Monday, November 28, 2011

Reserve Soldier Returns to Pina Chama

I have written very often about the Soldier's Hospitality Hut in Gush Etzion. We call it the Pina Chama (Cozy Corner). This past year the Pina Chama celebrated its tenth anniversary:
Israeli Defense Forces soldiers (from the Hebron area in the south to Bethlehem in the north to Eastern Gush Etzion and west to the area of the Lamed Hei/Bet Shemesh) stop in to the Pina Chama for home-baked cakes and a good word from the "Dodot" (aunties) who volunteer there every day from 7 AM to 9 PM.
Soldiers serving in this area come from all over the country. Sometimes the volunteers at Pina Chama are the first settlers or religious people they have ever met. B"H they all have positive amazing experiences getting to know the volunteers of the Pina Chama.
Over the past ten years thousands of soldiers have been served at the hospitality hut. They are soldiers in the regular army and those in reserves, officers and privates, soldiers from every unit and every branch of the armed forces. Everyone is welcome and spoiled equally.

Last week famed photographer Gershon Ellinson was in the Pina Chama when a reserve soldier from Netanya came in. He took his cake and coffee to one of the tables and opened the Pina Chama Visitor's Book. He sat perusing its pages, filled with photos of volunteers, events and soldiers who have come and gone through the Pina Chama's doors. And lo and behold, who does he see being served in Pina Chama six years ago, but himself!!??!!
Today reserve soldier Shabtai is married and living far away. He was very excited to be called to reserve duty in Gush Etzion and to have the opportunity to return to the Pina Chama, and experience once again the warmth and hospitality of Efrat/Gush Etzion residents.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

An Israeli Soldier and African Refugees

My friend's son, Aron, wrote this incredible letter about his Israel Defense Forces reserve duty. It is worth the read:
My name is Aron Adler.

I am 25 years old, was born in Brooklyn NY, and raised in Efrat Israel. Though very busy, I don’t view my life as unusual. Most of the time, I am just another Israeli citizen. During the day I work as a paramedic in Magen David Adom, Israel’s national EMS service. At night, I’m in my first year of law school. I got married this October and am starting a new chapter of life together with my wonderful wife Shulamit.
15-20 days out of every year, I'm called up to the Israeli army to do my reserve duty. I serve as a paramedic in an IDF paratrooper unit. My squad is made up of others like me; people living normal lives who step up to serve whenever responsibility calls. The oldest in my squad is 58, a father of four girls and grandfather of two; there are two bankers, one engineer, a holistic healer, and my 24 year old commander who is still trying to figure out what to do with his life. Most of the year we are just normal people living our lives, but for 15-20 days each year we are soldiers on the front lines preparing for a war that we hope we never have to fight.
This year, our reserve unit was stationed on the border between Israel, Egypt and the Gaza Strip in an area called “Kerem Shalom.” Above and beyond the “typical” things for which we train – war, terrorism, border infiltration, etc., - this year we were confronted by a new challenge. Several years ago, a trend started of African refugees crossing the Egyptian border from Sinai into Israel to seek asylum from the atrocities in Darfur.
What started out as a small number of men, women and children fleeing from the machetes of the Janjaweed and violent fundamentalists to seek a better life elsewhere, turned into an organized industry of human trafficking. In return for huge sums of money, sometimes entire life savings paid to Bedouin “guides,” these refugees are promised to be transported from Sudan, Eritrea, and other African countries through Egypt and the Sinai desert, into the safe haven of Israel.

We increasingly hear horror stories of the atrocities these refugees suffer on their way to freedom. They are subject to, and victims of extortion, rape, murder, and even organ theft, their bodies left to rot in the desert. Then, if lucky, after surviving this gruesome experience whose prize is freedom, when only a barbed wire fence separates them from Israel and their goal, they must go through the final death run and try to evade the bullets of the Egyptian soldiers stationed along the border. Egypt’s soldiers are ordered to shoot to kill anyone trying to cross the border OUT of Egypt and into Israel. It’s an almost nightly event.
For those who finally get across the border, the first people they encounter are Israeli soldiers, people like me and those in my unit, who are tasked with a primary mission of defending the lives of the Israeli people. On one side of the border soldiers shoot to kill. On the other side, they know they will be treated with more respect than in any of the countries they crossed to get to this point.
The region where it all happens is highly sensitive and risky from a security point of view, an area stricken with terror at every turn. It’s just a few miles south of the place where Gilad Shalit was kidnapped. And yet the Israeli soldiers who are confronted with these refugees do it not with rifles aimed at them, but with a helping hand and an open heart. The refugees are taken to a nearby IDF base, given clean clothes, a hot drink, food and medical attention. They are finally safe.
Even though I live Israel and am aware through media reports of the events that take place on the Egyptian border, I never understood the intensity and complexity of the scenario until I experienced it myself.

