Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Rains .....Something to Think About

Has anyone noticed that ever since we started to defend our Land and our People, at least a little, the desperately needed rains have steadily fallen - a gentle absorbing rain, just the kind the thirsty earth needed?

As I referred to in an earlier post (Sunny Days and a Thirsty Land), Devarim (Deuteronomy) 11:10-14 says the rains for Israel are not like those of other lands where there is man-made irrigation, but the rains for Israel are brought by the Heavens when we love God with our whole heart.

Loving God with our whole heart would include not rejecting this Land that was His gift to beginning to defend it we show we do not despise His gift..... is it possible His blessing are free to follow now.....?.

...has our response, even if for political reasons, nonetheless had an effect on the very Land itself, and the air around it...and by changing the atmosphere, brought the last?

Something to think about.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tsafrir Ronen

Last Shabbat, not only did the surprise attack on Hamas take place, but a dear dear man, a strong and remarkable voice for Eretz Yisrael, was taken from us. Tsafrir Ronen, of the Galil, died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack.

His funeral was Sunday, and those who knew him are in shock and mourning. I had met him only once, but his love for this country is legendary. When I heard him speak a few months ago at Bet haShalom in Hebron, both he and his message were electrifying. His words, his knowledge, his passion grabbed the hearts of everyone who ever knew or heard him. A remarkable man.

There have been many tributes. This is one of them - a beautiful and personal tribute by Adina Kutnicki

Israel’s Hero, My Hero
Tevet 2, 5769, 29 December 08 11:50by Adina Kutnicki
(excerpts... full tribute can be seen at Israel National News)

( While all lovers of Zion anxiously scan the news regarding the IAF’s ‘shock and awe’ operation against Hamas, those who received the shocking news of Tsafrir Ronen’s untimely and very sudden death this very same weekend could not help but be shaken to the core of their souls.

While every death deeply affects family and friends, few of those deaths can be described as a monumental loss for Zion. The passing of Tsafrir Ronen - a stalwart, non-intimidated defender of Zion - will surely register as such when the history of modern Israel is told in full.

........On a national level, his loss will most likely be appreciated when history is written. In the same manner that few understood the profound essence of all of Ze'ev Jabotinsky’s efforts for our homeland while he was alive, so too will Tsafrir’s undertakings resonate in future generations. I suspect that he will be the model that future generations of Zionists will emulate when his activities on behalf of Zion become more widely known.

Rest in peace my dear friend. May your memory be for a blessing.

With eternal friendship.

© Copyright

War Update

Please see TodayinIsrael for updated information and questions about the situation in Gaza and the south.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


On a lighter note, on this last night of Chanukah I suddenly realized I had NOT had any real sufganiot. That is, I did have a part of a large fried doughnut, oozing with chocolate and caramel......BUT it wasn't truly a sufganiyah - a jelly doughnut - the Israeli/sephardic Chanukah specialty.

I have a confession to make...I am really a latke person.

It is probably the only ashkenazi tradition I prefer over sephardic ones, but the truth is, I didn't have any latkes this year either. I don't know what happened to me in the food department. I was enjoying so much the various candle lightings with friends all over Israel, from Peta Tikvah, to Maale Adumin, and here in Jerusalem, that somehow the food just slipped by...until today when I realized I needed to have at least ONE sufganiyah.

Some friends of mine own a wonderful coffee shop, and they did an amazing business this year with their sufganiot....order after order after order passing from the hot oil cooker, to being decorated with flair, to countless boxes filled with the warm and fragrant jelly doughnuts, then carted off to hungry children and adults alike for their Chanukah fun.

So when I inquired this morning about their sufganiot I was not surprised to discover they had RUN OUT!!.. Not to worry, though, more were coming for this last day of Chanukah. After being assured the sufganiot would be fried there in the shop kitchen (and not a store-bought replacement for these last few hours -which I would totally understand!), I promised I would be back later in the day to have my one jelly doughnut, "in the spirit of the holiday!"

