Thursday, December 30, 2010

Visiting Choni The Circle Maker

With the drought continuing in Israel, everyone is mighty worried. There are mass prayer rallies, childrens prayer rallies, even prayers with Arabs and Jews together, and even with secular and religious Jews together. (Hm, could this drought actually be bringing out something good in society?)
There are visits to graves of holy people throughout the country.
Recently Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi HaRav Yona Metzger traveled to Hatzor to visit the grave of Choni HaMe'agel, Choni The Circle Maker.
That's kind of an odd name, but it was well deserved.
During the time of the Mishna during the room of Queen Shlomtzion, there was a great sage named Choni. The Jewish people were suffering from a devastating drought and they way to the holy Choni to intercede on their behalf with G-d.
Choni prayed for rain, but nothing happened.
Suddenly, he took a stick and drew a circle with it. He stepped inside the stick and called out to Hashem that he would not leave the circle until it rained. Sputters of raindrops came down from the sky, but Choni called out again that this was not the kind of rain he desired. Then dangerous buckets of rain fell. Choni exclaimed again that this was not the kind of rain he wanted. And finally G-d made it rain just perfectly.
Therefore, now when the Jewish people are suffering so badly from years of drought, who better to aske to intercede on our behalf with G-d Al-Mighty than Choni himself.
Rav Metzger told the gathering I was attending (the Women's Kashruth Convention in Efrat) that the name Choni is a strange one. However, perhaps from this uncommon name, we can learn something of Choni's power. The name Choni has the same root as the word VAYACHAN. It is written in Exodus 19:2, "Vayachan sham Yisrael neged ha'har." (And Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain.) The famous commentator Rashi notes here, ""like one man with one heart".
HaRav Metzger said, "This is the lesson we must learn from Choni. It is time to stop fighting amongst ourselves. If we want the miracle of Choni, our nation must be like one man with one heart."
According to the Ascent of Safed website:

You can visit Choni's gravesite too.
To get to the gravesite of Choni by bus from Safed or Tiberias, one must first travel to Hatzor by Egged bus #459, which runs about every 40 minutes from 6 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. From Safed or Kiryat Shmona one can catch bus #511. At the "Canyon" or Hatzor's central bus depot you can catch the local #2 bus to near the gravesite. The #2 bus runs about every 20 minutes until 9 p.m.
Of course, private transportation along these routes will deliver one right up to the dirt path leading to Choni's kever. Take the main highway out of Tsfat east toward Rosh Pina, then Route 90 north for another five or ten minutes until you reach the main entrance to Hatzor. Follow the entrance road to the very end until it turns into a dirt road. The signs from there clearly mark the way to the burial site.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chatting with Hebron's Yehudit Katsover

If you read the previous blog, you know that I spent a fascinating day in Hebron. The primary reason for my trip there was to view the breathtaking photography exhibit by renowned photographer Gershon Ellinson about the rebuilding of the Jewish community in Hebron from 1969 to today. The exhibit is on display now in the Machpela Visitors' Center and will continue there for the next few months.
It is a must-see.
I toured the exhibit with both Gershon and Yehudit Katsover, co-owner of the Machpela Visitors' Center (previously the Settlers' Restaurant) and Zionist national activist.
Yehudit, a woman of action for the past thirty years, was one of the mothers who entered Beit Hadassah in 1979. In recent years she has been active in the struggle to redeem the abandoned Israeli Army base of Shdema; the struggle to save Netzer, the Jewish land between Alon Shvut and Elazar; and the latest struggle over the abandoned Adurayim Army Base.
Yehudit is also the co-owner of the Machpela Visitors' Center, which is hosting the Gershon Ellinson photo exhibit, Stakes in Hebron.
After our tour of Gershon's dramatic photos, we sat down in the restaurant and chatted.
"We're in a struggle for Jewish identity," Yehudit told me. "Who are we and why are we here?"
This question impacts on everything, including the struggle for Judea and Samaria.
Yehudit explained that after the Six Day War in 1967, two distinct groups were born: Gush Emunah, which sought to build Yesha (Judea, Samaria and Gaza), and Shalom Achshav (Peace Now), which sought to stop settlement building.
Yehudit noted that lawyer and right-wing activist Eliyakim Ha'Etzni says, "It's all about who will win the game Stone/Paper/Scissors. [A stone breaks the scissors, but a paper covers the stone.] Throughout the past decades, we worked on Stone-building, but we didn't put any efforts into Paper-hasbara (public relations). The left was always busy with hasbara, and we haven't explained our case."
Yehudit continued, "I was involved in all kinds of activities, but I didn't pay attention to the media. Slowly we have come to understand how the media works."
While we were drinking our coffee, Yehudit said, "We had the zechut (merit) to make history and not witness history."
Then she thought, the garinim Torani'im (the nuclei of religious young people who move into non-religious neighborhoods) are our paper. So are Arutz 7 and Galei Yisrael.
"I am optimistic," she said.
So am I.
Photos by Israel Katz

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What Happened to Beit El Baraka?

