Sunday, February 28, 2010

Singin' in the Rain

All of us in Israel have many reasons to have danced in the rain in the past few days. The blessed rain actually elicited yelps of exhilaration from just about everyone. On Friday night, as my family sat at the Shabbat table, we kept our curtains open and were entertained by the spectacular light show that the sky provided us. The rain was beating so hard on the windows, it seemed to have a base drum all its own.
The rain remained a welcome guest on Shabbat day and then on Sunday for Purim. Even though folks had to deliver their Mishloach Manot (gifts of food) in the rain, they exclaimed their joy at the stormy weather.
Today at 12:30 PM, I dropped my husband off at Mincha (the afternoon prayer), but got detoured on the way home, because in the middle of the street - Rechov Netzach Yerushalayim - a dozen or two men and children were dancing. Actually, Rechov Netzach Yerushalayim has a street-dance (the original mob dance) every Purim. It's been doing the dance for the past nine years since Efrat's MIRACLE.
Nine years ago, an Arab came into Efrat and tried to blow himself up in our supermarket. B"H, an alert and able Efratian noticed something was not right with the Arab, followed him into the supermarket, and shot him just as the Arab pulled his switch.
A preliminary mini-blast occurred but, B"H, this local hero saved Efrat from the big boom.
That day giant posters were hung everywhere, "Nes gadol haya po" (a great miracle happened here); "Layehudim hayta ora..." (The Jewish people had light and joy and happiness). And they simultaneously poured out into the street to dance and celebrate the miracle.
The neighborhood residents of Dekel, Efrat, have been celebrating ever since.
And even though, today it was pouring heavily, the residents of Netzach still came out into the streets to dance and celebrate and thank Hashem for the miracle He created for the people of Efrat.
The music played and the folks sang and danced in the rain.
Thank you, Hashem, for making a miracle for us in our day.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Voices of Purim Today - Part 2

Just as the Jewish people faced a cruel and brilliant enemy more than two thousand years ago in Shushan, we face his descendants today, scattered throughout the Middle East.
In my previous blog, I mentioned that lectures at the Jerusalem Conference made me realize on how many different fronts Israel was forced to fight. The Arabs are no longer attacking Israel with only guerilla warfare or kassams. Today they are fighting in varied physical and psychological ways, challenging Israel in every way possible.
Front Seven - Longer and Longest Range Missiles
As the Arabs' hardware for war becomes more sophisticated, more of the country shakes in fear as every major city - Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Beersheva are in missile range from enemy terrain.

Front Eight - The Territorial Conflict
The Arab nations claim the Land of Israel for their own. Syria wants the Golan Heights down to and including the Kinneret. The only way they say they'll negotiate with us is if we walk to the table agreeing in advance that we will go down from the Golan Heights and give up the Kinneret as well. The Lebanese want border towns in the North. The Palestinian Authority is pushing for Judea and Samaria (they already got Gaza and turned it into a giant terrorist base) and Eastern Jerusalem.
Israel keeps saying no to dividing Jerusalem, but meanwhile the Arabs have already built the skeleton of a giant capital building in Eastern Jerusalem. We keep saying, "no", and they keep continuing toward their goal.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas says he will not negotiate with Israel unless building in Judea and Samaria is totally frozen (not just for ten months) and frozen in Eastern Jerusalem as well.

Front Nine - The Religious Conflict
Palestinian Media Watch's director Itamar Marcus said that the conflict with the Arabs goes beyond territory. "Is the conflict a territorial or religious conflict? If it's territorial, there can be a compromise. But if it's from Allah, there's no compromise."
So, which is it? Itamar said, "In a new 'Palestinian' school book for 2006-2007, it says, we have a religious war until the revival of the dead."
en speaking about Moslem tensions in the world, often the term "clash of civilizations" is brought up. Some speakers at the Jerusalem Conference explained that the Moslems are really at war with the west in a clash of ideology. Meanwhile, Israel is taking the brunt of Moslem jihad, and muftis in mosques throughout Israel preach the destruction of the Jewish people.
Itamar noted, "'Palestinian' media said that Jews are the enemy of humanity, and so they must be killed."
Front Ten - The Local Arab Front
Not only does Israel have to worry about the Arabs in its neighboring countries, Gaza and Judea and Samaria, but it also has to be more vigilant in regard to its Israeli Arabs. Over the past years, more Israeli Arabs than ever are involved in terrorist attacks directly or indirectly. Bedouins are also becoming larger threats to the State of Israel. Not only are they stealing everything they can, and smuggling goods and prostitutes into the country. They are also smuggling in weapons.
More to come. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Voices of Purim Today

