they'll wear on their feet to go to shul.
This is what folks fit on their feet this year - sneakers (high tops, slip on and tie), Crocs of every sort and color, fake-leather high heels (didn't look too comfortable), sandals and bedroom slippers.
My daughter and I went the Crocs route - well, if we had to be on our feet all day, we might as well have been comfortable. And we were.
Gmar chatima tova. May you be inscribed in the book of life for a good new year.

Friday, September 17, 2010

1) Seriously, 2) Segula

1) Seriously

It's Erev Yom Kippur (only 20 minutes before my family's pre-fast meal). I've been calling my family and friends, and they've been calling me. We've wished each other a Shana Tova and asked each other forgiveness for anything we might have done to hurt them.
It's a very nice custom. It puts us into a lovely forgiving mood before Yom Kippur, and we therefore hope that G-d Above will be in a forgiving mood toward us.
But seriously, let's be honest with one another. We called our friends and family that we love and adore and asked forgiveness, when they did mostly nothing bad to us. Um, maybe they hung up the phone too quickly one day, or couldn't help us find a babysitter for the kids, but they're people we love and only add happiness and quality to our lives.
There are, however, really ... people who hurt us, who insulted us, whom we insulted or injured in some way. We don't call them and they don't call us.
That's a shame, and that's the real test of Yom Kippur. Can we call that person that we can't stand? Can we ask foregiveness from our sibling that we screamed at?
If you live in Israel, there's still almost an hour and a half. Ask your friend, non-friend (I'd hate to say enemy) or opponent, and family member to forgive you for something you really are guilty of. It will be difficult, but it will stand in good stead for you On High.

2) Segula

I just wanted to tell you quickly of two segulot I heard of.
Firstly, if you've got someone whose wedding you'd love to attend this year. Tell him/her to eat SEVEN little meals today - just enough to wash and bentch (say grace). I've heard that if they do, it's a segula that this year, they'll have SHEVA BRACHOT (seven special grace meals after the wedding). You never heard of it? It couldn't hurt. Try it.

Next, I also heard today that at the end of the Neilah service on Yom Kippur night, just before the end of the holiday, another segula comes into play. We call out seven times - Hashem Hu Ha'Elokim. G-d is the L-rd. With each call, we are bringing Hashem up a step to another heaven (there are seven heavens). On the seventh call, Hashem is right up at His Holy Throne, the Kisa Hakavod. I heard that on the seventh call, when we are opposite G-d's Holy Throne, we should think of the biggest problem/issue in our lives today, and Hashem will give us special help with that. Let's try it.
A gmar chatima tova!! May we all be sealed in the Book of Life for all good things.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The High Holidays Belong to Me

I love the High Holidays. I think a lot of people feel the same way. While every day, we can pray to G-d and ask forgiveness for snapping at our children, snearing at our spouses and smearing our best friend's new dress (well, it was a little tight and that color is totally not right for her), the High Holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are official days for Repentence. The official stamp gives us the license to really pour our hearts out, and pull all the strings we can to get a positive verdict (Remember my dear old Aunt Hazel who reads psalms from morning until night, feeds the poor, and knits hats for chayalim [soldiers] with her twisted arthritic fingers? Well, I visited her this week, and she said that it made her happier than anything else!! Honestly.).
And while we might show up in synagogue at 9:30 AM every Sabbath morning, we're bright and early on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and then stay most of the day, on the chance that G-d takes attendance at 9 and then 5 PM.
I love the positivity of the High Holidays. Folks come into shul with big smiles. Instead of dwelling all the night before on their ashamnu bagadnus... (we have become guilty, we have betrayed...), they spent the evening after the inspirational Kol Nidre service thinking of all the reasons they should be given a blessing for a new happy healthy year. (Remember when no one else would take the early morning shift at the Pina Chama [soldier's hospitality hut], I said I would. Remember when the neighbor's washing machine broke, I really came through for her there. Remember when I wanted to write a nasty email to that pest, I held my peace and just deleted his annoying note.) Everyone's got the "It's gonna be a good year" confidence.

