Thursday, May 31, 2012

Safe Driving Video - a Big Hit

In February, I was lucky enough to participate in a video on safe driving, i.e. "no texting". The creator/director/filmmaker of the project Amit Benatar was so detailed on my scenes, I was sure mine were the only scenes in the clip. :) 
This was the original post about my movie experience:
When I watched the movie, Lichyot Me'Chadash (Relive) on my computer today, and I saw all the performers and scenes filmed for this clip, and I couldn't believe what a tremendous undertaking this was. (And that was only for six minutes. No wonder full length films shoot for months on end.)
Take a look at the clip, :
The music is great. The children's choir was terrific. I love how they pop up in black and white throughout the clip. Very engaging. The actors, my friends and neighbors, were really believable, and especially like-able.
Actually, one of the things I liked best about this clip was that everyone was smiling almost all the time. It's not heavy handed! There is a very upbeat feeling about this video. And that's why the clip works so well. Its lesson is serious indeed, but there's a good naturedness about it that makes you want to accept its message.
Great video.
Congratulations to Amit Benatar, the Matnas Efrat children's choir, Efrat Community Center and all those performers who gave their time for this important message. This clip will go far.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cherry Season in Gush Etzion

In most parts of the world you know what fruit is in season by checking the grocery shelves. When the price is low on this fruit, you know it's orange season or kiwi or peach season. 
But if you live in Efrat/Gush Etzion, you have only to look at the trees in your neighbor's yard to know that cherry season is here. The cherries are gorgeous, plump, shiny, sweet smelling and begging to be picked off the trees. 
Some trees are covered with gauze to prevent the birds from helping themselves, but others are open to the birds or the neighbors or the passer-by on the way to the bus. 
Gush Etzion is one of Israel's cherry capitals. The symbol of some of its kibbutzim is the cherry. Our regional pride comes from the perfection of our cherry. 
We're having a bumper crop this year, B"H. And so folks all over the country are enjoying juicy and gigantic cherries of every kind this month, courtesy of the growers of Efrat/Gush Etzion. Next time you eat a cherry - whether it's red or yellow or purple or burgundy - think of me.

The Real Deal - Jerusalem Day in Jerusalem

Anyone who has been lucky enough to visit Jerusalem on Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) can clearly imagine two other days in Jewish history - the Aliyah to the Holy Temple on the Passover Holiday, and the flood into the Old City after its liberation in 1967.
Today, as on those day, rivulets of Jews from all different streets and all different directions in new Jerusalem flowed into larger streams of people as they approached the Old City, until they became like a giant rush of water pouring through the streets of the Old City. 
We latched on to different yeshiva groups, overflowing with spirit and enthusiasm. They sang, we clapped, they drummed, we hummed.
Every Yom Yerushalayim, I go through my entire repertoire of Jerusalem songs, and then start again at the beginning. These yeshiva guys were great. They never missed a beat.
Meanwhile they flew their flags, or wore them on their backs. They danced as they bounced down the avenues and alleys of Jerusalem. They jumped and they sang at the top of their lungs.
They greeted long lost friends, and waved at those Jerusalemites who watched them from their porches and windows. Some hung out signs, "Welcome to Jerusalem". This made me recall the welcoming atmosphere of the days when pilgrims came to Jerusalem on the three holidays. As it says in Pirkei Avot, Chapter 5 Mishna 7, "A person never said to his fellow, 'It is too crowded for me to lodge overnight in Jerusalem."
When we arrived inside the walls of the Old City through the Shechem Gate, we simply went with the flow of humanity - it was impossible not to do so, because we were packed in like sardines floating down the river.
As we got closer to the Kotel Plaza, the crowds became denser. We made it to the Kotel to pray, but others were not so lucky. The music and dancing stopped long enough for the Rav of the Kotel Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich announced that no one else could be let into the Old City walls, because the Kotel Plaza was packed to capacity. Wow!
We felt grateful that we had made it in, but we felt terrible for those thousands of people still standing on the steps and all the way up to the Jewish Quarter. There they stood and watched the dancing down below. (Hm, come to think of it, they had box seats!)
We prayed together with thousands of others. We thanked Hashem for this miraculous place. We looked up at this holy wall, and were awe struck by its magnitude, and we wished to be on top near a rebuilt Holy Temple.
"Naaleh et Yerushalayim al Rosh Simchateinu" - "Raise Jerusalem above our great joy." These were the words of Rabbi Rabinovich. "If we raise Jerusalem above all else, we will merit to rebuild the Holy Temple."
That seemed to be the common denominator of the 100,000 people at the Kotel at that moment. Everyone wished to raise the glory of Jerusalem to the highest peak, and to raise Jerusalem above all else in their hearts and minds. 
And more than anything else, everyone was smiling today/tonight. They smiled with love for one another, love for Jerusalem, and a hope that was tangible and that even felt possible - that all of Jerusalem could be rebuilt just as it should be, that the Beit HaMikdash was real and could take its proper place one day soon.
Someone called out, "Let us ascend to the Temple Mount and build the Holy Temple right now." At that split second, I bet we could have. Now we will all have to wait for a propitious time. 
May Hashem rebuild His Holy Temple speedily in our day, to bring light to Jerusalem - the light of the world.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