In the course of the past few nights, I have witnessed much. At 9:00 PM last night, the first reports came in of gunfire heard from the Egyptian border. Minutes later, IDF scouts spotted small groups of people trying to get across the fence. In the period of about one hour, we picked up 13 men - cold, barefoot, dehydrated - some wearing nothing except underpants. Their bodies were covered with lacerations and other wounds. We gathered them in a room, gave them blankets, tea and treated their wounds. I don’t speak a word of their language, but the look on their faces said it all and reminded me once again why I am so proud to be a Jew and an Israeli. Sadly, it was later determined that the gunshots we heard were deadly, killing three others fleeing for their lives.
During the 350 days a year when I am not on active duty, when I am just another man trying to get by, the people tasked with doing this amazing job, this amazing deed, the people witnessing these events, are mostly young Israeli soldiers just out of high school, serving their compulsory time in the IDF, some only 18 years old.
The refugees flooding into Israel are a heavy burden on our small country. More than 100,000 refugees have fled this way, and hundreds more cross the border every month. The social, economic, and humanitarian issues created by this influx of refugees are immense. There are serious security consequences for Israel as well. This influx of African refugees poses a crisis for Israel. Israel has yet to come up with the solutions required to deal with this crisis effectively, balancing its’ sensitive social, economic, and security issues, at the same time striving to care for the refugees.
I don’t have the answers to these complex problems which desperately need to be resolved. I’m not writing these words with the intention of taking a political position or a tactical stand on the issue.
I am writing to tell you and the entire world what’s really happening down here on the Egyptian/Israeli border. And to tell you that despite all the serious problems created by this national crisis, these refugees have no reason to fear us. Because they know, as the entire world needs to know, that Israel has not shut its eyes to their suffering and pain. Israel has not looked the other way. The State of Israel has put politics aside to take the ethical and humane path as it has so often done before, in every instance of human suffering and natural disasters around the globe. We Jews know only too well about suffering and pain. The Jewish people have been there. We have been the refugees and the persecuted so many times, over thousands of years, all over the world.
Today, when African refugees flood our borders in search of freedom and better lives, and some for fear of their lives, it is particularly noteworthy how Israel deals with them, despite the enormous strain it puts on our country on so many levels. Our young and thriving Jewish people and country, built from the ashes of the Holocaust, do not turn their backs on humanity. Though I already knew that, this week I once again experienced it firsthand. I am overwhelmed with emotion and immensely proud to be a member of this nation.

With love of Israel,

Aron Adler writing from the Israel/Gaza/Egyptian border.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