Like Noah in the Ark
Then I am bolstered in my confidence when I read the prayer book. I think it was written just for me (well, the rabbis did have Divine Inspiration - maybe they were thinking of too).
On Rosh Hashana during the service of Zichronot (Remembrance), we say, "You lovingly remembered Noah and You recalled him with words of salvation and mercy, when You brought the waters of the Flood to destroy all living flesh because of the evil of their deeds...G-d remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark..."
Well, in our last Raise Your Spirits production of In Search of Courage, I played Noah. I sang a song called about Noah called "Mentsch" and another after the flood called, "Why was I Saved?" As I read about Noah on Rosh Hashana, I was able to imagine the scene perfectly, and really reflect on Hashem's chesed and mercy.
On Yom Kippur we say, "The arrogant generation [of the Flood] erred and snarled at You...[Noah] who was borne on a gopher-wood [ark] was saved when You shut its door behind him..."
I can still remember my monologue about the rebirth of the world after the destruction. Recalling Noah on Yom Kippur adds to my faith in the future, and my determination to be worthy (along with all my brethren) of a new year, which is really a new world.
The Anti-Sisera Shofar
On Rosh Hashana, as we stood silently listening to the shofar blasts that awakened our souls and strengthened our desire to improve our ways, I read the commentary on the bottom of my Artscroll Siddur. We blow 100 blasts of the shofar on each day of Rosh Hashana (when it is not Shabbat). Artscroll quotes Sefer HaToda'ah, "The source of this custom is the Scriptural narrative of the triumph of Deborah the prophetess over Sisera, the Canaanite conquerer. In her song of gratitude for the victory, Deborah noted that Siseras mother whimpered as she worred over the fate of her dead son. Her friends comforted her that he had surely won a great victory and was apportioning spoils and captive women among his officers and troops. (Judges 5:28-30) ...she groaned 101 times. Although one cannot help but feel sympathy for a worrying, grieving mother, one must be appalled at the cruelty of a mother who could be calmed by the assurance that her son was busy looting and persecuting innocent victims...By sounding the shofar 100 times, we seek to nullify the forces of cruelty exemplified by Sisera and his mother, and bring G-d's compassion upon us. Although she whimpered one time more than 100, we do not sound the shofar 101 times, because we too, feel the pain of a mother who loses a child, even one as loathsome as Sisera."
Well, if you read a previous blog,, you know that in the upcoming Raise Your Spirits production, Judge - The Song of Devorah, I play Sisera's mother. Yes, for the first time in nine years, I play a woman and won't have to worry about beard-shadow (which lasts for about three days, and is sometimes very embarrassing).
As the shofar blasts, I think of my viscious and despicable son, Sisera, played superbly by Yael Goldstein, and the love of a mother for a child, even one as slimy and loathsome as Sisera.
Then, B"H, I thank Hashem for my own real-life wonderful children and beseech Hashem to give them and all our family, as well as our family Am Yisrael, a blessed new year - a year of awakening to Torah and mitzvot (commandments), a year of good health and happiness, a year of prosperity, safety and most of all, unity for the Jewish people. Together, with G-d's help, we can overcome any trouble that comes before us.

One Last (musical) Note for the New Year
B"H, having had the zechut (privilege) to found the Raise Your Spirits theater company, produce four of its Biblical musicals, and perform in six, my friends often tell me that this or that parsha (weekly Torah reading) reminds them of me, and of our shows. That gives me much joy and feelings of gratitude.
On Rosh Hashana, my friend Ayala said, "I thought of you during the Haftara. And I was humming 'They'll come down from the mountains.'"
The finale of our production of Ruth & Naomi in the Fields of Bethlehem (at left - photo by Jill Kuchar) talks about the Jewish people returning to the Land of Israel from all over the world. "They'll come down from the mountains. They'll come from the skies. They'll come up from the valley with music and with sighs..."Ayala said that as she read Hashem's promise to the prophet Jeremiah, she thought of us. G-d said, "Behold, I will bring them from the northern land and gather them from the ends of the earth...a great congregation will return here." That made me feel great, and gave me the hope that this year, our brethren would indeed be gathered in great number from the northern lands, and the south too, from the mountains and the country clubs to return home to Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, with laughter and song.

5771 - Tuf Shin Ayin Alef - Tehei Shana Aliyat Artzeinu - may it be a year of return to our Land.

Shana Tova - G-d wants to hear from you on Yom Kippur, and He wants to bless you with all good things! Be joyful and confident that you've tried your hardest, are going to try even harder next year, and IY"H, it's going to be a great New Year.