More on..Jerusalem Day Celebrations in Small Towns

As I noted in the previous blog, not everyone can get to Jerusalem today. Therefore it's heartwarming to see that many communities and schools hold Yom Yerushalayim programs.
Reader Judy Rosenstark sent these photos of the show today in Park Asor by the Aseh Chayil School. Students were paratroopers and civilians, Arab Legionnaires and rabbis. They liberated the Temple Mount and blue the shofar at the Kotel. The audience in the park was moved, and the children connected once again to modern day history and their love of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Day Outside of Jerusalem

I read an ad in a weekly Shabbat hand-out that spoke about celebrating Jerusalem Day all over the country. It listed cities and towns in which celebrations were being held. 

I was happily surprised. But why should I have been? It should be natural for a nation to celebrate the liberation and the reunification of its capital city. Of course, when the nation is Israel, things are not always natural.
But B"H, in my hometown of Efrat, there were special prayer services last night, ceremonies in school and even a parade.
Here's a peek of Efrat's children's parade from Aseh Chayil school.
It was a great way to begin Jerusalem Day, and now I'm off to Jerusalem...
Hope to see you all there in your blue and whites!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Swimming the Kinneret to Benefit Others

Some folks are swimmers. Some folks are root-ers. I'm a root-er, and one of the things that makes me cheer louder than just about anything else is the Annual Women's Swim in the Kinneret.

Yes, in only a few days, the year's most exciting women's event is about to take place by the Sea of Kinneret – the third annual women's swim-a-thon Swim4Sadna on Wednesday, May 23. The fundraising event for Shiluv b'Emuna will help build a secure home for special needs young adults – enabling  them to live within a supportive community, while they study and work and learn to live independent lives.
Sadnat Shiluv in Rosh Tzurim is a revolutionary triumph in education – helping special children integrate successfully in today's modern world.
For women swimmers, Swim4Sadna is a rare opportunity to swim the Kinneret together with hundreds of other women for an incredible cause.
Previous swims have helped contribute to the creation of one Shiluv b'Emunah apartment for young men already. This year's swim is aimed at creating a similar apartment for young women.

Join the Swim4Sadna for the experience of a lifetime! There are two routes to choose from - a 3.5k starting at Haon Beach and a 1.5k starting at Maagan Beach – each ending at Tzemach Beach.
For anyone who wants to participate without jumping in the water, there's a fantastic “Fun & Fitness Day” on Tuesday, May 22, for women and girls 12+ at the Tzemach Junction.  (There'll be a separate area for younger children.)
The exhilaration and powerful feelings of unity of purpose continue as even non-swimmers cheer on those who take to the water!!
Swim4Sadna is the brainchild of Vivienne Glaser, a mother of one of Sadnat Shiluv's graduates, and a powerhouse in the world of chesed and innovation.
The overall goal is 350,000 NIS for the benefit of Shiluv b'Emuna.
You can help make it happen. Join in - 1-800-39-35-39 or To find out more:

Find out more about previous swims 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

This is "The Life"

La Vie in French means The Life!! "C'est La Vie!!" "That's Life!!" can be good or bad according to the context. This week it was very good! Then again, it wasn't La Vie, but Kibbutz Lavi in the Western Galil, about 15 minutes from the Sea of Kinneret and the city of Tiveria (Tiberius).

Tiberius and this whole Galil area were the center of Jewish life during the time of the Mishna. In fact, the Lavi gardens have a large area of ancient oil presses that prove Jewish settlement from those times.
Filled with beautiful scenery and lovely quiet spots to sit, chat and enjoy nature, Lavi is a breath of fresh air, and more. Across from Kibbutz Lavi, Givat Avni (a growing mixed community) stretches out across the mountain top. What a view!

