Friday, July 22, 2011

An Israeli Judea and Samaria

Where has the State of Israel been for the past 44 years? Why didn't it apply Israeli sovereignty to its ancient homeland in Judea and Samaria?
The best answer I think I got to that was a quote I heard tonight at the Conference on "Regaining the Initiative - Applying Israeli Sovereignty to Judea and Samaria". Three months after the liberation of Yesha (Judea, Samaria and Gaza), Golda Meir asked Levi Eshkol what Israel was going to do with a million Arabs. "I get it," he said. "You want the dowry, but you don't like the bride."

No matter how much benefit Israeli governments of the past 40 years have seen in the blossoming Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria, the sweetness of Jewish settlement was always soured by the Arabs who lived around them.

Now, as the State of Israel faces worldwide pressures to create a Palestinian State in Gaza, Judea, Samaria and part of Jerusalem, Israeli politicians, writers, professors and thinkers are responding with their solutions to our local conflict in the Middle East - declare Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria and deal with the Arabs there in one or more ways from giving them citizenship to encouraging them to emigrate.

The Conference was held in the Machpela Visitors Center in Hebron next to the Machpela Cave. Buses and private cars came from Jerusalem, Rechovot, Bet Shemesh, Bet El, Gush Etzion and Efrat.
The Conference debunked many incorrect ideas pushed by the media and the left, and explored the different aspects of asserting Israeli sovereignty: Jewish, Zionist, political, diplomatic, economic, legal and in terms of Arab-Israeli and American-Israeli relations.

Conference organized by Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katsover of Women for Israel’s Tomorrow (Women in Green) with the cooperation of Arutz 7, Professors for a Strong Israel and the Machpela Visitors Center, welcomed more than 300 attendees to the program.

Among the speakers were MK Tzipy Hotovely, MK Arieh Eldad, journalist Caroline Glick, former Ambassador Yoram Ettinger, Professor Rafi Yisraeli, journalist Eran Bar-Tal, Dr Gabi Avital and more.
The evening was enlightening and thought-provoking. It may have been preaching to the converted, but I just found it a relief to be in a room with so many people of like minds.

There's lots to say about the conference, but it's pretty late, so we'll have to continue talking about it tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Not BUILDING, but building

It's summer. That means new families. New immigrants. New sunny beginnings. It should also mean lots of building for a new tomorrow. But alas, Efrat hasn't gotten government permits for construction of any new neighborhoods or building on our hilltops. The real building freeze is on here no matter what the temperatures.
Still, summer means tractors and clanging and the roar of the drill. While we sadly won't see a bunch of new homes added to our landscape in the near future, I did hear the banging of tools this morning.
Workmen are digging and hammering around a new youth building of the Ezra youth group. For more than a year, the shell of the building stood abandoned, but now there's plenty of action around its perimeter. I'm excited that the kids of the neighborhood will be able to call a beautiful new building home base, instead of a bunch of old
Then I noticed the sign. Perhaps it's been there for ages, or perhaps it just popped up. It reads something like "The Efrat Municipality together with the Ministry of Building and various donations are building a Youth Clubhouse here on the Dekel Hill. The work will be completed on December 1, 2011, IY"H. Another 250,000 NIS is needed to complete the building. All contributions are welcome: 993-9310."
You are invited to contribute.
As I drove around during the day, I suddenly noticed more of those green and blue work signs.

The Efrat Local Council in cooperation with the Ministry of Transportation is widening our main street - Sderot David Hamelech Boulevard - in order to separate the traffic that passes between the junction of David Hamelech, Rachel Emeinu and the junction of Zerubavel.

There are two simultaneous projects going on at the Orot Etzion Boys' School. Efrat in cooperation with the Ministry of Transportation is working on a project to better organize the transportation
for the school's students. In addition, Efrat and the Ministry of Education and Culture
are doing massive renovations inside the school.
Suddenly everywhere I looked, there was a sign. On the Zayit, I noticed that Efrat just began work on July 1 on a basketball court that's supposed to be ready in October. That's great news for all our young (and old) Zayit athletes. A sports area is good for every neighborhood. It brings a positive excitement and life to the neighborhood nightlife.
Passing the Efrat Community Center, I found yet another sign. On this location will be built the offices of the Psychological Services and the Center for Empowerment. (I'm for empowerment. Actually, everyone seems to be for empowerment lately, and if you say so, it's very PC of you - empowerment of children, or women, of the needy.) Work will start Nov. 2011 and hopefully will end June 2012.
The project is under the management of the Efrat Dept. of Engineering. Now, there's already a building on that space, so I can only imagine that there's going to enlarge and renovate it inside out
Right down the block from there, another sign stood outside the Aseh Chayil School. It said that renovation is underway on the bathrooms in the Aseh Chayil School. I'm sure the kids will appreciate that come September.

