Thursday, December 27, 2012

DAMES 6 - A Tribute to Women

The women of ALL AGES from
my own family! They don't all dance, 
but they ALL inspire!
Our dancing shoes are just "smoking" from use. We're beginning to gather costumes and accessories. We've got to get the poster ready, and "DAMES of the Dance 6 - A Tribute to Women" will be ready to sell tickets for the upcoming performing season. We're all really excited.

This DAMES is a tribute to Women! It is a tribute to our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, our best friends. They are people we love, adore, admire and appreciate.

It is a tribute to their self-sacrifice, their courage, their smile, their love, their empowerment.

It is a tribute to the women who raise the next generation, who instill them with pride and teach them not to fear, who encourage them to try and succeed. It is about the women who are beautiful inside and out, and teach their children to feel beautiful and smart and strong and successful (even when they are not).

It is a tribute to the women who light their Shabbat candles, say Shma in bed with their children, make their challot, feed their families, learn with their little ones, teach them their brachot, support their husbands, inspire their friends and families.
It is a tribute to the women who teach the next generation and the next about love of Hashem, our Torah, our brethren and Eretz Yisrael.

It is a tribute to the women who rise early and work long hard hours, who travel far to make a living, who work at small jobs and large, who run companies and countries, and yet will sit up all night studying with their teenager for a final or rocking or nursing a new baby, or jump out of bed to calm a frightened child.

It is a tribute to women who truthfully make everything in the world happen, while they bolster everyone else and encourage them to make things happen too.

This is what we keep this in mind as we develop our numbers.

This is not just a show. This is a tribute to women, and we must make it A TRIBUTE TO WOMEN.

For ticket information, keep up with our facebook page, .

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

DISGUSTING - Arab Stone-Throwing at Rachel's Tomb

I didn't know whether to title this blog, DISGUSTING or HUMILIATING. But I decided for the former, because that's how today's scene at Rachel's Tomb seemed to me.
I drove, as on every other visit, to Rachel's Tomb to pray, together with my dearest Mother (until 120) and my lovely daughter.
As we exited the car, we noticed groups of people standing around - half on the parking lot side of the street and half in the entrance to Rachel's Tomb.
Two armored police trucks were holding back the worshippers.
Arabs were throwing stones over the giant cement barrier. Smashed stones and shattered glass lay on the street in front of Kever Rachel. Policemen were calling out blurred instructions through their megaphones.
Visitors were told they could enter Rachel's Tomb, the burial place of the Jewish Biblical matriach Rachel if they could "run quickly and keep against the wall."
That is how one comes to pray at the resting place of his grandmother - running for his life, hoping to dodge the stones and boulders lobbed from a few meters away on the other side of the wall?
I was so excited to cap off our lovely family day today with a family visit to
Mama Rachel. My own mother had come 5000 miles to visit her loved ones, and every trip to Eretz Yisrael is made complete with a visit to and heartfelt prayer by the burial place of our beloved Matriarch Rachel.
Jews from all over the world put Kever Rachel - Judaism's third holiest site, after the Kotel and the Cave of Machpelah - on their must-visit list.
But not today.
Everyone stood around waiting, whispering, impatiently trying to show patience, shaking their heads in DISGUST.
My mother cannot run 100 meters, dodging stones and boulders on the way. And even if she could, I would not allow it.
So we stood along with everyone else.
We watched full armored border policemen watching stone throwers. As far as we saw, there was no response - no tear gas, no paint guns, no anything.
Thus goes a sunny afternoon in the little town of Bethlehem, where today, thanks to Arab stone throwers, there is no "peace on earth" and certainly no "good will toward men" or women or children who simply wanted to pray, or unburden their hearts at their grandmother Rachel's side.
I surely hope that on the other side of the wall, soldiers were about to pounce.
We'll never know unless an Arab is injured, and therefore, the incident will make the news.
We turned back to the car, and waited for permission to drive out. They said, "Drive out quickly and carefully." Quickly, I could manage, avoiding rocks aimed at my car was beyond my ability.
We raced out and saw a line of cars waiting to enter.
Sorry, friends. Today, you cannot visit your grandmother.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Gift that Keeps Giving - Light