"Stop. Stop. Pull over."
We had just left Gush Etzion on our way to Chevron with famed veteran photographer Gershon Ellinson. Gershon has an absolutely priceless photo exhibit at the Machpela Visitors Center in Hebron. (Unbelievably breathtaking collection!! You must visit the gallery in the Machpela Visitors Center at the foot of Me'arat HaMachpela. But that's another story.)
We were excited to visit the photo exhibit with the photographer himself, but we had hardly driven for five minutes when Gershon told us to stop on the road, right before the Arab town of Beit Ommar.
Now, this is the problem with photographers. Everything looks fascinating to them. They've got to photograph it all. Besides that, photographers see a scene from all angles, and it makes them very curious. They see things that normal folks, like you and I, would probably never pick up. So unless you're a photographer too (which my husband is), you could go a little crazy when you've got one around.

Back to Beit Ommar…
Since most people only know Beit Ommar from the violent demonstrations there, I wasn't too thrilled to stop. But then again, we were armed …with our cameras.
Gershon told us to photograph the building on our right. Its gate said, "Beit El Baraka". On the road between Chevron and Gush Etzion, Gershon probably passed Beit El Baraka thousands of times in those years when he lived and worked in the City of Our Patriarchs.
In one of its gilgulim (reincarnations) the property used to be an agricultural school, he said. Well, that would make sense. Emek Bracha (Valley of Blessing) is renowned for its fertile soil. The Gush Etzion Winery has one of its most innovative fields situated in one section of Emek Bracha.
The Valley of Blessing is mentioned in Chronicles II 20:26. After a miraculous battle fought by G-d against Israel's enemies – Ammon, Moav and Seir – Judah's King Jehoshaphat gathered the people in Emek Bracha…"for they blessed Hashem thee, hence they named that place Emek Bracha until this day."
And the land upon which Jehoshaphat made his blessing is still blessed and exceedingly fertile today. Emek Bracha is surrounded on its periphery by the Jewish towns of Carmei Tzur, Bat Ayin, Kfar Etzion and Alon Shvut and by the Arab town of Beit Ommar. Once Beit Ommar was a Christian town. I looked, but I couldn't find it statistics for today's population.
Beit El Baraka
The Beit El Baraka building seemed abandoned. Its main building was closed up tight, behind barbed wire, and its smaller buildings were smashed with broken windows and shattered glass. I could imagine lots of teenagers walking around its large green grounds in better days, circles of friends playing guitar around a small campfire. But that was then and this was now.
A small sign hung above the door of the building, that it was once a Presbyterian Center, but perhaps there were no more Presbyterians in the area, so they closed up shop. The signs on Beit El Baraka were written in Arabic and English. Gershon insisted that the sign once had Hebrew as well. Since he's got a photographic memory, I had no reason to doubt his word.
According to a Presbyterian website, "Beit El Baraka, formerly a hospital established by Dr. Thomas Lambie in the late 1940s, received its license as a Pilgrim Youth Hostel in April 1995, after ten years of government paperwork. The spacious facilities with modest rates are available for local and foreign groups for camps, retreats and tours."
I wondered what happened to Beit El Baraka. I found a google earth picture captioned, "Beit El Baraka American tuberculosis hospital, rebuilt to hostel, now abandoned." I guess it had many lives in its time.
The Presbyterians bought the property for a church in 1947 to work among the Arab Christians of the area. It had weekly Sunday services, prayer meeting, Ladies’ Bible study, children’s classes and youth work. It even had a summer camp.
I actually called Miss Joan Davenport, who was listed as the person in charge of the place, representing the Independent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Mission. I emailed her too. Thus far no response.
Her web page (from some unknown year) said, "Joan is Director of Beit El Baraka with the overall responsibilities of administration, hospitality to guests, campers, tourists, and overseeing of the buildings and grounds maintenance. Joan Davenport has many years of experience and her knowledge of Arabic helps her in her diversified ministry in the Holy Land. Pray for help to come and strengthen Joan’s hands and help in this Christian ministry for G-d’s glory."
The site explained, "In December 1995 the Palestinian Authority extended its rule over Bethlehem, which is part of the West Bank, where our mission property is located. The Arabs enjoy more freedom and an easing of the tension. Pray that God will help the Arab Christians as they face new complexities in their young nation."
That was an understatement. It hit me especially hard today, since I had just watched a Latma video on the difficulties of Christians in Moslem areas.
The page continued, "Baraka Bible Presbyterian Church is mature and under Arab leadership….Pray for spiritual growth and unity in the Baraka Bible Presbyterian Church."
Lastly, "Pray for the completion of the sale of Beit El Baraka."
So, either the property was sold or a sale never succeeded, because this beautiful piece of real estate stands abandoned and ready for some terrific organization to turn it into a college campus, a high school and a summer camp.
There are so many yeshivot, universities and high schools struggling for space today. Anyone looking for a great property??