Purim Sameach to all. I’m not sure if you’ll receive this issue of Voices right before, right on, or right after Purim, but I hope everyone has a terrific Purim, and makes funny memories with their family and friends.Eight years ago, my friends and I co-wrote a musical called Esther and the Secrets in the Kings’ Court. We were living in a petrifying time of Arab war and continuous terror. Arabs were murdering innocent Jewish parents and children every day in suicide/homicide attacks in our stores, on our buses, on our roads, and random street corners. It seemed that the Jewish people were facing a mortal threat that, chas v’shalom, was endless. We chose then to create a musical about Queen Esther and Mordechai, the evil Haman and the foolish King Achashverosh because there had never been a time when the Jewish people so clearly stood on the edge of annihilation, and yet, B”H, were saved by Divine Providence through G-d’s messengers Esther and Mordechai.Well, the more things change…today Israel faces similar threats from near and far – Hamas, Fatah, Hizbullah, Syria, Iran, etc.. And yet, just as we did then, we must pray that today Hashem, our Father and King, will create mighty miracles for us and overturn our enemies.And friends, we really do need a miracle. Anyone with clarity of vision can see that the dangers around us are so complex and layered that no Army, political strategy, or creative concessions can really protect us.
[It’s like the atomic bomb drills that American children in the 60s endured. The Public Address system announced, “Atomic bomb drill. Children get under your desks and cover your heads.” We all did it very seriously and quietly. The government pronounced the drills a major success. The country was satisfied that we were safe from atomic bombs. Well, Honey (please say that with 125th Street attitude – hun-ay!!), ain’t no desk gonna save little kids from an atomic bomb.] And ain’t no great plan gonna save Israel from an entire world of wolves descending upon it, except The Great Plan.
Strategic Thinking
Recently, I and hundreds of others attended the Jerusalem Conference, an event for which I truly wait all year to attend. National leaders, politicians, generals, experts in every national field and brilliant thinkers (I mean that seriously) attended. In hours of sessions about the state of Israel and Jerusalem today, the global economic crisis, the Israel-Arab problem, the Arab-Arab problem, war in the 21st century, war on the college campuses, many ideas and positions were put forward.Of course, most speakers emphasized the threat from the Arabs within our borders and without. A workshop on the missile threat upon Israel was particularly compelling.
Something said by Dr. Uzi Rubin started my mind racing.
Dr. Rubin, former head of Israel’s Missile Defense Organization said, “Our opponent has never given up [on its mission to destroy Israel]. It has just changed its strategy, wearing us down with guerillas and wearing us down with rocket fire.”This statement was totally true. Dr. Rubin surely realized that the enemy was even cleverer than any of us had given him credit for. But the source of their genius is even more than missiles and suicide belts. The Arab enemy has a brilliant simultaneous multi-multi-level pronged attack on the Jewish people and the Jewish nation that is calculated and far-reaching.
During Israel’s past wars, we have had to fight on many fronts simultaneously. The next confrontation, chas v’shalom, will make that seem like a children’s exercise.I should probably stop for a moment and tell you that you can read more about the Jerusalem Conference in depth on my daily mini-Voices, my blog, .
I invite you to read my blog every day or so. There are so many important events and issues discussed in the blog. You won’t want to miss them.I’d also like you to know that Voices TV videoed some of the most intriguing talks at the Jerusalem Conference, and you can find those videos both on my blogs and on Voices’ website: on the Voices TV channel.
Front One – Arab Psychological Attacks Against Israel’s Weakest Links
Just as Amalek attacked the weakest Israelites in the rear of the camp, so the Arabs today attack the conscience of our weakest people – those with neither faith nor heritage nor roots from which to gain strength. The enemy hammers away at them hourly with their deceitful message: if only Jews weren’t occupying Arab land, if only Jews wouldn’t build here or there, if only Jerusalem were divided, if only Israel would agree to share sovereignty over the Land… Yes, they creatively attack from every direction, even our brightest but disconnected Jews fall into their trap. For example, Channel 2 TV senior commentator on Arab Affairs Ehud Ya’ari actually told the Jerusalem Conference that Israel should explore alternative ideas proposed by the Arabs.
For example, “The ‘Palestinians’ are talking about parallel statehood on the same territory with each nation responsible for its own citizens.” Can you imagine that? It’s difficult enough for two women to share the same kitchen, but somehow two kings can share the same kingdom.But the Arab attack on Jewish conscience/intellect is working, and unfortunately we hear Jewish calls to freeze settlement construction, abandon parts of our G-d given land and even our capital, and as Ehud Ya’ari suggested, we should “force the ‘Palestinians’ into sovereignty.”
Front Two - Traditional Arab Terror
The Arabs’ traditional methods of terror – bombings, stabbings, shootings, mutilations – have succeeded in frightening some of our population into just wanting to give the Arabs anything they want. Anything, just stop hitting us. But this has grown a bit tiresome. It used to be that a terror attack received front page attention. Now, it has moved to Page Six.
Front Three - Arab Psychological Preparation of its Own People
Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch,, explained to the Jerusalem Conference that the Palestinian Authority is not preparing its people to live side by side with Israel. On the contrary, through every facet of public information – newspapers, schools, text books, sports events, television – they are teaching their public that there is no Israel, and if there is an Israel, it is an illegitimate one.For example, their weekly show, “Going Back” is dedicated to refugees and their mission to return to their former cities. Their TV shows reinforce the idea of “Palestine” with anever present logo of the Temple Mount.
Front Four – Arab Preparation of Their Next Generation
Israeli schools are constantly teaching our children the message of peace. It is the preeminent goal for which we strive. Our counterpart Arab schools are doing opposite, Itamar Marcus explained. Even one of their newest textbook for 2010 says, “The war of ‘Palestine’ ended with Zionist groups robbing ‘Palestine’.” Itamar stated, “The problem is ’48, not ’67.” He showed a clip from PA children’s TV. On a quiz show, the children are asked, “Where is Palestine’s most important port? Haifa, Jaffo….?” The message is constant, there is no Israel, only ‘Palestine’.He added, two months ago on the fifth anniversary of Arafat’s death, PA TV interviewed Arab children. One after the other little children declared that the Jewish people killed Arafat. They poisoned him, etc. One little boy said, “I don’t know what he died of, but I know the Jews caused it.” Itamar said, “He got the message. Something bad must be connected and caused by the Jews.”
Front Five – Kassams and Short Range Terror
In addition to closest range shootings, bombings, stabbings, the Arabs of Gaza began years ago with short range kassams. Once kassams were cheap home-made missiles that were fired upon Gush Katif communities and their neighboring cities of the Sderot region. Thousands upon thousands of Arab-fired kassams have killed Jews in Southern Israel and caused hundreds of thousands of traumatized Jews to sleep in shelters and doorways and anywhere they felt “safe”. Now even kassams are getting more sophisticated. They are imported from different countries, including manufacturing giant China.
Dr. Uzi Rubin explained, “Hamas began with home-made rockets and moved to factories. The range [of kassams] has improved to 40-60 kilometers. Half of the population of Israel is under rocket range.”In addition, he said, “Now they are firing missiles simultaneously in batches. They have a larger potential for mass-destruction.”
Front Six – Grads, Katyushas and Long Range Terror
Dr. Rubin noted, “Arabs are increasing the abilities of their hi-tech and low tech.” Hi-tech are the more advanced grads, katyushas from Lebanon, scud missiles from Syria. “The enemy looked for new ways of warfare. Some missile ranges grow longer, and some rocket ranges grow shorter.” Longer range missiles mean that larger population centers are in missile range. Shorter range rockets mean there is less (if any) warning time.
Yes, he noted that there are Arrow, Patriot, Magic Wand and Iron Dome defense systems. But…
More to Discuss
There are seven more fronts to discuss: the Territorial Front, the Religious Front, The Local Arab Front, the International Friends Front, the Underdog Front, the Threat Front.They will all be discussed more fully on my blog: and in Voices on-line publication, IY”H, at .
With thirteen fronts threatening the Jewish people, it is very clear that just as our ancestors in Shushan long ago, the Jewish People today are living in very perilous times. And yet, we can look at the actions of Esther, Mordechai and the Jewish nation then, and understand that our greatest Defender, our most powerful Friend, and the One upon Whom we have always depended is not sitting in the White House or anywhere else on this earth. But He is very near and ready to help if we will understand and call upon Him.
Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion explained that miracles were built in to Israel’s plans for our nation. We should remember that.Meanwhile, hoping for miracles so that this Purim and every Purim will be joyous and meaningful.
Let your Voices be heard.
Sharon Katz

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Memory and the Dream of Moses

I popped in by my friend Penina this morning. She's sewing some of the costumes for my upcoming show, DAMES of the DANCE 3 - The 7 DAYS of CREATION. I came to peek. They look terrific!!
The radio was on - it sounded like some military ceremony.
She reminded me that today was 7 Adar, the yahrzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu. Moshe died at the age of 120 by the kiss of G-d. No one knows where Moshe is buried. It is one of great mysteries of the world.
So, Penina explained, that the ceremony on the radio is for soldiers whose remains are unknown. Just as no one knows Moshe's grave, no one knows theirs.
Sad. And yet how appropriate.
No one knows Moshe's burial place, and yet his legacy of dedication to G-d and the Jewish people live on. His burning desire to enter the Holy Land continues.
And so, we do not know the burial place of the soldiers in today's ceremony, but that does not stop their friends and loved ones from remembering their legacies and lives. Their burial places are unknown, but the influence they had on others will always be felt by those who held them near.
When Moshe brought the Jewish people to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, G-d asked him, "Who will be your guarantors? How do I know that the Torah will be kept forever?" Moshe tried to give our blessed Patriarchs as guarantors, but G-d would not accept.
G-d did not agree to give the Jewish People the Torah until Moshe gave guarantors that could not be refused - JEWISH CHILDREN.
Moshe promised that for all eternity, Jewish children will learn and keep the Torah. They would pray to Hashem and follow in His ways.
This morning Moshe's memory was invoked when memorializing the soldiers, HY"D.
This afternoon Moshe's dream was realized yet again when the children of the Mechina (Pre 1A) classes of Efrat's Orot Etzion School received their first chumashim (Bibles).
This is the insurance policy of the Jewish people and a Jew's best weapon - a chumash to tie himself to eternity - both the past and the future of the Jewish people.
May these children and all Jewish children always be blessed with a strong connection to their heritage and may they be worthy links in the chain from Mount Sinai to the rebuilding of the Third Holy Temple and the coming of the Meshiach.

