Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Celebrating On Stage

IY"H, this summer the Raise Your Spirits Theater Company will be celebrating its tenth anniversary. I thank Hashem for the zechut of founding this company in 2001 amidst the Arab terror and Jewish tears that had encompassed the entire nation.

The women of Raise Your Spirits are just the most talented, giving, amazing, creative bunch. When they take the stage together, they are just magic!!!

Ten years ago, our first production was JOSEPH and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. There have been five others since then (more about those in future blogs).

Our latest production, JUDGE! The Song of Devora, written by Toby Klein Greenwald and Yael Valier, composed by Mitch Clyman, goes on stage at the Gerard Behar Theater on Sunday evening, June 12, 8:30 PM.

Tickets - Bimot - 02-623-7000. More info: http://www.raiseyourspirits.org/ .

Please come see us at Gerard Behar and celebrate with us.

Zionism at its Best

Zionism, Zionism, unadulterated Zionism.
(Pictured at left, Director of the Moskowitz Prize Ruthie J. Lieberman, Mrs. Cherna Moskowitz and Minister Uzi Landau)

Zionism at its best.

Imagine being in Ir David, in the City of David, in the cradle of civilization. As the wind tickles your hair, you can just picture the winds that woke King David and played his harp for him.
Tonight I had the glorious opportunity of attending the Moskowitz Prize for Zionism.
The three prize recipients were epic Zionists - Meir Dagan, former head of the Mossad; Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, co-founder of Nefesh B'Nefesh; and former MK Chanan Porat, one of the founders of Gush Emunim (pictured here, flanked by Cherna Moskowitz and Rabbi Pesach Lerner).
The evening was emotional and inspiring and an evening of appreciation for those Jewish giants whose lives have epitomized Zionism, love of and service for Eretz Yisrael. (At left, Rabbi Yehoshua Fass)

(At left, Avigdor Kahalani congratulates honoree Meir Dagan)
There is so much to say about this stellar evening, and I'm falling asleep on my keyboard, but I don't want to end without mentioning a few points.
Beloved philanthropist and sponsor of the event, Cherna Moskowitz (pictured here) was present. As she entered the event area, an awe rolled over all those present. Cherna and husband Dr. Irving Moskowitz are responsible for most of the great and small Zionist projects in Israel today from Yeshiva Bet Orot to buildings in Chevron, the Old City, the Mount of Olives, and throughout Judea and Samaria.
The Moskowitzes have donated reportedly more than $90 million to important causes here and abroad.
When Mrs. Moskowitz (everyone called her "Cherna") arrived at tonight's ceremony, she was revered with a mixture of love, admiration and gratitude. Her contribution, support and encouragement of the institutions of Eretz Yisrael reminded me of the input of Baron Edmonde de Rothschild and his wife Adelaide, who were responsible for the reclamation of nearly 500,000 dunams of land and almost 30 settlements. May Hashem bless Cherna and her husband Dr. Irving Moskowitz with good health and long life.

Amazing Evening

From the seamless way the evening progressed to thoughtful gifts on each seat (including a shawl against the cold), to the moving clips about each honoree (mini-documentaries), to the music by Meir Banai was perfectly executed.
For this, credit must be given to the Director of the Moskowitz Prize Ruthie Jaffe Lieberman (at left), who oversaw ever detail with care and precision.

Who's Who of Zionism

One of the greatest parts of the Moskowitz Prize is being surrounded by the Who's Who of Modern Day Zionism. Besides the honorees and the Moskowitz family, I was honored to be in the same company as:
Noam Armon, spokesman of Chevron and former Moskowitz Prize Winner
Yedidya Atlas, media specialist, senior correspondent and commentator for Arutz 7
Yoram Ettinger, former ambassador. editor of The Ettinger Report
Harav She'ar Yashuv Kohen, chief rabbi of Haifa
Rabbi Sholom Gold, founder and dean of the Avrom Silver College
Judy Grossman, Keep Jerusalem
Eve Harow, former City Councilwoman of Efrat, Arutz 7 radio personality and brilliant tour guide
Harav Hillel Horowitz, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Shaavei Chevron
Yehudit Katzover, Women in Green and the Yibaneh Fund
Minister Uzi Landau
Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Executive Vice President of the National Council of Young Israel

Daniel Luria, spokesman of Ateret Kohanim
Baruch Marzel of Chevron (seen here with Voices Publisher Yisrael Katz)
Nadia Matar, founder of Women in Green and the Yibaneh Fund

Winkie & Batya Medad, prolific Zionist bloggers, media specialists, columnists
(no, that's not Winkie with Batya, that's me)
Liora Nitzan, artist and activist
Mark Provisor, Israeli head of One Israel Fund

Phil Rosenblatt, member Committee for Gush Katif Bridal Showers
Chaim Silberstein (Chaim and Phil pictured at left) - president of Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech and the Jerusalem Capital Development Fund
Yehudit Tayar, respected leader of settlement in Samaria