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Sweetest Wake-Up Call

The phone rang this morning at 7:50 AM.
Now, that might be fine for your house, but I stay up pretty late every night, and even if I'm awake, I stay in bed until 8:30 AM (except Wednesdays 6:00 AM and Thursdays 8:00 AM - but those are different stories). Anyway, that's the rule.
But this morning, the phone was ringing and ringing, and for some reason I popped out of bed to answer.
It was my two-and-a-half year old granddaugther Chana.
Last week was a very busy week with all kinds of family emergencies, and I had so many that I had to attend to, I never got to work on VOICES Magazine, which is my job in the real world.
So, this week I told my kids and grandbabies that I couldn't help them or see them, because I had to work. And I hoped they'd remember me until next week.
By Sunday night (last night) I was already depressed because I missed my grandchildren so much. I called around from house to house and spoke to whomever I could. But most of the kids were already sleeping. I left messages, "Savta loves and misses you and has to hear your voice."
I guess my daughter-in-law heard my message, and this morning before they left for preschool, my granddaughters called.
They were all bouncing ane exhuberant and full of the day's first blossom.
And they sang songs for me. Rivka, who's five, knew all the words to a really long and complicated song. And Chana tried to follow along.
They sang and sang, and laughed and laughed.
They brought sunshine into my room, even before 8:00 AM, and they brought light into my life.
Happy Day.
[Warning - no one else try calling me before 8:30 AM. :)]

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cars and Curtain Calls

We are told very often what a terrible poverty-stricken life the Arabs of the Palestinian Authority suffer. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu always says that when the Palestinian Authority can raise the quality of life of its residents then there will be peace.
And peace is what everyone wants.
So it was with great curiosity that I answered the email of one of my readers. He noted that he had been driving along and saw a big beautiful car with Arab plates and the letters He asked me to follow it up, and I did. is the website of a very upscale automobile dealership, the United Motor Trade Company, with branches in Ramallah, Shechem, Bet Jala, Bethlehem, Gaza and more. The cars on sale are Audis, Volkswagens and Skodas - beautiful expensive cars. Folks who could afford those cars were anything but poverty stricken. Was that a hopeful sign? Perhaps the economic situation in the Palestinian Authority is doing well. I hope it goes well for the State of Israel too.
While looking through the UMT website, I happened upon a line, "We are represented by our branches and dealers nearly all over the PNT."
I had heard of the PA, but not the PNT, so I googled it. I never found an explanation that I think is appropriate for this website, but I found something else.
What kept coming up in the search was the Palestinian National Theater, "a Palestinian non profit cultural institution which strives to create and to develop a unique cultural life in Jerusalem, by way of producing and presenting artistic, educational and entertaining programs that reflect the aspirations of the Palestinian people."
Holding down a theater company is a very impressive and difficult task. I know, because I have been involved in theater for almost ten years now through my theater company, Raise Your Spirits, and my dance production company, DAMES of the DANCE.
The PNT had several theatrical productions listed on its website and short clips from its productions, which looked well done.
They had local themes, and even Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen. Ghosts is one of Ibsen’s most powerful works, but also one of his most controversial, dealing openly with the ‘‘ghosts’’ of the past and taboo topics like social diseases, infidelity, etc. I was surprised to see those performed by an Arab theater company, but I'm sure it was a big success.
The last entries in the PNT were from 2006 and I found myself rooting for them to continue their theater company. Bringing theater to the public is another sign of normalcy.
And if the Palestinian Authority has a population that can afford the snazzy new cars offered by the UMT, I certainly hope they have the means and intent to continue theater and culture for their people.
When I founded the Raise Your Spirits theater company in 2001, it was out of a desire to give women chizuk (strength) in the face of Arab terror. Since then it has continued to brighten the lives of about 40,000 women. A community that supports theater is a healthy community.

