Thursday, December 29, 2011

Let's Explore Ashdod Port

I visited Ashdod Port today with a busload of friends from Efrat. The new Visitors' Center is a 21st century base to learn more about the Ashdod Port – the only Sabbath observing port in the entire world.
The Ashdod port was built over the course of four years from 1961 to 1965 on a stretch of totally empty land. The city of Ashdod actually grew out of the port, as a place where immigrants could move and find work.
Our tour guide told us that Israel needed another port, because Eilat's port was too shallow, Ashkelon's shore had cliffs, Tel Aviv's shore is too densely populated, Haifa's port was too far north for many cargoes. Creating a port in Ashdod, where there was plenty of open space shortened the travel time for many industrial shipments and provided a deep water port, built on the open sea. In order to build the required breakwater, workers sunk 40,000 big "jack" shaped stones into the sea.
On our very interesting family tour, we saw how the port authority created breakwaters, wharf and facilities for modern vessels. The first ship that entered Ashdod's port was on November 21, 1965 – the Swedish ship "Wingland", which carried 11,600 tons of sugar.
After the Six Day War, Israel expanded in many ways, included in its port industry. The giant ship, Queen Elizabeth II, docked in Ashdod. It was a tremendous honor for the port. Israel's President Shimon Peres was the Minister of Transportation then, and attended the ceremony.
As ships became larger and more modernized, the Ashdod port has changed as well. The Eitan Terminal, named after the late IDF Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan, who headed the Ashdod expansion project, enabled the port to take in mammoth ships that are like small cities. The larger the ship the deeper the water it needs at the wharf. Our guide showed us the darker blue water of Eitan Terminal, and explained the darker the water, the deeper it is. It measures 15.5 meters deep.
Our guide said that the new ships were so gigantic, they can carry 4000 cars on each. About 2000 ships with varied cargo enter Ashdod Port each year, he said.
Our guide told us that when America introduced the Metal Container to the shipping business, things changed forever. Today a million containers enter the Ashdod port aboard ships every year. Mountains of red, yellow, blue, and green containers were piled up al around.
We drove around the massive port. Twenty-five thousand cars are just sun bathing waiting for 2012 to begin so they can be sold as 2012 cars. A sea of Volkswagons sat parked at the port, plus aisles and aisles of buses, trucks and tractors. A train track ran through the port. In fact, we saw a new train that had just been off-loaded from a ship. We saw giant cranes that carry ashore the containers. They looked like they popped straight out of an erector's set.
We also caught a glimpse of some beautiful cruise ships docked there. Our guide said that 450,000 tourists came to Israel on ship in the last three years.
All kinds of cargo goes through Ashdod port, including agricultural exports, citrus fruit, timber, metals, bulk cargo and more.
Harbors need still water in order to load and unload their goods. Therefore ships do not run their engines when they come into the breakwater. Tugboats go out to sea to navigate the ship and push/pull/move it into the correct direction to its quay. And then they guide the ship back again after about what is usually a two-day stay at the port.
Terror at the Port
Six years ago, terror hit the port. Two Arab terrorists killed ten people. Today a traffic circle has been planted with ten trees in memory of those killed by Arab terrorists.
A Great Family Experience
The trip was exciting and fascinating. There were even family activities that everyone enjoyed. Families are invited to come to the port in groups (rent a bus), but children must be over age 9. No babies. No strollers.
Thank you to Judy Rosenstark who initiated the idea, to the Matnas Efrat for organizing the bus and welcoming the travelers with yummy holiday souvganiyot (donuts), and to our hosts at the port. Well done.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Biblical Fiction Author Ben-Tzion Spitz of Destiny's Call

I just completed an amazing new book by a local Gush Etzion author, Ben-Tzion Spitz. 