"Beit Tovei Ha'ir" Celebrates Hachnassat Sefer Torah by Dovid Hoffman

In Yiddish they say you can't ride on two horses at once and you can't dance at two weddings at the same time. But I got to dance at two Simchos Torah this year. It all began after the "Beit Tovei Ha'ir" senior citizens residence invited me to join their hachnossas sefer Torah taking place three days after Simchas Torah. Founded in 1993 by Mr. Ariye Paluch (z"l) and his family, this home was the fulfillment of their dream to provide accommodation to the senior citizens of the religious public from all over the world. The international PAI Group (Preferred Assets Israel Group) headed by the Rajchenbach, Rothner, Kutoff, Hunter and Glouberman families took over the home last year.
In previous weeks, many of the sefer's last letters had been completed by the Gedolei Hador including Rav Shemuel Auerbach from Yerushalayim, Rav Chaim Kanievski and Rav Aharon Leib Steinman of Bnei Brak, and the Boyaner Rebbe. But plenty letters were left for residents, dignitaries, and guests to fill in.
I was struck by one of the residents sitting close to the sofer. Impeccably dressed, he was watching the proceedings with rapt attention.
"Do you have a special part in the proceedings?" I asked him.
"You bet I do!" replied Dovid Greenberg, lately from Australia, but originally from Lodz, and the only survivor of his family. "I saw them burning hundreds and thousands of sifrei Torah in Europe; it is a great zechus for me to be here today." 
Another resident, Yitzchak Ze'ev Teller, originally from Cracow, gave another reason for his deep sense of identification to the evening's festivities.
"After sixty-five years in Tel Aviv, this is now my home," he said simply.
Dignitaries arrived. The Admor of Stroptkov, Rav Avrohom Sholom Halberstam filled letters, as did Deputy Health Minister, Rav Yaakov Litzman. Rav Yitzchok Sheiner, Rosh Yeshiva of Kamenitz, also honored the occasion with his presence.
Finally, a ripple of anticipation raced through the crowd. Lovingly wrapped in its new mantle and resplendent in its silver shield and crowns, the sefer was triumphantly carried out into the cool Yerushalayim evening. The joyous crowd surged alongside, bochurim and kids sang and danced.
As if by magic, the tangle of youngsters straightened into two lines and the Torah passed between two rows of light.
Clambering a short flight of stairs, we entered the giant Shneller compound that is soon to be developed into a large Torah neighborhood. Until recently, this place served as an army camp. Before that, it served as a British military headquarters, and originally it was a religious compound built by Templar Germans in 1860. The place became pro-Nazi in the years leading to World War II. To quote a recent article: "In April 1934, Buchhalter [a Yerushalayim Nazi] hosted a party for local residents at the party headquarters in Jerusalem to celebrate Hitler’s birthday. The event began with a performance by the boys choir from the Schneller orphanage."
To save my ears, I quickly stuffed them with tissue and just in time, for behind the loudspeaker van came yet another van with the Shira Chadasha boys choir of Nachman Seltzer perched on its roof. Afterwards, Seltzer confided to me that never before had his group ever performed from a six feet high wheeled stage. 
From the Schneller grounds, the procession turned into the busy Malchei Yisroel Street of Geula, where a police car shielded the crowd from a minor traffic snarl building up behind. Finally, we reached the safe refuge of the "Beit Tovei Ha'ir" cul-de-sac.
The dancing ended, the sefer was placed in the aron, and to the accompaniment of Chazzan Chaim Adler, chief chazzan of the Great Synagogue of Yerushalayim; the Shira Chadasha choir; and a group of musical bochurim from Chevron, a joyful, lavish seuda was enjoyed by all in the home's five-floor high indoor courtyard.   
I particularly noticed a dignified looking personage who, like Dovid Hamelech, placed the kavod of Torah before his own, leaping high with the young bochurim, borrowing their headgear, and pulling spectators into the swirling ring of dance. This was resident Rabbi Shimon Eckstein, who started out in his young years as a Rav in Ottowa, Canada, and then practiced clinical psychology for thirty years in Florida. Presently, he is interested in gerontology and writing about grand-parenting and great-grand-parenting from point of view of Jewish law and psychology. He told me that not too much is written about great-grandparents in halacha literature due to people's lower survival rate in earlier times.
Among the last speakers was Rav Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, OU executive Vice President Emeritus who came especially from New York addressed the audience in English. He compared the home's residents to Noach who, the Tanchuma says, was one of three people who saw three worlds. He saw the world settled before the flood, he saw it destroyed, and he survived and saw it rebuilt.
"The residents of Tovei Ha'ir and their children knew of a world of despair and destruction," he said. "Now, the evening's joy and song give us hope that we are moving ahead to a generation of building and hope."
As the festivities wound down and visitors and guests began their departure, everyone shared the feeling that for "Beit Tovei Ha'ir", the closing evening marked the beginning of a bright new future. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rain Patrol