How appropriate that on this holiday of Chanukah - the Holiday of Lights - the State of Israel, the Israeli Departments of Transportation and Roads, and the Councils of Gush Etzion and Efrat have gifted residents of Efrat and Gush Etzion, as well as all those who drive along Route 60, with THE GIFT OF LIGHTS. Traffic lights.
This morning, as I drove out of the northern entrance of Efrat on the Shayarot (Convoy) Road, I was greeted by brand new traffic lights.
Suddenly instead of the usual mass of cars, bunched up upon one another like guinea pigs seeking warmth, cars were lined up civilly, waiting their turn to drive on to Route 60.
No more inching forward, hoping to make a turn before a speeding vehicle bears down on you. Now on-coming traffic has a red light, while cars from inside Efrat turn carefully on to the road.
This junction on Route 60 has been particularly dangerous, as vehicles speed by from the Beitar-El Khader light going south and the Southern Efrat light going north. Drivers from the Shayarot Road have literally taken their lives in their hands to get on to the highway. Several tragically have lost their lives in the attempt.
Acknowledging the treacherous traffic turn off, Israel's Transportation Minister Israel Katz (no relation to the author) announced last year that he would install a traffic light at the frightening intersection. And he did it.
This gift of lights truly is a gift that keeps giving - because it is giving the local drivers the gift of life and safer driving, IY"H, for many years to come.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

What's Up, Efrat? Chanukah 5773

Watch What's Up, Efrat? Chanukah edition, right here:

Or read it here:

Welcome to the What's Up, Efrat Chanukah edition.
There's so much to speak about, we hope this edition will encourage you to check out the Efratone and Gushpanka and find loads of great activities for your family.

First, we'd like to read a letter that we received from the Southern families who sought refuge here during the war.
"Thanks and great appreciation to residents of Efrat, especially the residents of 14 Rechov Yehuda HaMaccabee. Tremendous thanks and appreciation for all you have done for us - families who came from Ashdod to Efrat in the difficult days of the war.
For your contribution in bringing meals, helping with the laundry, the loan of a baby carriage, your shining faces and your sincere desire to help us.
Special thanks to Meir Alipur who donated his apartment to us. Our thanks to the Yad B'Yad gemachim, who helped us on such short notice.
Our blessings as well to Miri  Kelley and family who took care of the logistics,and hospitality, and all the Shabbat meals in her home.
Happy are you to live in a place filled with good people, who have been preoccupied with kindness and helping others. May we meet at smachot."

What's Up, Efrat? went out on location for Chanukah. Here's a peek at what's happening around town. 
The Aseh Chayil School held its Veshinantam Levanecha special parent-child learning recently. The children learned to deal with their fears through learning, sharing, speaking and prayer. Watch for a full video on the event.
The Efrat library will be open on Chanukah on Sunday and Wednesday from 3 PM to 9:30 PM. And on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 10 AM to 4 PM. Friday hours are as usual, 9:30 AM to 12:15 PM.

On Sunday, 25 Kislev, December 9th, the first day of Chanukah, Matnas Efrat is presenting ULTRA MADHIM, a show that will light up your day – 11 AM, at the Matnas.

The cast of ESTHER and the Secrets in the King's Court - Photo by Rebecca Flash Kowalsky, .
On the second night of Chanukah, Sunday, 26 Kislev, December 9, at 8:15 PM, join the women and girls of Raise Your Spirits for their smash-hit musical ESTHER and the Secrets of the King's Court. ESTHER is celebrating its tenth anniversary with an amazing production that has wowed its critics and audiences. To order tickets for Sunday's performance, or the next show on Thursday, December 27th, visit .

Efrat's religious scouts will be going on a camping trip from Sunday to Wednesday. While other youth will be enjoying a leadership seminar from Tuesday to Thursday.  And Bnei Akiva will be holding a Seminar from Wednesday to Friday.
On Monday, 26 Kislev, December 10th, join the One Israel Fun Chanukah Trip with Eve Harow. One Israel is traveling to the Hasmonean Hills to learn about the Chanukah story where it happened – Beit Choron, Neria, Neve Tzuf.
On Wednesday, 28 Kislev, December 12, Efrat residents 50+ are invited to participate in a trip to Jerusalem for an Adult Chidon Tanach, Bible Competition. It sounds great. Contact 9932936.
Or visit the Jordan Valley with One Israel on Thursday, 29 Kislev, December 13. Mevuot Yericho, the Einot Kedem Ranch, and more.
For more information, contact Zahava Englard 052-484-6034.
On Thursday at Matnas Efrat there's a Creative Workshop for Chanukah for children. Contact 9932936.
Zayit Raanan is having their annual pajanuka party on Thursday night, 6th candle, with arts and crafts, music, candle lighting, games, schtick, and a special slideshow of the kids of zayit. All children are invited to this fun evening. More information, Debbie Shohat at
Right after Chanukah, there'll be a three part series for parents of special needs children on Wednesday evenings in the Parent Empowerment Center:
December 19, 26 and January 2. The evenings will be informative and very important. Find out more by contacting Sharona Blank.
Also, there's going to be a Winter Happening for children with special needs and their families on Monday, January 7 from 4:00-6:00 pm in Aseh Chayil School with activities,a  show, dinner and a fire and light show.
RSVP to Sharona Blank 993-9315 at the Social Service Dept. of the Efrat Moetza or email 993-9315,
Also, Matnas Efrat is showing the not-to-be missed film, "Zohar HaRakia" on Motzei Shabbat 9 Tevet, December 22. And join Tzur Hartov on 16 Tevet, December 29th, for a Sing-along.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Damned if you do...and Damned if you don't