Destiny’s Call: Book One - Genesis is Ben-Tzion's first work of Biblical Fiction. It is 187 pages long and published by Valiant Publishing.
Ben-Tzion Spitz began writing Biblical Fiction as a reaction to the losing battle that the Bible today is waging against TV, movies and the internet. Inspired by success of JRR Tolkien’s rich, exciting and detailed realm of The Lord of the Rings, Ben-Tzion looked at Jewish history and wanted to bring it to life for today’s readers. Although lacking elves and hobbits, Ben-Tzion wrote, “We have a history, a tradition, a story of Man himself. From the beginning of time. From the Foundation of History. The story of Adam...Noah…the Flood..Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…the Twelve Tribes…the Exodus…Moses and the Commandments. And much more.” 
Basing his work on extensive biblical commentary, along with research in archaeology and geography, Ben-Tzion masterfully weaves his stories into a fantasy world that he hopes will interest the modern reader enough to send him to the original Sources to discover what is “based upon the text and what is fictional…What else does the Bible say? What other mysteries, adventures and revelations are hidden with in its pages?”
Ben-Tzion’s first novel, Destiny’s Call gives a new dimension of life and drama to the stories and personalities of the book of Genesis (Bereishit). Complete with Tolkein -like maps and timelines, Destiny’s Call grabs readers on page 1 with Lemech the blind blacksmith and doesn’t loosen its grasp until the sly Pharoah takes the scene.
In between Ben-Tzion fascinates us with tales of the iron rule of Nimrod the masochistic megalomaniac;  the private debates of Aner, Eshkol and Mamre; the personal post-blessing crisis between Isaac and Rebecca; the last moments of Rachel’s life and more. I could not put Destiny’s Call down. In this book of gems, the thrilling story of Joseph’s trial before Pharoah is the jewel in the volume’s crown. 
Ben-Tzion will soon be publishing novels based on the other four books of the Chumash.

Meet the author and explore the epic world of Biblical Fiction in this Voices video clip:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Minister Israel Katz Inaugurates Efrat Traffic Circle

Chanukah is often an occasion for a chanukat habayit (the inauguration of a new home), but the future-city of Efrat used the holiday to inaugurate a new traffic circle at the Efrat Junction, Route 3157. "Once the existence of a well was the sign of a town," said Efrat's Chief Rabbi HaRav Shlomo Riskin, "Today it is a proper road."

The new circle, located at Efrat's southern entrance, was built to prevent traffic accidents, which have caused several fatalities at that spot.
The traffic circle, Efrat's fifth, was only one of the many projects undertaken thanks to Minister of Transportation and Road Safety Knesset Member Israel Katz. According to Efrat's Mayor Oded Revivi, the Transportation Ministry has spent 16 million shekels in Efrat – fixing the crosswalks, building stroller and wheel chair accessible crossings, creating a bus bay outside one of the schools, installing speed bumps and traffic circles, culminating in its newest, most expensive and most vital circle – one that Revivi and Katz hope will save lives at what was a treacherous intersection.
Mayor Revivi told participants in the ceremony that when Minister Katz came to Efrat two years ago, Oded showed him the one tractor that had been sent to work on the town's first traffic circle. "The excitement over the one tractor in Efrat was as great as if we had a construction permit to build a skyscraper, and yet all we got was a permit to build our first traffic circle."
Oded told the Minister, "See what one tractor does to Efrat's residents. If we only received building permits, what a party we would make."

Outgoing Gush Etzion Mayor Shaul Goldstein has been working to improve the traffic situation at this junction for many years, Revivi noted. But even after monies were budgeted, the traffic circle did not move forward because it needed additional land for a properly built circle. Although the court ruled that jointly-used roads could appropriate private lands, if needed, the road remained frozen until the Moetza offered to move the traffic circle onto Efrat land.
Since the monies were no longer available, Minister Katz had to work very hard to rescue the project's budget.
The project was saved and a large gathering, including residents of Efrat, Gush Etzion Rosh Ha'Ayin, and even the Muchtar of the village Jurat al-Shama'a were present at the ceremony. The Muchtar's villagers have also been involved in traffic accident's at Efrat's Southern Entrance.
Ironically the ceremony was held right after a traffic accident had occurred at Efrat's northern exit, which needs a drastic transportation and road safety solution. "Once every two days, we have an accident there," Revivi noted.
[BTW, during the ceremony Oded Revivi revealed that Efrat was given yet another Chanukah prize. Just today the Ministry of Housing delivered to Efrat the booklets about housing on Givat HaDagan. He thanked the Prime Minister for making it happen.]