The rain over the past few days has been greeted happily and eagerly by everyone.
While we're all joyous over every raindrop, I often think of Israeli soldiers who are out under the open skies - no matter what the weather - to protect the nation from north to south. 
As I drove yesterday from the Zayit neighborhood, I noticed little soldiers - the crossing guards from the girls' elementary school, Orot Etzion, walking to their posts. Despite the rain, these girls were eager to get to work. 
They and crossing guards (we called them Safety Patrol in America) all over Efrat direct traffic and backpacked kids at our busy intersections.
On sunny days they shvitz. On days like yesterday and today, they're splashed, soaked and cold, but they do their duty. Their yellow vest are more for show than protection against the elements.
It surely won't surprise you that a Bar Ilan study showed that elementary school students that are exposed daily to crossing guards attain a better knowledge of traffic rules and pay more attention to looking both ways before crossing than children whose schools have no crossing guards. That's great!
Even drivers that are exposed to crossing guards drive more carefully when they're around.
Unfortunately there are so many examples of drivers who skirt around buses, while they're unloading children; who double park to get children into or out of preschool; or who drive too quickly when children are being released from school. 
It's gratifying to see drivers respecting the Junior Traffic Patrol and waiting patiently until they are signaled to drive on.
When I was young, it was an honor to be on Safety Patrol. I think it still is.

Here's to the boys and girls on Crossing Duty. We're proud of you.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Colors of Fall

Many people say their favorite season is Autumn, because of the magnificent changes in color of the trees. They complain that here in Israel, the trees do not change color, as they do in the United States, or wherever they came from.

That is not true. The trees do indeed change color - not exactly as they did in Toronto or Long Island, but they definitely rock around the color wheel.

To prove it to you, I stepped out into my garden on this nippy morning to capture the Autumn colors right in my front yard.

Beautiful, changeable, colorful, warm reds, exciting oranges, winter yellows and hardy greens.
Fall is here. Even in Israel.

The Hardest Test

When G-d chose Abraham to be his Public Relations Representative on this earth, He put his candidate to the test. Actually Abraham had ten tests to see if he were worthy of being G-d's dear friend and liaison to mankind.
One of those tests was to leave his elderly father in the Old Country, and go off to Israel.
For many immigrant Jews who choose a life in the Land of Israel, the Jewish homeland, the most difficult barrier that they face is leaving their elderly parents behind.
While, B"H, the parents are proud of their Israel-bound children, the older parents just don't want to pick up and move to a new country at their age. They're happy to visit and they're proud to hear all the doings of their family in their new home, but they just don't feel they can leave behind their homes of 40 or 50 years, their familiar surroundings and their lifelong friends.
B"H, the phone, email and skype help keep the new Israelis connected to their parents in the Diaspora (chutz la'aretz - it actually means "out of the land", like Exile). Separation is so difficult. I have no idea how Abraham did it. No wonder it was a test.
If life in Israel for the kids and out of Israel for the parents goes well, then everything is great, fantastic, amazing. But if a parent becomes ill, then the distance is torturous. No phone call is enough. No letter does the trick. And the child is always wondering, "What have I done?" "What should I do?" "Where is Scotty to beam me to my parent immediately."
Who speaks to the doctors? Who tells the nurse, "This person is important. He is not alone (really). This person has a loving family that is thinking of her, but they're far away." Who sees what care the parent is receiving, or not receiving?
You can always get on a plane if you've got the money, the time, vacation from work and someone to watch the kids. But then you've got to think, "Should I go now?" "Should I go later?" "How long can I go for?" "How long should I go for?"
These are difficult discussions that we Israeli children have with ourselves very often.
We learn from our sages that "Maasei Avot, Siman LeBanim", our forefathers' acts were signposts for their descendants.
Somehow Abraham overcame the test of separating from his father.
B"H, G-d new that our generation is not as strong, and we have many ways of communicating. I'm sure Scotty's "beam" is coming soon.
Until then, my best wishes for the good health of all parents of Olim, and blessings for strength and wisdom for all.
Then the se

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Freedom Rides - The Latest Greatest PR Stunt for the PA