 It is twelve hours since the ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas has been implemented.
Everyone is claiming victory on this one: Israel, Hamas, Egypt and the United States. 
Israel is hinting that it has hurt Hamas terribly. Note: it doesn't say it has brought Hamas terrorism under control or that it has destroyed Hamas' ability to launch rockets against Jewish communities in Israel.
Hamas is touting the non-agreement status of the ceasefire, and is declaring that its people are ready for war whenever...
Egypt and the United States just think they are brilliant.
Abandoning the South?
Meanwhile, residents of the South are dismayed, despite a quiet night. I guess I feel like they do. I am happy the missiles and rockets have stopped (although there have been several Red Alerts, and the government is claiming that they are mistakes :) ). I want children to play without fear in the sunshine. I'm thankful that Jewish soldiers do not have to go into Gaza. But I am disappointed that the government has just abandoned the problem without finishing off the terrorists and their ability to strike Israel.
The Gaza situation is a clear cut Damned if you do..and Damned if you don't. 
I know the IAF struck more than 1000 rocket targets, but until the moment of the ceasefire and even afterwards, missiles were still being fired. So, perhaps there are thousands more targets. Okay, we know and appreciate what you destroyed. What have you left behind? The Arabs will just rearm and prepare for the next assault, chas v'shalom.
I appreciate the Air Force strikes. I just wish we had let our pilots and soldiers finish the job.
Then again, if the battle would have intensified, Israel would have been blamed and sanctioned for its aggression.
We are currently in the lowest position possible - lose-lose
If we go in with ground forces, then casualties would add up, chas v'shalom. If we don't go in, we can't wipe Gaza clean of terror. 
If we keep this cease fire, then the Arabs can rearm for the future, rebuild their terror infrastructure, and even attack in different ways (as evidenced already with a barrage of stonings, shootings, fire bombings in Israel's cities and on its roads), and we cannot retaliate, because that would escalate the violence. So we have to allow the Arabs to slap us, and injure us, while we lick our wounds and comfort out wounded. Lose-lose.
I appreciate the IDF and the IAF. I pray that Hashem protect them and give them success over their enemies. 
But friends, I think if we are going to be criticized anyway, it's important to keep Israel safe for the future. I think Israel's deterrence has to be big and loud and fearsome. Let the nations hate us, but let our people live in safety, even if it's safety and non-peace. 
I was going to write ...Win-lose. But it's actually win-win. Because if there's no war between Israel and its Arab neighbors, life could really be beautiful.  

** The caption on the top photo of Am Yisrael Chai's facebook page says, "Bibi, we have no problem sleeping on the stairs if you'll just come and destroy their structure."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Guest Blog from Beit El - WAITING FOR HILLARY

This is a guest blog, written by a Beit El resident. It is an excellent example of the mood in Israel today. Here's to the women of Beit El.
*. *. *.
Today I stood with neighbors of mine outside Bet El on the way to Ramallah. We had heard that Hillary Clinton was going there to speak to Mahmoud Abbas. We held signs saying, THERE IS NO MORAL EQUIVILANCY, CEASE FIRE=TERRORIST FIRE, and HILLARY-VISIT BET EL..

A car pulled up, and the driver slowly read the signs. He said very politely, and with an Arab accent, "I'm from Cease Fire. I want peace. Turn on your televisions and see what is happening to Gaza. Israel must stop." I bent down, close to the window, and said, "We also want peace. Thousands of missiles being shot into civilian populations in Israel will not bring peace." He answered, "Who started this? You did." I replied, "This began not last week, but years ago. We evacuated 9,000 Israelis from their homes in Gush Katif. We pulled out of Gaza. Instead of lessening the missiles, you increased them!

His face contorted, his voice tone changed, and out it came,"Get out of the West Bank. Go back to Poland you f---ing b-tch."And off he drove.

And that my friends is the crux of the matter. The Arabs do not want us here. Not in Gaza, not in Judea and Samaria, not in Jerusalem, not in Israel! But here we are, and here we shall remain.

We have made the desert bloom. If we had peace, we could help our neighbors do the same. Imagine a Middle East where the Arabs would want to benefit from our knowledge. Instead of Israel and the Arabs spending billions of dollars on defense, we could spend it on desalinization projects, hydroponic plant growing, better health care, medical research, better education, and on and on. Imagine the boon to tourism for everyone in the region.Israelis love to travel. We would get in our cars and visit multiple countries, not unlike Europeans. (A girl can dream, can't she?)

G-d gave the Jewish people a small slice of earth to be our eternal home.We're not going anywhere. He wants us to be "a light unto the nations". If only the nations of the world would let us.