Well, I guess I waited too long, for when I arrived at the coffee shop to partake of my treat, I found one of my friends draining the cookers, and literally standing in a lake of oil which was spreading out over the floor of the shop's kitchen.... omg, it was a balygan. It looked like a disaster.

But then.... that meant...oh,oh...LO (NO) SUFGANIOT!!

Seeing the mess of cleaning up that oil....(I did offer to help!).....I appreciated even more how hard my friends had worked to provide such scrumptious treats for their customers....and I had missed out! For goodness sake, I had 8 days to claim one sufganiyah for the holiday!!

Oh well...except now I really missed the taste of that jelly doughnut....already longing for it for next year. time I will plan to have the first ones out of the cooker.....and...a latke or two with sour cream and applesauce...

Next year...still in Jerusalem!

Aza to Jerusalem

To illustrate how tiny this country really is - and why the uproar over our settling this very small amount of Land is so ludicrous - when the first two ordinances were dropped on the Hamas police and terrorist training facilities yesterday - at approximately 11:30 am and 12:15 pm - the ground and buildings shook here in Jerusalem and the booms were heard here as well.

To clarify further, Jerusalem is on Israel's eastern border, the coast is our western border....and that's how close the coast is, my friends...

Remember how it is that everything that happens here in Israel affects the rest of us as if it is happening to us?.... Those who heard and felt the attack....felt like, YES! ... they were a part of the manuever.

It was a great feeling! Let's pray we continue to defend this beautiful Land and our people.

A Chanukah Surprise

In a fitting Chanuka gift to the nation and to the world, our government, over Shabbat, finally ordered a strike on Hamas in Gaza - a pretty powerful one at that. One hundred tons of ordinance were dropped on terrorist targets, police and terror training facilities, in an operation that took Hamas by surprise. Over 250 were killed, nearly all of them Hamas officials and terrorists including the senior commander of Hamas' police force, Tawfik Jabber, his military assistant, Ismail al-Ja'abri, commander of defense and security, and Abu-Ahmad Ashur, governor of the central district.

Operation Cast-Lead, as it is called - from a Chanukah poem by H.R Bialik (see below) - continues this morning with rocket launching sites, Hamas government offices and television stations being the recipients of today's IAF bombings.

Very few civilians have been casualties, but I must remind our readers that we are at war. Unfortunately, some civilians casualties can happen. The people in Aza elected this terrorist government, and unfortunately, the terrorists hide behind and in the midst of civilians so that they can manipulate the media PR against Israel.

Within Israel, power and other utilities are being affected for whatever reasons, and areas along the Gaza corridor and much deeper into Israel are now hearing the Tzeva Adom (Color Red Alert), some for the first time....places like Gan Yavneh and Ashdod.

In an attempt to placate world criticism and demonstrate that our target is Hamas, not the civilian population, our government this morning ordered crossings into Gaza to open - to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza and to receive out of Gaza, and into Israel, some of the wounded who will receive treatment in Israeli hospitals.

This is what makes the situation so crazy. What other government or country in the world would feed and heal the enemy? Many think this is exemplary and laudable, showing the world that we are compassionate people above all else; others think it is insanity.. aiding and abetting the enemy is, after all, treason. While I tend to lean towards the second opinion, some things happen in spite of ourselves that are beyond understanding... thus I will leave this matter untouched by much commentary.

Of course, all of this could have been avoided had we not destroyed the lives and homes of the beautiful and brave Jews who lived in Gush Katif. Beyond that - given the reality of that cowardly deed by our government, had we gone in many months ago to destroy the terrorists activities and developments, we would find ourselves in a much less dangerous situation. By our appeasement, we have allowed the poison of Hamas to fester and grow to a much larger problem.