Anita Tucker (seen here, chatting with a friend), a founder of Gush Katif community Netzer Chazani/Ein Tzurim and soon, IY"H, Yesodot...
plus many more, including the Mayors of Kiryat Arba, Katzrin in the Golan and Nazareth Elite.
One of the recipients tonight said that the people in the audience were truly deserving of this award, and looking around me at those selfless individuals who give of themselves every day for Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael, I know he was correct.
There are more photos and more news about tonight's Moskowitz Prize, but it's been a long exciting day. More tomorrow, IY"H.
(Pictured, Ruthie J. Lieberman with Tony Gelbart and with Minister Uzi Landau)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Radio Waves

I had the opportunity to appear on the radio twice last week. Both shows were broadcast yesterday. I talked about how my upbringing affected my life on Judy Simon's show Lifestyles on Israel National Radio:

We spoke for more than an hour, and the time flew by. Judy edited the show down to whatever length Arutz 7 Radio needs, and while some stories hit the cutting room floor, the show ran smoothly and was really fun to listen to. Judy did a great job!
And I talked about the Raise Your Spirits Theatre Company, which is now celebrating its tenth anniversary, and our celebratory appearance in Jerusalem on June 12 at the Gerard Behar Theater. (Tickets through Bimot, 629-8061, moreshet@jerusalem.muni.il, 02-623-7000.)
That broadcast on Rusty Mike Radio of the AACI was a real radio experience. Together JUDGE!'s music director Gayle Berman and I sat with radio earphones on our head to block out any outside noise, and we chatted with radio host Rafi Poch, who is also a theater director.
Overexcited and speaking without any notes (I didn't know radio people have notes - no wonder they can just keep talking without pregnant pauses), I forgot two important details about Raise Your Spirits. The details are actually people - composers. I should have (and would have, if I had notes) told the listeners that Raise Your Spirits first original show, ESTHER and the Secrets of the King's Court, had music by Rivka Hatten. And our subsequent productions were musically composed and arranged by Mitch Clyman of Muso Productions. Rivka's and Mitch's music brought to life the words written by Toby Klein Greenwald, Arlene Chertoff and myself.
They are brilliant, sensitive people, and it was a pleasure to work with them.

A Quiet Place

Judy really did a great editing job on her show, because she let me sound faddiddled, which I definitely was when she said the words, "Let's welcome Sharon Katz...."
I had been in Shaarei Tzedek Hospital visiting my brother, who was recovering B"H well from surgery, when I had to find a quiet place for our interview.
The head nurse on my brother's floor was so lovely, and offered me the therapy room, which she said would be empty for the next hour. I went into the room, set up a chair and sat quietly, patiently and comfortably, waiting for the phone to ring. Suddenly someone came in to get bandages. In the next room, one nurse called out to another. The cleaning man clopped around. I realized that this was no quiet place at all.
And since the phone was going to ring in just a minute, I had to find another place. I ran, R-A-N, from porch to porch looking for a quiet spot. On one porch patients were chatting. On another, folks were smoking. On another, workmen were clanging nearby.
I ran to the other side of the building, looking for a hallway, an alcove. I was ready to close myself in a broom closet. The nurses wouldn't let me.
I went to the Administration Offices and begged to sit anywhere, even in their copy machine room. No, sorry, someone might need to make a copy.
I was racing through the hallways of Shaarei Tzedek frantically when I saw my daughter's friend Sarah Beth, a bat sherut (national service volunteer) at the hospital. I almost fell on to her. "Sarah Beth, Sarah Beth, I'm so happy to see you. I'm going on the radio in just seconds and I can't find a quiet place in this entire hospital for the entire. Can you help me find one?" Immediately she found me the perfect spot. Thank you, Sarah Beth.
No sooner did I sit down and wipe my brow, then the phone rang and I was on the air.
It's amazing I knew my own name at that point.

Wish I Could Have Said...