The Cough that Ate New Hampshire

Well, it didn't actually eat New Hampshire, but it sure felt like it.
About a month ago, or was it even before that, I came down with a really really bad cold. Evidence - no blogs for weeks, 'cause I was too weak to hang out by my computer.
Then I got back on my feet, the cold subsided, but, yuch, I had a bit of a relapse.
I don't know why. So, I'm performing in the newest Raise Your Spirits production of JUDGE! The Song of Devora once a week, and rehearsing for DAMES of the DANCE 4 - Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael four times a week, so what?
In between I've been trying to do my real work on VOICES Magazine. I've even tried a bit of mothering and grandmothering on the side.
Well, the cold went away, but last night the cough reappeared.
I tried to go to sleep, but the cough got worse and worse. My poor husband who gets up at 5:30 AM had to listen to my hacking away most of the night, and I felt really bad.
Finally at 3:30 AM, I must have just collapsed from exhaustion, B"H, and the cough subsided.
It's 10:48 AM and the cough is nowhere to be found, but come 10:48 PM, welcome back.
Cough cough.

Stay warm. Stay packed with vitamins. Stay well.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Brothers At Last

Brothers. Big brother. Little brother. Marx brothers. Jonas brothers. Parker brothers. Ringling brothers. Mario brothers. Smith brothers (cough cough).
Brothers can have a close terrific relationship that enables them to do great things, or they can have an angry unhappy one that lingers their entire life.
Today, Jews throughout the world began reading the Book of Exodus, the second book of the Bible. Exodus is the story of the miracles that G-d performed for the Jewish people in Egypt, and then their freedom from bondage.
Exodus is also the story of two brothers. Their names were Moshe and Aharon (Moses and Aaron).
My husband, Israel, noted today at the Shabbat table that the book of Genesis is replete with stories about brothers: Cain and Abel; Ishmael and Isaac; Esau and Jacob; Joseph and his brothers. However, all these stories are filled with hatred and jealousy. Cain killed Abel. Ishmael shot arrow at Isaac. Esau swore to kill Jacob on the day their father died. And Joseph's brothers wanted to kill him, but threw him in a pit instead and then sold him as a slave.
Hatred and jealousy - the seeds and the reality of Sinat Chinam (free-hatred), a characteristic that has plagued the Jewish people since....always. It is the characteristic that brought about the destruction of our Holy Temple.
Well, last week we closed the book of Genesis for this year (of course, we open it again every fall - Simchat Torah to be exact - as a constant reminder of the evils of Sinat Chinam and its terrible consequences). And this week, we turned a new page on the book of Exodus.
Here we encounter two brothers once again.
Aharon - the leader of the Jewish people in Egypt, the man to whom all Jews came for guidance and help.
Moshe - a humble shepherd whose goodness and caring were qualifications that caused G-d to appoint him the new leader of the Jewish people.
This scenario could surely have caused the jealousy and even hatred that unfortunately were such a prominent part of our ancestors' past. In fact, when G-d calls Moshe at the burning bush and commands him to go to Egypt, Moshe is reluctant. "Send whom you would send." My brother Aharon has always been the leader of the Jewish people, send him. If I take that leadership away from him, he'll be jealous of me. Don't choose me.
But G-d insists, Your brother Aharon"is coming forth toward you, and when he sees you, he will rejoice in his heart." Wow, could it be? Here we see a new set of brothers, two men who epitomized what brothers really are.
Moshe was reluctant to take away the leadership of his brother Aharon. And Aharon was glad in his heart that his younger brother would be given this mantle of leadership.
And what was the result of this relationship - a Dynamic Duo. A real Dynamic Duo who spoke to G-d, who represented Him to Pharoah and to the Jewish nation. Brothers who shared the burdens of leadership and who succeeded in remaining united until the end.
When we look at an example of brothers today, we must look at the "don't"s of the book of Genesis and look to the "do"s of Exodus. Unity, overflowing brotherly love, cooperation and selflessness were the characteristics that caused the success of the Moshe and Aharon partnership.
And it helped bring redemption.
These characteristics are still what we need in brothers - in our own homes and in Klal Yisrael (the entire nation of Israel) - brotherly love.
We have seen its results. It brought the redemption from Egypt and it can bring the ultimate redemption.
May we see it in our day.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Shemot - Coming to Israel

My eldest son will lain his Bar Mitzvah parasha in shul on Shabbat - SHEMOT (names). The parasha reads, "And these are the names of the children of Israel coming down to Egypt..." And then it proceeds to name all the children and grandchildren who accompanied Jacob to Egypt.
Shemot is the first chapter of the book of Exodus, and in a few more weeks we will read the story of the Jewish people's miraculous escape from the crushing Egyptian slavery.
My son came over tonight to review the parasha with his Abba. I was frying cheese pancakes in the kitchen as they began. I've heard that melody before. In fact, I've heard it every year for the past 17 years.
My son has just turned 30 (ad 120).