Of course, the timing of this coincides with the elections, and one worries that the elections may now be postponed and Olmert will continue to operate as Prime Minister, indefinitely....even though he resigned weeks ago. It's a sobering reality, and a sickening one. However, the words of my friend, Moshe Kempinski, whom I often quote in this blog, sum it up in an encouraging way. Believing that rising up with courage to destroy evil and defeat our enemies, is indeed the G-d given mandate for Israel in this hour, he said this: ".... when a nation is led into a path that coincides with their destiny and survival, the reasons behind the move are less important."

One last piece of information. Our strategic operations are given names that have significance. It is important to us that this courage to act against Hamas came in the midst of Chanukah. While the more popular celebration of this holiday focuses on the miracle of the oil burning for 8 days in the recaptured and cleansed Temple, (Chanukah means "dedication", i.e. the (re)dedication of the altar in the Temple), an equally significant importance of Chanukah is to remember the miraculous victory that God gave us, and to remember the faith and bravery of the Maccabees, whose victory over the Greeks was profound, unexpected and dramatic.

Through the ages, Jews have remembered this miraculous victory in ways that aren't observable to the world. One way is in the spin of the dreidle...its letters in Israel are נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hei), פ (Pei) "A great miracle happened here."

One of our beloved poets, Haim Nahman Bialik wrote this poem, which on the surface is just about tops and pancakes, but at a deeper level recognizes the importance of this remembrance. The finest of victories is exemplified by the finest of dreidles - one made of solid or cast-lead.

Here is his poem. May our soldiers be protected by the Almighty as they go to battle.

For Hanukkah

Father lighted candles for me;
Like a torch the Shamash shone.
In whose honor, for whose glory?
For Hanukkah alone.

Teacher bought a big top for me,
Solid lead, the finest known.
In whose honor, for whose glory?
For Hanukkah alone.

Mother made a pancake for me,
Hot and sweet and sugar-strewn.
In whose honor, for whose glory?
For Hanukkah alone.

Uncle had a present for me,
An old penny for my own.
In whose honor, for whose glory?
For Hanukkah alone.

(This post is also on the parallel blog TodayInIsrael)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Chanuka Sameach

Chanuka Sameach! Happy Chanuka!

From the first to the last lighting, may this beautiful holiday bring a blessing. And may the courage of the Maccabbees inspire us, when things look impossible, to pick ourselves up, and with faith and determination, set our faces into the wind and keep moving towards the goal. Miracles can..and do..happen.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

More on Ze'ev

Last week I stopped by to speak with Ze'ev (post of 11/21/08). Before I could even say much, his frustrations and anguish bubbled over, and his words of pain came tumbling out. I listened while he poured it all out, the cold, the ill health, the theft and abuse from other needy people in the shelters, and I could sense the fear, even panic, in him as he faced another night in the cold, on a bench somewhere.

When his words were spent, he looked slightly embarrassed, but my smile and acceptance assured him it was was ok. I am sure few have ever stopped to least without preaching at him. I've seen and heard those unkind words to Ze'ev and to others, and I have to imagine how humiliating it must feel. I heard in Ze'ev's words the profound affect those words from passers-by had on his soul.

Not that I've always been so forgiving. At times in the past, forgetting lessons already learned, I too could be found making assumptions I had no right to make. When he calmed down a bit, I gave him what little change I had in my purse, and ran to the nearby merkolet (little convenience store) to buy him a couple of cigarettes.

Aside from the amazing fact that you can buy individual cigarettes here in Israel ....there is the more amazing fact that I, as an ex-smoker who used to freak out at the mere whisper of cigarette smoke, was happy to run and buy him some..... (but that's really another story, for another time.)

As for Ze'ev, I just hope he collected enough money last week to put him into a room somewhere, if only for one night - Erev Shabbat, a night when everyone should be safe and warm.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Life's chom

Last week I finally got up the nerve to get my hair cut again. I was terrified to have it cut, but omg, it was either get it cut or stay in my dira (apartment) and never come out! Of course, that was the situation the last 2 times I had it cut, so it couldn't be much worse that it was already! Still......