The interview was very lively. Judy asked great questions, and one of the reasons that she's so terrific on the radio is that she's interested in her guest and relates to the conversation in real time.
I spoke about my childhood and some of my projects today.
I would have spoken about more. All good projects need some promotion.
Judy edited the show for length, and added in some segways after our taping.
When I listened back to the show last night, I heard her say something like, "So, you had a Jewish school education and then how did you end up where you are?" Or something like that.
Either it flew by me, or Judy edited the comment in later so that we could continue to the next topic. But if I had rightly heard it, I would have changed my answer completely.
I did not have a formal Jewish day school education. Yes, I went to Hebrew School and later to Hebrew High School, but I did not attend Jewish day school.
I was raised in a modern Orthodox home with all the suburban touches. Besides the Jewish upbringing I had at home, my real Torah education (Tanach, halacha) came from a child. Well, maybe she wasn't a child, but she was younger than I by two years.
I grew up in a brand new neighborhood where houses were added day by day. My best friend was my Rabbi's daughter, Chaya Sara Jungreis.
I went to public school and Chaya Sara went to TAG (Torah Academy for Girls). We played together and hung around together, and Chaya Sara taught me the Torah lessons she had learned during school at TAG. She was my first Torah teacher, and she was fabulous. She still teaches today in New York City at the Hineni Heritage Center. Everyone who attends her classes for Wisdom Wednesdays is surely inspired by her deep knowledge and warm caring heart.
Since my second home was that of Rabbi Meshulem Jungreis, ztz'l, and may she have a long life Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, their influence on me was life-changing. Their Torah teachings and way of life were a pivotal part of my life.
Chaya Sara and her parents were three of the people, who in addition to my grandmother, o'h, gave me a burning love of Torah. They influenced me to keep the mitzvot with great care. I remember when I came back from my first semester away in university. The Rebbetzin called me over in a loud voices, "Come here, Sarah Leah. Open your mouth. I want to make sure that no treif had entered there."
And you can be sure, I was superduper careful from then on about everything, even when I was away from home.
When I returned to New York to study closer to home, I also attended Hineni School, which was a weekly Bible class, given by Rebbetzin Jungreis. I learned there for many years and even met my husband there (with a push from the Rebbetzin and her beloved father, Zayde, ztz'l).
An important part of the foundation of my belief and love of Torah came from the inspiration I found thanks to Chaya Sara and her parents.
If you live in New York, your life will be enriched if you attend classes at the Hineni Heritage Center, http://www.hineni.org/ .

My thanks to Judy Simon and Rafi Poch for inviting me to their shows. It's fun to think someone in Hoboken or Kalamazoo or right next door is listening over those radio waves.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Talented Women

The craftswomen and the performing women of the Gush Etzion Chutzot HaYotzeret variety show are talented in every way.Puppeteers, hat makers, goat cheeses from Sde Bar in Eastern Gush Etzion, cool baby gifts, homemade hand creams and perfumes.

Jewelry was plentiful and extra-specially nice by Miriam Fuld and by Rochie Horowitz.
There were photos by the talented photographer Nissan Konikov.

And inside the Gush Etzion Matnas, program director Sima Gal, welcomed wonderful performers.

Soloists, including the talented: Gayle Berman, Aviela Trapedo,

Avital Macales (accompanied at this show by her mother and noted pianist Esther Macales) as well as Shimona Gottlieb.

There were very funny comedy acts and the gentle and angelic Dalia HaCohen-Oriah's choir, and many other talented women.

Talented pianists thrilled the audience with their dazzling numbers.

There were exciting tap dancers (us :) Judy Kizer's Those Tappin' Dames) and a creative modern dancer as well.
The audience was lucky enough to see the very talented Chani Natura.

Adorably fun duo Linda Friedburg and Shimona Gottlieb wowed the crowd with an old-Yiddish-turned-Andrew Sisters song.

Every year Chutzot HaYotzeret gets bigger and better. Every year the number of talented women of Efrat/Gush Etzion grow and grow. The show gets better and more fun than ever! That's good for everyone!

Be Generous to Your Own People!!

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said in Washington, "We'll be generous with the borders of the Palestinian State."

Why should we?

What are the Arabs generous with?

In fact, instead of the PM being generous to the Arabs, let him be generous to the Jewish people.

Instead of already agreeing to give up parts of the Judea and Samaria, why doesn't Israel demand that Jordan give up parts of its manufactured country? Jordan is Israel, so why should we give up land. Let them give up land.

Why doesn't Israel demand the southern part of Lebanon, part of Biblical Israel?

Instead of fighting not to return to the '67 Auschwitz borders, why doesn't Israel demand a return to Gaza, which became a terror state in our absence?

And even with his statement about being generous to a Palestinian State, PA officials say that with his speech, Bibi has made a declaration of war. What speech were they listening to?

When the Show Goes On

Last night I appeared in a Gush Etzion Women's Variety Show, called Chutzot HaYotzeret. I tapped in two great numbers with my fellow tappers, Those Tappin' Dames, led by our choreographer Judy Feinerman Kizer.
Chutzot HaYotzeret is an evening that women of Efrat and Gush Etzion look forward to all year long. It begins with fabulous arts and crafts and clothes and jewelry and more. Hundreds of women wander through the booths to try on the latest hats, check out new colors in make-up, and peruse the gorgeous challah covers and ceramics. (At left, Liora Nitsan and her magnificent painting of Abraham and Isaac.)

There was plenty to see and plenty to buy.

On top of that, there were scrumptious quiches, delicious salads, and yummy soups by Daniel BaHar, a catering company in nearby Neve Daniel.

And this was before the planned show.