Not all the jobs are months long. Efrat will be using this month of July to renew and pave Hamelech
David Boulevard between Smadar Street and Hashayarot Street. The project is under the management of the Efrat Engineering Dept.
There are probably many more signs around town that I have yet to discover. The work being done in the different neighborhoods isn't massive. It's not BUILDING, but it is building, renovating and contributing to our quality of life in Efrat.
And it feels really good to hear the banging and see those great signs that tell us, we're thriving and working to make life in Efrat better every day.
May our little building projects lead IY"H very soon to BIG BUILDING projects. That's what we really need!

My thanks to my friend, Rochelle, for help translating the signs.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Lunch with the International Professors

My friends and I lunched the other day at the Gavna Restaurant in the one existent kibbutz of Massuot Yitzchak (the kibbutz was destroyed by the Jordanian Legion in 1948) with a bus load of university professors from institutions around the world. All the professors taught Middle Eastern Studies or History of the Gulf States or Arabic or some related topic. They came from Japan, Germany, Turkey, Holland, and many other nations. There were also professors from all across America, including South Dakota, Minnesota, Georgia, etc.
This was our second years with university professors in an afternoon organized by the Efrat Municipality and a summer-long program at Tel Aviv University. Last year:
Two or three Efratians sat at each table, and our task was just to answer any questions the professors might have.
It's one thing to learn or teach a subject from a text book, but it's a totally different situation to see the text book come alive in front of you. Often the reality is very different from that book.
I think that's how the professors felt, as we chatted about everything from kassams, the Wall, co-existence and checkpoints. There were no right or wrong answers. The professors were visibly excited that for the first time they could meet the "settlers" about whom they'd taught their students so much. I think they were very surprised that we were very normal, very honest, very intelligent (blush) and very nice.
They had just come from a meeting with Efrat's Mayor Oded Revivi, and learned a lot about my hometown, including our problems with non-building, the Hill of Eitam and our concerns for the future of a united Gush Etzion if The Wall is finally erect outside Efrat.
As we sat in Gavna, overlooking the over-flowing town of Beitar Illit, we pointed told the professors and said, "That growing city is in Judea, beyond the Green Line. The people who live there are settlers and they are also Chassidim." The professors tried to imagine settlers who were Chassidim, but there are actually several Chassidish or Chareidi towns in Judea and Samara.
We talked about co-existence and told the professors that we had co-existence in Yesha (Judea, Samaria and Gaza) long before the government started negotiating for peace. Until then, we all had many dealings with our Arab neighbors. Some people even shopped regularly in Arab stores. There was a friendly atmosphere - or maybe you'd just say, a normal atmosphere. It was regular to interact with Arabs. But Oslo ruined it all, when the agreement separated us almost totally, and caused both sides to be wary or hateful of one another.
Thanks to the new Rami Levi supermarket at Gush Etzion Junction, my table mate, Bob Lang (head of the Efrat Religious Council), we shop together, squeeze the cucumbers together, and gripe together about the price of cottage cheese.
The professors were surprised to hear that we shop in the same store and drive on the same roads as the Arabs. They felt that maybe we settlers had a better relationship with our Arab neighbors than other Israelis inside the Green Line. That's probably true. We live with Arabs nearby and have learned to live with them. But Israelis that have never dealt with Arabs before are both frightened and scornful of them.
Well, this is all very different than what we expected, the professors said. "So what is your solution to the Israeli Palestinian problem?"
Bob Lang did not even hesitate. He said, "I would annex all of Judea and Samaria and the give the Arabs who live here citizenship."
The professors were stunned. They had never heard that point of view before. (Likud MK Tzipi Hotoveli is a proponent of this solution.)
"But demographic studies show that Arabs will become a majority in Judea and Samaria, so you would be in danger of destroying the Jewish character of Israel."
Sorry, wrong! Truthful studies have shown that the demographic time bomb theory is totally false.
You know, if someone is a professor, he should take it upon himself to read up on all the latest issues involving his subject, and to search for the truth.
These professors really didn't know much about what was going on among regular people here in Israel, but at least they wanted to find the truth and joined the international professors' group in search of the facts.
The Long Way Around
One of the professors mentioned how unfair it was for Arabs not allowed to drive directly from Hebron to Ramallah, and that because they were not allowed to drive through Jerusalem, their trip was about two hours long.
I said that I sympathized with them, but the inconvenience goes both ways. My son just moved from Bet El, where he works, to a town that was once ten minutes away. Unfortunately, since the area between his new home and work have been given to the Palestinian Authority, he has to take a long circuitous route that takes him almost an hour. That's also not fair either.
Speaking of fair, Lenny Ben David of I*Consult, said that there's nothing more unfair than for millions of travelers at airports all over the world to be forced to empty their pockets, take off their shoes and undergo tremendous security examinations. But these are simply more results of the world's actions as a result of Islamic terror.
The food at Gavna was delicious, the conversations across the table were enlightening, and it was a pleasure to meet the visiting professors, and I believe that they looked at Israel and its people with open eyes, and therefore will be able to present a truer picture of the Middle East to their students.
Thanks to my colleagues: Lenny Ben David of I*Consult, Jonathan Feldstein of Magen David Adom, Ruth Golan of the Efrat Municipality, and Col. Benzy Gruber who speaks worldwide on Army ethics.