You've heard of bad hair days? Well, lately I have been having bad hair weeks, and months...

I knew the problem, and I knew what I had to do... I knew that it had to be cut by a sabra...a native Israeli.

Ma? you say, but why? Well, it's a little hard to explain, but let me try. Or better, let me tell you about what happened, and then maybe it will be clear. It all has to do with me and Israel. Or more precisely, with me and Israelis.

You see, even though I am a recent immigrant, and am now an Israeli....the people I seem most heart to heart with are the Israelis, the sabras. It's hard to put into words, but this is where I connect.

So, I knew I needed someone with whom I could relate, heart to heart, who would just "sense" the real me....or at least a little part of who I am....enough to cut my hair to fit me anyway.

I went by a shop that had been recommended by a friend... Motti was standing in the doorway, smoking a cigarette. I stopped, we chatted, his face smiled and we agreed on the price.

His co-worker welcomed me and motioned me to a chair.. No, no, I said, Motti is going to cut it. It turned out this was a young man in training and he was just going to wash it. Ah, slicha (sorry, excuse me) Well, let me say, I have never had my hair washed with such a gentle tender loving touch. I mean, it would be worth it to go there just for that!

I told Motti I was terrified to have him cut it. We laughed, but I was serious. As we talked, I told him of a former stylist who had moved to CA, and that I was sad about that. We had a long discussion, over hot turkish coffee, and between sips and snips, about Israelis, ex-pats (those who move to another country, usually America, to make more money) and returning home to Israel. Motti talked at great length about why Israelis go to America to make money and he wanted to know why I came here, and what I did. We spoke about that and he said "I can feel your love for this country." Yes, I said, I am in love with this country and that's why I am here, but also why I am sad that people leave.

He tried again to explain to me why people leave and why it was ok. I told him I understood that it was so hard to make a living here, and how America's ease with money was attractive, and I really did understand that, but...I said, Motti, life in America is pretty surface, there's little depth can find it,'s just different. He looked at me for awhile, and then he smiled. Yes, he said, life here is chom (heat, warmth -but not in temperature, which is cham) and his face lit up. Yes, he said, turning it over in his mind.... "life here's's hot." We both understood.

Life in Israel's chom.

(Oh, btw, it's a great haircut.)


Please listen to the beautiful niggun (holy verses put to song) created and sung by the uncle of Rivka Holtzberg, murdered in Mumbai. The niggun is sung to give thanks to God for the rescue and survival of the couple's little boy Moishe. The video and story is posted on my other blogsite Today in Israel

Friday, December 5, 2008

Please read the posts on my parallel site to know what is happening with the travesty in Hebron.

Friday, November 28, 2008

As promised I made it to Tel Aviv to clear my head..... as I sat on the beach the most amazing formations of geese or ducks flew overhead against the setting sun. I didn't catch the geese on camera.... but I did catch the sea in its splendor

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Israelis are known for their ingenuity and inventiveness - some things are world changing, others are just plain practical, even if a bit odd. Municipal trees are often knocked down by cars backing up or parking on the sidewalk, so someone decided to plant their own, and protect it with an old worn out desk chair

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Exhaustion Jerusalem Style

It was one of those Jerusalem nights. There is such intensity here that even if one isn't in the thick of the battle, you would still end up a little loony some days.

I was on my way to a Job Fair hosted by the Merchaz in the Moshava (Center for young olim in the German Colony) and the OU (Orthodox Union). It was a dilemma to know what to wear as I have lost a lot of weight (clapping appreciated) over the past year, and ...well, my wardrobe either looks ridiculous - hanging every which way - or is very very limited in choice. Nonetheless, I finally pieced together what I thought looked not only acceptable but rather nice.

After walking to a bus line a distance away, but one that would deliver me the closest to my destination, I had to play the Waiting Game - a popular form of entertainment for bus riders (related to the game that auto drivers play of who can honk their horn the loudest or who can make the most outrageous U-turn).