Praying for the safe return of all our soldiers!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Are We All Making Believe??

Arab terrorists are aiming rockets and missiles at Israel's towns and cities. Israelis are sleeping in bomb shelters. Homes have been destroyed. Children are traumatized by the incessant missiles.
The Israeli Air Force is trying to destroy as many Gazan terror targets as it can. The Israeli Army is poised outside Gaza, waiting for further instructions. Every family has a father, son, brother, cousin, neighbor who has either been called up for "Tzav 8", emergency reserve duty or has been told to "be ready". At the checkpoints, every single car - Jewish or Arab - is being stopped. 
I think we can say without exaggeration that things are pretty tense in Israel today.
So, imagine how strange it is to walk around town with Arab workers on their building sites, as if nothing was different. How weird it is to be in the supermarket and watch Arabs enter, boisterously kidding around, as if the Mets are on the way to the championship. How bizarre it is to see Arab women leisurely lunching in the Mall as if it's a perfect autumn day with nothing having changed but the color of the leaves on the trees.
I keep wondering, "What are they thinking?" 
I can't even venture a guess.
On a regular day, we shop together, we drive on the same roads, we order from the same menu. But these are not regular days. And yet, we are all pretending that nothing is happening in Gaza and Ashkelon and Sderot and Ashdod and even Gush Etzion.
How long can we pretend?
Photo courtesy of Devorah Horev.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Go, Boys, Go!

My alarm was set this morning for 7:10, but low-flying jet planes shook me awake. "Drat," I thought.
Then I thought of my friends in the South who thank G-d and then the Israeli pilots every time a jet heads their way. The jet means Israel is trying to defend them! And after living under the barrage of more than ten thousand rockets in the past seven years since Israel abandoned Gaza to the Arab terrorists, the sound of jets above is very comforting.
One of my friends in the South posts, "Go boys, go!" on Facebook whenever she feels an Israeli Air Force fighter plane approaching.
So, I was up earlier than I'd wanted, but it was a good opportunity to get dressed and pray for the safety of Israeli soldiers and civilians, for an end to Arab terror and a final cessation to the firing of missiles and rockets on Israeli homes and schools, playgrounds and synagogues.

Friday, November 9, 2012

B"H and Thanks for Good People

Last week after speaking to my dearest mother (ad 120) in New York, as well as a few other individuals, their messages were loud and clear, "G-d loves me." []
There was so much devastation up and down the east coast of the United States, that they felt every positive thing in their lives was a manifestation of G-d's love for them.
I heard that the New York Post headline the other day was "G-d hates us." How disheartening! [It is the media's responsibility to report news, but to give hope! Hmm...that sounds like the subject of a different blog.]
The NY Post was surely lamenting the snowstorm on top of the crippling hurricane, causing even more destruction and homelessness. Tragically things certainly look black, literally, in parts of New York.
My dearest mother, may she live and be well until 120, had evacuated her home just before Hurricane Sandy hit, stayed with an aunt of my sister-in-law, then a friend, and then returned home finally when the electricity returned.
Suddenly late at night, while sitting finally in her warm kitchen, she heard a boom as the house shook, and then everything went black.
A neighbor's tree had fallen into her backyard, hit part of her house and had taken down the electric wires with it. Her neighbor and emergency services told her to "get out now." So, my wonderful elderly mother had to leave her house late at night and took refuge with a local rabbi.
Suddenly there was an unrelated explosion and the entire community was plunged once again into freezing darkness.
In the morning she returned home to get some belongings and saw a truck with a Minnesota license plate in front of her driveway. She went looking for the owner of the vehicle.
In her backyard was an entire crew of electric company men working on the tree and the downed wires.
My Mother thanked the men and asked them where they were from. They replied, "Minnesota," "Wisconsin", and other states. "What are you doing here?"
When these electric company workers (from whatever states) heard about the disaster, they drove for two days from their homes in order to come help. And there they were a united-states of electricians rewiring the electricity of the neighborhood for the benefit of my mother and tens of thousands of other folks that they didn't even know. They left their homes so that other could re-enter their homes once again.
My Mother B"H is safe and well now. She hasn't really surveyed the damage to her home yet. She is just thankful to be safe and well. At times of disaster, it's the people quotient that takes precedence. And that's the attitude all around my mother, her neighbors and the rescue workers toiling day and night. It's the people we are worrying about today.
It is a few minutes before the Sabbath, but I didn't want to go into the Sabbath without saying thank you to my sister-in-law's "Aunt Barbara", my Mother's friend "Margie," "Rabbi Mareless", my mother's neighbors, my friends in New York, all the emergency workers who are trying their best, the schools and soup kitchens, the folks who are collecting/distributing food and clothing, everyone who's trying to cheer up their neighbor, and especially these volunteers from all over America who have come to the aid of their fellows.
Loving kindness builds the world and ensures its existence. If Americans continue to stick together during this and any other crisis, they will be stay strong.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Welcome to What's Up, Efrat?'s new season.