But as I stand in the kitchen and hear him sing the parasha's tune, I am transported back to the beginning of our Aliyah. We came to Israel not knowing much about the education system. We didn't do well with the education of this child, an 11 year old at one of the most pivotal times of his life. We will feel guilty about it still today.
Jacob left Israel to go to Egypt, and we left America to start a new life in Israel. And with every new thing we learn about our new country, we feel that we are in a constant state of "coming to Israel".
Those early Aliyah days were not like today. There was no one to guide and advise us. There was no help in school for my son.
"V'eileh shemot ..." I can clearly hear the little boy, who can hardly speak Hebrew, who does not quite know what his teachers are saying, or how he'll make it in this Israeli society without being a real Israeli. His voice is so sweet. He plays baseball, roller blades, loves animals and is reliable in every way.

Suddenly that little boy is gone. In his place stands a self-assured adult - an Israeli, also an American, an Abba, an army commander, a businessman. His voice is still beautiful. He still loves animals and is reliable in every way. He is a cuddly loving tateleh, and he's 30 years old with a family on his own.

On Shabbat, he will read his parasha and his Abba will listen carefully just as he did 17 years ago. Mazel tov!
"And these are the names..." I pray that I will have the privilege to hear father and son review this parasha until 120.

Can you Hear my Tap?

Last week Those Tappin' DAMES, a dance troupe of which I am a member, performed in Ra'anana for the benefit of deaf and hearing impaired children. They might not have been able to hear our tapping feet, but they surely felt the beat and understood how excited we were to be performing for their benefit.
The performance starred the one-and-only Nomi Teplow, a performer who gives her all and is loved by audiences
The evening was billed as an evening of Broadway and Spirit.
Our tap was part of the Broadway, as well as the first part of Nomi's program. Then we launched into a simcha dance, and Nomi finished the program with beautiful moving songs that were indeed from and for the spirit.
The organization that invited us, AV Israel, is involved in early detection and diagnosis of hearing impairments. It trains children with hearing impairments to "listen and talk." It helps children get cochlear implants and helps hearing impaired children be mainstreamed into regular classrooms.
We were excited to dance for these lovely children, and I'm proud to say that WE WERE B'H FANTABULASTIC!!! The crowd cheered (which is super duper fun) and the sound man told my daughter, who was working with him while she videoed our performance, that he's seen a lot of dance groups and we were "exciting and out of this world."
Those Tappin' DAMES is a troupe led by our choreographer Judy Kizer, and supported by the Matnas of Efrat. We DAMES just love tapping for a good cause. And we're looking forward to the next time that our shuffles can be put to such good use!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Smaller Package, Bigger Price

Just got back from my Shabbat grocery shopping. I reached for Straus strawberry yogurt and saw a tag hanging off the container. "Coming soon. New packaging."
Every time something gets new packaging here, the new container is always smaller and the price is always bigger.
I'm happy to leave the old packaging, the old larger container and the old already expensive price.
If I am wrong about any of this, please let me know.
GRR. I'm upset!
Everyone in Israel is waiting for the Messiah. Of course, I am too. I'm hoping that in addition to peace on earth and good will toward men, etc., his arrival will bring FAIR prices in the marketplace.