Efrat's Chief Rabbi HaRav Shlomo Riskin reiterated that it is a tremendous mitzvah to make roads and traffic circles in the State of Israel, so that we can live safely. The construction of this critical road led Rabbi Riskin to recite the blessing, "Blessed are You, God, our Lord, king of the universe, who establishes the boundary of the widow" (which is usually pronounced upon seeing the houses of Israel in their glory).
He also recited, "Blessed…who commanded us to guard our souls."
Minster Israel Katz explained the importance of the circle. "In Judea and Shomron, traffic control and infrastructure are for safety and in order to save lives. We all know that a hole in the road and a missing light here means a loss of security.|
The Ministry of Transportation's comprehensive plans throughout Yesha began two years ago. Much has been accomplished, and there is much more to go.
He concluded by explaining the connection between Jews everywhere with Gush Etzion.
He said, "I am not a religious Jew that keeps all the mitzvoth, but from my chinuch (education), I know what most Israelis know. We have a Biblical right to this area. There should be no reason to stop building or for Jews to stop living here. And it is every person's right to travel safely."
Minister Katz announced a special project that the Ministry of Transportation has undertaken, Netivei Yisrael (the lanes of Israel) which will correct "injustices of the past", including the isolation of the Negev and the Galil. "These areas need to be connected, just as the communities of Gush Etzion do. I hope one day a train will connect to Yehuda and Shomron."
Katz ended, "We will do everything we can to strengthen us, because your living here strengthens us."

Watch the video:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Chanukah - Homes on the Dagan

A Chanukah Miracle!!
After ten years of a building freeze, the Ministry of Housing delivered to Efrat marketing booklets for 30 housing units of Efrat's northern hill, Givat HaDagan.
Efrat's Mayor Oded Revivi made the announcement today at the Inaugural Ceremony for Efrat's new southern traffic circle, a construction project that will IY"H save many lives on the road.
Watch the announcement on this video:
You may not understand the Hebrew (which was translated above), but the applause is universal.

Happy Chanukah - One Light. One People

Happy Chanukah.
Tonight all over the world Jews are lighting their Chanukah menorahs. In Hebrew, they're called Chanukiyot (to distinguish them from the seven branched menorah that stood in the Holy Temple).
Chanukah is one of the rare holidays that just about all Jews on every continent celebrate. Tonight each person is lighting one candle, the first of the week.
It's such a great feeling to sense the unity of Am Yisrael (the Jewish Nation) at this moment. Whether they're lighting in stone, in silver or in a tiny wooden menorah – everyone is lighting. One candle. One light. One family. One nation.
B"H, we're lucky to belong to this ancient people, to recall the miracle of Chanukah, to recall the devotion of the Hasmoneans to G-d, Jerusalem and the Holy Temple.
Happy Chanukah. May your lights shine brightly.

Not familiar with the story of Chanukah? 
Well, watch here (let the video download fully before watching) :

Healthy Play in the 21st Century

My town opened a new playground this week with state-of-the-art equipment imported from Denmark. First glance at the new park makes you wonder, "What's that?" And that's probably the point. On the wiggly and whooshy shapes, the kids can explore and experiment, take on new challenges, make friends and simply have fun.
The park is gorgeous. Its shiny steel and colorful accessories make it a very inviting place. While I was there with my kids, dozens of other children felt "invited" too. Since play areas are created to enhance a child's quality of life, this new park surely passed with flying colors.
Created by Kompan, the folks who "bring play to life", the shapes of the play equipment are as much a work of modern art as they are a function of activity. Kids were twirling on some "modern art", bouncing and balancing, climbing and even skate boarding.
And underneath it all is a new colorful and safe flooring made of recycled rubber tires. Wow, ecological too!
The equipment provided all the raw materials the kids needed for socializing and communicating; imagining and creating new games; tackling new tasks and learning new skills; and getting that playground buzz that comes after a successful day of play.
Thanks to my community Efrat and my local municipality (and whomever else) for the great new park.
The kids and parents loved it.
View our new park here:

    Monday, December 19, 2011

    Always Fair Weather

    It's a beautiful day. Okay, it should be raining,'s a beautiful day to go to a fair.
    The Matnas of Efrat has a fair going on right now.
    I love fairs. Whether they're in parking lots or on gym floors, I love fairs. They remind me of the Old County Fairs in America. Well, they don't have livestock here or 100 pound pumpkins or blue ribbons for the town's best jam, but they've got the greatest selection of home-based crafts and boutique businesses around.
    Right now in the Matnas, they've got organic dates from the Jordan Valley growers association, home-made children's gifts, like headband holders (bet you never heard of headband holders), fabulous home-made jewelry, ingenious wooden games, knitted sweaters, ceramics, plus a representation of the small home-based businesses in the area from clothing to photography to Shabbat candle oil and Chanukah cookies.
    I was proud from the moment I walked in and saw Dapei Katom - - to the second I left. There's nothing like a fair. You shmooze with the vendors and the fellow buyers and you go home with creative gifts you can't get anywhere else.