Who is the PR Firm that directs the Palestinian Authority? The firm is made up of geniuses. I think the Israeli government should hire them. It doesn't matter if what they're pushing at the moment is truth or falsehood, they put out the gimmick with such flair and fact that folks think it's real. (Remember the Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels – if you tell a lie big enough and often enough, folks will believe. That really works!)
Well, good for you, guys. PR firm, whatever you get paid, it's not enough.
Today's latest PA publicity stunt was a trip on Egged for "Palestinian Freedom Riders".  Arabs were going to get on Egged buses in Judea and Samaria to "expose" the apartheid policies of "Settler buses".
What an idea!
It doesn't matter that Arabs ride buses or trains around the country, but they can prove segregation by getting on a bus in Yesha (Judea and Samaria).
Actually, I remember once upon a time riding along with Arabs on the buses from Yesha. The problem was that Arabs sometimes blow themselves up, and that's a nasty piece of work to deal with on your bus – especially if you're in a hurry to get to school or work.
Because of those few hundreds of self-detonating Arabs, no Arabs are welcome on buses from Judea and Samaria.
The Arabs wanted the public to see the bus rides as an echo of the United States Civil Rights Movement of the 60s. But I don't recall that Rosa Parks or any of her kinfolk tried to blow up any American buses. They were just upset about being shafted to the back of the bus. But they never tried to destroy the bus along with the people on it.
If you'd like to talk about real segregation, look at the Arab bus line that runs throughout Jerusalem and beyond. The blue and white striped buses are Arab only (just like everything else in the Palestinian Authority). Perhaps Israelis should have stood at Arab bus stops today, and tried to get on those buses. The only thing is that I don't think they would have gotten a very friendly reception.
More on how the day went:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Dead Sea - a Wonder for Me

For the past four years, a contest has been underway to choose the seven wonders of nature. Hundreds of millions of people worldwide voted for their favorite natural sites. Maybe you voted too.
Having seen the Dead Sea up close, having “bathed” in its waters, I was sure that this site should be included in the Seven Wonders.
I even blogged about it, and encouraged readers to vote for the Dead Sea:
Well, it didn’t win. Instead, the winners (which will be validated in the next few months) included the Amazon, Vietnam's Halong Bay, the Iguazu Falls of Argentina and Brazil, South Korea's Jeju Island, Indonesia's Komodo, the Puerto Princesa Underground River of the Philippines and South Africa's Table Mountain.
The winners were chosen from 440 locations in 220 countries.
The Dead Sea was one of the 28 finalists, but it didn’t come up in the top seven.
So what?
One of the top 28 is also amazing.
We can’t be too disappointed. The places listed above are also true wonders.
Other locations that were truly incredible didn’t make the top seven either – the Grand Canyon, the Galapagos Islands and Mount Vesuvius. Well, we’re in good company.
I’m still proud of the Dead Sea. To me and millions of others, it’s still a wonder. In fact, this week’s parsha, Vayeira told us how the Dead Sea was created with the destruction of Sodom. What timing!!
I’m sure there’s a midrash somewhere that says that when evil is destroyed from the earth, the Dead Sea will live again. I’ll have to look it up and keep you posted.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What's Up, Efrat? # 3

Hooray, we've had great response to our broadcasts of What's Up, Efrat?
Thank you, viewers!!! Tell your friends. :)
In English Fayge Bedell and I have been anchoring the latest news and events in Efrat. In Hebrew Naamit Leavitt and Sophie Amar do the honors.
B"H there's so much news from this area that we can't fit it into a short clip, so this month we've made several.
This video clip discusses the latest NEWS in Efrat:

And here's a video clip detailing upcoming Efrat EVENTS:

To help you follow all the upcoming events, here's a written guide to What's Up, Efrat?

Before we begin, we urge Efrat and Gush Etzion’s institutions to USE the community calendar to avoid conflicting programs.
Also, many of the programs below have a charge. Please contact the organizers for further information.

Thursday, November 10, 8 PM, the Matnas of Efrat is showing the award-winning film Ushpizin. It’s in Hebrew with English subtitles. In addition to light refreshments, there’ll be a discussion with Yakov Friedland, director of film and communications at Yeshiva High Neve Shmuel. More info 993-2936.

The committee for the development of the Eitam and Women in Green is holding shiurim and activities on Efrat’s Givat HaEitam just about every week. If you want Efrat to hold on to this hilltop, future home to 2500 families and our next generation, then schedule a
Friday morning for the Eitam. This Friday November 11, 9 AM, Rabbi Baruch Efrati, Rav of the Zayit Raanan shul will speak. Info: 050-5500834.

This week there'll be an uplifting Shlomo Carlebach Shabbat at the Shirat Shlomo Bet Knesset. Tefilla according to the melodies of the late great Rav Shlomo Carlebach, o’h.