Glenn Beck or You

Folks are crazed about Glenn Beck. They either love him to pieces, or they fear his Christian ulterior motives. Nobody's actually sure if he wants to strengthen Israel because he really has a deep admiration and devotion to this Land, or he wants to see Israel's Golden Day so that his version of the Messiah can make his entry.
Glenn Beck (seen above left on GBTV, photo from his website) is in Israel now hugging Land-lovers, dodging Arab antagonists and avoiding anti-missionary-watchdogs.
What is Glenn Beck really?
** He has spoken out for Israel when few have been as courageous.
** He has spoken out against an American president that many say are bad for America (in addition to being bad for Israel).
** Whether you like him or not, whether you feel he's touring Israel for personal, religious or honest motives, he has absolutely shown courage in the face of criticism and suspicion.
So, is he a secret/not-secret missionary?
Should we fear his rally in Jerusalem?
I truly have no idea.
But I'd like to talk to all Beck's critics, critics of all Christian Zionists, and any lover of Israel.
Glenn Beck and Christian Zionists speak out for Israel.
Where are you when the microphone is turned on at a rally? Who is the great Jewish leader to get up in front of hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands to speak up for Israel?
Regular believing Christians write proud and moving articles or letters to the editor in newspapers, on the internet and talkbacks worldwide. How many times have you said, "I wish there was a Jewish person who spoke so eloquently in defense of Israel." Where was your article, your letter to the editor, your talkback?
Where are today's Jewish heroes and heroines who can draw the crowds to stand up for Israel? Where are the Jewish media darlings who can speak for Israel and start the cameras rolling at his/her appearance?
I don't mean politicians. I mean real honest to goodness people who speak and can light up the hearts of man to love and defend Israel.
If we don't want Christian Zionists to ignite the Zionist or ethical or moral souls of the world, then let's find some Jewish person who can gather myriads around him and call out to the world that "G-d created the world and He gave Israel to the Jewish people as His eternal gift."
If you don't want Glenn Beck to do it, then you do it, or find someone else to do it.
Israel needs a spokesman now. If Christians or Christian Zionists take that role now, that's your/my fault, because we haven't provided an alternative.
So, who's it going to be, Glenn Beck or You?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Largest and Smallest Dance Recitals

Our spirits soar when we take to the dance floor, gliding and leaping, twirling and flying for even a split second. We are off the ground and our soul feels the freedom and the exhilaration of the birds in the heavens.
Last week I had the opportunity to see the heart and spirit of one of Judea and Samaria's largest dance programs and one of its smallest.

The town of Kiryat Arba is a dynamic hub of activity for those communities south of Gush Etzion and north of Beer Sheva.
I joined hundreds of women in Kiryat Arba for the tenth anniversary production of "HaRikud", the Center for Dance in Kiryat Arba/Chevron. Under the direction of Esther and Assaf Meirom, "HaRikud" is dedicated in memory of Esther's mother Tzvia Blumenthal, o'h, who was the first dance teacher in Kiryat Arba.
Esther told the audience that the strongest memories she has of her mother are centered around dance. "Her art and her dance were a major part of who she was." When Esther's mother passed away a decade ago, she and husband Assaf founded a dance program to allow girls to learn modern, class, jazz, hip hop and gymnastics in a supportive and spiritual dance community. The school began with 50 girls and today has 350 students.
More than 260 girls from Kiryat Arba/Hebron and the surrounding towns - from ages three to 20 - took the stage in Kiryat Arba's Matnas. Dressed in outstanding costumes that displayed a beautiful modesty not often found on the dance floor, girls of different ages and levels of performance danced together on stage.

Most dances had a delightful mix of styles and skills that contributed to the performance's uniqueness and feeling of warmth. My eyes filled with tears as I watched 14 year olds lift and twirl little six year olds in their bright red skirts.
Knesset Member Tzippy Hotoveli sat right in front of me during the performance. She told the audience that when she told her friends at the Knesset that she was going to KA/Hebron, they asked, "What happened? Is there a hafgana (protest)?" When she explained that she was going to a dance recital, they wrinkled their brows at her.