Town Hall with Taste

Remember Town Hall in America. It was the hub of activities and excitement in its small town. The closest thing we've got to Town Hall here in Israel is our local or regional council offices. We call each one a Moetza (Council).
While it doesn't host the local women's club meetings or the annual garden party, the Moetza of my hometown Efrat wants to welcome its residents inside its class doors just the same.
Council, under current Mayor Oded Revivi, wants Efratians to feel at ease enough to come up to the Municipality offices to raise any pressing issues with department heads or staff in education, collections, welfare, religious affairs, etc.
Well, until now, most folks have never moseyed up to the Municipality, but that's about to change.
Come On Up
This month, the Efrat Local Council turned its sometimes-intimidating-serious-whispering hallways into a gallery for fine art. The Municipality has launched its first of a series of art exhibitions that it hopes will entice Efratians to visit the Moetza building, and feel more at home in the core of Efrat's home base.
The first exhibit, which features the bright and charming artwork of David Avisar, will be on display during daytime hours until after the holidays. Approximately 50 of Avisar's paintings are hanging in the hallways and resting on easels throughout the Muncipality. They are worth the visit.
Edmund Hasin, curator of the Municipality's art exhibits, commented that the Moetza hopes to showcase artists and artisans from Efrat and areas throughout the country to expose Efratians to a wide array of Israeli art. Paintings, sculptures, ceramics, Judaica, photographs are all being considered for future exhibits.
In Love with the Land
David Avisar, the first artist on show, is a resident of Ramat Bet Shemesh. His artwork is inspired by his love of the land of Israel. Having traveled throughout the country – from the mountains to the deserts to the seas – David fell in love with the giant topographical distinctiveness of our little land and he has spent his life painting it. His work is on exhibit both in Israel and the United States.
One of David Avisar's most prominent motifs is the goat. To David, a goat is symbolic of peace and idyllic existence. As one who lives in Israel, I must agree. Although I had never seen a goat outside a petting zoo when we lived in America, almost all my drives along the roads of Gush Etzion include a glimpse of those same goats that our Patriarch Jacob described – white, brown, speckled, spotted. Whenever I see those goats grazing on the mountainsides, I naturally smile and take a deep contented sigh.
Of course, Avisar's work is overflowing with Jewish topics. In vivid colors and uplifting scenes, the artist portrays Shabbat, Sukkot, Bet HaMikdash (The Holy Temple), Emunah (faith) and Biblical Stories (including an especially endearing look at the camels that out Matriarch Rivka watered).
Not only can you shmy around the paintings, there's a booklet on the desk (as you enter the Moetza offices) that tells you about the painter and his work. And if there's something that really catches your eye, you can even purchase one of their works of art by visiting the "Machleket HaGvia" (Efrat's collections department). Best of all, 20% of the monies from the sale of David's paintings will go toward youth projects in Efrat. It's a win win for everyone!
You can learn more about David right here:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Town with a Tomorrow