Motzei Shabbat, for the active crowd, November 12, there’s a women’s Indance/Zumba Party at Matnas Efrat at 8 PM. Dance the night away to good health!!

For the literary crowd, the Women's Beit Midrash and the Baum Family are sponsoring a poetry reading, Swimming in Moses' Well: Poems on Numbers by Efrat's own poet laureate of the Bible Yaakov Azriel. 8:30 PM at 17 Rechov Tamar, Rimon. Info? 993-8125.

Sunday, November 13, 8 PM an inspirational shiur with the popular Leah Golomb at the Davidovich home, 27 Hagoel, Lev Efrat. Info?

Another poetry event - Tuesday, November 15th at 8:30 PM for poets and poetry lovers. Contact Mindy Barad.

Thursday, November 24, the One Israel Fund presents Efrat's Eve Harow in a trip to Gush Etzion, including Har Gilo, Sde Boaz, Pina Chama and more. Info? 054-570-1548

Motzei Shabbat, November 26, hundreds of Efrat’s children will participate in the culmination of Shabbat Irgun for Bnei Akiva.

Motzei Shabbat, December 3, the Matnas is holding a fun, exciting singles event - NOT TO BE MISSED. Two never-yet-screened episodes of the hit series “Serugim” will be shown, and then there’ll be a discussion with the show’s director Laizy Shapiro. Everyone can shmooze over light refreshments. Young men and women 25-35 – come down to the Matnas, bring your friends. It has all the ingredients of a great evening, and your participation can make sure it is.

Motzei Shabbat, December 10, hundreds of Efrat’s children will participate in the culmination of Shabbat Irgun for Ezra.

Tuesday, December 13, Comedy for Koby will take the stage at Matnas Gush Etzion with an impressive lineup of some of the favorite performers in the stand-up world.  There are more dates throughout Israel. For further information, Roy Angstreich,  Executive Director.

Tuesday, December 13, Chanukah Gift Fair in Alon Shvut’s Olam Smachot. Information? Caryn Orbach.

Tuesday December 20, Chanukah Fair at the Matnas Efrat - Lots of gifts, household items, toys and fun activities for kids, and of course, food. Contact Sophie Amar 050-7578828

Classics in the Gush opens its fourth season with magnificent classical music. There are fabulous performers throughout the winter. Warm up with the classics. Info at Matnas Gush Etzion, 993-7999.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Children Nationwide Gather in Prayer in Memory of Matriarch Rachel

Dozens of children and parents in Efrat joined 50,000 other parents and children located in 300 locations all over Israel in a massive Tefilla (prayer service) in memory of the Matriarch Rachel. They prayed for rain, for the recovery of the ill and for the return of the Jewish people from the Exile.
The children listened to a live broadcast from M'Bereishit at a school in Ashdod, the location that very recently had been hit by missiles from Gaza.
HaRav Chaim Druckman, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Or Etzion and of the Bnei Akiva Yeshivot, led the children in prayer.
The children sang and prayed. The program was very moving.
Here in Efrat, we thank Lionel and Sophie Amar and the Kol BeRama Synagogue on the Zayit for hosting this meaningful program.

Following is a live recording of the children's psalms made by Voices Radio at the Rachel Emainu Memorial.

Recorded on iPhone and posted with VR+ Lite.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Histadrut's on Strike, But Never the IDF

Voices Radio Broadcast:

Recorded on iPhone and posted with VR+ Lite.

Well, that was my first Voices Radio Broadcast. Tune in for more.
It noted that while the Histadrut Labor Union wants to bring the nation to its knees with a general strike, our chayalim (soldiers) never strike. They always stand at the ready, ready to protect our nation and our people.
Soldier in Hebrew is the word chayal/"valiant", and that's what they are - valiant young men and women who give of themselves, and sometimes sadly of their lives, to help keep our people safe wherever they are.

