Thursday, June 30, 2011

Whose Intuition?

SMS wants to help us, whoever he is. So when we write an SMS or a message on our cell phones, he tries to figure out what we want to say, and he jumps right in and says it for us.
You're typing quickly, "I am going to scoom," and he will fix it. "I am going to school."
Thanks, S.
However, sometimes it can be very frustrating.

I am a busy person, or overly busy, and in order to accomplish everything in the course of the day, I have to keep a very detailed schedule. My work, my friends, my hobbies, and my family are detailed on my personal calendar.
Lately I've been trying to list all these appointments on my phone (as well as my computer calendar). That has worked great. The phone beeps 10 minutes before each appointment, just enough time to run out to wherever.
Everything was fine until this afternoon when my reminder alarm rang with the words "NATO nails." "NATO nails"? Why would I worry about the nails of European diplomats?
I suddenly realized that it was supposed to be "Bati nails". But because the phone doesn't recognize my daughter Bati's name, it insists on correcting it every time.
I have to figure out how to program "Bati" as well as all kinds of other pertinent not-really-English words into it.
There are also intuitive computers. In Disney World, there's an ET ride where you tell the computer your name at the beginning. When you "land" back on earth, it says, "Welcome, Sharon."
Well, we traveled many years ago to Disney and we all told the computer our names. When we landed it said, "Welcome, Sharon." "Welcome, Barney." Barney?? I guess they must have thought we made a mistake when we said, "Bati" and the computer fixed it.
These new fangled inventions. You gotta love 'em, but you gotta learn to live with 'em.
Gotta run and take NATO Barney to have her nails done.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Who's Got Self-Respect?

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Jewish Agency that he is willing to accept a Palestinian State on our Jewish homeland. In fact, when he was in Washington, he told Congress that he was willing to be very generous with the Jewish land given over to the PA for a Palestinian State. (Of course, that leads us to ask who he is to give about land promised to the Jewish people for all eternity, but that's for a different blog....)
Now the Prime Minister just wants Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to say that he accepts the existence of a Jewish State.
The only thing is that Abbas as both self-respect and respect for his cause, and he won't even lip-sync the words to please Bibi or Congress or foreign donors or anyone else.
I pray that he remains resolute in not recognizing the State of Israel. Since our own government is willing letzareinu to given away the store, Abbas' intransigence is our only hope.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Educating the Prisoners

More than a year ago, I wrote that hundreds of Arab prisoners - terrorists, and murderers - in Israeli jails are allowed to study for the bagruyot (matriculation) and attain college degrees of every level. I even mentioned that mega-terrorist Marwan Baghuti received a PhD last year from Universitiy of Cairo. The Israeli prison system furnished him with all the books and materials he needed for his work. Read a pretty good article :) about it here:
I also questioned whether Israeli soldier prisoner Gilad Shalit, who is now officially five years in a Hamas jail cell, is also being allowed to study for a college degree. That would seem fair, right?
Well, today the Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israeli prisoners should no longer allow Arab prisoners to study for the bagruyot while Gilad Shalit's Arab prison does not allow him to be visited by the Red Cross.
That seems overly fair, and about six years too late. But, as my dearest mother ad 120 says, "We never go back. We only go forward."
The pathetically funny thing about this entire story is that now the Hamas are protesting that not allowing terrorists to study for high school and college degrees violates their international rights.
Well, folks, not allowing Gilad Shalit to be seen regularly by the International Red Cross violates his international rights too, but I don't think anyone much cares.