What's the real problem with Israel's building freeze?
Yes, it doesn't let our population grow in Yesha (Yehuda and Shomron - and once Gaza too). Yes, it stifles Jewish towns. Yes yes yes, many things. But one of the worst things about the building freeze is that it keeps housing prices in towns in Judea and Samaria artificially high - too high for the next generation to buy homes here.
Well, of course, that's what the Arabs want, and the left-wingers too. No more messy bad-PR actions, like kicking the Jews out of their homes. Let them stay, and keep their housing prices so high that young people can't move into their neighborhoods. The population of every town will grow older and older and older, until they leave one by one, when the neighborhood hills or steps or distances become too much for them. No pressure. No violence. Instead of the catch phrase "Natural Growth," the reality of natural decline. Natural evaporation.
Get a Tomorrow
As Yesha towns include young couples and young families in their ranks, they're creating a tomorrow for their community. Until they can afford to own their own homes, some towns welcome young'uns in caravans, some in basement apartments, and some in multi-unit houses. However they do it, young people are the vital component for a town's tomorrow, and for our own sake, and for the sake of the Zionist enterprise, somehow they must be enabled to buy homes in our towns. Without these young families, a town will wither until it is just a scrapbook of yesterday's milestones.
In addition to the grandmotherly excitement and nachas (pride) that I felt today, I had all these nationalistic thoughts in my head as I picked up my seven-year-old granddaughter to bring her to her first ever jazz lesson at the Efrat Matnas. My granddaughter, I thought, is proof that my community will continue on. As we were getting into the car, I saw my friend Hilary walking her grandbaby in the stroller. He lives with his young parents in a hilltop caravan. Hilary's grandbaby is proof that his town will carry on.
So too, B"H, are my other sweet grandbabies and my friends' - the teeny hilltop residents of super-teeny satellite neighborhoods in Gush Etzion, Binyamin and the Shomron. As they play in their mischakiyot (game rooms) or sand piles outside their caravans, they are helping their town create a tomorrow. When they go to gan (preschool) and play in the park, they are brightening the future of the towns in which they live.
Dancing into the Future
When I got to the Community Center Dance Room, I saw my friend Debbie's daughter Elana, watching her own little daughter Maayan dancing in the class. Yes yes yes! Another third generation Efratian was on stage, alongside my granddaughter. These little girls didn't know they were doing something momentous, as they were popping and bopping (hm, maybe those are not jazz terms), or grooving and moving along the dance floor with one of today's great jazz choreographers and teachers - Jocelyn Odenheimer (who is also Dance Advisor for DAMES of the DANCE). They just thought they were dancing and laughing and having fun.
They were indeed doing that too, along with more than a dozen other girls their age. But unbeknownst to these seven year olds, these pitzelehs (little tikes) were creating a tomorrow for my town.
Thank you, darlings. May there be many many many more of you.
Thirteen days to the end of the freeze.
Here's to a fabulous new year, 5771, with building from hilltop to hilltop to hilltop, and little Jewish children dancing jazz, tap, ballet, hip hop and anything else in community centers from Eilat to Efrat, Kiryat Arba to Kiryat Motzkin, Bet Shemesh to Bet El, Geula to the Golan.

Thanks, Peace Now

There's an old joke that talks about a little Yiddele (a little Jewish man) who read Russia's communist Pravda newspaper all the time. "Oy, Chaim," his friend said, "How can you read that propaganda? It's so horrible." "What are you talking about!!" Chaim retorted. "I love it."
"It say, 'The Jews run the banks. The Jews own the media. The Jews rule the world. It makes me feel fabulous!!"
Well, that's how I feel about Peace Now. There are some lovers of Israel who are haters of Peace Now, but not me. I love them. Their reports always make me feel terrific.
I was just closing down my computer and came upon this Peace Now revelation on Jpost.

Jpost reports:
'13,000 West Bank housing units ready for construction'
"Peace Now: At least 2,000 W. Bank units have foundations laid, ready to be built as freeze expires; 11,000 ready for construction without further gov't approval.
More than 13,000 settlement housing units in the West Bank are ready for construction once the building moratorium ends on September 26th and at least 2,000 are ready for immediate construction, according to a report by Peace Now released on Sunday.... The group reported that at least another 11,000 housing units have had their building plans approved....This translates into a total of 13,000 units which are ready for construction in the West Bank, even if the government implements an implicit building freeze and does not approve new construction in the future, without extending the moratorium."
Hooray, thank you Peace Now for sharing the good news. I just can't wait, IY"H, for September 26. If the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Ministers (who spread their promises to build, all over banners throughout the country) are honest and truthful, the tractors will be revving up their engines soon.
If you don't hear the varoom varoom on the morning of the 26th, you'll have to remember, that they're all just politicians.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Fast of Gedaliah