Watch it:

Read all about it:
As we film this segment of What's Up, Efrat, our hearts are with our brethren in the South of Israel who have suffered terribly from relentless Arab missiles and bombardment from Gaza. Between the red alert sirens, helicopters and booming, they have no day and no night. May Hashem watch over you and keep you safe.
And our thoughts are with our brethren on the East Coast of America who have suffered through Hurricane Sandy, which has aptly been described as Frankenstorm. To those families who are without electricity or heat or phone service, we are thinking of you and hoping that your communities will be able to begin recovery very soon. May Hashem watch over you and keep you safe.
We've got great news for you. Efrat has had a tremendous victory in its struggle with the Electric Company. Thanks to head of this action, Yechiel Fishman. Next court date: November 14, 8:20 AM.

More great news. The office of the Efrat Local Council hosted hundreds of high school students from inside and outside Efrat (including all the high schools in the region) participated three days of talking and learning in a tent outside the Matnas. They discussed important issues like alcoholism among young people, youth at risk, youth self-empowerment and meetings of Jews of different stripes. The project was subsided by Minhal Chevra v'Noar of Misrad HaChinuch.
Efrat's got more to be proud of. Two of last year's final projects in Neve Shmuel Yeshiva High School's film major have made it to the finals of the country's Dati Schools' Film Competition. Good luck to RACHOK MIMCHA and TAV NECHEH, and to all those students involved in their production. Only 12 films from all around the country are in the finals which will be screened in the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv Cinemateques.
You're already winners to us. 
There's a new CLEAN UP AFTER YOUR DOG sign in town. We hope it will help keep the city clean. Meanwhile, we are still suffering from a problem with wild dogs. We'll keep you posted on this issue. If you see wild dogs in your neighborhood, please call the MOKED.
On Motzei Shabbat Parshat Chayei Sara, November 10th at 8 PM, women, teens and girls of Efrat, Gush Etzion, and BEYOND!!! are invited to DANCE NIGHT. It's an evening of fabulastic dance with the most amazing choreographers around. Join Cheryl Mandel, Jocelyn Odenheimer. Ilana Factor, Deena Navon, Ruti Ben David, Dara Sakar, Moran Marom, Rebbetzin Tap, and Nurit Rashi on the fun and fantastic dance floor to kick up your heels in every kind of dance – Israeli Dance, Hip Hop, Zumba, Modern, Indance, Broadway, Rock - with and a special surprise – a Square Dance with the incredible square dance and country performer – the one and only Debbie Elnatan!
 The former Israeli Army base Shdema, between Har Homa and Nokdim, faces the threat of takeover by the Arabs and the international anarchists once again. Therefore the Committee for Shdema and Women in Green have once again planned activities for Friday mornings on Shdema. Please attend.
On 2 Kislev, November 16th, Yael Ben Dov, a Lehi Fighter, will speak about Women in the Lehi  underground.
On 9 Kislev, November 23rd, Sarah Barnea Tour guide and Erets Israel researcher, will speak about The early days of the Motza community.
On 16 Kislev, November 30th, Lechi Fighter Ezra Yachin will speak about the emotional strength of the fighters.
Please attend and bring your families. For more information, contact Women In Green's Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar - 050-7161818 or 050-5500834,
On Sunday evening, 4th of Kislev, November 18, the women and girls of Raise Your Spirits Theater debut in their happiest musical ever – ESTHER and the Secrets in the King's Court. This year marks the tenth anniversary of ESTHER's first appearance on stage. It's going to be incredible, with new musical arrangements, new choreography and staged in a new exciting way.
What? It's a surprise. 
Order your tickets for opening night November 18, or Thursday evening November 22 or Thursday evening November 29.
Order your tickets here. And we'll see you at the theater.
On Wednesday evening, the 8th of Cheshvan, November 21 at 8:30 PM, the community is invited to an Efrat Women's Beit Midrash memorial lecture in memory of Norma Fund, of blessed memory. Rabbi Sholom Gold will speak on The Drama of Jewish History: A Chanukah Perspective." For more information [050-993-8125,]

That's it for this issue of WHAT'S UP, EFRAT? Have a healthy winter.