The Gaon of Vilna in Gush Etzion

Yeshivat Har Etzion has a special jewel on exhibit in its vast library – writings and artifacts of the Gaon of Vilna (1720-1797), the most influential Jewish leader in modern history.
Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman was born in Vilna, Lithuania. Already at a young age, he displayed tremendous genius, and even spoke articulately in front of great Torah sages. From the age of ten, the Gra (Gaon Rabbenu Eliyahu) was self-taught. His dedication to Torah led him on a lifelong mission to discover the original sources for different halachot and Jewish writings. It also fired his crusade to correct the inaccurate passages in printed Jewish volumes – gemora, chazal - that had become included in sefarim due to scribal errors.
Examples of these ancient texts, some in the Gaon's own handwriting, are currently on display at the Har Etzion Library in Alon Shvut.
Most of those items on display are from the private collection of Mr. Yishayahu Winograd of Jerusalem, who is a descendant of the students of the Vilna Gaon who came to Eretz Yisrael. His family goes back many generations in Jerusalem. Mr. Winograd is a bibliographer and has a great affinity for the Gra, and published an extensive bibliography about and written by the Gra.
The Yeshiva has also added special items from its own library collection.
Library Director Aharon Bejell honored me with a tour of the collection, which included for a limited time an original copy of the Talmud Yerushalmi book of Zeraim with the Gra's own notes in the margins.
The Exhibit at Har Etzion reflects the different aspects of the life and life work of the Vilna Gaon. Aharon showed me a leather-bound Tanach cover owned and used by the Gra (the Tanach no longer existing), and a copy of an inscribed sefer on halacha, "Sefer Ateret Tzvi", that Rabbi Eliyahu received as a bar mitzvah gift (the same year he married – age13!!).
On Display
On display are maps on the tribal division of Israel, created from the detailed description by the Gra, and a rendering of the Third Temple, also from the explanation of the Gra.
Other sefarim with the corrections of the Vilna Gaon were also on exhibit, Aharon explained, but the Gra did not officially publish anything during his lifetime. All the writings of the Gra were published by his students after his passing.
Aharon said, "In his later life, he had chosen students in a Bet Midrash. They recorded things they heard from their mentor, the Gra, or they told stories about him. All those passages [on a wide-range of topics] show the Gaon himself was involved in all areas a Torah."
In the exhibit are copies of the Gra's commentary on Mishna, Torah and kabbalah.
Aharon noted that the Gaon of Vilna professed that a talmid chacham needs to know general sciences in order to understand Torah better." On display is an ancient copy of Euclid's work on mathematics, which the Gaon had his student Rabbi Baruch of Shklov translate into Hebrew.
The Exhibit includes many first printings of different sefarim from the early 1800s.
The Gra and Redemption
Aharon added, "The Vilna Gaon was very excited about redemption. He had a very messianic character. He wrote all the sources for halachot in the shulchan aruch and intended to make Aliya to Eretz Yisrael, and there write one unified shulchan aruch for Ashkenazim and Sephardim together. Another step on his path to Messianic times."
His attempt to move to Israel failed for unknown reasons, Aharon said. When he returned to Vilna he said, "From the Heavens, they did not allow me to go."
However, the Library's director continued, "The Gaon and his students developed the concept of Meshiach Ben Yosef who will prepare the foundations for Geula before Meshiach Ben David. His students went to Eretz Yisrael 100 years before Secular Zionism. He encouraged them to deal with the hardships, with every day life, wand build cities and Torah institutions. The Gaon inspired them to overcome the difficulties."
Aharon explained that the Exhibit is a very appropriate one for Yeshivat Har Etzion, which represents the "same energies of Torah and Geula together. We feel that we are continuing the Gaon's legacy."
Join me on my private tour of the Har Etzion Library Exhibit:
Voices TV invites you to join us to learn about the Gaon and his legacy:
Voices TV invites you on its tour of the Har Etzion Exhibit itself:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

IDF Intelligence Agrees with Sharon Katz

Sometimes I actually scare myself.
Yesterday, after I attended Efrat's Emergency Preparedness Exercise, that I now know is called, Turning Point 5, I wrote a blog about the need for a whole Judea and Samaria as a safety zone for the nation - especially since the next war, G-d forbid, will have missiles aimed at Tel Aviv and the Merkaz. You can read it here:
This morning the in Jerusalem Post, I read:
Former head of IDF intelligence Amos Yadlin on Wednesday warned that the missiles being aimed at Israel today are not being aimed only at peripheral communities such as Sderot and Kiryat Shmona, but rather "they are being aimed at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem."
Army Radio quoted Yadlin as saying "these missiles will not disappear, even if a peace agreement with the Palestinians is signed."
The JPost even noted: The security cabinet met in an underground bunker somewhere in the Judean Hills on Wednesday as part of the country’s large-scale war simulation drill.
So, Amos Yadlin obviously agrees with me!!! And I ask the same rhetorical question that I posed yesterday. If the government is depending on Judea and Samaria to act as a safe shelter for the rest of Israel if/when chas v'shalom the missiles start flying, how can they even discuss giving away parts of Yesha to the Palestinian Authority? This would cut open the safety net, because missiles would then be let loose in Yesha as well, and then the country would have no safe area at all.
It's time that members of the government spoke up on behalf of the Jewish Nation in its land.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Preparing for THE Big Emergency