On the kibbutz, there's a gorgeous rose garden with a vast variety of all types of roses, as well as a fabulous and innovative play area for kids and adults alike. 
But Kibbutz Lavi isn't only about the beauty and fun. It's one of the rare kibbutzim that actually makes money. The two biggest factors in Lavi's economy are the Lavi Furniture Factory and the Lavi Hotel. Both top drawer!
We took a tour of the factory and watched the carpentry shop workers preparing their latest order - for a synagogue in Australia. 

The most exciting item in the factory was the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark) being prepared for the new building in the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. It was gorgeous, and so tall, carpenters had to work on it aboard a cherry picker.
May the synagogue furniture of Lavi contribute to the spirituality of Jews everywhere.
And may the restful hills of Lavi contribute to the relaxation of its guests.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Thumbelina to Come Alive in Efrat

I've gone to hundreds of dance rehearsals in the past many years of both dances in which I took part and those that I peeked in on, as producer of the Dames of the Dance performance extravaganzas. As the show date neared, both dancers and choreographers grew a tad nervous and perhaps impatient. Friends, that is natural, and even more so. 
In two weeks the chugim (extra-curricular dance groups) of the Efrat Community Center take to the gym floor to show their latest-learned steps at the Matnas Spring Dance Recital. My four-year-old granddaughter is dancing, IY"H, along with 60 other girls in Choreographer Tzila Lensky's version of Thumbelina. 
My granddaughter is a teeny leaf fairy. I had the maple sugariest experience yesterday as I watched rehearsal for Tzila's youngest group, the very youngest of whom is three-and-a-half. In their tiny pink ballet shoes and "big" sisters' hand-me-down leotards, these preschoolers obeyed Tzila's every word. The leaf fairies fluttered and twinkled in Second Position, Pas de Bras (or something else in French that sounded like chopped liver), balancee, battement, adagio (these are probably not the right words, but you get the idea and at least the four year olds understand), or whatever other French positions little Israeli children had to take on the dance floor, according to the instructions of their Russian teacher. 
Truthfully, I sat in amazement at every movement of our magical little fairies, wondering how Tzila was able to teach these little skittily-jibbits anything. And yet on Isru Chag Succot, the incomparable master Tzila Lensky will have girls of every age, level and ability, dancing their little toes out in Matnas Efrat in the balletic rendition of Thumbelina
Humongous kudos to Tzila as well as the older girls, several of whom dance on pointe, who guide the little ones with lots of love and patience. Moving around these 60 girls simultaneously throughout the performance is nothing short of a General Patton troop movement. I am in awe!! 
As a ballerina's grandmother and future audience member, I thank Tzila for sharing her love of dance, her expertise and her tradition of ballet greatness with our little fairies, elves, flowers, butterflies and all of Efrat's future dancers as well. And a thank you to the Efrat Community Center for appreciating dance, and supporting dance programs with such a full heart.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Conversations in the emergency room

Chance has found me once again in the emergency room with a friend. My friend is running from department to department and I am just staying put.
The 65-ish man next to me sits in a wheelchair talking to a woman. While at first I think they are married, I soon hear (not on purpose) her conversation with a third friend. "Poor Yitchak," she says. "He was coming to have coffee with me, and the cars weren't used to the new traffic light, and he got hit by a car."
So their date ended up being in the emergency room.
A 25-ish Chareidi girl had come in at noon and was still waiting twelve hours later for some antibiotic drip. They didn't have it yet. So she said, "I'm going home! I'll come again tomorrow." I would have thought they'd be happy to have one less person in their overstuffed ER, but they told her that if she leaves now, she'll have to start the procedure all over again tomorrow. She stayed put.
An older lady, traditional grandmotherly type, walked around with sandwiches. The lady is from Ezer MiZion. 
She said she will be here all night if I get hungry. It's already 12:30 AM. And then I see my friend coming over with a tuna sandwich on a roll, courtesy of Ezer MiZion.
 The waiting room is packed with a cross-section of Israel - young, old, Arab, Jew, rabbi, soldier, settler.
People pace back and forth. Others nod off. Then, using Disneyworld's method of people movement as an example, nurse call out ten names and move a small group inside the emergency yet another waiting area.
It is a long night, and filled with the sounds of coughing, moaning, older folks shuffling, heart monitors beeping.
Through the night two conversations stand out above others. An old man in his eighties keeps screaming, "What have I done that makes you treat me so? I'm calling the police." The staff answers him calmly and with patience. "We are trying to help you. Do you have any family who might be concerned about you?" they calmly ask him. He answers that he has no one at all. His screaming continues through the night.
Another voice rings in my ears - that of a son speaking to his hard-of-hearing elderly mother.
"How are you now, Ema. The doctor wants you to move a little. You can do it. Do you need anything?" He stands over her all night, never stopping talking to her or helping the doctors witomorrow. She stayed put. An older lady, traditionalth her.
Somehow B"H the morning comes. There is lots of talking in the area of the old man. He does have children - a grown daughter and son that, he said, did not  exist.
As we all depart, I tell the boy that he should be blessed for all the chesed (loving kindness), he has shown to his  mother. He blushes. Throughout the night it was evident that his natural devotion to his mother was very great.
It was an honor to witness this interaction.
B"H we left the hospital feeling thankful for being in  good health. And we wish good health to you too.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Efrat's Kids on the Street for Good Health