Bad News

But something else happened before the show. A fatal car crash claimed the lives of two adults - one from Alon Shvut and one from Elazar. In addition, we heard that a second woman in the car was in critical condition.

So, here we are with our dance bags on our shoulders, preparing for a show, and our community is in tears. We get a phone call from one of our dancers that the woman from Elazar was her dear friend, and she can't bear to go on stage. Suddenly, we realize how close the tragedy has come to us. Next, we hear the identity of the man that has been killed, and almost all of us know of him, and surely know his inspirational wife. They were parents of terror victims and were raising their orphaned grandchildren. Now the father/grandfather has been killed, and more tragedy has hit this amazing family.

We are all sad, and we look at each other. "Are we going to perform tonight when our friends are attending funerals?"

We hear rumors. The show will be postponed. The show will go on.

Memory of 2001

Suddenly my mind is filled with another show, ten years ago, a show on 9/11/2001 by the theater company I had just founded, the Efrat/Gush Etzion Raise Your Spirits Summer Stock Company.

Flashback: We are on our way to the same theater in the Gush Etzion Community Center. Two planes have just plowed head on into the World Trade Center in New York City. We're putting on make-up and listening to the news. We're getting into costume and watching some disaster movie on TV with planes smashing into NYC's Twin Towers.

The phone starts ringing. "Are you performing tonight?" "Yes, of course." "What? You're performing tonight. Planes have destroyed the World Trade Center. Many people have probably been killed."

Yes, it's true. It's a terrible disaster. We've had many terror attacks in Israel, but our decision was always to cry, pray and go forward.

The Jewish people have spent their history going from one terrible disaster to the next - the Exile of the Ten Tribes, the Destruction of Bet HaMikdash, the Expulsion from Spain, the Inquisitions, the Pogroms of Russia, attacks of the Mujahideen, the Holocaust, Arab terror attacks and more and more.

If we got into bed and pulled the covers over our head with every tragedy, life would never go on in Israel.

We're not heartless when we perform. We are full of faith in this hour of darkness.

Instead of cancelling the show, we send cast members to synagogues all around to borrow prayer books. Four hundred women come to our show, JOSEPH and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and they are asked to pray and recite psalms. The audience is standing, tears running down everyone's cheeks. Behind stage, the performers are praying as well.

We are united in our sorrow and united in our emunah (belief in G-d).

So, first we have a massive women's prayer service and then we put on the gosh-darnedest best show we possibly could. That's what we do. We're Raise Your Spirits.

We go on, the show goes on, because life must go on.

There is tragedy. We say a prayer. We hug one another, and we continue on.

Back to the Future

So, we're in Alon Shvut waiting to hear if we're going to perform or not, and we're told by Event Producer/Director Sima Gal that the show will go on, beginning with psalms and quiet music, instead of the opening act that was expected (us!!).

We get into our costumes and take our seats. Everyone says very heartfelt prayers.

My friend Fayge looks beautiful and all dolled up with her tap shoes, costume and long gloves. We're going on soon, and yet Fayge has a cell phone in her lap.

She's on the Chevra Kadisha, the Jewish burial society, of our town and she's waiting to hear if the second woman in the accident will be okay. If the woman passes away, Fayge may be called at any moment to purify her body for burial.

She is ready for everything - ready to perform with your dance troop or ready to jump into her car and perform the ultimate kindness.

We tell Fayge that she must be a very holy person if she can perform such a holy act. Fayge disagrees, "No. I do it because I'm a Jew and that's what we have to do for one another."

We dance (B"H, we were great!). We're so happy. Then Fayge gets the call. The woman passenger in the car has passed away. Baruch dayan ha'emet. (Blessed be the true Judge.)

We hug one another very tightly. We don't have to say anything. We take off our tap shoes and go home.

Sad Day in Gush Etzion Today

Efrat/Gush Etzon has suffered a very terrible blow today. Three of our residents have been killed right outside Elazar in a car crash.
Everyone is so sad. Waiting to hear details tomorrow.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Back to the Stage

Tonight I had the joy of returning to my theater (Gush Etzion) and getting up on my stage. Tonight I returned as a tap dancer. Our troupe, Those Tappin' Dames, will be dancing two numbers in Chutzot HaYotzeret (a variety show). The show, organized by the Matnas Gush Etzion's director of music Sima Gal, includes dancers, singers, musicians and even stand-up comics.
My troupe rehearsed and then I stayed around for a short while to watch the other performers. There's nothing a performer likes as much as seeing other performers on stage for a private showing.
Anyway, it's going to be loads of fun. Before the show, there'll be a tremendous crafts fair, plus gourmet dinner. Then the show.
Sounds great.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Another Poll - Palestinian State?

Well, by now the world knows that US President Barak Obama has said that Israel must return to the "Auschwitz" 67 borders. So far, there has been no major address by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, although the PM has rejected a return to these Auschwitz borders.
Meanwhile, for the past few days, we've been talking about polls.