Artists 4 Israel

I went to visit my kids on Bet El's highest hilltop and saw all the Moms, kids and strollers around the children's play caravan. It's called a Mischakia (playroom).
They were watching a bunch of graffiti artists paint the caravan - inside and outside.
Boy, their paintings looks really groovy and inspiring. Of course I pulled over. My daughter-in-law and grandchildren were standing there, admiring the artistry and enjoying the kibbitzing.
The artists, all well-known graffiti artists from all over the world, guys who are not even Jewish, came to Israel on a painting mission from Artists 4 Israel, a community of creative individuals who collaborative in their art to express Israel’s right to exist in peace and security
When so many misguided performing artists are announcing proudly that they're not going to perform in Israel, because they want to be part of the Arab-inspired boycott, Artists 4 Israel are coming here and are calling to all artists and performing artists to come to Israel, learn about its people and see the real Israel from north to south.
How lucky I was to be in Bet El when some of the guys from Artists 4 Israel were there. Actually on the same day, their famous graffiti artists were in lots of different communities, showing their support for Israel through their mural-ity, with messages of hope and unity on walls and murals, buildings and roadside junk.
Their artistic swirls and swiggles have turned plain or burned out buildings into works of art. They have given residents of areas from Sderot, Bnei Netzarim, Bet El, to the chareidi neighborhood of Neve Yaakov real chizuk (strength) with their graffiti messages - full of life, excitement and joy.
I had an opportunity chat with the artists, and IY"H, I will upload the video of their mural painting. They're honestly good people who feel Israel has been handed a raw deal in the media and among other artistic types.
In Bet El, they drew Jacob's ladder (of course - well, it was only a few steps where Jacob had the dream of the angel-filled ladder), the Holy Temple and a call for the redemption. With these hundreds of cans of spray paint (every color you can think of), they did an incredibly inspiring job.
You can find out more about it in detail here on the Artists 4 Israel website.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Home, Home on the Shooting Range

I renewed my gun license today. Yay, one more of life's bureaucratic items out of the way.
I've come to dread those renewal sessions. I worry that my gun belt won't close on me any more (it did :) ). I worry that I won't be able to see the target (it wasn't as easy as it used to be). I worry that I'll be embarrassingly bad on the range.
Well, first let me tell you the last, by the end of the session, I was shooting very well.
Now, the beginning. I had started thinking, "Maybe I don't need a gun anymore. How many grandmothers carry guns anyway? It's so heavy, who needs it?"
My instructor Avi Dobuler explained the importance of carrying a gun, being prepared and reacting safely and immediately. He said, "You should never need to use your gun. But if knowing how to use your gun properly can save a life, then you'll be ready."
His patience with me was extroardinary. His guidance to my shooting was great. I began by hitting the outer outer target area, and then later, getting right at the heart of the target.
I tried to act cool and nonchalant, but when I saw all those bullet holes right where they were supposed to be I wanted to bounce, "Yeah, yeah, I got it. Oo ooh. Yeah, yeah, I got it."
We practiced walking, hearing a boom, and then taking action.
We practiced all kinds of exercises around invisible innocent people. (B"H, I never hurt one.)
I did pretty well. Now if I can just get the speed needed, watch out bad guys!! Here comes Savta (Granny)!!
We practiced shooting straight, fast, exactly, different targets.
My worst problem was speed. I can draw my gun, aim and shoot, but the bad guy's going to have to eat dinner or stop for a smoke, while I'm getting into position, because that just takes me quite a long time.
Avi announced, "Boom." "Fast, fire." And I carefully got my hands into the perfect condition. He kept saying, "Hurry, hurry, the bad guy is coming right at you." (Hm, that guy's just gonna have to wait).
Well, I finally picked up speed, but I probably still look like shooting in slow motion.
I decided I'm going to try to ask my friends if they'd like to practice shooting once a month with me.
I'd like to be an effective and secure gun-toting-grandma.
Keep safe, everyone.
For more information about shooting, contact Avi Dobuler - 052-329-9945.

One Cold Per Season

I usually average one cold a season. This year, I was thrown for a loop, one cold on top of another. And it's not even freezing yet.I've had my share and then some, and now I've learned my lesson.
I'm wearing my sweaters and preparing extra blankets. I'm taking my vitamins and getting more sleep.
I'm trying to take better care of myself so that I can stay "above" instead of "under the weather". In fact, I just wanted to say, "Hi, I'm back HOPEFULLY," and I'll see you all tomorrow, IY"H.
I really am feeling better, and when I finally can stop coughing, I'm going to be thrilled.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Alpine Goats Stolen from Ginat Eden

I received this email today from respected social worker Judith Berger. I thought that perhaps some of my readers might be interested in helping Ginat Eden repurchase their herd of goats.