Today my hometown of Efrat prepared for THE BIG ONE. It didn't matter what the "big one" would be, G-d forbid, Efrat is readying itself for all possibilities by participating along with many other municipalities in a National Emergency Preparedness Exercise.
Today's drill addressed the imaginary "evacuation of the city of Kiryat Gat after it was hit by an earthquake". As part of the exercise, virtual "buses evacuated children and adults from locations throughout the city," and brought them to different safe locations, including Efrat.
Volunteer Yona Seif explained that because the most dangerous part of an earthquake is the aftershocks, residents were evacuated as speedily as possible - taking nothing with them, just getting on the bus from wherever they were, in most cases without their "family, their teachers or their friends".
As I said, my community of Efrat is one of those safe areas, being prepared to absorb Israelis from anywhere in the country in case of a natural disaster - like the earthquake in our drill simulation, or the fires that drove residents from their homes last year in the Carmel or several years ago in the Jerusalem Forest. It is also prepared to handle catastrophic accidents, like the gas explosion in Netanya, or war-time emergencies, like when the entire village of Bar Kochba in the north was sent down to Efrat during the Lebanon War.
Originally, for this drill Efrat was ordered to prepare for "500 evacuees - 19 buses", but we opted for something more manageable this time around - 50 evacuees of all ages, languages and situations. Our "evacuees" were boys from the nearby Aseh Chayil School. Each was given an age and a particular problem - a 72 year old with a heart condition, a 14 year old who lost his cell phone, a three year old who wandered from his mother, a 20 year old who speaks no language that anyone can figure out. The boys played their parts expertly and kept all the Emergency Drill volunteers on their toes.
In the exercise, all phone service was down, so runners had to go from station to station to take care of any questions or problems.
Evacuees had to sign in and then their information was sent to the Misrad HaPnim (Interior Ministry), which collated all emergency center data. This would enable family members to find out the whereabouts of one another, and help determine who might be missing. According to Noa Reichman, one of the organizers of the drill, Efrat was supposed to keep evacuees from 24-48 hours in the Efrat Community Center or the Orot Etzion Boys School. Any longer stays would be in the dormitories of Neve Shmuel Yeshiva High School or the Shvut Yisrael Yeshiva.
Efrat's Emergency Squad was equipped with MADA (Magen David Adom) volunteers, social workers, psychologists, and folks to help with equipment, a children's play area and any other situations that arose.
Noa and her Emergency Drill supervisor and co-organizer Ayelet Avrahami have been working on this drill for the past three years, investigating all the institutions in the area to see which ones could hold large groups of evacuees, keeping all equipment up to date, and organizing volunteers.
Efrat Municipality workers showed up at the end of the drill. They had been meeting to solve other unexpected emergencies that could arise during an evacuation: Arabs taking advantage of the disaster by launching missiles, throwing stones or shooting on the roads; loss of water, electricity and other services; as well as other unexpected happenings.
Said one of the Moetza's representatives, "During a national emergency, we're going to be on our own for the first few hours - no army, no Home Front Command. Efrat has to be prepared to address its own problems until the Army arrives."
Efrat's Mayor Oded Revivi left the Emergency Center telling volunteers, "May our every meeting be only for a drill."Right now Efrat has 30 volunteers for the Emergency Preparedness Program.
Since the Emergency Center must be manned with volunteers of all sorts 24 hours a day, our town can really use your help. Please contact – Manu at the Security Office – 993-9350.
Ayelet (pictured left) in the Matnas – 993-2936, or Noa 052-875-2243.
Watch all the excitement of today's Emergency Disaster Drill (in Hebrew) on Voices TV:
Watch all the excitement of today's Emergency Disaster Drill (with English explanation) on Voices TV:

Judea and Samaria - Israel's Safety Net

Different communities around the country are being prepared as national emergency centers. These are places that have been designated as safe towns in case of public disasters like the gas explosion in Netanya; or natural disasters like earthquakes or the fires in the Carmel or Jerusalem Forests; or military emergencies like war, missiles or any kind of major enemy conflicts.
After I attended the National Emergency Preparedness Drill in my hometown of Efrat, my husband asked me if every city was preparing. Indeed, they are preparing for varied local and national scenarios. But if missiles fall on Tel Aviv and the Merkaz (Central Israel), G-d forbid - which happens to be the scenario for the next war, chas v'shalom, then the folks of Tel Aviv and the Merkoz or folks from the north of the country or the south of the country (as we have already seen) are going to be evacuated to Judea and Samaria. The towns of Yesha are for the most part, meanwhile, B"H, out of enemy missile range.
I remember that in the last Lebanon War, folks from the north were not only evacuated to Efrat, but even to teeny Meitzad in south eastern Gush Etzion, and other small towns throughout Yesha.
So...if Yesha is the safest place in the country, bli ayin hara, and is prominent in the marechet (schedule) of the Home Front Command emergency evacuation program, how can the government even contemplate, G-d forbid, giving away any part of Judea and Samaria? Such a move endangers every single person in the country.
To our dear peace-loving brothers of Tel Aviv and Haifa, we in Judea and Samaria are your safety evacuation destination.
Perhaps your should protect us now, so that we can protect you later.
And if you utopian-ly think that if you evacuate Judea and Samaria, the Arab appetite for Jewish real estate or blood will finally be quenched, I have four words for you: Gush Katif, Kassam, Sderot.
No, I have six words: Gush Katif, Missiles, Sderot, Good Luck!
If you let anything happen to us, chas v'shalom, you can run from the missiles, but you'll have nowhere to hide.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Captive Audience Captive Prices