Here's today's poll by http://www.foxnews.com/. Do you agree with Obama's decision that a Palestinian State should be created on the 1967 borders of Israel.

89.31% of the 197,319 that responded, "No. Israel is our one true ally in the region, and we need to stand with them." 7.37% replied, "Yes, the current situation can't continue, and something needs to give." 2.18% said, "Not sure. I'm wondering whether Obama gave Israel the heads-up on this."

This afternoon a fox commentator mentioned that one of the US Presidential candidates said that Obama's speech was like taking America's ally and throwing it under a bus. The commentator added, "A bus full of suicide bombers."

He also noted that President Obama stated repeatedly that he wants the countries of the Middle East to have the right to self-determination, but he means all the countries, except Israel.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

More Polls - This time Israeli Arabs

Today's Jerusalem Post article on a new poll of the world's Western leaders made me laugh until I had tears in my eyes. But the tears are real, because the West is blinded by its own foolishness.
Jpost reports, "Opinion leaders in the US and Europe believe the mass protests of the Arab Spring are animated by a genuine desire for democracy and freedom, but they are skeptical about their prospects being achieved, according to an unusual poll that surveyed the view of leading figures in government, the media, law academia and non-government organizations.
About three quarters of the 343 opinion leaders surveyed said that anti-government protestors were motivated by 'democratic aspirations' rather than 'religious influence,' and shared the same democratic aspiration of other people around the world."
Are these people totally blind to reality!!!?? I'm not asking, I know they're blind to reality. They have created their own reality, and we, the Jewish People will chas v'shalom be the sacrifice of their worship on the altar of misplaced euphoria.

Yesterday I printed results of polls of Moslems are thinking lately:

Their responses didn't look too optimistic for co-existence between Israelis and Arabs. Okay, so that's the PA, but things must be better with Israeli Arabs, right? I mean, they live here; they are schooled here; they use Israeli hospitals and medical clinics; they even shop Rami Levi.
Now that's co-existence.
Well, Haifa University released an interesting poll today that even Haifa admits shows a "clear radicalization of Israeli Arabs."
The poll interviewed 700 Israeli Arabs, and was directed by Haifa University professor Sami Smooha on behalf of Haifa University's Jewish-Arab Center.
In 2003 81% of Israeli Arabs believed Israel had the right to exist. This year that number is down to 53.7%.
Just about every question in the poll showed that Arabs are moving away from co-existence and toward towing the Moslem line. Despite Holocaust education in all Israeli schools, Holocaust denier Mahmoud Abbas seems to be winning out, because while 2006 results showed that only 28% of Israeli Arabs denied the Holocaust, today 40.5% say the Holocaust never occurred.
In 2003, 65.6% of Israeli Arabs said that Israel should be considered a Jewish State. Today 41% think Israel should be classified as a Jewish state.
Israel National News reported that the poll recorded over 62% saying that Israelis “are foreigners who do not fit in in this region, and they will eventually leave the country.” Another 71% said that “the Jews are primarily responsible for the 'nakba,' the term applied to the fleeing of the newly declared state of Israel by tens of thousands of Arabs in 1948."
Haifa University reported, "According to the latest data released by Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel's Jewish population stands at 5,593,000, or 75.5 percent of the population, and the Arab population is at 1,498,000, or 20.2 percent of the population."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What are Achmed and Avi Thinking?

While I wasn't shocked at what he said, I was pretty shocked that during these days of preparation for a big Israel-Hamas-Fatah-US pow wow, a Hamas official last week admitted on TV that the genocide of the entire Jewish people is a Hamas plan and goal. Hmm, didn't this PA bigwig know that with the signing of the Hamas-Fatah partnership agreement, they're supposed to sit down with us for lunch (hummous will be served along side the sirloin) and good-humoredly wrangle over which part of the land they want?
I mean, Egypt just announced that they believe Hamas-Fatah is a real peace partner now. Unfortunately, shortly after Israel National News reported "Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar said Wednesday he rejected peace talks with Israel and that Hamas would not allow Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to pursue them. Last week al-Zahar said any peace agreement with Israel would be a prelude to war."
INN also reported that Yunis al Astal, a member of the Palestinian Authority parliament, said that "The [Jews] are brought in droves to Palestine so that the Palestinians and the Islamic nations behind them will have the honor of annihilating the evil of this gang." He continues that the Divine purpose of all Jews in returning to the land was "for the purpose of the great massacre." That would be a hard sell for Nefesh B'Nefesh.
Al Astal envisions the entire Middle East turning into the "United States of Islam."
But, news agencies the world over are saying that Arab revolutions throughout the Middle East are aimed at achieving democracies for their people!
Al Astal must not have listened to the news, because he says that all the Islamic nations are going to unite to annihilate the Jewish people and turn into the USI.
Thanks to MEMRI for translating this clip for all to see: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/144283
So, what do the Arabs really want? What do Jews want? What does the world want? What's going on?
I tried to find out by reading some polls today.
Near East Consulting conducted an opinion poll after last week's unity deal between Hamas and Fatah. Abdullah Abdullah, a senior Palestinian legislator and member of Fatah said, “No one in Fatah and Hamas movements recognizes Israel.”
Someone please show this to Bibi.
Perhaps the media feels that with the new H-F/F-H deal democracy is on the way for the PA and peace will soon follow on its heels. But the Near East Consulting poll shows that Arabs are not looking for democracy. Sorry to burst your bubble, President Obama. NEC found that 40% of respondents said that they believe that an Islamic caliphate is the best system for Palestinians. They seem to be on the same page as Al Astal's United States of Islam.
Moreover, when asked how the Arabs of the PA defined themselves, 57 percent said Muslim; 21 percent, Palestinian; 19 percent, human beings; and only 5 percent said Arab.
Sounds like the ground in the PA is ripe for an Islamic Brotherhood-Islamic Fundamentalist-Hamas type government.
What else is happening on the PA ground?