Friday, February 19, 2010

MEDICINE: Let's Play G-d

I don't like to participate in surveys, because they're time consuming and usually on all kinds of political topics that I either don't know about or are annoying. On the other hand, I understand that the young people who do these surveys probably only get paid when someone answers the survey. So, since I feel bad for them...
Yesterday a student from Tel Aviv University called me about a university survey on the topic of medicine.
It started out fine. Which medicines do I believe should be in the medical basket funded from the government? Should medicine that helps cancer patients be in the basket? Should medicine that helps Alzheimers patients be in the bastket? Should medicines that are tremendously expensive be in the basket or should medicines that are very cheap and used by many people be in the basket?
After a while, the questions changed.
** If you could only fund medicine for one person, should it be a 75 year old man or a 15 year old boy? I was a little shaken by this question. I said, "You might be thinking that the 75 year old man has lived his life already, but if the 75 year old man is your grandfather, you love him and you want him to live, and therefore of course, the funding should go for him. If the 15 year old boy is your son, then the funding should go for him."
** If you could only fund one person, should it be a mother with a husband and five children, or a single mother with one child?
** If you only have money for 12 pills that make life more comfortable for critical patients, should you give 12 pills to one person and sustain them for a year, six pills to two people and sustain them for six months, or four pills to three people and sustain them all for four months?
** If you had to choose which medicine to fund, should it be medicine to save a life from a serious illness (like a cancer) or to ease the pain of someone suffering from a long-term illness?
The questions went on and on like this. There were at least 50 if not 100.
I soon realized that I was being asked to play G-d. "Who shall live and who shall die? Who shall come to a timely end and who to an untimely end?"
It was pretty frightening.
I was honest with the poll-taker. I didn't know the answers to these questions. I also wondered what the halacha (Jewish law) on these questions. I'm going to ask.
I know that if the lives of a mother-in-labor and her baby are in danger, you are commanded to save the mother. But I don't know more laws like that. I'll ask.
It made me wonder how our lawmakers decide which medicines to fund and which to deny. I'd like to fund them all - medicines to save lives, medicines to ease pains, medicines to prolong life, more or less all medicines. I also know that it's impossible to fund everything, but if it's your grandfather, grandmother, mother, father, sister, brother, child, friend, you want their medicine funded. And you want your loved one cured and healthy again.
May the Doctor of all Doctors help our people, cure our ill, and give wisdom to those who have to decide who can receive medicine and live.

Who wants a Palestinian State anyway?

Everyone knows that US President Barak Obama is pushing for a Palestinian State, as did his predecessor George Bush. We also know unfortunately that Israel is pushing for one as well. In fact, the world wants a Palestinian State (or more likely they just want a word without Israel).
While attending the Jerusalem Conference, I found that NOT the entire world wants a PA State or at least not a unlaterally declared PA State. And it's the most unlikely folks that are actually against it.
I told you in my blog the other day, that some of the most interesting information at the Conference was conveyed between the sessions. And that is really true. There are fabulously interesting, intelligent, deep-thinking individuals who are not on the panels, but who are happy to share their ideas with you.
At lunch break one day, someone talked to me about a political party that runs and keeps losing, but keeps running. His opinion was that there's more money in running, then in winning and actually getting a seat in Knesset. He said that running is a real business that supports quite a lot of people.
This was a bit disturbing to me, but I realized that it also applies to the Arabs. Caroline Glick, as you must know (and I have it on video too), said that the "Palestinians" do not want a state.
Her remarks made me think of my friend's remarks. By the "Palestinians" asking for a state, demanding a state, demanding help for a state, demanding money for a state, they are collecting quite a Fort Knox of cash. By constantly pushing for a state, they are racking up a pretty hefty bankroll, and they don't have to deliver anything because they're not a state.
Egypt & Jordan
On the last day of the conference, political analyst Dan Diker, Senior Fellow Policy Analyst, JCPA and Adjunct Fellow, Hudson Institute, told a packed session that Egypt and Jordan are shivering in their boots over the future of a Palestinian State.
He said that after the Moslems in Kosovo unilaterally declared a state, the Moslems in Israel, said, "Why not us??" And several Arab voices declared that they were more worthy for their own state than the Kosovans.
Egypt and Jordan are very much against a unilaterally declared state, according to Diker. Jordan is terrified over the aspirations of a Palestinian State. Are "Palestinians" still keeping their dream of "Jordan is Palestine" or "One day Jordan will be Palestine too"? Is the Hashemite Kingdom in deep trouble? The Jordanians want Israel to make an agreement that will end "Palestinian Aspirations" for a state west and east of the Jordan.
Egypt is equally nervous. They share a border with a radical Hamas state that could (and does) cause deep trouble for Egypt. They know a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian State at any time soon would include (G-d forbid) land in Judea and Samaria, but would exclude Gaza. And Egypt would continue to be threatened by its hostile neighbor. Dan Diker continued to explain that this was the reason the Egyptians are doing everything they can to broker a peace deal between Fatah and Hamas. Unless these two opposing terrorist entities are united, Egypt remains in danger.
To hear Dan's fascinating view of the situation, watch Voices TV - .

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Israeli Policy Planner Tells Government to GO ON THE OFFENSIVE