Dear Friends,

Recently the Carmel fire severely damaged the Yemin Orde Boarding School. Within 48 hours they collected all the items and money they requested to provide for their immediate needs.
Not published in the news, another catastrophe happened this week, on the night of the great wind sandstorm.Two nights ago I received the very disturbing news. Most of the Ginat Eden Rehabilitation Farm goat herd was stolen by a band of Arab marauders.
These are specially bred Alpine goats. They produce 11 times more milk than the average local goats. They were specially chosen for our girls because, in addition to their therapeutic qualities of being loving gentle creatures, they also provide healthy goats milk for the girls' nutrition. The surplus milk products are a source of occupation and income. These goats were already pregnant, with the expectation of naturally increasing the size of the herd.
Needless to say, the girls who spent time with these goats are devastated. Let's show them that they can count on us!
The replacement cost is 3500 Shekels per female goat. Eleven were stolen.Won't you please help replace these precious animals as soon as possible? Now is the fertile season, and time is of the essence?
On behalf of the girls I am appealing to you for a ONE TIME minimum donationof NIS 1000 to help in this life-giving project.
In order to start the ball rolling Avraham and I are donating the cost of one goat. Won't you join us? All donations are tax-deductible. (Israel donations made out to Ginat Eden, US funds to One Israel Fund, $CDNto VMM)
Praying for Besorot Tovot
Judith Berger
R.N., M.Sc.Executive Director
Ginat Eden Rehabilitation Farm
Tel: 972-2-586-3371 Mobile:972-2-54-552-4871

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sabba, You're a Hero????

I just came back from visiting my friend's parents (here for Chanukah vacation from their home in the US). Sabi is 80, bli ayin hara, and his children and grandchildren made him a fabulous memory book in honor of the occasion.
On my visit, they showed it to me.
Wow! A personal book of history of Israel and Diaspora Jewry.
A shiny vanilla building in the once-new Hatikvah neighborhood took center stage of one photo. "I built that building with my two hands when I was 17." Since then he's built, shuls (synagogues) and shopping centers and colleges.
There was a photo of Sabi in an Israeli Army uniform. "Oh, yes, here I am in the Haganah (Pre-State Israeli Army). I was the commander of equipment upgrading."
That's a wierd thing to be commander of. "Well, Israel in 1948 could not get weapons from too many places, and what they could afford was usually reject-grade equipment, so I made it Grade A."
He took guns with broken sites and realigned them, binoculars with blurry glass and refocused them, etc. etc.
Sabi fought the war, married and raised a family, started a profession and gave years of his life to his synagogue, his community, and the Jewish people.
He doesn't wear a uniform anymore, but he still looks like a hero to me.
Beware the grandfather/grandmother you see walking slowly down the street. S/he might be a hero too.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Collecting Chanukah Gelt

As one of those parents who plans presents for the upcoming Chanukah season months in advance, I decided that the theme for this year's family Chanukah would be Chanukah gelt (money). That doesn't sound so genius-y. Folks have traditionally received Chanukah gelt for hundreds of years. Even I remember as a child getting shiny quarters from my great-uncles and grandparents for Chanukah.
Today we shop for gold and silver foil-covered coins with chocolate candy inside. Or we prepare crisp new money bills (20s, 50s, maybe even 100s) to give to our children.
Some say that the tradition of Chanukah gelt began during the Middle Ages, but perhaps the Chanukah gelt tradition began with the Chashmonaim themselves. The Chashmonaim, sons of Matityahu the Kohen Gadol, are the heroes of the Chanukah story. They bravely battled the Syrian-Greeks against all odds in order to free the Land of Israel from oppression, free the Jewish people to worship G-d and keep His mitzvot (commandments), and rededicate the Holy Temple. The Chasmonaim not only liberated the Land of Israel from the tyranny of a foreign superpower, but they minted their own coins with symbols relating to Bet HaMikdash (The Holy Temple) on them.
Possibly our tradition of giving our children coins for Chanukah is yet another way of recalling the miraculous victory of the few against the mighty, the righteous against the wicked, the Torah followers against the Hellenists. Just as our ancestors proudly created Jewish coins when freedom returned to the Land of Israel, we give our children the tradition of freedom in our Land with the remembrance of Chanukah gelt.
International Gelt
Our family is blessed to be living in the Land of Israel. However, Jews live throughout the world today. There is almost no country on the globe that does not have Jewish citizens. Those Jews surely give their own children Chanukah gelt as well.
These thoughts influenced me to collect for my children, Chanukah gelt from all over the world. I made a little treasure box for each child, and filled each with foreign pennies, half dollars, and other change.
Thanks to friends and neighbors, we were able to gather little collections for each child. (If you were one of the kind folks who helped us, THANK YOU.)
The coins came from Russia, Austria, Switzerland, Canada, Italy, France, Great Britain, Tunisia, Morocco, America, Poland and many other countries. They were minted recently or as far back as the turn of the 20th Century...1867 America, not long after the Civil War....1937 Italy, as the fascists were rising to power...1956 Israel, the year of the Sinai War.
I told my children that each coin was a piece of modern or not-so-modern history. Each coin represented a time and place frozen in a small piece of silver or bronze or nickel.
When Chanukah arrived, my husband and I gave our children their gelt. I was gratified that they were as excited about their treasure boxes as I was. And they understood the deeper meaning of each cent, dinar, peso, euro, franc, krone, pound, yen and more.
Jews throughout the world have many different customs according to every holiday, but it's a great feeling to know that they're keeping up traditions that unite us, like the Chanukah menorah, latkes, jelly donuts, and Chanukah gelt.