I visited my friends the other day and they showed me a newspaper article from The Globes. It said that items that were produced in Israel and shipped to America were cheaper in America than here in Israel.

What a scandal!!
Manufacturers explained that the competition against American companies forces their lower prices. In Israel, since a few giant manufacturers control production, they control price too.
What an unbrotherly way to run a business!
In Israel, everyone from the local butcher to the big food manufacturer should do what he can to make his product affordable.
Unfortunately, it seems that instead of working to build their nation and help their fellow Jew, big food companies are trying to figure out how they can take biggest advantage of the captive audiences - - - captive prices.

Better off with the Yellow Star Sometimes

I mentioned the Louis IX story to one of my friends, and explained that the Yellow Star, the Yellow Badge, the Patch of the Ten Commandments, the Blue Circle have all been around for more than 1000 years, all the way back to the Jews' lives in Moslem communities.
I read that Jews always had to be identified as Jews.
Even when they were bathing, since they couldn't wear clothing, they had to wear medallions to signify that they were Jews.
She was very surprised.
Then I thought about it. Throughout the centuries the Jews have been wearing yellow badges or other identification symbols. We survived them, B"H.
What we have had more difficulty surviving are those decades when we didn't have to show we were Jewish, when we could melt into any society easily (and we did), when we were "one of the boys" somewhere.
The Jewish people were never created to be "one of the boys." We were created to be a nation that stands alone. Even our ancestor Abraham was the one from the "other side".
When we are on the "other side" of the world, we do fine. We've got Hashem with us, and we will survive and thrive. But when we try to melt into other societies, the result is that our people melt away.
So, if you're Jewish, remember you're Jewish. It may be easier (even if it's unpleasant) to wear a yellow star or a medallion, but do your best to remember every day that you are Jew. You were born and you exist to be a light unto the nation, an example of loving-kindness and an advertisement for G-d, the Creator of Everything.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Anniversary of Anti-Semitism

When I remember to do it, I start off my day at work with a quick peek at the day in history. Usually the calendar is filled Genghis Khan did this and Atilla the Hun did that, the Earl of wherever fought here and the Duke of somewhere else fought there. Hence...I ususally skip it all.

Today's entry was a bit more interesting for me:

1269: King Louis IX of France orders all Jews found in public without an identifying yellow badge to be fined ten livres of silver.

So, if anyone thinks that the Yellow Badge began with the Nazis, he's got to look back hundreds of years. It actually began even before the anti-Semitism of Europe. The yellow badge began in the Moslem countries hundreds of years earlier. But back to today's history lesson.

Found this in Wikipedia: Louis IX of France ordered French Jews to wear oval rouelle,[7] a version of the "rota". As with all sumptuary laws, enforcement of the rules was very variable; in Marseilles the magistrates ignored accusations of breaches, and in some places individuals or communities could buy exemption. Cathars who were considered "first time offenders" by the Catholic Church and the Inquisition were also forced to wear yellow badges, albeit in the form of crosses, about their person.

Why was he knighted? He was reported to be kind to the poor, but most probably he received sainthood because Louis undertook two crusades and oppressed the Jews.

Next time you hear that someone's from Saint Louis, you'll think twice about the anti-Semitic king their city is named after.

Again from the Wikipedia:

He went on crusade twice, in his mid-30s in 1248 and then again in his mid-50s in 1270. Both crusades were complete disasters; after initial success in his first attempt, Louis's army of 15,000 men was met by overwhelming resistance from the Egyptian army and people where he was captured. After his release from Egypt, Louis spent four years in the crusader Kingdoms of Acre, Caesarea, and Jaffe.

I guess he never came to Jerusalem. What kind of a Crusade is that?

I remember a tour that I took with topguide Avi Dobuler to the tomb of Samuel the Prophet. Avi told me that a British king arrived to that spot on his Crusade to the Holy Land. From there, Richard the Lionhearted saw Jerusalem from a far for the first time. He dismounted his horse and began dancing. King Richard said, "This is a happy mountain, because from here I was able to see Jerusalem."