The Palestinian Center for Public Opinion PCPO, founded in February 1994 in Beit Sahour (next to IDF's famed Shdema Army base) by Dr. Nabil Kukali, had its own poll a few days ago, interviewing 950 adults. The poll showed that Arabs are thrilled with Fatah-Hamas unity. They're also ready for a third intifada (read: terror attacks), G-d forbid, if they don't get what they want in Israeli-Arab peace talks.
An interesting question by the PCPO read, “In case all efforts towards peace have collapsed, which of the following options are most probable to administer Palestinian affairs?” more than one-third 37.4% of Palestinians are for the dismantling the PA and holding the international community responsible for the legal vacuum that will arise [that is a giant surprise to me], whereas 24.7% are in favor of declaring a Palestinian state and escalating resistance, 34.6% for keeping the “ status quo” with developing new strategies to run Palestinian affairs, and 3.3% say “do not know”.
A majority 70.5% of Palestinians expect a break out of a third Intifada that will be similar to that of 1987 or that of Al-Aqsa one in case Israeli-Palestinian peace talks stumbled. However, 25.5% oppose its occurrence, whereas 4.0% abstain.
A few more polls.
More than 58% of Jerusalem Post readers said today that this week's Nakba Day protests prove that "Israel has no peace partner." I guess Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was not one of those questioned.

With all the riots, demonstrations and the latest PA unity plans, almost 90% of Arutz 7 readers told an A7 pollster that it's time to "stop talking about 'peace'.

One more tangential poll. (I think it was today's New York Times, but please forgive me if I made a mistake), Osama Ben Laden may have been taken out, but 77% of those questioned still believe that Al Qaeda is a top threat.

Hannah Senesh - Why?

I became fascinated with paratrooper Hannah Senesh when we went into rehearsals with this past season's DAMES of the DANCE 4 - The Promised Land. One of the numbers, choreographed by Tekoa's brilliant choreographer/dance teacher Tzila Lensky, told the World War II story of young Hannah Senesh - her arrival in British Mandate Palestine, her adaptation to Israeli life, her joy here, and then her determination to join the hard-fighting Palmach and her self-sacrifice in leaving behind her new happy life in Eretz Yisrael on Kibbutz Sdot Yam to return to Hungary in an attempt to save her fellow Jews.

You can read Hannah's complete biography at the website of the Hannah Senesh library/museum: http://www.hannahsenesh.org.il/ .

A Visit to Sdot Yam
I actually visited Sdot Yam this week. The kibbutz is just Gan Eden, everything Hannah or any teenager from grey, damp colorless Europe would imagine if she dreamt of Israel. When Hannah came there, it was a hill of sand above the Mediterranean Sea. But with the hard work, blisters and love of so many teenage pioneers, it became a colorful island of potential realized.

There are many heroes of the Jewish people, B"H. There are not enough awards or ceremonies to present rightful due to all those who have given their time, their lives, their beings for the benefit of the Jewish people, the land of Israel and the Torah of Israel.

Most of them make their mark and quietly fade away, never seeking fame or glory and never knowing it.

Hannah didn't want to be famous, but from the age of 13, she wrote a diary of her thoughts and feelings that revealed the deep treasure of a person that she was. Hannah wasn't someone we had to wonder about, make up stories about or guess what she thought about things, or how we acted. We know just about everything about her, because she wrote everything down. She wrote about her family, about being a kid, then a teenager, about Zionism, about her love for Israel. She wrote about idealism and kibbutz life - its difficulties and its dreams. She wrote poetry that is read today here in Israel by teenagers her own age. And Hannah wrote about her desire to return to her native Hungary and save as many young Jews as she could from the Nazi's Final Solution.