Hooray, today is a fast day!! Most people don’t applaud fast days. But last week’s Rosh Hashana holiday was in essence three days long – two days of Rosh Hashana attached to one day of Sabbath. Yes, we all prayed for a good new year – filled with good health, peace, prosperity and nachas (joy) from the kids. And I wish everyone reading this, the best of new years. May G-d answer your prayers for good.
But we also ate for three days straight. At least two meals every day, and most of them gourmet and very fattening. (BTW, my food came out incredible, B"H.)
So, after three days of briskets and beef, kugels and cakes, chicken and chocolate chip cookies, we’ve finally got a food break – a fast. Hooray. In fact, it's probably good for our spiritual side too, because we can think of ways that we can improve ourselves during the new year, without having to worry if the chicken is going to burn on the hot plate.
Actually, this fast, called Tzom Gedaliah, commemorates a serious and sad event in Jewish history. It is named in memory of the governor of Israel, Gedaliah, who ruled very briefly after the king of Babylonia Nebuchadnezzar (at left) destroyed Israel, and razed Jerusalem and the Holy Temple to nothing but rubble.
After Nebuchadnezzar exiled the Jews to Babylon, he left the poor Jews (who couldn't contribute to his kingdom) to do menial work for the occupying troops in Israel. Gedaliah ben Achikam, a righteous and inspirational man, was appointed to rule the land and the Jews who remained. Suddenly there was a glimmer of hope that Israel could be built up once again.
Tragically, an enemy from within Yishmael ben Netanya assassinated Gedaliah and those who supported him.
The story took place thousands of years ago, but the pain of Jewish traitors, lost opportunities, dominance of foreign powers inside Israel and loss of Jewish sovereignty in our land remain open wounds, even today.
You can read more in Jeremiah: 40:41 and Kings II: Chapter 25.

I actually had the opportunity to travel to Mitzpeh, where the story of Gedaliah took place. Tour guide Avi Dobuler explained the story to me right where it happened.
You can watch a VOICEST-TV clip about Tzom Gedaliah here, with topguide Avi Dobuler -

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tikkun Olam in the Kitchen

One of the guiding principles of our lives as Jews, and of many humanitarian righteous gentiles is Tikkun Olam (fixing the world).
We learn one simple way to fix the world – attribute a quote to the person who says it. Or, give credit, where credit is due. Can you believe that something so simple can bring Meshiach (the Messiah) closer?
I think that this principle goes for recipes too. Whenever I cook, I look at my recipe and remember the great person who gave it to me. Their name on my recipe makes me think kindly of them. They're adding flavor and joy to my Shabbat/holiday/anyday table. And if I pass it along, I try to remember to pass it with credit to the person who gave it to me. Tikkun Olam through cooking.
So, as we are at Erev Rosh Hashana, the challot are rising (my husband is the baker) and the corned beef is still boiling, I'd like to share with you my latest Rosh Hashana recipes that will hopefully add truth and righteousness to the world just by attributing the recipe to the rightful originator.

My daughter-in-law Mimi in Bet El gave me the recipe for BARLEY SALAD.
2 cups of barley

1/2 cup oil
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp honey
1 tsp salt
2 drops of mustard
Boil the barley, cool. Then before serving, dress the salad. Yummm.

My son Natah in Bet El gave me this recipe for POTATOES & MUSHROOM.
3/4 cup canola oil – take off 2 Tbs and drop into frying pan
Saut̩ mushrooms (it calls for a cool kinda mushroom, like Shitaki, but I don't have) until tender Рabout 7 minutes
Add 2 crushed garlic cloves. Sauté for one more minute. Preheat oven to 450.
Grease bottom of glass or ceramic quart dish. Peel and slice potatoes into 1/8 inch circles. Toss with remaining oil. Add 1 tsp of dried thyme, salt and pepper. Layer bottom of pan with 3 layers of potatoes. Then put mushrooms on top, and if there are potatoes left, put them on top of that. Place in oven and bake for 40 minutes at 450. Natah says he puts the potatoes in the oven for 30 minutes on the bottom rack and then 10 minutes on the top rack, and it is toasted. Delicious.

My friend Fayge in Efrat gave me the recipe for SQUASH & APPLES
(By squash, I hope she meant zucchini, because that's what I used)
5-6 squash
1 large onion
2 large apples
1 Tbs ketchup (Fayge uses more)
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbs sugar
1/2 cup water
Lemon juice
Saute onion, add squash and apples with lemon juice. Add remainder ingredients and let simmer over a low flame, approximately 20-25 minutes. Sweet and tasty.

My friend Sara in Bet El passed along a recipe for CORNED BEEF SAUCE from the lady in the Chafetz Chaim meat store in Jerusalem.

1 cup brown sugar
5 Tbs ketchup
2 Tbs vinegar
2 Tbs oil
2 Tbs mustard
Boil these ingredients together and serve on corned beef.

There you have it – all the new dishes that I'll be making on the holiday. Shana tova.
May it be a year of sharing many good recipes that bring joy to your family. And may we always share those recipes with the name of the person who kindly gave it to us.