TEN Years to the Pina Chama

Tonight the Gush Etzion community celebrated ten years to the Pina Chama, the soldiers' hospitality hut. The Mayor of Efrat Oded Revivi (left), Ass't Mayor of Gush Etzion Yair Wolf (right) and the Mayor of Kiryat Arba Malachi Levinger were among the speakers to sing the praises of the hut and the volunteers that man it.
Pina Chama founders Ruti Gillis and Ossie Sasson were on hand, as were hundreds of volunteers - both men and women. The crowd noshed, shared funny Pina Chama stories and sang along with Adam Tzachi and his band.
Exactly ten years ago, when Arab terror in Israel was at its peak, Arab murderers took the life of Dr. Shmuel Gillis, Hy'd, on the road past Efrat as he neared his home of Carmei Tzur. His wife Ruti was left to raise their five children alone.
Ten days later, a fatal shooting on our bridge on Kvish HaMinharot (the road between Jerusalem and Gush Etzion) took the life of Tzachi Sasson, Hy"d from Kibbutz Rosh Tzurim. An Arab shot him dead driving home from work. Two more children were fatherless.
Ruti Gillis (left), despondent. Instead they got together and decided to create something positive and lasting in their husbands' memories. Dr. Gillis, Hy'd, served as a doctor in the Army reserves, as well as in the hospital. Tzachi Sasson, Hy'd, was a chevraman, who loved people, and especially soldiers. Whenever he made a barbecue, he added some steaks for the chayalim serving nearby. Both men were dedicated to the soldiers who help Hashem protect us.
So Ruti and Ossie (left) came up with the perfect idea – one that their husbands' would have loved. They created a little place called the Pina Chama (a cozy corner) where soldiers can come for a bit of rest, for a nosh or just a kind word. The Pina Chama was founded by Ruti and Ossie ten years ago in their husbands' memories. The Gush Etzion Regional Council donated a caravan for the endeavor, and we set up a hospitality hut right at the Gush Etzion Junction. Soldiers from as far south as Beit Chaggai and Chevron come to the Pina Chama on a break, as well as soldiers from as east as Tekoa, Nokdim and Meitzad, as far north as Kever Rachel and as far west as Derech HaLamed Hei.
At first, for a few hours a day, women from Efrat and Gush Etzion would volunteer their time to serve the soldiers. Those who couldn't come out to the Pina Chama had volunteered to bake.
Today B"H, the Pina Chama is open from 7 AM until 9 PM every day except Shabbat. On my busy morning shift, we usually serve more than 70 chayalim. On a broiling hot day, they come in for a cold drink. When the rain is pouring, they come in for hot soup. On an average day 250 soldiers of every rank and every unit stop off at the hut for a cup of hot coffee, a freshly baked chunk of chocolate cake, and a smile.
They come in to the Pina Chama for a minute or ten, and we fuss over them, and think of our own sons who are serving in not-such-friendly surroundings. We stuff them with goodies and then they're back in their jeeps off to the scene of an attack in Beit Lechem or a shooting near Chevron. Sometimes on my shift, a religious soldier takes a few minutes out to pray. Sometimes they read the morning paper or call home.
They call us "dodot" (aunties, dear ones). They bless us, and give us momentos of their units to hang in the caravan. They write us thank you notes and draw us pictures. They laugh with us and they tell us we're making them fat, and they even say sweet soppy thing. Many of them are not religious, and in the Pina Chama for the first time they have the opportunity to interact with religious people and with settlers.
We keep a guest book, and the boys aren't shy to write. Here are some of their entries:
"To our dodot hayekarot (dear aunties), Thank you for everything. Continue your holy and blessed work and know that this 'small thing' that you're giving the chayalim over here is in our eyes an entire world. May you merit everything good – health, long life."
"To the aunts and mothers, We've been at this post for only five days and we've already fallen in love with you. Lots and lots of thanks. May you be healthy and happy."
"Thank you for the food, for the help and the support you give all of us from captain to private. There are no words to tell you how much we love all you mothers – from the first of you who say 'good morning' to us until the last at night. We come to you from Chevron, Carmei Tzur, Pnei Chever, Abu Sneneh and then go back to Chevron with our feelings strengthened."
If you ask any woman (or man) in Gush Etzion what is her/his favorite day of the week, s/he will tell you. It's the day s/he serves in the Pina Chama.
Everything that needs to be done for the Pina Chama is done by volunteers – almost 500 of them a month. And each one of us feels that it's our place. We are all a part of it, even our children. Whenever there's a school holiday, the mothers bring their kids, so they will learn what it is to do chesed and serve others, especially our precious soldiers who put their lives on the line each day for us.
We stand in the Pina Chama – ready with the coffee cups lined up, the spoon at attention in the sugar, and the cakes set out on a tray like a checkerboard – chocolate vanilla, chocolate vanilla. The chayalim come in jeeps or trucks or buses – two, five, 25 and we have to be ready. Coffee two sugars. Nescafe three sugars. Bots (Turkish coffee) three sugars. Recently I dished out so much sugar, I screamed, "Hasn't anyone here ever heard of diabetes."
I really have to update these figures, but the last time I checked, during the course of the week, the Pina Chama uses 12 kilos of sugar, 30 bags of milk, 10 cans of instant coffee, 10 cans of Turkish coffee, 3,000 hot cups, 3,000 cold cups and six giant tubs of soup.
From the depths of the loss of two special souls – Dr. Shmuel Gillis and Tzachi Sasson, Hy'd – the residents of Gush Etzion have nurtured a project that has done more good than we can even imagine – the Pina Chama for our soldiers.
To view a clip from tonight's TENTH Anniversary Celebration - click here on Voices TV:

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fruit to Fix the Old Sins

This past Shabbat, we read Parshat Shelach, the weekly Torah portion in which the spies returned to the tribes with giant fruits in their arms, and declared that the Jewish people could not survive in the land of Israel.
The spies showed their brethren the land's magnificent fruit, its giant size and miraculous nature and used the fruit of Israel for negativity. We are the opposite, B"H.
It was a very fruity week here in Gush Etzion. We picked almost 100 pounds of fruit for the needy of our communitiy, and for our own families' Shabbat tables. In addition, Friday was Gush Etzion's Cherry Festival and thousands of people picked cherries from our purply-packed cherry trees at the festival and all over the Gush.
Our family had two fruit pickings on Friday. Our grandchildren loved picking yummy fruit right off the trees, and it is never too soon to give our little ones a love and appreciation for the Land and everything that grows in its Holy soil. After our harvests, we shared our fruit with our neighbors.
Our message on this Fruit Shabbat was direct, as in the words of Calev Ben Yefuneh, "'The land is very very good.' We are sharing our fruit to show our brethren that the fruit of our land is delicious and gorgeous. Our land is blessed, and we are blessed to be able to eat the fruit of our labors, grown in our own beloved soil - the Land of Israel."

Our fruit and those cherries, plums, figs, peaches, grapes, apples, apricots and more, that we are able to pick all over our Land are a testimony to the success of our people in Israel. Our fruit picking is actually a tikkun (a correction) of the mistake of the spies.
The spies saw the gorgeous fruit and thought they'd never make it in this Land. We pick the same fruit and declare, "The Land is very very good, and our families and our nation will grow like the magnificent fruit all around us."

Join us at our latest Fruit Harvesting in this clip on Voices TV -

Thursday, June 16, 2011

More Fruit for Efrat

The Fruit for All campaign that was held yesterday, B"H, was received so enthusiastically that folks who couldn't participate yesterday, decided to pick some fruit today.

I had a terrific surprise today when a group of boys from the Orot Etzion Boys School came over to my home and began picking my kumquat tree. We had invited families to pick the tree around Purim, but they never got past the bottom half of the tree.

Today the boys climbed on one another's shoulders and even used professional fruit picking devices :) and were able to pick kumquats almost from the tippy-top of the tree.

The fruits of their labor - 10 kilos of kumquats.
We also received more fruit from other neighbors - cherries, plums and apricots.

David Cohen, the head of the Kashruth Department of Efrat's Religious Council, came to take tithes this afternoon.

So, now we've got more than 20 pounds of additional fruit to give to the Efrat Food Gemach, Hazan Et Hakol.

The trees are still loaded. Whether you live in Efrat, or whatever town, if the fruits on your public trees are already dropping, why not pick them for Shabbat. It is just too much of a shame if they go to waste. Enjoy the fresh fruits of our beautiful land.

Voices TV invites you to enjoy the harvest by watching our clip (but CAUTION: Parents, be responsible for your children's safety. Children, please do not climb in trees beyond your ability).

Hebrew Land

The Ministry of Education's educational theme this year was "The Hebrew Language." In a land of olim (immigrants), where English, Russian, French, Amharic and Spanish are heard on Israel's streets and in its school yards on a daily basis, the speaking of Hebrew and in-depth Hebrew-learning are not a given.