The children of Efrat's Aseh Chayil Elementary School are out of the classrooms today. They've taken to the streets - not in protest, but - in support of Good Health.
After a year of focus on A Healthy Life - theme dictated by the Ministry of Health - the school is dedicating all of today's activities to summarize its good health ideas.
So I caught the classes marching down my street on one of today's many walking routes. And I wished them a "Happy Health Day." They laughed and waved and went off on their way.

Now they're set for a day of healthy eating, healthy cooking, exercises classes and workshops on eating right, hygiene, a nutritious lunchbox, exercise, sports and a healthy future.
Starting children thinking about good health in elementary school is a major move toward a healthier next generation. Frowning on chocolate spread for lunch and encouraging vegetables and fruit will change their lives forever.

Of course, good health is not just a topic for one school year. But hopefully this year's orientation to a healthy lifestyle will give the kids a foundation of healthy thinking for a lifetime.

Monday, May 7, 2012

One of the Best Views of Jerusalem

As Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) nears, I've been wondering about the best views of Jerusalem.
My favorite it the top of the Gilo Hill that leads of the Malcha Mall. Just as I am about to descend that hill, all of Jerusalem is spread out before me, a feast for the eyes. I want to make a blessing, and I think, "Blessed is Hashem, the Builder of Jerusalem."
I asked my friends what they thought were great Jerusalem sites. Here's an idea from Menachem Fogel, the Maiersdorf Faculty Club Hotel.
"The balcony of the guest house at Hebrew University Mount Scopus has the BEST view of Jerusalem." 
You decide.
Photos of Maiersdorf Faculty Club Hotel, Jerusalem
This photo of Maiersdorf Faculty Club Hotel is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Life Begins Again

I love our garden.Every plant and tree added to our garden over the past 16 years have been planted with great thought, anticipation and some even by "mistake"/luck.
Every spring life begins again in our garden.

We began with my husband's dream - a coconut palm right in the middle of the garden. It will never have coconuts, the gardener said, and it will never grow too tall. Coconut palms are not indigenous to this area and don't agree with our climate. We still wanted it.
Three years ago I looked up at our over averagely tall coconut palm and saw little balls hanging on a branch. Coconuts???!!! No. Dates. Dates on our beautiful giant appreciated accidental date palm that now towers over our home.

Etrogim (Citrons)
The front of our home is guarded by three large etrog trees (citrons) that my husband grew from seeds. Their bountiful fruit (used for the holiday of Sukkot) are our pride and joy.
(We've got a date palm growing in the backyard that my husband also grew from seeds. More on that another time.)
Our kumquat tree was as tiny as our children when we planted it 15 1/2 years ago. It has given us a decade of magnificent fruit twice a year to fill the tables of our friends and lived ones.

Last year we added a magnolia. We had fallen in love with its dazzling flowers and shiny green leaves. Magnolias come in many colors. Ours is purple to offset our red and pink roses, and yellow daffodils.

Chinese Date
Last year year while visiting the Walluch's Nursery up north, we bought what I call a Chinese Date. In Hebrew it is called a Shazif. But it comes from China and looks like a date (and taste like a pear), so I'll call it what I want.
On Shabbat while walking through my garden I noticed teensy buds on my Chinese Date. Those will grow into its fruits. B"H many of them. Can you see them? The tiny buds will soon be fruits. All over my garden, B"H, life begins again.
Blessings to all.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

PREPARING for Jerusalem Day

The next issue of my monthly publication, VOICES Magazine, will dedicate most of its editorial content to Jerusalem in honor of Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day.

I know that many of my readers come from the far corners of the world. I thought this morning that perhaps I'd ask YOU if you have any inspirational or memorable recollections or thoughts on Jerusalem.

If you do, please share them with me through the comments of this blog, and I'll get back to you asap.
I think this could be an exciting project that we can do together. :)