    Buy some goodies and enjoy.

    Friday, December 16, 2011

    It's the Gift that Counts

    We love the saying, "It's the thought that counts." That means that a gift we give or an action that we do is only a reflection of the feeling we had behind the gift or act.
    But I've also heard things like, "I wanted to get you a help you with bring you...but I couldn't, but then again, it's the thought that counts." Let's be truthful. Sometimes it's true, and sometimes that's just a big excuse. I could give a million examples, but let's leave it. :)
    Especially now when the holidays are just about upon us, and everyone is worrying about what he'll give and what he'll receive, it's a good time to contemplate gift giving.
    Sometimes it really is the gift that counts.
    This afternoon my granddaughter came for Shabbat. We've been planning this for a few weeks, and both she and I were excited.
    She handed me a gift, although, truthfully, her presence was my present. It was a plastic bag with a friendly sticker on it. Inside were a dozen "candies", wrapped carefully. She's six, and she doesn't have any money to spend for a gift, but she wanted to give me something special. So, over the past few weeks, every time she or a friend had a candy, she saved the wrapper. When her collection grew, she put a small pebble inside each wrapper and closed it up just like a candy. That would be a nice decoration for my table or counter. But I brought it downstairs to my office instead, and put it right above my desk with my precious things. And now when I look up, I can see the plastic bag with the "candies" that were a gift, filled with my granddaughter's love.

    Wednesday, December 14, 2011

    My Son the Almost Doctor

    Actually, it's not my son. And he's not a doctor. But the title sounded good.
    My friend's son became a Medic today in the Israel Defense Forces. A medic is almost like a field doctor in combat. He is trained in all kinds of emergency medical procedures. And he stays with his unit in training, in peace and in war. He is not only trained in his company's expertise, but he is also trained with the skills of just about every form of lifesaving.
    The thing that so surprised me about the medics' graduation ceremony (and B"H, I've been to many Army graduations) is the recitation of the "Oath of the Medic". The oath was read out loud by the soldiers' commander. In it, each medic agrees to "treat any injured person, be they friend of enemy, and never to leave an injured man behind."
    Those are the values of the Israeli Army. 
    May Hashem watch over all these medics and their units, and may He keep them all from harm.
    Mazel tov to my friends and all parents whose children serve their nation in so many different ways.

    By the Beach of Ashkelon

     While visiting the coast of Ashkelon last week, we decided to walk along the water. We never did that before. There's a beautiful path from the main beach entrance to the Holiday Inn Hotel.

    The path is dotted with fun and comfortable benches for sun tanning, spots for surf watching, exercise areas for adults, and fun equipment for children to play on. Their playground equipment was in the shape of whales plunging into the ocean.

    We discovered something else along the beach path - a five or even eight hundred year old burial place of an Arab shiekh. Right there over looking the beach. There's no bio of Sheikh Awad, so I can't say who he is. But I can tell you what I read.
    The domed burial place is dated from the Mameluke era (1260-1516 AD).
    The central chamber has a prayer recess (machrab) in the southern wall facing Mecca. This building is part of a series of holy sites built by the Mamelukes along the coast, in their attempt to strengthen the western frontier of the country.

    One more note about the newly refurbished boardwalk. It is dotted with the nicest lamp posts along the way. The tops of each lamp has a crown of a castle. It's not really a castle. It's the outline of the old city of Ashkelon, which was a port city with a high wall around it. 

    The lamp light crowns lend a grandeur and a pride to Ashkelon that tie the city to its ancient past.