Ron Dermer, well-spoken director of Policy Planning in the Prime Minister’s Office, looks good and sounds good. At the Jerusalem Conference yesterday, he tackled the problem of the negative attitude the world harbors against Israel. Not an easy issue. Actually, he made a very convincing argument for his own PR strategy, which he feels is an offensive against our enemies’ human rights violations, and a defocus on Israel itself.
Ron believes that both the right and the left in Israel are under delusions that won’t help Israel on the PR front.
Ron’s View
His view of the left wing’s wishful thinking is that the assault on Israel’s legitimacy is a result of its policies, and if Israel would abide by the will of the international community then its international standing would improve. That was one of the excuses for Oslo and the Disengagement, and on and on. And the world favored issue for about a minute – just long enough to mail the Goldstone Report to newspapers around the world.
Ron Dermer, There’s a view that there’s no truth and falsehood – it’s all competing narratives. The weaker party is always perceived to be just. There’s pacifism that says military force is never legitimate.’
Ron feels that the right believes the government’s offer for sweeping concessions has “sawed off the limbs upon which Israel rests.” They want to reassert our rights, our historic connection to our land. They want to reclaim the narrative and stop using the language of our enemies by calling Judea and Samaria: illegal occupation, occupied territory, Arab land, etc.
Ron Dermer is sympathetic to that point of view, because he believes that a consistent focus on peace exclusively is not a winning argument, if it is not supplanted by rights. He gave a very clear example of this contention. (Watch the video!)
He added that by reasserting our historic rights, we do a great job at arming our supporters.
But he doesn’t believe either these views are fully correct. He believes the assault against Israel, but actually all the West, is “driven by values.”
Ron stated, “We are Jewish State in an age when nationalism and religion are under assault. We are a democracy fighting against terrorism in an age when the use of force is considered illegitimate in many courts…. We are constantly on the defensive.”
He doesn’t believe that giving 20 year old liberals the facts of Israel’s history, of the Arab wars against us, our problems will be solved. He believes we should stop being on the offensive and follow in the Arabs’ footsteps by running a negative campaign against the human rights abuses of our enemies. Liberal thinkers are “religious” about human rights.
Dermer wants to attack our enemies on their lack of human rights and especially their abuse of women’s rights, among other things.
Dermer believes that by focusing on the worst human rights abuses on the planets, and demanding they get the coverage they deserves, we can put this issue on the agenda, and slowly those forces that work against us will shrink.
My View
Ron sounded very convincing, but I believe he’s wrong.
Ron wants the world talking about the Arabs’ abuse of women, instead of the "illegitimacy" of the Jewish State. However, having listened to Dr. Anat Berko (a specialist in female suicide bombers), it seems quite clear that Arab women would give up their human rights if it meant that Israel would be destroyed. And after having listened to Palestine Media Watch Director Itamar Marcus, the hatred of Israel is too deeply entrenched in generations of Arab society, everyone, including women and children glorify and honor suicide bombers and terrorists. They don’t hate Israel and want it destroyed. In their minds Israel doesn’t even exist.
Israel might cry out to the world that Arab nations are abusing women, but nations turn a blind eye to human rights abuses, if instead of this, they can somehow blame Israel. Moreover, if we ask any of those women if they’d rather have personal freedom or the destruction of Israel, it seems that according to the different speakers at the Jerusalem Conference, the majority of women would prefer destroying Israel than having rights.
And if we want to have the nations respect us, or love us, or honor us, we are told in the Bible exactly how to make this happen. G-d cautions us (in Deuteronomy 4:6) to keep His decrees and ordinances…for it is your wisdom and discernment in the eyes of the peoples, who shall hear all these decrees and who shall say, ‘Surely a wise and discerning people is this great nation!’
I seriously believe that if Israel wants to be respected among the nations of the world, instead of basing their campaigns on knocking other nations (even though their abuses are true and valid), they should run a campaign to promote Israel’s wisdom, values and holy laws, plus its loyalty to the Land that G-d has given them, because this is our glory and our honor in front of the nations of the world.
You can watch excerpts of Ron Dermer's address on Voices TV at .

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Yehoram Ettinger Brilliantly Explains the Disaster of the Two-State Solution at the Jerusalem Conference

Former Minister for Congressional Affairs at Israel’s Embassy in Washington Yoram Ettinger spoke brilliantly at the Jerusalem Conference yesterday. He explained that Israel has dug itself into a very deep messy hole – one that it unfortunately continues to dig - Oslo, Hebron, Wye, Camp David 2, Disengagement, Annapolis, Lebanon 2000, the Road Map.
Israeli public has gone from being adamantly against a Palestinian State to being in favor of a two-state solution to the non-peace in the Middle East. But he warned that for 1400 there hasn’t been “inter-Arab peace or inter-Arab compliance with international agreements,” so how can we expect the “infidel” Israelis to be able to make an agreement with the Arabs?
Ettinger added that it is not the size of Israel that is the crux of the problems with the Arabs, but the very existence of Israel. Therefore, he asked, why is Israel continuing to look for a territorial compromise with the Arabs, when the problem is NOT territory?
“Since a two or three state solution is a territorial driven kind of solution, so why are we discussing it…especially since every territory ceded to the Arabs since 1993 has become an additional platform for hate education and therefore for terrorism.”
Ettinger also cautioned Israel against jumping at American pressure. He explained many ways in which American President Barak Hussein Obama is considered weak, and even a detriment to his own Democratic Party.
Ettinger said, “American pressure wasn’t enough to deter [Israel’s first PM] David Ben Gurion from declaring Israel’s independence, or enough to deter Ben Gurion from declaring Jerusalem the capital. In fact, American pressure was an inducement for Golda to build Gilo, Neve Yaakov and Ramot.”
Ettinger quoted Bashad Assad on the subject of territorial compromise. When asked if he would negotiate with Israel on allowing Israel to keep a 100-meter sliver along the Kineret, Syria’s Assad responded, “Anyone who gives away a square inch of his own land does not deserve to be respected. Certainly, you cannot expect any Arab to sign a peace agreement with Israel when we don’t respect Israel.”
The Jerusalem Conference is still underway. Actually, I’m on my way there now…zoom. If you can’t make it to the Regency in Jerusalem today (which you should really try to do), you can watch the conference on line at .
You can see a clip from Yoram Ettinger’s address here:

Surprises at the Jerusalem Conference

Everyone loves Tzipi Hotovely, the Likud MK that absolutely lights up every room into which she walks. She's passionate in her love of Eretz Yisrael and she's a good friend to the residents of Judea and Samaria. Tzipi wants Israeli law to reign in Yesha, and wants Israeli citizens to be granted full citizenship. She doesn't want Judea and Samaria annexed to Israel. No! It's already part of Israel. She just wants that to be acknowledged and formalized.
These were her words at the Seventh Annual Jerusalem Conference yesterday. The Conference, which brings together great thinkers, national leaders, professors, rabbis, politicians, generals, journalists and foreign dignitaries, is the place to hear thought-provoking discourse about the future of the State of Israel and the Jewish People.
That's why folks jammed in to the main conference room to hear Tzipi Hotovely speak, as part of a panel with Minister Benny Begin, Hon. Yoram Ettinger (Former Minister for Congressional Affairs at Israel's Embassy in Washington), Palestine Media Watch director Itamar Marcus, Channel 2 news commentator Ehud Ya'ari and National Union's Prof. Arieh Eldad.
The audience thrilled to Hotovely's call for the end to the occupation over 300,000 Jews in Judea and Samaria and her adamant demand that Yesha residents be given full rights and recognition, just like the rest of their brethren inside the green line.
Thunderous applause broke out when Hotovely said it's time to end the Sug Bet (2nd Class) treatment of the Jews of Judea and Samaria.
And that's why the crowd was shocked when Tzipi said that along with the Israelization of the Jews of Judea and Samaria, she believes Israel should give full citizenship to the Arabs of Yesha. In the video I made of the Conference, you can actually hear people exclaim, "WHAT!!", when she made her announcement. I even think my camera shook a bit at that.
MK Hotovely said that giving the Arabs citizenship would give them a 30% minority vote, but at the same time, Israel has to concentrate on bringing another million Jews to Israel.
The Jerusalem Conference always provides a few surprises. This surely was one of them.
It's still early and you can still be part of this yearly historic event - Hotel Regency (formerly the Hyatt Regency), Jerusalem.
If you can't make it, you can watch the conference right from your own computer screen, Don't miss it.
To watch Tzipi Hotovely speak about the future of Judea and Samaria, click on