The Butterfly and the Bee

Back to my corner to pray and find a little peace in this upside down world.
I was greeted by my beautiful yellow butterfly. That was exciting for me because today I am wearing happy yellow too, so we match!
I have done everything possible NOT to instigate my bee [] . Instead of sitting on my cozy bench, I have taken out a lawn chair and moved it away from my flowers.
I am trying to SHARE SOVEREIGNTY with him, but he is totally inflexible. (Hmm, there's a lesson here somewhere.) He never ceases to buzz me. Of course, he could be saying, "Good morning and happy day," but then again he could just be "dissin'" me.
Okay, I am giving him the benefit of the doubt. His presence in my garden must be for the good because both he and my butterfly share the same song.
In Perek Shira (The Song of Nature) we read, 'The Insects say: "May Israel rejoice in his Creator; may the
children of Zion be joyful in their King." (Psalms 149:2)'
Maybe they're reminding me to be joyful in Hashem. He did create Heavens and Earth, diamonds and date honey, my loved ones and me!! And He's working overtime to keep everyone safe. Thanks, G-d.
And thanks, B & B. You taught me a good lesson today.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hashem Loves Me

Today I spoke to three non-connected people in New York about the situation with Hurricane Sandy. One was evacuated from her home on Long Island to the Borough of Queens. One remained in her house and is now surrounded by a lake on her property. The third is in charge of an apartment house in New York City. When I asked each one of them how they're doing in this storm, their answer was, "Hashem loves me."
Each one! "Hashem loves me."
The same phrase, each one a different reason, but the same phrase.
The first was sent to Queens because of the flooding danger in her Long Island neighborhood. Indeed her street and all the homes on the street were flooded. Telephone service was non-existent. Trees came down and the damage has not yet been assessed. She had made it out of her block to a nice dry apartment in Queens just in time. When I asked how she was, she responded, "Hashem loves me."
My second friend's home stands above the flood like Noah's ark on Mt. Ararat. Most of the neighborhood is without power, but she said, "We are among the few with power. Hashem loves me."
My third friend is a custodian in a New York City apartment house. I had heard about all the damage to buildings around the city. He said, however, that his building was dry inside. There were no leaks. The apartment house was holding up. "Hashem loves me."
When I heard the phrase for the third time, it absolutely excited me.
Things are pretty bleak in New York right now. The photos from Long Island and New York City are very frightening. But three individuals (and countless others like them) counted their blessings today, and realized that good things happened to them because Hashem loves them.
Friends, we don't need a hurricane or a natural disaster to know that Hashem loves us. He watches over us each day from the moment we get up in the morning and begin our first breath until we get back into bed at night. When we don't slip on the soap in the shower or when we find a parking space on a busy street, when we remember where our keys are or get a pay check just before we get a bill, we each must realize, "Hashem loves me."
When we pass a test or have a surprise visit from our grandchildren, when we get to the gas station just before the red gas light goes on or get to the bank just a moment before the doors close, we should acknowledge, "Hashem loves me."
There are an infinite numbers of reasons to believe Hashem loves us.
Meanwhile, I'm happy Hashem loves my three friends. He also loves me...and you!

Thanks to Shani for the photos of her backyard. B"H the damage outside didn't harm anyone inside. Obviously, Hashem loves her and her family.

Bulgarian Parachot on Display in Efrat

When you enter the sanctuary of the Tiferet Avot Synagogue in Efrat, you are drawn to two weathered and worn very-aged tapestries on either side of the holy ark. In fact, those are not wall hangings, but parachot (ark coverings), each more than 100 years old.
They are part of the parachot collection of 20 parachot that will be featured during the year at Tiferet Avot.

The parachot, some dating as far back as the 1700s, were found in an old synagogue in Bulgaria. They were decayed and moldy, others wet and torn, but there were some whose beauty still shone through their disintegrated condition.
The collection of 20 parachot are characterized by the distinct Bulgarian, Turkish, Balkan textile art.
They vary in their condition – the color on some has totally faded, the fabric has worn, but the artwork, the handcrafts and the needlework are extraordinary.
Some bear the symbols of the Holy Temple, the Torah, lions, the doubled-headed eagle, crowns, the ten commandments. And some have interesting symbols of the Turkish empire.
One of the parachot is in terrible shape, but it was chosen to be salvaged for other reasons. It was originally donated to a Bulgarian synagogue in 1900 by a doctor in NagasakiJapan.
These parachot much be seen! They are a piece of Jewish history, recalling the once vibrant Jewish communities of Bulgaria that were destroyed by war, Communism and intermarriage.
On Display in Efrat
Synagogue in Sofia, Bulgaria
Two of these parachot hang in Bet Knesset Tiferet Avot today. Next to each parochet is its history.
The red silk parochet (above) from 1912 stood in the main synagogue in SofiaBulgaria for close to 100 years. All the embroidery is silver and gold metal (now tarnished) thread. Its weight, due to the metal thread, is close to 25 kilos. Its Ladino inscription is in honor of a marriage and then rededicated in memory of the Jewish soldiers from Sofia killed in the Balkan Wars (1912-1913). It is estimated that a piece this complicated took four women up to a year to make. The crown in the center has been cleaned a bit to give a sense of its past splendor.
Synagogue in Vidin, Bulgaria
A spectacular silver and gold embroidered parochet, white silk couched on linen. The inscription tells us it is from VidinBulgaria and it was donated in 1836. The intricate metal threadwork, patterns, and semi-precious stones, indicate that it was a central piece in this shul.