    Friday, December 9, 2011

    Singing in the Rain

    If you're reading this from Israel, you know that IT RAINED on Thursday evening - a real rain - just like it rained in the old country. It rained for a few hours. It rained until there were puddles. It rained until little rivulets ran down the street. It rained until all the shopping bags from today's supermarket excursion were dotted with beads of water.
    Boy, we need that rain! Israel National News reported that the Kinneret "water level of the lake now stands at 701.049 feet below sea level -- still 13.77 feet below the level at which conditions are considered 'normal.'" And we need much more serious rain to make any improvements (which we so desperately need) in the Kinneret.
    My three-year-old granddaughter and I were driving back from shopping, and as the windshield wipers shwished and shwooshed, we decided to sing a rain song. "Hooray for the rain. Hooray for the rain. Thank you, Hashem, for the blessed blessed rain."
    She loved our little ditty, but then she asked me to sing in the rain, sing in the rain. I was singing in the rain, and she was joining me. Well, I finally realized that she was asking me to sing, "Singing in the Rain." The tap troupe in which I dance is learning "Singing in the Rain" and we're often singing and dancing it all over my house. I didn't know that my three-year-old caught on. But she did.
    So, we sang the Gene Kelly version, which I actually tap to (but not while driving) - And then I went into a spirit Judy Garland version, which has always been one of my favorites -
    My granddaughter loved them both, but that wasn't enough. She wanted everyone singing along with us, but we were alone in the car, so I "talk boxed" my sister in Florida, so that we could all sing together.
    The sun was shining in Central Florida. The flamingos and the alligators were soaking up the rays, but we were all singing in the rain.
    B"H for all of today's rain. I'm in my office now, listening to the cars phttttitttatt-ing by as the rain spins in their tires. It's music to my ears. Almost as good as "Singing in the Rain."

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Three Cheers for Efrat Fencing Students

    The Efrat fencing students have put together a petition to the Israel Fencing Association that the entire community is signing. The swordspersons are observant Jews and are unable to participate in Israel's fencing competitions, because they are held on the Sabbath. The Efrat swordspersons have requested that competitions be held during the week so that they can participate and progress in fencing.
    UPDATED INFO: The Efrat Fencers Case comes before the courts on Thursday, 12 Kislev, December 8. I spoke to Eyal the fencing instructor, who feels very strongly that the courts will rule against religious discrimination for these terrific young people.
    Jewish children from religious homes throughout the world who participate in sports are faced with challenges all the time. Not only do they train with all their hearts for their sport, they have to do everything they can not to compromise their religious principles. 
    Often we read about Jewish basketball players or gymnasts or swimmers from different countries, who give up participating in "the big game" (or a little one)  because of their devotion to the Sabbath or Jewish holidays.
    I can understand these conflicts in Britain, America, Australia or anywhere in the Diaspora, but a Torah Jew should not have these problems in Israel, a Jewish country.
    Torah-observant competitors should not be penalized because they cannot compete on Sabbath. Sports competitions should be held n a day when everyone can compete.
    In fact, an article in Israel National News from three years ago reaffirms that swordspersons do not have to compete on Shabbat:
    In October 2008, "The court ruled in favor of Yuval Freilich, a national champion in fencing in the under-13 category who brought a case against the national fencing association." The judge ruled that either Freilich could compete on Motzei Shabbat (Saturday night) or he would receive a technical victory in any competition held on Shabbat.
    Three cheers for Efrat's talented swordspersons who want to advance in fencing, and yet more than anything, treasure the Sabbath and want to observe it and keep it holy.

    Here is their petition. Please sign it:
    We Sabbath observers Swordspersons, wishing to participate in competitions. Israeli swordsman union decision to hold the fencing competitions on Shabbatot, except for the Championship, prevents us participate in these competitions. This decision affects our right to Progress in the sport of fencing. We ask you to help us make the union change the day of competition.
    Please, Enter the petition site and sign:


     Efrat fencing class children

    Monday, December 5, 2011

    Efrat Preschoolers Appreciate Classic Israeli Literature

    One of Voices readers, Rabbi Jeffrey Saks, Director, ATID - Academy for Torah Initiatives and Directions, told us that many yeshiva high schools are allowing students to opt out of classic Israeli literature, and replacing those classes with "Israeli Thought". S.Y. Agnon and Hayim Nahman Bialik and others are being sidestepped in many yeshiva high schools.
    The Ministry of Education is very concerned with this trend, and investigating it right now. More on the subject:,7340,L-4021475,00.html

    Meanwhile, Rabbi Saks sent us a very special video to show that while the Lit Masters may be on the outs with high schoolers, Efrat's youngest population values legendary authors like Bialik. (Presenting four-year-old Yair Saks.) 