Efrat's Aseh Chayil School has been concentrating on Hebrew for five months now. Each grade has tackled the theme in its own way - studying authors, poets, different book series and more.
The culmination of Aseh Chayil's long-range project was a community-wide Hebrew Happening recently in their school.
My thanks to Chairperson of Aseh Chayil's Dina Mann, Chairperson, Chayil B'Efrata Parents Association, for the personal tour through the Land of Hebrew.
The kids put on street theater, including a heated debate between Eliezer Ben Yehuda (who reinstituted the modern-day Hebrew language) and detractors, a Naomi Shemer sing-a-long, a Time Tunnel that led to a display of the Time Tunnel

books and their historical events, plus a free-lunchroom where guests were treated to food straight out of children's books, like
"Tiras Cham" (hot
corn - yum) and "Eliezer B'Gezer" (carrot salad for Eliezer in Carrots).
Parent and child activities rounded out the event, and after eating, playing, watching and interacting in Hebrew everyone really did come away with a closer connection to the Hebrew language. And that was the idea in the first place. Kol hakavod L'Aseh Chayil.

Come along to Aseh Chayil to participate in the Hebrew Happening
(English explanation):
(Hebrew explanation):

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

...And Fruit for All

Last week, my husband Israel and I were driving through our hometown of Efrat when we noticed how heavy the town's trees were groaning from the weight of the colorful fruit on their branches.

As we drove, passing tree after tree, burdened with fruit, Israel observed, "We could feed the whole town on this fruit."
Hmmmmmmmmm, great idea. We would feed the town! I mean, it seems ridiculous to have fruit trees everywhere with no one picking its delicious fruit.

Throughout Efrat, there were squished fruits that had already fallen to the ground fully ripe. If we weren't going to pick them, we could have planted anything else. But here we had the opportunity to feed the needy and everyone else in town that wanted to benefit from our local harvest.
So, I went home and called one of the women in charge of the weekly "Food Bank" Hazan Et Hakol to ask if she'd like to include fresh fruit in the food baskets that they distribute every week. She was thrilled.

I emailed my fellow Efrat/Gush Etzion residents and invited whoever wished, to join us in harvesting the delicious fruit all around Efrat.

My husband and I drove through the streets and surveyed the area, made a list of the locations of the fruit trees (mainly mini-plums) and sent the list to the harvesting volunteers.

We had quite a number of families, and especially children, harvesting the tasty purple plums and others picking apricots, lemons and almonds.
Everyone worked with a real joy, and some of the kids seemed sincerely amazed that you "eat" the fruit from trees, instead of little plastic boxes from the supermarket. When I told them that harvesters may eat of the fruit while they're working, the fun really began. Yumm!!
We had harvesters of every age, and yet there were fruits waiting for everyone.
I asked everyone to drop their fruit over to my house by 7:30 PM, so that we could take tithes on them - terumot, maasrot, maaser ani (hopefully I didn't forget the name of any of the tithes, but no worries, the rabbi knew them all).
By the end of the evening there were boxes and bags all over my porch.
When everything was accumulated on my porch, we had 86 pounds of plums, 2.75 lemons. 8 pounds of apricots and a bag of almonds.
It sounds like a lot in print, but we could also have used ten times the amount. Next time. IY"H. :)
My thanks to all the kind-hearted folks who participated in the harvest (some of their photos are shown throughout this blog); to Rabbi Avraham Oren who came over, explained the entire tithing procedure to me, and then took tithes on the apricots, plums and lemons; and my thanks to Rabbi Reuven Rosenstark who took tithes on the almonds.
I can't wait to give all our fruit to the Food Gemach in the morning. But more than that, I can't wait until we have another harvest day for the benefit of others.
It was such a great feeling to pick our own fruits, munch a few along the way (thereby enjoy "the fruits of our labor"), and know that we are benefiting from our own produce.
Friends, if you live in a town with fruit trees, pick them, eat them, say a blessing over them!!
Note #1: we didn't have any ladders during our harvesting, so there are so many more luscious fruits higher up on the trees. Treat yourself before Shabbat and harvest fruit for your table.
Note #2: Rosh Tzurim's Cherry Festival is June 17. What a fun day! Well, we had our own Fruit Festival - Fruit for All. No charge, gorgeous trees, nice company and a great cause.
Thank you, Hashem, for being able to pick the produce of my own town. Hooray.
Movie clip to come, IY"H.
** "Here's to the fruit of the earth, drink to this bountiful land..." - from a Bible Arts song from the show "Ruth & Naomi in the Fields of Bethlehem", performed by Raise Your Spirits Theater
Enjoy the harvest.
(CAUTION: Parents, please be responsible for your children. Children, please do not climb a tree beyond your ability. You are responsible for your own safety, so keep safe.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Artists 4 Israel Paint Gush Etzion