Round One for the Bee

This is probably the shortest and strangest blog I'll ever write.
I received a number of comments yesterday about my quiet corner. And even folks that walked by said,"Oh, this is your corner!!"
Well, right after I wrote my blog, my rival - the over possessive bee - dive bombed directly at my face!
I was shocked by his brazenness.
But I didn't want to swat him (well, I wanted to, but held myself back). I have a personal rule that bugs in the house are history!! But if they're in nature, I try to let them do their thing, so I just changed my location, and I left my garden to him (for this round).
Anyway, in keeping with the way things are going throughout the world, things are not to peaceful, even in My Secret garden.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dissonance in My Mind

I am praying in my little corner. The wind is swaying my flowers just enough to soothe me, while the teeny birds on the tree branch above call out their friendship to one another in the delicate peeps. If it were a normal day, only my rival - that bee who believes this is HIS garden - would have the ability to bother my total serenity.
But even in this perfect weather in my perfect corner, I am too troubled to find my own inner peace - even for 20 minutes. I am thinking of our brethren in the South who are being bombarded by Gaza, about the deafening booms around them, about the shaking of the ground beneath their feet, about the children who wish they were in their mothers' arms and about the mothers who are pacing the floors waiting for the bus to return them home.
I am thinking of my family far away who have had to evacuate their home in the face of a hurricane. We pray for rain, and in New York today, rain is their enemy.
The breeze is so gentle in my garden today. But there is turbulence in my mind. May Hashem protect our brethren and good people everywhere.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I am a Southerner

I am from the South.
Not from New Orleans or Memphis or even Tallahassee.
I am from Southern Israel.
Well, physically, I’m not from there either. I’m from the center of Israel – more specifically, Gush Etzion. But in my heart and in my mind over the past few weeks, I have moved to the South.
Like the rest of you, I have read about the kassams shot by the Arabs of Gaza. Then I usually skipped to the next story, “Which American Presidential candidate wore a nicer pin on his suit?” I have heard the proclamations and thus-far empty words about an end to violence and a commitment to peace, about neutralizing the threat of kassams and the need to restrain or respond to Arab terror. Then I yawned until the radio played a good song. “Hm, do I really think Moves Like Jagger was created just to suit Zumba mania?”
I have heard about the Iron Dome – the missiles that it caught and the ones that got away. I have seen the images from Reuters and CNN.
But none of these moved me or moved my soul to the South. Then one night, one of my new Southern friends messaged me, “Go on to my Facebook page and see the video my husband just took of a kassam flying over our town, and the Iron Dome blasting it out of the sky.”
I watched with fascination, and then almost fell out of my chair with the ensuing B-O-O-M. The camera shook, and so did my knees.
The Southern Moving Company
With every passing day, my Facebook friends in the South moved me further from Gush Etzion, and closer to Sderot, Netivot, Maagalim and Beersheva.
While most other Facebook folk were posting cute photos or articles from on-line news sources; while they were telling clever jokes or demanding that you “Press Like if you love your mother,” my Southern friends were posting moments of life in the South.
Their real-life moments made me understand life in the South, life under attack. Their real-life moments made me understand their bravery, their faith in G-d, their stubbornness to survive and their refusal to give in to the fear of booms.
When I hear a plane above, I think of them. When I read that the Iron Dome intercepted a missile, I know exactly what they’re talking about. When I see a picture of a destroyed home, I pray for my friends’ homes, and that of all their friends.
When I read about an escalation of violence, I think of my friends’ children sleeping in the stairwell.
I am from the South. I understand in my heart what it is to be under attack, and I know this is unacceptable. Someone has to help my friends and their hundreds of thousands of neighbors. I am from the South, and the next time there are booms, I will be praying for our brethren in the South.
I am from the South, so now all news about the South takes top priority. I feel frustrated by any inaction, and am praying for an IDF achievement that will make a real difference for my fellow Southerners.
How I Moved to the South
(When I wrote the first version of this article, I commented on some of the remarks below, but then I realized there was no need for explanation. Just, please read them all.)
  • Did anyone else just hear those booms, about one minute ago?”
  • “My dog is afraid. I’m not so strong right now either.”
  • “Let’s pray for a ‘quiet’ night.
  • Nothing like a siren and boom to start the day....One thing is for sure, I don't need my alarm clock this morning. Good morning world.”
  • “I have seven kids to get to safety. And I have 15-25 seconds. Sometimes less.”
  • “Good morning and Chodesh Tov to everyone. Sderot Eshkol and Merchavim were bombarded during the night with rockets. What a way to start a day.”
  • “I was in Netivot this morning running errands. I walked by the house that only several weeks ago was destroyed by a grad missile. Scary!!”
  • “The planes seem as low as my roof. My glasses are jumping on the shelf. I hope they don’t jump off.”
  • “My house is shaking. GO TZAHAL GO!!!”
  • “Here is the scenario...rockets are flying fast and furious, the IDF orders residents 10 KM or less to stay close to safe rooms, school is cancelled, and as I look out of my kitchen window I see six kids playing soccer on the street...”
  • “My brother-in-law is a garbage man. He works in rain, blazing sun, freezing cold, hail and KASSAM ATTACKS. He just told me that this morning he was in Kfar Maimon (where my kids go to school), and a kassam landed about 150 meters from him. There is no place to hide, all you can do is pray. The garbage truck has some small holes from shrapnel, but B-H, he is PHYSICALLY fine.”
  • Sometimes silence is even more scary. You think it’s over, start resuming life and BOOM it starts all over again.”
  • “Thank-you for caring about the South...most of the country couldn't care less.”
  • We had a huge boom five minutes ago; I slept well. School cancelled in Otef Azza (stupid name!) Apparently I was right - that BOOOM we heard last night was Tzahal retaliating, G-d bless 'em and keep them all safe!! I'm staying home and not straying outside. 54 rockets thus far....not a time to be wandering around.”
  • “No school today. Smart move!!!!! Keep 'em home near the safe room!!”
  • "No-one in the government wants to admit the terrible escalation of missile strength-range that's occurred in Gaza over the past seven years. The officers in the IDF who care, and I'm sure there are some, must not be sleeping at night.”
It’s late and I must go to sleep too, but I am from the South, so my prayers will be long tonight. Good night, South, good night, North. Good night, rockets, good night, planes. Good night, news, good night, youtube. Good night, South, good night.