    Watch the video clip here:

    Sunday, December 4, 2011

    Gush Etzion Deputy Mayor Speaks about Road Safety

    Gush Etzion is no longer a sleepy backwoods area. B"H, each of the Gush Etzion communities is growing, which brings more traffic along with that growth. Its main road, Route 60, also services the communities of Hebron, Kiryat Arba and towns south of the Gush.
    Moreover, with the popularity of the Rami Levi Supermarket, traffic is even more congested at the Gush Etzion Junction.
    Gush Etzion has been the scene of many traffic accidents, and residents are very concerned about further traffic hazards.
    Voices spoke to Yair Wolf, Deputy Mayor of Gush Etzion and current Acting Mayor, about traffic problems in the Gush. Here's a video clip in Hebrew about what Yair Wolf said:

    Loose English translation: Yair has requested three traffic lights for Route 60:
    ** Elazar Junction
    ** Neve Daniel Junction
    ** Efrat Junction
    He has also spoken to police about residents' road safety concerns. Yair encourages everyone to write to the police and the Road Works Department, becuase community involvement will strengthen Gush Etzion's requests for solutions to road dangers.

    Saturday, December 3, 2011

    What's Up, Efrat? #4

    Welcome to the fourth edition of What's Up, Efrat?

    Watch the VIDEO CLIP:
    If it's happening in Efrat, we'll tell you about it.
    AND DON’T FORGET TO check the charges of the different programs.
    On Tuesday, November 29, Efrat residents went to court once again for the class action suit against the Electric Company, who claimed there was only one black out in Efrat and Gush Etzion since the last hearing on June 19.
    Everyone watching this knows there have been many! A few weeks ago, the morning blackout had men praying Shacharit in freezing pitch black synagogues and folks stuck inside the electric gates of their towns, unable to leave for work.
    Just this week, there were three long black outs.
    Yechiel Fishman, organizer of the class action suit, told What's Up Efrat that the Electric Company has many lawyers and can push off the suit, but they cannot push off the inevitable. "It has been like David and Goliath," Yechiel said. "We are small, but we are smart and patient, and IY"H, in the end, justice will be on our side."
    On April 16th, the judge is set to rule whether she will allow the class action suit to continue. Stay tuned.
    Some cultural news – this past week the Matnas of Efrat and the Matnas of Gush Etzion inaugurated a joint Children’s Theater program. Congratulations to the two Matnasim and their directors for working together for the benefit of all the residents of Efrat and Gush Etzion.
    Their first show was CASPION, the Little Fish – a real crowd pleasure. We look forward to more joint programs in the future!!!
    Eitam news!! The government has approved in principle the establishment of agricultural projects on Givat HaEitam.  This is a first step in a long series of advances needed for the Eitam. We must keep visiting the Eitam and make it part of our Efrat lives.
    Friday morning, 6 Kislev, 2/12
    As part of the weekly activities on Efrat's Givat Eitam, HaRav Shlomo Riskin will give a shiur at 9 AM in Hebrew on "Israel's Holiness – Dependent on What?"  Meet at the Eitam gate at 8:45 AM.
    Motzei Shabbat, 7 Kislev, 3/12
    The Matnas of Efrat presents an evening for 25-35 year olds, the screening of newest episodes of the TV series "Serugim", followed by a discussion with series creator and director Laizy Shapira. 8 PM at the Matnas. Plus coffee, cake and schmoozing.
    Also Motzei Shabbat, the older set is invited to the Matnas for a talk and a film presented by David Bedein on his new book, "Where has all the Flour Gone", a look at UN Palestinian refugee policy. 8 PM at the Efrat Library, admission free.
    Tuesday, 10 Kislev, 6/12
    Book club at the Efrat Library discussing the book, Three Wisemans of Westport in English. 8:15 PM, everyone welcome. For info, contact Naava 0528903828.