She was determined to do anything she could, even parachute into enemy territory to save anyone she could from the Nazi extermination.

I'm sure you know that at age 23 Hannah was caught during her secret mission to Hungary, tortured and executedby firing squad. Throughout her torture at the Nazi's sadistic hands, even after the arrest of her mother, Hannah never revealed the names or whereabouts of her fellow Palmach soldiers.

Hannah was buried in Europe, but reinterred during a military funeral in the Mt. Herzl Military Cemetery.


My first question is WHY did she return to Europe - a continent in flames. (I seriously would appreciate anyone writing to me about this question.) Her mission was surely impossible. Her chances of making a difference there were slim to none. And yet, she and more than 30 other Palmach paratroopers dropped down into enemy-occupied Europe and spread out in different cities and countries to contact the underground, the partisans and give hope to any Jews who might have heard that they were on the ground at least trying to fight back.

She was part of a new enterprise in Eretz Yisrael - building up a kibbutz. She could have helped to create a better society. She had given so much and had so much more to give for her people right here in Israel. And yet she went back.

My real question is WOULD YOU? Would I? If you felt there was a chance that you could sneak back into your native land in its time of trouble, and bring out 50, or even 100 Jews, would you? Even if you had the best cover, the most brilliant plan, even if danger didn't lurk around every corner, would you go on a mission to bring more Jews to Israel? (Okay, not Europe today, but Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan?) Even if you didn't have to parachute, would you consider returning to your birthplace and try to bring Jews back to Israel, the birthplace of our nation?

It's something that I have not stopped thinking about since the moment Tzila Lensky's girls donned their ballet shoes. Could only a Hannah Senesh, who thought about, wrote about, believed in life and the future of Am Yisrael commit such an act of heroism?

I actually think there are many Hannah Senesh's who have done incredible things that have changed our people for the better. I just wish I knew who they are.

And I still wonder, would I have had the courage? Would you?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

MACHAR Tonight

Machar in Hebrew means tomorrow. There's also another Machar that is very familiar to residents of Efrat and Gush Etzion. It's the Efrat Emergency Medical Center, whose Hebrew acronym is "Machar".

The Machar is open every night after regular doctor's hours, seeing patients with all kinds of problems from colds to broken whatevers to heads that need some stitching.

I've tested their services many times for granddaughters with colds, pneumonia, fever. Tonight I tested it for myself. I had a terrible eye infection, I mean terrible. So bad, I didn't know it was an eye infection. It was actually painful.

It even kept my home from synagogue today (and just about nothing keeps me home from synagogue). In fact, I think it's the first time I missed shul in several years, but I really was feeling lousy, and I didn't want to share anything I might have had.

So I went to the Emergency Medical Center tonight. There was a nurse and two doctors on call - a pediatrician, Dr. Yossi Orbach, and a general practitioner, Dr. Earl Harow. And we really lucked out, because even the head of the facility Rav David Marcus (seen above in the photo with Dr. Yitz Glick) was there when we arrived.

The area south of Jerusalem is lucky to have this facility open for the public. The doctors are great. The services are plentiful, and the place itself gives one a feeling of confidence.

B"H, I only have an eye infection, and not only did Dr. Harow treat me, he even gave me medicine from the Medicine Gemach (a service where the medicine is on site, and patients are requested to donate to the service).

I'm feeling better already, B"H. Thanks to EEMC, the Machar for taking care of me tonight.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dignity of the Enemy

There's a lot of debate (or maybe there's not much news, so they need to latch on to something) about whether the photos of Osama bin Laden's elimination should be distributed so that the world would be sure that he's really dead. That has lead to talk about whether he should have been buried at sea, whether the US Navy should have gone through such efforts to give him a "halachic" Moslem burial.
American officials went to great pains to explain the dignity with which they treated his body, so as not to offend Islamic sensibilities. How kind.Osama's "burial" brou
ght to mind another Arab burial that I actually meant to write about on Yom HaZikaron (Memorial day for Israel's fallen soldiers). After visiting Kibbutz Negba recently, we stopped at the nearby Tomb of the Unknown Egyptian Soldier.

The funny thing is that the information on the monument is a bit confusing. The soldier isn't unknown at all, and it isn't one soldier. It's the monument to four Egyptian soldiers – two colonels, a sergeant and a private. In addition, the monument says that they fell at the Battle of Faluja in June 1948.
Another confusion. The battle of Kibbutz Negba, not Faluja, took place in June 1948. One thousand Egyptian soldiers attacked the 140 Israelis (mostly teenage Holocaust survivors) of Negba. The Egyptians reached the kibbutz's inner fence, but the kibbutz members had no tanks or machine guns to repel them. Still, they fought bravely against the mighty Arab Army with their guns and Molotov cocktails, and B"H miraculously, destroyed six tanks and drove off the Egyptian forces
Was this what the Memorial referred to as the Battle of Faluja?
Or perhaps they were referring to the battle at Ibdis in July 1948. The village of Ibdis was part of an Egyptian stronghold which was taken by the Egyptian army in June 1948. The village was destroyed a month later, and it was yet another location from which the Egyptian attacked the forces defending Kibbutz Negba.