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mei Central Park Ad Sinai

Who says, "Mir ken nisht tantzen af aleh chassenehs"? (We can't dance on every wedding.)
Tonight I actually attemped it. First I attended the most amazing wedding - my friend's son to her bat bayit (that's a female house guest that more or less lives in your house). What a fabulous simcha! I felt like I was invited from both sides.
The chattan and kallah radiated kedusha (holiness). The music was fabulastic (Shlomo Katz!!) and the crowd was friendly and full of excitement.
As the hour grew late, we got in the car and drove to the tail end of the bar mitzvah simcha of our dearest old friends. Our families have been friends for three decades, bli ayin hara. I babysat for the mother of the bar mitzvah boy, she babysat for my son, and the bar mitzvah boy's sister babysits for my grandchildren. So, the closeness continues, B"H, to the next generation.
The bar mitzvah boy Yair's maternal grandfather, Yisroel Neuberger is a very distinguished author with three popular books to his credit, which have been translated into many different languages. Tonight Leah Neuberger told me that their first book, Yisroel's autobiography, From Central Park to Sinai, had just been translated into Hebrew, and that the media here in Israel have really taken to this book.
From Central Park to Sinai tells the story of the inwardly-turbulent life of Roy Neuberger Jr., son of a millionaire, as he searches beyond gold and privilege for a life of meaning and inner peace. After years of exploration into every faith and movement, Yisroel finds a treasure in our Torah and a Jewish way of life.
Israelis, who so emulate Americans and their materialism will be curiously fascinated by this teenager that had everything, but knew there was something beyond a life of unending consumption.
It's actually called, Mi Manhattan el Har Sinai. The translator is Mrs. Yaakov Feldheim and Feldheim is the publisher, so it is also at Feldheim stores, as well as Tsomet Sfarim (the Shomer Shabbat stores only) and other fine book stores. You can learn more on line at
Yisroel's other books include Worldstorm and 2020. Yisroel's books have been translated into several different languages and have sold all over the world.
IY"H, I hope I'll get a chance to interview Yisroel about the release of a Hebrew Central Park. Keep checking to see that video clip and others.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Earthquakes and Faith - Part Three

This is the last blog, hopefully, about earthquakes.
I have written about the tachlis (practical) stuff in the previous blogs.
The earthquake drill had shaken me greatly. I videoed it with tears in my eyes. I thought, "This could really happen," chas v'shalom, because as the officer from Home Front Command explained, "We're not only talking about earthquakes, we're also talking about manmade disasters."
The other parents and staff present at the earthquake drill giggled as they announced, "Three children are unable to get out of the school building, we will now send in an emergency team," or "A child is stuck on the roof, our emergency team will snapple down with him."
They were laughing and I was crying.
Yoram Levran, Jerusalem District Home Front Command, explained that the man-made threats around us are very great.
He detailed the real and present threat from the Palestinian Authority, from Hamas, from Lebanon, from Syria and from Iran. He explained very clearly how far our enemies' missiles could fly. Chas v'shalom: Gazan missiles can reach Tel Aviv. Hizbullah missiles can reach Beer Sheva. He explained that there has never been a hotter war of words between Israel and Syria (this is very dangerous, he said). He then quoted the religious and political leaders of Iran who have very recently once again vowed to wipe Israel off the map. He said the danger is real.
So, I myself quaked after hearing two hours of this information.
Then I watched the complete drill and was just praying the entire time, "Please, G-d, don't let this ever be a reality."
And then something wonderful happened, and as we know, NOTHING is a coincidence.
While I spent the morning talking about the bleak threatened future G-d forbid of disasters, death, injured, earthquakes, missiles, I spent the afternoon seeing the true bright future of Am Yisrael at the Siddur (Prayer Book) Ceremony of First Graders of Efrat's Aseh Chayil School.
This was the answer to the fears of the morning.
Little six and seven year olds in their white shirts and cute red ties each received a beautiful siddur, its cover decorated lovingly by their mothers. This siddur is the beginning of the luckiest moments of their lives. With this siddur, each child has been given a key to Hashem's chambers. Each child will be able to turn to Hashem in times, chas v'shalom, of fear, in times of sorrow, in times of disaster. They will also be able to call out to Hashem in times of joy and every important and quiet time in their lives.
The siddur is an upside down funnel that increases their faith exponentially through words of tefillah (prayer) and hope.
Sometimes in times of crisis or ecstacy, when we do not know what to say, we have only to open our siddurim and the words can be found there before us.
In the morning, the older children prepared for earthquakes, and in the afternoon, the youngest elementary school children truly showed the way - the path of faith (emunah) and hope that will get the Jewish people through any disaster, G-d forbid, and lead us on the way to a positive future for the Jewish People, Hashem's chosen nation.
Through our faith and belief, we will get through anything.
You can watch a short segment of the wonderful Siddur celebration right here:
Mazel tov to all the first graders and their families. With your siddurim in your hands, you will never ever be alone. You've got a direct line to The One Above.

Earthquakes Revisited - Part Two

Last week, I wrote a blog about the Earthquake Preparedness Drill in Efrat - The drill was a preview of the earthquake preparedness drills that will soon be held in schools throughout the country.
According to Ministry of Education's Security Chief Yoav Cohen, because children spend a large part of their day in school, and because it may take a long time for rescue teams to get to locations throughout the country, schools (teachers, staff, students) must be prepared to respond to this emergency and know how to react without panic. Yoav said, "The key to success is the schools."
The key to a school's response is practice, he said. "When a child knows what to do, his actions are automatic, and he won't go into panic or hysteria."
Yoav Cohen spoke of earthquakes, but Yoram Levron (below, left) of the Jerusalem Division of the Home Front Command said the same preparations for earthquakes can be a model for other disasters - both natural and man-made - like terror attacks, missile attakcks and the horrors of war.
Yoram Levron's words last week were very sobering. It took me a week to report them, but I think it's important to know how to be prepared against disaster.
Yoram noted that in case of an earthquake or man-made disaster, we will most likely have no water and no means of communication.
He said that Home Front Command estimated 7500-16,000 killed, chas v'shalom, and 2,500-6,000 seriously injured. He said, "What will happen in those first hours will make the difference. The immediate response after a disaster is called The Golden Hour. In that time, you can save the most people."
"Because there are less forces than will be needed, that is why the school must be prepared, "Yoram said.
1) Go out to an open area
If you can't
2) Go to the MAMAD (safe room)
If you can't
3) Go to the stair case
If you can't
4) Go under a strong table and hold on to the legs
Yoram said that his team learned a lot in Haiti, and that if disaster strikes here, chas v'shalom, a million times, "We will need the help of other nations."
I'm sorry, but I groaned at those words. Other nations will not help us. Once we could have depended on America to come through with some aid, but today under the Obama Administration, I'm not sure they will either. We should never need them or anyone else. (I truly pray that we never need to be at the mercy of any nation for our survival.)
Yoram said that Haiti's huts, homes, buildings and major institutions were just destroyed, because their structures were poorly made. He mentioned that the older (50 year old) buildings in Jerusalem, Yaffo and Tel Aviv are also at risk of total collapse in case of emergency, G-d forbid.
1) Since all communications could go down, everyone should have a transistor radio with functioning batteries (like in the old days) or a short wave radio from which you can get information.
2) Because you might have to run from your home and coputers will NOT be functioning, you should have a folder PRINTED OUT with your important family information, including copies of your Teudat Zehut (and that of each family member), medical information, insurance and other important bureaucratic information. If you've got to run out, chas v'shalom, grab the folder and go. (My note: also grab a family photo album and Shabbat candle sticks.)
3) Since you don't know how long you're going to be without help, make a disaster kit that is easily accessible in your home. (Now, don't say, well, we might not have an earthquake for 100 years. Yes, IY"H, hopefully we won't have one then or ever. But remember, this is for any disaster, including one made by evil people or just people.) You should also have emergency money ready, long-lasting food, water, flightlights, first aid kit, medicine, whistles.
4) Have a functioning fire extinguisher to deal with fire from electric wires.
Today there are earthquake alerts. They can give a SIX SECOND WARNING. Six seconds is almost nothing, but it is still something. May Hashem watch over his people and protect them always.
To view the earthquake drill at the Orot Etzion Boys School in Efrat, click here:

Monday, February 8, 2010

Preparing for Natural and Unnatural Earthquakes - Part One

Just over two years ago in November 2007, Israel shook from two earthquakes measuring 3 and 4.2 on the Richter scale. It originated at the Northern Dead Sea, but while things were quaking in Maale Adumim they were shaking in Herzelia too. Compared to other quakes around the world, like the 7.5 earthquake in Haiti, that was nothing.
After Haiti's devastating earthquake, everyone in the world is thinking about earthquake preparedness. GOOD NEWS. Israel is actually doing something about it.
This morning I attended a full morning of Earthquake Lectures and Exercises. It was thrilling and terrifying and actually calming, once it was over.
Efrat's community was chosen as the first to participate in the national earthquake drills, which were held in the Orot Etzion Boys School after a full morning of lecturers on the the threat of earthquakes and how Israel's educational system is preparing.

Students in every school are being trained to assist Magen David Adam, fire fighters and Chilutz v'Hatzala. These children are being trained to react (under supervision of course) in a matter of seconds.
The drill began - Earthquake drill. Simulation of an earthquake 6.7 on the Richter Scale. Its epicenter is in the Northern Dead Sea.
Students were told to climb under their desks and hold on to the legs of the desk, so that it doesn't shake away. Then they were evacuated to the basketball court, which is an open area away from the walls of the school.
Three students were "missing," and rescue forces scanned the area, and found them "injured." They were carried out, treated and taken away in an ambulance.
Then small "fires" broke out, because of the broken electric wires, and students (along with firemen) used fire extinguishers to put out the fires. Larger fires are handled solely by the Fire Department.
An injured student was trapped on the roof, and rescue workers tied him to a board and snappled him down from the roof. Everyone held his breath.
The Search and Rescue Division of Home Front Command demonstrated how their innovative devices raise cement walls, and work in different ways to rescue individuals trapped in rubble. As one of the boys said, "It was amazing!" B"H, we have these abilities. We should just not need them.
The drill ended in a very orderly manner.
More to write about it. It will have to wait until tomorrow.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sharing Purim with Our Children in National Service

Almost 700 post-High Schoolers in Efrat are serving in the Israel Defense Forces, National Service, or attending a post-high school program (like Hesder Yeshiva, Mechina, Yeshiva Gevoha, Midrasha, etc.). It could be your child or your neighbor, but each of us surely knows many young people who are serving our country today.
Most of these young people are away from home, and many ffffaaarrr away from home. Some are on a wind swept hilltop with no name. Some are in cities far away from family and friends. My hometown of Efrat is thinking of all of them, especially as the wonderful family holiday of Purim rolls around.
Thanks to the efforts of the Efrat Community Center, all these young people will receive a holiday care package from Efrat. The package will include goodies that can be shared with friends in the same dorm room or Army tent. The package means to say, "We love you and appreciate that you are giving of yourself to benefit your nation."
Preschoolers will draw pictures to include, and school children of Efrat will wrap the packages. The Community Center needs YOU to participate in this project and donate what you can for the costs of the packages, including the food and shipping. Be part of this mitzvah of giving mishloach manot (food packages) from one friend to another. You can contact the Matnas of Efrat 9932936, or email . The director of this project is Ayelet Avrahami. She'll be very thrilled to have your participation.
Watch Ayelet speaking about this terrific project in English at and in Hebrew at .

VOICES MAGAZINE 13th Anniversary - Mazel Tov!

My dear readers/friends,
This month VOICES Magazine celebrates its 13th Anniversary. We put a special Anniversary Issue on the "newspaper stands". In addition to all kinds of AGE 13 BAR MITZVAH topics, it's got a Bar Mitzvah celebration photo on the cover that was selected from several sent by our readers in honor of Voices 13th anniversary. The other photos will be accessible soon in our on-line edition, Thank you to everyone who submitted those great shots!!
The Bar Mitzvah cover photo exactly portrays the joy we feel at reaching this milestone for Voices. We have been through so much together - so many pivotal and dramatic events for our country and our people. We have prayed and worried together. We have struggled and protested together. We have worked and volunteered together. And B”H, we have celebrated many great moments together.
Joy joy joy. The cover photo by Randy Zelcer depicts exactly how we feel on our 13th Year!Thirteen years ago we launched a small town newsletter to enable English-speakers to feel more a part of the Efrat community. That newsletter quickly grew to include the rest of Gush Etzion. Then it spread to Bet Shemesh and Jerusalem as well. Bli ayin hara, over time, Voices became a glossy full-color magazine from Kiryat Arba/Chevron up to Bet El and Shiloh in the north.
Folks started sharing Voices with family and friends, and people began subscribing in other areas in Israel and chutz la’aretz.
A few months ago, we entered a new frontier - the internet. And now an expanded version of the new Voices can be read on line.
Click on current or past issues: For example, read March 2009’s issue at
Our biggest change has been in the establishment of Voices Television. Last month, Voices TV and its sister channel Gush Etzion/Efrat TV posted their one-hundredth video. By the time you read this, we’ll most like be over 110, bli ayin hara. Those videos include slices of life in Israel, interviews with lovers of Israel, current events, treks to great locales nationwide. View videos at
Gush Etzion/Efrat TV features stories of special interest to residents of the GE/E region. For local interest, this is the place! Clips are both in Hebrew and in English. To keep you informed and entertained, I try to upload clips almost daily (except when I have a Voices deadline), so you’re invited to visit every morning. There’s always something interesting to read or watch. Click:
Our website is B”H bli ayin hara going terrifically well, and we’re enjoying about 100,000 hits a month with dozens of unique visitors (that means newcomers) every day. Welcome, all, and forward the links to your friends!!
Thank you to my brilliant webmaster Beth Lanin for this spectacular site, and to Avi Abelow and Shlomo Wollins of and for their guidance.
Meanwhile, if it’s difficult for you to wait all month for Voices Magazine to be delivered to your town, you can read a daily version of Voices on the web. Every day, a mini-Voices. It’s called a blog. I started blogging (that means writing articles specifically for the internet) at the end of September, and B”H the feedback has been embarrassingly terrific. I don’t know how they’ve come to the blog, but my techie says that my blog is read in Israel by people in Ramat Gan, Bat Yam, Tel Aviv, Mazkeret Batya, Nehalim, Abu Ghosh, Elyakhin, Haifa, Kfar Saba, Jerusalem and Efrat/Gush Etzion; and in the Diaspora in Mountainview, California, Chicago, Illinois, Washington DC, Nyack, Brooklyn, Pine Bush and New York City, New York, Coventry, England, Montreal, Quebec and even Yemen! As of this writing, I have posted 101 blogs to the internet! B”H, there’s a lot of good stuff to share with the world. I write about your life here. Click and read: If you’ve got something to say, you’re welcome to submit a comment. Let me hear from you.
There are three more Voices goals that I have set for myself, but have yet to totally fulfill.
1. Voices began 13 years ago to share varied and innovative positive voices among the Jewish people. In the past 13 years, I have interviewed people in all walks of life throughout the country who have contributed to our nation. People who make a difference in Israel have also written especially for Voices, as guest authors. Well, I’d like there to be contributing videographers telling a positive story on Voices TV as well.
If you’re a videographer (adult or teen) and you’ve got a story to tell - something that will benefit your community or our nation, please email me so that your story can be aired on Voices TV. Your video can be featured on Voices TV or Gush Etzion/Efrat TV. The goal of these videos, like that of Voices Magazine, is to show what’s RIGHT about living in Israel.
2. Next, my publisher and husband Israel Katz is a talented and creative photographer. From the time that I launched the Voices website, I had planned to have an entire section featuring his photographs of locations throughout Israel. I want to show our beautiful country to the world. I haven’t succeeded yet, but IY”H, perhaps I’ll be able to upload some of his wonderful on-location photos one day soon.
They will be found in a section called VOICES’ ISRAEL - bottom right of our homepage, .
Lastly, the economic downturn has hit our customers, along with businesses throughout Israel. Despite financial hardships, businesses must be given the opportunity to advertise to the public. I want to give businesses of all sizes an opportunity for exposure.
3. Voices’ switch to a compact size made advertising much more affordable. And with Voices website, IY”H, there’ll be no limit to the potential customers for an advertiser’s message. Stores, servies, businesses, advertise with us. IY”H, we’re gonna zoom!
As I adapt to the triple duty of a printed magazine, a daily blog and a TV Channel, I hope one day to achieve the three goals to further improve Voices and make an even more fulfilling experience for our readers.
Last note, I’d like to thank 13 years of Voices readers and writers. And we’d all like to thank 13 years of advertisers. YOU MAKE IT HAPPEN.
Last but not least, I'd like to thank my publisher and husband who has allowed me to try my wings in so many different arenas. Whatta guy!
My warmest wishes for good health, peace and prosperity for all. Here’s to a blessed tomorrow, IY”H.
Let your Voices be heard.
Sharon Katz