    Thursday, 12 Kislev, 8/12
    Matnas Gush Etzion invites the theater-going public to the "Dybbuk", 9 PM. Info?
     Friday, 13 Kislev, 9/12
     9 AM on the Eitam, Dr. Baruch Sterman speaks about the Mystery of Techelet.
    And from 10 AM to noon, visit the Fourth Annual Zayit Raanan Chanukah Fair. Find beautiful Chanukah gifts by talented local artists.
    Monday, 16 Kislev, 12/12
    The Efrat Social Services Department is hosting a Chanukah event on Monday afternoon for families of special needs children. Contact Sharona Blank,
    Tuesday, 17 Kislev, 13/12
    Comedy for Koby takes the stage in Matnas Gush Etzion with an impressive lineup of some of the favorite performers in the stand-up world. Proceeds to the Koby Mandell Foundation. Tickets?
    Wednesday, 18 Kislev, 14/12
    Enjoy a Chanukah fair with arts, gifts and food in Alon Shvut.  Contact Caryn Orbach,
    Friday, 20 Kislev, 16/12
    Ronen Shoval, chairman of Im Tirtzu, speaks at 9 AM on the Eitam on "The Deligitimization of Israel."
    Motzei Shabbat, 21 Kislev, 17/12
    Don't miss the second concert in Gush Etzion's "Classika BaGush" series – the internationally acclaimed Gorfinkel Duo on clarinet with Alexandra Nemirovsky on Piano. 8:30 PM. A fabulous performance.

    Another event: You're invited to an evening of Jewish Poetry Reading by Yakov Azriel from his new book Swimming in Moses' Well: Poems on Numbers, in the home of Mindy Barad. 8 PM. More info:

    Monday, 23 Kislev, 19/12
    You're invited to a Chanukah Fair at Matnas Efrat from noon to 10 PM. Top designer clothing, jewelry, scarves, knitwear, photography, hats, toys, candles, children's clothes, bags, cosmetics, games, books, great food by Duo Café and children's activities.
    On Wednesday evenings, Efrat's Social Service Department and Educational Psychology Service invites parents from Efrat and Gush Etzion of elementary school children on the autistic spectrum to a new support group from 8-9:30 PM in Efrat's Center for Parent Empowerment. Contact Sharona Blank – 993-9315.
    Wednesday, 25 Kislev, 21/12
    The Efrat library presents Chanukah Stories and activities for children. 1 NIS!! At the Library.
    Also Wednesday, Women and girls are invited to the Matnas Efrat Annual Chanukah Dance Recital at 5:30 PM. The Dance Department of the Matnas Efrat, headed by Tehilla Makover, puts on a terrific show with all kinds of dance. Don't miss it.
    Thursday-Motzei Shabbat, 26-28 Kislev, 22-24/12
    From Thursday through Motzei Shabbat, Efrat is inviting parents and teens to a few days of bonding REFRESH – through activities that will strengthen communication and family relationships. Contact the Moetza for more information.
    Thursday, 26 Kislev, 22/12
    The Zayit Branch of Efrat's Matnas presents the children's show Petunia's Goose at 11 AM.
    Sunday, 29 Kislev, 25/12
    Minister of Culture Limor Livnat presents a Chanukah gift to the children of Efrat, a free performance of the famous tale, "Hamefuzar M'kfar Azar", for children from gan through 3rd grade. Parents pay 10 NIS. 11 AM at the Gefen Matnas.
    Monday and Tuesday, 30 & 31 Kislev, 26 &27/12
    The library presents arts and crafts activities for children for 1 NIS. Wow.
    There will be jumping castles for the kids at the Zayit Matnas.
    Tuesday evening, there's also Hadlakat Nerot Chanukah and an Erev Shira in Russian in the Ulam Rakefet of the Gefen Matnas at 6 PM.
    A new Thursday evening Drama Ulpan has just begun at 8:30 PM in the Efrat Emergency Center. Develop your Hebrew vocabulary and boost your confidence through role playing scenarios that reflect every day life.
    Contact Dena Lehrman: 054-9425600
    Lastly, the Efrat Women's Health Center will begin its second season of healthy living workshops after Chanukah.  For more information, contact Dr. Tsipi Morris. Or read my blog:
    Thanks for joining us for this edition of What's Up, Efrat?
    Here's to Good news!!!