MK Hotoveli said, "I'm very impressed by this recital, because there's a certain spiritual air. You are bringing culture to life in this historic place. Our purpose within the Jewish settlement is to bring it a soul. Dance brings such happiness."
She continued, "Chassidut looks at dance as one of the finest ways to become closer to Hashem. The Baal Shem Tov asked, 'Why is dance so important? It's one way for a person to lift himself off the ground.' Tonight's performance is also an opportunity for everyone to elevate herself through dance."
The MK was very moved by the unity she felt among the women and girls dancing. She commented, "There is in no other place in Judea and Shomron that has such a strong a school for dance."
Yes, indeed the recital of "HaRikud" was massive and moving. The choreography was excellent. The girls were exuberant and well-rehearsed. The entire production was impressive in scope and quality. Kol hakavod to Esther and Assaf Meirom on this mammoth production. I felt fortunate to have participated.

Small in Size, Great in Heart

Then I had the exceptional opportunity to attend one of the smallest dance recitals in Judea and Samaria.
The town of Meitzad in Eastern Gush Etzion is one of the Etzion's bloc's smaller communities, and yet it is also a very active town with religious and cultural activities for all its residents – young and old.
Last week Meitzad's girls and teens – ages six to 16 – performed in four different groups. They didn't have a budget fancy costumes or any costumes, but they all looked adorable in black and white with different colored sashes.
The teacher, Dassie Goldstein, worked separately with each age group through the year. Kol hakavod to her on her tremendous effort!! The children absolutely loved learning to dance. Dassie taught each group its own dance for the recital. The youngest dancers were adorable, the middle children were evidently thrilled to dance and very serious about their steps, and the oldest were just great. The smiles on everyone's faces showed the audience of mothers and sisters how joyful the dancers felt. The audience felt the same.
And strange as it might seem, I myself felt moved – perhaps in a different way – by the tiny dance troupe as from the mega-dance production.
Yes, the dance worked its charm in both groups – elevated all those who experienced the performances in a swirl of joy and soul.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I remember my older son telling me that he always made me soldiers stop and drink water. "Everyone at the same time - 1, 2, 3, drink. Okay, keep marching."
Whenever my dearest mother ad 120 comes to visit, I remind her every half hour, "Have some of your water. Dehydration is v-e-r-y bad." Being from New York, and not a water aficionado, she just humored me, taking a tiny swig, but always adding, "I never drink." And I always add, "That's very bad!"
Well, last week, I had the busiest week possible. I ran from errand to errand, from family appointment to volunteering, from shopping to dropping (literally). It was my week off, so I tried to get every possible experience into it.
But the sun of Israel is hot and unrelenting. The air is dry and sucks up all the liquid in plant and man alike. Here, more than just about anywhere else, you've got to drink to go on. This is something even the youngest school child knows. Unfortunately I forgot.
By Tuesday night, I felt there was something drastically wrong. I could hardly lift my arms or my eyes. I had to drive to Bet Shemesh and I was torturing myself with every turn of the wheel. I went to my tap chug (group) and I just didn't have the energy to put on my shoes. I sat and watched them. And that's bad. I never just sit and watch.
I was severely dehydrated.
I had all the signs - dry mouth, my eyes were dry too, muscle cramps, head spinning, nausea, weakness. But instead of saying, "Oh my gosh, I think I'm dehydrated. Better get some water", I just kept going until my battery went totally dry and I just shut down.
I went to bed early! And I stayed in bed an entire day to recharge! And of course, I drank. Dr. Tzipi Morris of the Efrat Women's Health Center, said I should drink Gatorade with electrolytes until I felt well-hydrated. I think everyone (especially my mother) should keep emergency Gatorade somewhere.
Anyway, I'm sloshing again, so I'm back in action.
So much to write to all of you. I'll be back later, IY"H, with some updates.
Drink Water!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

First Borns

I guess first born children have to develop special gifts of concentration. Their homes, B'H are filled with excitement and action.
If they want to get along in this world they have to learn how to tune out the excess chaos around them, and close themselves somehow from the smaller-sibling distractions around them.

I saw proof of this on Friday when B'H my children and grandchildren came to visit. My eldest granddaughter, who has become a very dedicated reader, sat quietly reading Yaffa Ganz's book Savta Simcha. She curled up on the couch until her sister and little cousins - 3 three year olds and 1 two year old started jumping on the couch all around her.

Then she switched to the dining room table where she sat next to my 6 year old granddaughter, also the eldest in her family, who was busy working conscientiously on a Getting Ready for First Grade workbook. The four terrors whipped up a tornado of activity around them, but the elder scholars just sat quietly, oblivious to all else happening around them.
A great afternoon was had by all. The first borns did their reading/ studying/ learning, and the energy-powered little wind-up tykes were in constant action every moment.
Just don't look at my living room. It is currently being declared a natural disaster. But, truthfully, I love it that way.