Friday, February 5, 2010

Veshinantam - Aseh Chayil Creatively Educates Parents & Children

This month, Voices Magazine celebrates its 13th anniversary, IY"H. Since 13 is the Bar Mitzvah year, this month’s issue, which will be uploaded to the internet next week,, focuses on the concept of Bar Mitzvah and the responsibilities that come along with it. One of those responsibilities is for parents to educate their children. "Vshinantam levanecha"..."Teach the [commandments] thoroughly to your children and speak of them while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when retire and when you arise..." Almost twenty years ago, Rabbi Aharon Falk, the rav of the Aseh Chayil School in Efrat, attended a Torah U’Mesorah educators’ convention in America. There it was revealed that basic Jewish day school education had absolutely no impact on a child’s Jewish identity and end-of-the-road assimilation. The reason was clear. The school was giving one message of Jewish values and education, while the parents were unfortunately giving quite another on fundamental issues, such as Shabbat and kashruth. Rabbi Falk determined right then that he would develop a program to include the parents as partners in their children’s Jewish education. “There are no better educators than parents,” Rabbi Falk said. Fifteen years ago, he instituted Veshinantam (teach [your children] thoroughly), a bi-monthly learning program in Efrat that paired parent and child in a chavruta (learning partnership) and then an experiential activity. Topics varied from honoring one’s parents to traffic safety, assimilation to protecting one’s health and body. First and second graders learn on one night, and third and fourth graders on another. Over the past year, thanks to the monetary support of the Parents’ Board of the Aseh Chayil School, the program has been enhanced and expanded. Voices visited Aseh Chayil when children and parents were delving into the topic of emotions. With source sheets, games and fun activities, they learned about joy, sadness and shame. Children had the joy of “completing the writing of a Sefer Torah”, rolling the scroll and carrying it to the chuppah for their own personal Hachnasat Sefer Torah (Torah dedication). Then girls were bedecked in white veils and new (candy) jewelry and boys each received a “Kiddush cup” to carry to the chuppah (wedding canopy). They learned that even at the happiest of times (a Jewish wedding), they had to take a moment to remember the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, recite the phrase “If I forget thee, O’ Jerusalem,” and break the cup. Excitement filled the room as parents snapped photos of their little brides and grooms. Suddenly I also felt a sadness in the midst of the hubbub, as I noticed that the school was using a chuppah that had been made from the tallit of IDF officer Lt. Haggai Lev, HY”D, who was killed in Rafah, Gaza in 2002 while searching for illegal weapons smuggling tunnels. Fourth and eighth grade Aseh Chayil students helped the children through the different activities of the evening. Parents interacted with their children with great enthusiasm, just as Rav Falk had envisioned. Adena Haber, mother of five and a member of Aseh Chayil’s Parent Board, told Voices that it is a luxurious opportunity to be able to spend “one-on-one time with an individual child and learn with him.” They both look forward to each session. Adena commented that Veshinantam has also given her a different view of her children. One program asked children to list things they were proud that their parents noticed about them. She was very surprised at their answers. HaRav Aharon Falk, founder of Veshinantam, remarked that schools “do not impact on children if they don’t work closely with the parents. When we created Veshinantam, I was very surprised. I was always under the impression that the kids hated school, but ...the kids didn’t want to miss it. [In order to entice greater parental participation], we looked for experiential activities, where the smiles of the children would be so enticing that the parents wouldn’t want to miss them.” Rav Falk noted, “The Amutah has invested considerable sums in investing in these programs. We really have a living and kicking Veshinantam program. But I’m fearful that the parents who need it most don’t come, and the parents who are already involved with their children are the ones who join us.” “Veshinantam was designed and implemented to … give the message to the parents that kids are a lot of fun, and one can enjoy conveying values and Jewish education and love to their children, and developing the bond of love,” Rav Falk said. “There are no better teachers than the parents,” Rav Falk said. “I think it’s vital for the parents to understand how important they are to their children. No computer or TV can laugh and cry, embrace and kiss the children. Only parents can do that.” Rav Falk has published the Veshinantam program and would love other schools to implement it as well. My personal thanks to Dina Mann for her help. A Hebrew Veshinantam video in which Dina is interviewed, will be available, IY"H, next week. In our ONE HUNDREDTH VIDEO ON VOICES TV, Voices Gush Etzion/Efrat TV gives you an insider’s look at Aseh Chayil’s Veshinantam program, .

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

If It Quacks Like a Duck...