Clang Clang Clang Went the Trolley

Clang clang clang went the trolley. Actually, the clang emanated from the Jerusalem Light Railroad Train.
I was in Jerusalem on Rechov Yaffo (Jaffe Road) with my daughter when the Light Railroad Train passed by. As it neared the train station it called out a friendly clang, just like in the old Judy Garland movie, "Meet Me in St. Louis."
In addition to the homey clang, I noticed that the street of Rechov Yaffo itself has completely turned a beautiful Disneyworld brick. Plus the Light Rail is so Disney monorail-ish that it has added to the friendliness and 21st century-ness of Jerusalem, the eternal city.
I remember the thrill my children and I had when we reached the gates of Disneyworld and saw the monorail gliding by. I had the same feeling today in the heart of Jerusalem. There's something happy and exciting about the Light Rail. It's like a message, "The future is here, and it's going to be good."
The train was packed. Well, it should be. It's a free ride for all passengers. But I am confident that folks will still flock to the Light Rail when they start charging. It's a comfortable, clean ride and it's fun too. And there's nothing better than adding a little fun into our busy lives.
Next time you're in Jerusalem and you hear that clang, climb aboard.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Rain on the Rooftop

We went to our children for Shabbat. They live in a little caravan on a high mountain top. It is pastoral, quiet and beautiful where my children live. And they are snug in their sweet caravan.
Suddenly it started raining. My little granddaughters were the first to hear it. "Rain, rain," they called out with joy. It took me another moment to hear it too.
They were listening to the rain on the caravan's roof. "This is my favorite time in the caravan," my daughter-in-law said, "When it rains. We can appreciate every drop."
I looked at the windows and there were barely a few drops on the window pane.
Then I listened ever so carefully to the gentle beating of the rain above my head. It sounded like a thousand tiny fairies tapping on the rooftop. Together with my little granddaughters I imagined all the fairies and pixies dancing and leaping for joy in the crystal dots of rain. My little darlings were so happy about the rain (no matter how light), we got up off the couch and started dancing in a little circle - the same dance that the pixies were dancing above us.
Once Upon a Time Rain
It reminded me of an incident that happened many years before, when my youngest son (now a tall handsome young man) was just a little boy.
It was 1999, the first of many drought years to come. Rain had hit a new low - 30% of the previous annual levels. Everyone was worried about the lack of water, even my nine year old son. One day he turned to me and said, "Ema, do you know why Hashem has withheld the rain?" I said, no, I honestly didn't know what we had done to deserve this drought. He said, "It's because we don't appreciate the rain." Wise words from my little boy.
The dry winter persisted. And then one day, it actually rained. Not a giant storm, but waters from the Heavens just the same. I was driving home smiling, as my windshield wipers swished the raindrops to the side. When I pulled up to my house, I saw my little son outside. He was sliding from one end of the porch to the other, back and forth, without a jacket or umbrella. Just sliding back and forth. I went running upstairs, "What are you doing?!!!"
He threw his head and hands up in delight and called out as loud as he could, "I'M APPRECIATING THE RAIN!!"

So long ago and just yesterday, I realized that our children understand the blessing and the miracle of rain. Now if we all could learn from their innocent insight, we'd appreciate the rain too. And then...maybe we'd have more of it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Memory of a Song

Sometimes in a faraway moment I hear a tune in the back of my mind, and I begin unconsciously to hum Da de da de da, la da de da de, da de da de da.
I never remembered what it was but I felt somehow it was a melody of my past. It seemed to be a song that reminded me of happiness and warmth 
It's nice to have a song in your life like that. It is sort of magic. It creates rainbows and balloons and memories of all that we loved as children.
Sometimes I wondered where the song was from. I'd ask my sister. We'd hum a few bars together, but neither of us knew where it was from. I guess it didn't matter. It wasn't a haunting melody, and we weren't going crazy, because we didn't remember. It was just something happy and nice that we shared from our childhood.
This morning I was walking on my treadmill (I try to do that almost every morning) and I popped in a DVD to help me pass the time. My sister has made me dozens if DVDs to encourage my walking. They are life savers, because walking alone is b-o-r-i-n-g.
As I passed lap six, suddenly I heard the overture of the next movie on the disc. I almost fell off the treadmill. There it was after all these years- my tune - da de da de dum. That was it. Clear as a bell. It actually wasn't da de da de dum, as I remembered it, but Doody Doody Doo.
I didn't remember the movie at all. I didn't remember a stitch about it, but I have known its title song my entire life. The movie was Tom Thumb with Russ Tamblyn, and it was the story of the fairy tale imp that was no bigger than a thumb.
Suddenly I recalled that on beautiful summer nights, my grandfather, o'h, would pile us little children (perhaps I was five) into the car and take us to a drive in. We'd be all set in our pajamas with bag of popcorn and apple slices, even chocolate. We'd put the receiver in the window of the car and then settle back to watch the movie.
I guess he took us to see Tom Thumb. It was a very unmemorable movie, but the song was a great tune then and it is still a catchy unforgettable one today.
I realize now that it is more than a melody. It is a deep-grained joyous part of my life. I would like to express my gratitude (and that of my sister) to Douglas Gamley - Composer (Music Score), Kenneth V. Jones - Composer (Music Score)Muir Mathieson - Musical Direction/Supervision, Kermit Goell - SongwriterPeggy Lee - SongwriterFred Spielman - Songwriter, Janice Torre - Songwriter - who have created a deep-seated memory that IY"H I hope will last my entire life.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hondeling - Jerusalem Style