Ask Your Kids Everything!

Chanukah is a time of company for meals and parties and special events. If you host a shindig, often there are so many people there, it's difficult to have a meaningful chat with any of your guests.
However, if you listen carefully to bits and pieces of conversations around you, you're very likely to learn something interesting.
For example, last week we had our own children, our nephews, and other guests for a holiday meal.
In the middle of the meal, I heard one of the guests ask his friend how miluim (reserve call-up) was. I was told later that the friend was in Eilat, guarding the border.
Guarding the border in sunny vacation-town Eilat must be a big yawn, "I hope you had suntan lotion," I said.
He said that I was totally incorrect, and that he hardly slept the entire time he served on the border, because not a moment went by when they could lower their guard. He said that Sudanese were pouring in to Israel unstoppably. They ran for hours and hours to get to the Israeli border, and then they made their way to Eilat, up to Southern Tel Aviv and Bnei Brak.
"Why didn't you tell me that you were chasing Sudanese? I said.
"You never asked me," he responded.
So, tell me, when you see a young person, what should be your dialogue? "How are you?" "How is your family?" "Going out with anyone lately?" "Did you capture any Sudanese in miluim?"

Nazi-Loving South America Recognizes "Palestine"

I read this week in that Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay would recognize "free and independent Palestine" within Israel's 1967 borders. Then a Palestinian Authority figure announced that Chile, Colombia, Peru, Uruguay and Paraguay would follow suit.
Why am I not surprised?!

South American nations were the first to welcome Nazi murderers and terrorists after they escaped the hands of justice in World War II. The most welcoming South American nation then was Argentina under dictator Juan Peron (as in...Evita's "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina"), but Nazis found there way to many other South American countries, where they were welcomed, respected and protected.
  • Adolph Eichman, yimach shmo, Hitler's right hand man, fled to Argentina with fake papers, thanks to the International Red Cross, and lived there under a false identity until he was captured by Israeli spies in 1960. He wasn't the only Nazi to call Argentina home. There were many others who learned to speak Spanish in Buenos Aires.
  • Joseph Mengele, Auschwitz's Dr. Death, fled to South America after the Holocaust. Unfortunately, while he was hunted for the rest of his life, he evaded capture.
  • Bolivia was the preferred destination of Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyon. B"H, after Barbie escaped to Bolivia, he was later captured and sentenced to death.
  • Franz Stangl, the commander of Sobibor and Treblinka extermination camps, escaped after the war to South America's largest country Brazil, and lived there until he was captured by world-famous Nazi hunter Simon Weisenthal.
South America's heritage of Nazi-love or plain Jew-hatred is not new. It's just be reJEWvinated.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chanuka at the Israel Museum

I couldn't have picked a better time to visit the "new" Israel Museum than on Chanukah. In addition to the other exhibitions (my favorite was Jewish life...), there's a gorgeous exhibition of Chanukah Menorahs from all over the world in the Mandel Wing for Jewish Art & Life.
Silver, copper, brass, intricate, simple, timeless. The chanukiyot (menorahs) came from German, Poland, Syria, Iraq, Russia, Netherlands, Tunisia, Austria, Afghanistan and more.
There was no photography allowed in the museum, but this page (pictured above) right off the museum's website,, will give you an idea of how gorgeous the menorah room is. It's a corner of the musem where you'll want to linger, so that you can examine each of the different menorahs. If your mind wanders to those Jewish families in Afghanistan or Germany or Iraq that lit the menorah inside their homes, while danger lurked outside, you understand the significance and the feeling behind the exhibition.
Go see it.

Gush Etzion & the Chanukah Story

On Chanukah, Jews throughout the world celebrate two completely separate miracles - the miracle of the little jar of pure oil found in the Holy Temple by the Chashmonaim; and the military victory of the small against the many, the weak against the mighty super-power.
Just wanted to remind everyone that a good portion of Chanukah's military victory took place outside Bet HaMikdash (the Holy Temple) - right here in Gush Etzion.
When you sing "Maoz Tzur" tonight and your candles burn brightly at your door post or in your living room windows, please think of Gush Etzion and the Chanukah miracle.
Happy Chanukah.