We ex-New Yorkers (or most East Coast Americans) have a snow barometer. We know when it's going to snow. No, it's not because our bones ache or our big toe is throbing. It's because we've got snow instinct.
I tried to teach it to my children, and this morning, I saw that I had actually succeeded.
So, while this might not be an earth-shaking blog, it was a nice moment for me.
As we walked to the car this morning, my daughter told her friend, "It's not going to snow." "They said it will," her friend said. "No, it won't." "How do you know?" asked her friend.
"Well, firstly," said my daughter, "the sky is not pure white. There's a little tint of blue." (Everyone knows the sky has to be purely filled with white snow before a snow storm.)
"Next," she said, "it doesn't smell like snow."
"What?????" (Yes, the pre-snow sky smells, and this one didn't.)
So, I don't know if any weather services need the help of a 17 year old Israeli girl that is a snow specialist, but she's available. :)

G-d's Irrigation System

Yesterday, I wrote about 3000 Ezra youth coming to Efrat to plant a new forest on the northernmost part of our Zayit Hill.
Yesterday the kids dug out thousands of little holes with their hands, and carefully planted their fragile saplings.
Today, G-d is taking care of the irrigation.
IT'S RAINING, B"H, and our Ezra Forest is being nourished with heavenly drops of blessing.
Thanks for arranging that, G-d.
May our Tu B'Shevat trees, flowers, and gardens flourish and may our children grow to love the land that You have given them, and always look up to the Heavens for Your Help and Caring.

Mitzvah Town

When my kids were little, we had this marvelous book by Michel Schwartz (the artist and craftsman). It told of an amusement park where every ride was another mitzvah. Actually, I have always wanted to create such an amusement park in Israel. Ride the carousel, and reach out to drop a shekel in the tzedakah box. Bounce on the rising challah dough. You get the idea. IY"H, one day when I have $50 million, I will bli neder do my best to build it.
Meanwhile, there's no amusement park, but, B"H, I do live in a mitzvah town.
I just walked into the house and my husband told me, "We got a check for A_____." Hooray. A___ is a 60-something year old gentleman who would like to marry a 60-something year old gentlewoman, but does not have the money to make it happen. So, my kindhearted husband told him he would try to help. And he decided to include whomever else wishes to participate in the mitzvah. He let folks in our town know that someone needed help, and B"H, help has started flowing in. Wow, and just this moment someone called and said that she has two brand new down comforters she'd like to give the couple. Amazing. It makes me want to hug my fellow (woman, of course).
It seems that somehow mitzvot like that sweep through our home, like piles of leaves traveling on gusts of wind. There's a calm quiet day and then suddenly, whoosh, swirl, a pile of mitzvot, like little mounds of leaves, show up by my front door. And I know I'd better dive in right away, before the opportunity to do mitzvot blows to the next location.
You might ask if I have time for this. No, I don't. But Efratians (and friends from all over) make mitzvot so easy that I can't resist.
Almost two months ago, a young person told me about a very horrible trauma that has been life-affecting and for which she needed financial help to get a certain treatment. We asked our community, and B"H, we received help from near and far for that person.
And somehow from one single incident, we've gone into the "Furniture and Cabinet Business." No, we don't sell furniture or cabinets. But, B"H, we have come to know many young people living on hilltops around Eretz Yisrael. Most of them live under very spartan conditions, and we try to help them. You can't imagine how an extra cabinet or a non-broken couch or table changes their lives. These are young idealists, and are willing to live with very little. And so when they get something, anything, it is such a treat for them and such a joy that it lifts their spirits and even those of their neighbors, who come to understand that people in the outside world care about them. Of course, Jews are supposed to be responsible for one another, but sometimes when you live sort of in isolation or so far from other towns, you're amazed that your brethren know you exist. So, we're always collecting stuff, tying it on to our car, and driving out to some hilltop like "Sabba and Savta Santa" (lehavdil) and their white Mitsubishi reindeer. And we wouldn't be able to do that either without the kind hearts and old stuff of our friends.
I've got a big overdue deadline today, so of course, procrastinator that I am, I read a few emails today, and I saw that women are collecting cooked food for new mothers, the ill or whoever needs it. My neighbors are kind people who are even cooking for a mitzvah.
Then there are the women of the Gush Katif Bridal Showers who make parties for GK Brides for the mitzvah.
And the women of Raise Your Spirits who perform for the mitzvah.
And the women of Dames of the Dance who dance for the mitzvah.
And the wo/men of Pina Chama who serve cake for the mitzvah.
And the women of the Clothing Machsan who sort clothing for the mitzvah.
And the wo/men of the Food Gemach who package groceries for the mitzvah.
And on and on and on.
B"H, Mitzvah Town, Gush Etzion 90435. It's an honor and a privilege to be a resident here.
(Hey, just thought of something. We need a MITZVAH TOWN T-SHIRT. Anyone wanna donate 1000???? - Call me. :) )

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I have just returned from one of those events that makes me say, 'THANK YOU, HASHEM, THAT I LIVE IN THIS MAGNIFICENT LAND OF ISRAEL!!!!"
On the northern most tip of Efrat's Zayit Hill (seven minutes south of Jerusalem), three thousand EZRA youth group members are planting trees across from the Dagan and Tamar Hills. They're participating in a belated Tu B'Shevat activity.
The event was initiated by Efrat's Mayor Oded Revivi, together with the education and youth departments of the Moetza. All the preparations in the shetach (hillside) were carried out by Efrat employees, and especially the Efrat Shefa Department.
Right below the spot of their planting, several Efrat administrations promised there would be a man-made lake for all kinds of recreational activities for Efrat's residents.
Well, it's been many years now, and we've still got no lake, but there was a sea of children covering the hill. In the photo at the left, those tiny colored dots are all children - thousands of children. Dressed in a rainbow of colors, representing their shevet (tribe), Ezra members arrived from Raanana, Kfar Shmuel, Elad, Kochav Yaakov, Central Jerusalem, Har Homa (Homat Shmuel), Bet Shemesh, Petach Tikva, Kfar Ganim, everywhere. Some traveled for hours to get here. With gigantic smiles and tremendous gusto, they are all having a fabulous time. But I think I had a bigger chavaya (unforgettable experience) today than they.
I met the first groups at the top of the Zayit, and then marched with them down Pitom HaKetoret Street to the steep sloped northern Zayit Hill. The kids were cheering. They were jumping. They were screaming with enthusiasm and glee. I photographed some and took some video for VoicesTV, But, I get emotional at things like this, and I had to try hard to keep laughing with the kids around me, fighting the tears from pouring out of my eyes, at the sight of thousands of children who love Eretz Yisrael and will one day inherit this blessed land.
Sixty buses were lined up all over Efrat after discharging their children, and right now dozens of bus drivers are enjoying ice coffee in Efrat's Angels, pizza in Philly's Pizza and Pizzeria Efrat, as well as bagels in the Bagel Place and burgers at Burgers' Bar.
Meanwhile the kids are planting and singing and dancing and "ooohing" at Efrat's majestic hills. I drove over to the Tamar and then the Dagan to get a look at the "big picture!!" and was able to see Zayit's northern hill transformed into a needlepoint full of colorful dots.
Soon the kids will begin hiking across Efrat's eastern and western edges, all converging on the Gefen Recreation Area for a giant happening.
Most of the children had never been to Efrat before, and they truly believed that their planting trees here connected them to the soil of Eretz Yisrael.
"King David lived around here," I told a group of boys from Kfar Ganim. "We know it," they said. "We've been watching out for souvenirs from his sheep."
VOICES TV uploaded a video of the EZRA Happening up on to our website. You can watch it - Thank you to the EZRA Youth Organization and everyone who organized today's event.
Am Yisrael Chai!