I went to buy a baby mattress for my granddaughter's crib today. After I picked the size, thickness and outside material, the store's owner announced, "190 NIS".
Since I live in Greater Jerusalem, an official Hondeling (Bargaining) Capital of the World, I know better than to say, "Sold," on the first price, so I asked for a discount. He bellowed, "Discount!?!?!"
I said, "Yes, discount! This is a warehouse. There should be a discount."
He said, "Okay, 180 NIS."
I told him I'd be happier paying 150. "Impossible," the large Sephardi man said (with great flourish, I may add). "Just think of it as chai (life = 18) x 10."
I said, "170. That's 180 (chai x 10) minus 10 for the aseret hadibrut (ten commandments)." He retorted, "Impossible, believing Jews never go down in kedusha (holiness)."
I wanted to pay 150, but he wasn't budging from 180 NIS. He said that the price was very good.
So, I thought, "When G-d created the world, He said that it was very good. There are seven days of creation x 10=70, plus 100, which is a name of G-d. 170 NIS!!"
He said that there was no way that he wanted to go down any further, but because he enjoyed my "figuring", it was worthwhile for him to make the price 170 NIS.
It wouldn't have happened anywhere else but Jerusalem. You gotta love it.

The Hadassah Empire Our Grandmothers Built

College starts today. Tremendous success to all those young people who are starting out on the road to a better education and a career that will benefit their family and society.
As I noticed the young people streaming in to the Hadassah College in Jerusalem, my thought wandered in place and time to all the little young and old ladies who spent their lives (literally) raising money for Hadassah. 
"Come to a Hadassah meeting, Sadie. We're raising money for a new school for children in Israel. A college so they can be trained for the future." "Oooooh. Israel. That's so beautiful, Gertrude, I'll be there!!"
Thanks to all those little ladies who paid to attend lectures, luncheons, pot luck dinners and theater matinees, thousands of youngsters are receiving the chance of a lifetime - a top drawer education.
Thanks to all those little Bubbies and Grammas who weren't embarrassed to talk their neighbors into buying raffle tickets to benefit children in Israel, thousands of young people are slinging their backpacks over their shoulders today and heading to (not one, but) two campuses of Hadassah College to learn to be dentists, optometrists, computer programmers, designers, office managers, administrators and on and on.
Thank you to the ladies of Hadassah who never tired of asking others to join on, to become life members, to work to make enough money to earn a necklace, a pin, a charm. 
Those sweet charms also built two giant hospital complexes - among the best in the world.
Looking at the massive structures at Hadassah Ein Kerem and Hadassah Mount Scopus hospitals, it's difficult to believe that these life saving complexes were build by little old ladies, who probably shed a tear of happiness every time they sent away their regular donation to their Hadassah chapter.
They are the great women of our generation and our previous generation.
They were and remain lovers of the people and the land of Israel.
They are the women who should be honored and raised upon the shoulders of the young people entering Hadassah College today or who leave Hadassah Hospital healthy and whole.
Here's to Bubby Sadie and Gramma Bessie, Tanta Selma and Auntie Rhoda and the thousands of women wearing their Hadassah pins. You are the founders of a giant empire of chesed (loving kindness) that is making Israel's todays and tomorrows much brighter in every way.