(All the photos from this article were forwarded by my friends in the South from their Facebook pages.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lessons from My Persimmon Tree

I returned to my morning prayers in the corner of our garden.It wasn’t too hot or too cold outside (and unfortunately there’s no rain yet),so it was perfect for a half hour of personal thoughts and meditations. I love my mornings in my cozy corner.
Today as I stood silently among our trees, I glanced to myleft and noticed our backyard persimmon tree. Oh noooooo, I had forgotten allabout it!! We had meant to harvest its fruits on the eve of the Sukkot holiday.All the kids were supposed to be home, and we were going to make it a familycelebration.
But life was very busy then and has remained so ever since. Thepersimmons stayed on the tree, waiting as best they could.

Harvest Time
Persimmons are beautiful tomato-shaped fruits that begin as ashade of light yellow, progress to light orange, ripen at orange, and rot at deep tomato red. Their pulp is yummy, but the skin is chalky or bitter unlessthey’re ready. We put our persimmons together with apples, check them every day,and soon they’re ready to eat.
The persimmons on our tree ranged from hard as a rock yellow to soft exploding red balloons. This was an emergency harvest. We gathered all the workforce we could muster - two granddaughters (aged nine and four), and started climbing. 
As we picked the ripe orange-y fruits from ourtree, bulging red persimmons were bursting all around us, like the blitz over London, or like some kid throwingwater balloons out of the window above us.
“Watch out.” Blattttt. “Don’t step on it…oy.” Pluuuuuuugh. ThankG-d I had diaper wipes to clean up my granddaughters’ splattered shirts andsandals.
We climbed as high as we could. Of course, the largest mostdelicious looking persimmons were out of our reach – something to keep reachingfor. We twisted the good fruit right off the tree, and began piling thepersimmons in our wicker basket. We even tried clearing the tree of rottenfruit, as we were harvesting.
We worked until the basket overflowed, and then we broughtthem into the house. We counted….71 persimmons. And there are more waiting.

Lessons from Our Persimmon Tree
Time passes so quickly. If we don’t pay attention, suddenly ourfruit is over-ripe/ our child is grown/ or our problems are out-of-hand/ etc.
A not-yet-ripe fruit (like a small child) can be nurturedand watched so that it can reach its perfection in sweetness. But a neglectedfruit becomes an over-ripe fruit that will only rot. There’s no going back, norepair on an over-ripe fruit.

While a neglected child can “go bad,” G-d forbid....withlove, attention and patience, we can make a difference in any child’s life. Witha rotten fruit, it’s too late to make a difference. But B”H, the same does not holdtrue with a child. Never give up.

Sharing the Bounty

Fruits and vegetables are so expensive lately in Israel. We hopeto pick some more fruits tomorrow, and then share the fruits of our labors withour friends and neighbors.
We feel so blessed to be able to harvest our own fruits andshare their goodness with others.