Jewish Mass Graves and Arab Memorials

Perhaps they meant a different battle that took place nearby in December 1948. The IDF tried to take control of the Egyptian stronghold (right between Kibbutz Negba and today's Kiryat Gat – formerly Faluja - on Route 35) Iraq-el-Manshiya. The stronghold had been a fortified British police station, which at their departure, the British turned over to the Egyptians (instead of the Jews of Negba). It was renamed the Iraq Suedan fortress, after a nearby Arab village. From here the Egyptians had launched their attacks against Kibbutz Negba and other Jewish towns.
Alexandroni Brigade tried to conquer the fort during Chanukah of 1948, but the entire company of 87 soldiers died in the effort. The Egyptians buried them in a mass grave. The city of Kiryat Gat has a moving memorial for these soldiers (see left).

The Israelis were unable to take the ex-British fortress, despite many bloody battles, and the Egyptians stayed in possession of the former British stronghold throughout the war. When the fortress finally fell, Yigal Alon met with the Egyptian's Brigadier General Said Taha Bey and offered an honorable surrender.
As part of the Peace Agreement with Egypt in the 1970s, Israel buried four Arab soldiers killed at the Battle of Faluja (whichever battle it was) in a beautiful monument that stands proudly as a tribute to the bravery of the Arab soldiers. Its tall obelisk is recognized from quite far, and its beautiful Egyptian granite adds dignity and respect to the place, which is beautifully kept.
The Faluja memorial reminded me of one more memorial to fallen soldiers.

Memorial (or None) to a Massacre

These memorials to fallen soldiers of 1948 led me to think of the Lamed Hei, the legendary 35!In January 63 years ago, 35 Palmach soldiers set out on foot in the middle of the night from the Bet Shemesh area to bring supplies to the beleaguered kibbutzim of pre-State Gush Etzion. The kibbutzim had been cut off by the Arab villages and Arab Legion forces. Convoys to Gush Etzion had been attacked; some convoys destroyed and their defenders killed. Airplane drops had failed. The Palmach march was the last hope to aid the isolated Jewish towns.
Unfortunately, the 35 (Lamed Hei) were seen at daybreak. They were attacked by Arabs of Tsurif and the surrounding towns, and after a brave struggle, the Jewish soldiers were all butchered and decapitated. Their body parts were left to rot. The British didn't retrieve the remains of the Lamed Hei until two days later, and then 12 out of the 35 were so unrecognizable the sainted Reb Aryeh Levin had to perform a kabbalistic ritual - a lottery attributed to the Vilna Gaon (goral haGra) - to identify them for burial. Four months later Gush Etzion fell to the Arab Legion, and on the very next day the State of Israel was born.
[Find out more about the Lamed Hei:
http://voices-magazine.blogspot.com/2010/01/5000-in-footsteps-of-35.html ]

The heroic Lamed Hei were reburied on Mount Herzl.
So, I guess all this has set me to thinking of battle burials and war memorials. Al Qaeida's chief Osama Bin Laden was given a sanctified Islamic burial by the United States armed forces. Was American journalist Daniel Pearl given a holy Jewish burial after Al Qaeida soldiers kidnapped and beheaded him?
The Egyptian soldiers of the battle of Faluja (whichever battle that was) were given a magnificent monument in the northern Negev on Israeli soil. Does Syria have a monument to the brave work of Israel's Eli Cohen (at left in a Syrian version of a memorial)?
Does Egypt have monuments to the IDF soldiers who fell in the Sinai or by the Suez Canal?
Does Lebanon have monuments to the Israeli soldiers who were killed there during either of the two Lebanon Wars?
Did the Arab Legion put up a memorial to the 35 Palmach soldiers after they butchered them? Is there a granite obelisk standing upon the Battle Hill of the Lamed Hei even today?
While it seems there has been great sensitivity paid to honorable burial for the enemies of Israel and the West, there has never been a demand for the same respect to bodies of Western or Jewish soldiers or civilians.
We must respect and demand respect for our civilians and our soldiers in death and in battle, but also in life.
We ourselves must honor and value our people's lives, and demand that others honor them as well. If we respected our people's lives, we wouldn't allow them to be kassamed or bombed or terrorized. We would do everything to stop i!
We must honor our own people at least as much as we honor the enemy, and care about the sensitivities of our own people at least as much as we care about the sensitivities of the enemy, protect the lives of innocent Jewish or Western civilians at least as much as we protect enemy civilians.
But that's another story.