No apologies. No PC lingo. Just proud to stand up for Israel and its people. Artists 4 Israel – graffiti greats from all over the world – flew here for 15 days to paint 50 wall murals and countless smaller pieces in Hebron, Shiloh, Tel Aviv, Central Gush Etzion and Tekoa in Eastern Gush Etzion.
I met up with these artists at Gush Etzion's Pina Chama and at the pillbox of the Gush Etzion Junction. Their paintings were fantabulastic. You've got to pass by to see their works of art. Tzomet HaGush is g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s now!! They even printed Hebrew with a little help. :)
Their vibrant murals were a mix of pictures – Jewish and national symbols - and the artists' signatures.
Artists 4 Israel co-founder and president Craig Dershowitz (left) of New Jersey said, "These internationally recognizable artists (most of whom are not Jewish) that are respected in the art community are able to say, 'I’ve been here and I support Israel. Here’s my name and my mark - proving that to the world.'"
Actually, the graffiti artists that have been painting in Israel are so famous, Craig said, that graffiti tourists would travel here specifically just to see their projects.
On this trip Craig brought artists from Spain, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, across America and even a few famous Israeli spray-can-superstars, members of the AFK graffiti collective Always Fresh Kids. They traveled to Judea and Samaria to decide for themselves what's really going on here. "And they’ve fallen in love so far. They’ve had a great time in all the communities we’ve been to," he said.
Craig added, "Artists 4 Israel has done an amazing job at promoting Israel, letting people know what a beautiful homeland for the arts, Israel is."
It's the People2People!!
Whooshing through Yosh towns as quickly as their paints could dry, the artists did pick up the feeling of each town by interacting with the residents, especially the kids!!
While these artists are honored at international exhibits and paid about $50,000 per mural, during these two weeks in Israel, they've donated their talents. They've been wined and dined on humous and Coca Cola, slept in "camp-like" accommodations and roughed it. But they're loving it!!
Craig explained, "Within the communities, the support and love and appreciation of the people have been probably the things that most touch our artists – the human connection."
New Yorker Tara Gordon (at left with Voices editor), co-founder and VP of Artists 4 Israel agreed, "They can practice their art anywhere, but what they're really doing, especially with the kids, is connecting."
Tara explained, "They're saying, 'I support Israel and its right to peace and security,' and they're doing it in their own style."
I had a chance to chat with a few of the graffiti artists between shpritzes. They all seemed sincerely enthusiastic about their trip here. And while their tattooed torsos seemed a bit in-your-face, they were sincerely polite, well-spoken and serious about creating the best artwork possible to turn cement walls into positive spaces that would benefit local residents.
Among the graffiti artists were:
Bamer, Silo 16 & Dace & Risto of AFK
Bellen from Spain
Vic Ismo from Puerto Rico
UR New York
Sever & Ewok of the MSK Group
Last year when A4I came to Israel, they painted about 100 bomb shelters in Sderot, as well as walls in Neve Yaakov and caravans in Bet El. []
This trip of Artists 4 Israel was a joint venture of the One Israel Fund (Mark Provisor) with the Gush Etzion Foundation (Shani Simkowitz).
View the clip of our visit with Artists 4 Israel: .

Monday, June 6, 2011

Back on Stage in JUDGE!

The women of Raise Your Spirits Theatre are back on stage in a command performance, hosted by the Jerusalem Municipality.
Raise Your Spirits will be performing JUDGE! The Song of Devora, the smash-hit musical about the prophet/judge Devora.
I just got back from our first rehearsal in five months, and you know what, we did great!!
Firstly, it was fabulous to be on stage together after such a long time. We fell right back into character and right back into our fun fellow-cast relationships. Next, it was exciting knowing we're going to perform for a new audience in a new theater - the Gerard Behar. Lastly, we're all just a bunch of hams and love love love to be applauded and cheered.
JUDGE! is RYS's sixth musical production since its inception in 2001. I founded Raise Your Spirits to give women/girls a positive project to work on during the summer, when terror rocked the nation.
Our theater company has been giving hope, encouragement, pride and terrific entertainment to women and girls from throughout Israel and even the world for the past decade.
Now, we'll be celebrating our tenth anniversary on stage in the Gerard Behar Theater.
JUDGE! was written by Toby Klein Greenwald and Yael Valier with music by Mitch Clyman of Muso Productions.
Ladies, bring your daughters and your friends. You'll just love it. Call Bimot 02-623-7000.