Of course, once the bus came it was already packed, and "standing room only" at the beginning of the line did not bode well for the rest of the ride. In addition, I think there must have been a contest today for who could get on the bus with the largest agalah (large bag on wheels - used for buying groceries or whatever you fancy) or the most enormous backpack.

Quite frankly I had never seen such a battle for space, seats and aisle access. I was wedged into a corner in my window seat surrounded by two individuals and their enormous agalot. I was just beginning to wonder how I was ever going to get out of this spot when my stop came, when suddenly the woman facing me looked at me intently and in a very loud voice that the whole bus heard, shouted - "YOU LOOK LIKE A COMEDIENNE." A comedienne? I heard myself saying. "WELL, YOU SHOULD BE ONE!," she shouted.

Now, on a better day, I might have thought up a funny one-liner to accentuate her announcement and put everyone at ease, but somehow, tonight, already weary, I didn't feel very funny at all, nor did I find her one bit amusing. In fact, punching her crossed my mind (just kidding). I did think, "well, so much for my choice of outfits to wear tonight, I should make a good impression."

As it turned out, I got several nice compliments and, yes, some nice looks, that made me feel like I didn't look so "funny" after all. The Job Fair was very crowded, and like all Israeli gatherings, it was a bit of a balygan (chaotic, a mess). There were some interesting possibilities, but it was a long evening. Edging my way to the door and very ready to leave, I decided to stop at the table for the Merchaz; it looked like there was a drawing and some "fun" things and I thought it would be a "light" way to end the evening.

The young man at the table said "You were here before!". Well, actually, I wasn't at the table before, but at the job board behind him. "How did you remember me with so many people?" I asked him. He wasn't sure, he just had noticed me he said. (hmmm maybe I DID look like a comedienne) and then he asked if I wanted to win a prize. "Sure," I said, "but..what's the prize?" They were all different, he said, "so draw a slip and we'll find out." I stuck my hand in the box, and won!! ... a free membership to the Merchaz....actually a nice little prize.

Now, what happened next will confirm that either I was trying to enact a self - fulfilling prophecy of being a comedienne or I was totally flaked out, down right bottom line exhausted. I began to fill out the membership form so the girl next to him could make me a membership card. After writing the usual, my name, address, telephone, etc. there was a line that said: Cell number _________
I stared at it, trying to figure out what they were getting at...finally I thought, well, this IS kind of an upbeat spot, they are just trying to put a joke into the process...asking for your cell number. I even wrote "haha" on the line.

Proceeding to fill out the rest of the form, suddenly it dawned on me what they wanted...and I started to laugh, and then to really laugh, and then...of course they were all staring at me!! How could I explain that I thought they were asking for a cell number in a jail, and that it had never occurred to me that they wanted my cell PHONE number. Between fits of giggles, I muttered something about being really tired and that it was time to go home.

I'll bet they thought, "Oh great, we got a winner with THIS one!!" Now, to be honest, there IS an authentic background for why that would enter my mind instead of the more obvious cell phone. Lately, a lot of my friends and acquaintances in the national camp have found themselves arrested for no reason other than loving Eretz Yisrael, and people are always kind of "in and out" of jail. And then last week, Tamar Yonah of Arutz Sheva posted a blog about a scam being operated out of jail cells, by prison inmates. I guess the input of those two items hadn't moved out of my immediate brain waves to be stored for future use yet. .

Ah well, time to head to Tel Aviv for some beach time and head-clearing in the salty has to do that periodically to be able to cope in this marvelous City.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Shabbat Shalom, Ze'ev

Those who know me know that I have some kind of unusual relationship with "people of the street." I don't know what it is....but certain times, certain people ...i am just drawn to...

So it is with Ze'ev. In the 2-1/2 years since I moved to Jerusalem, Ze'ev and I frequently encounter one another at various places throughout the City. But on yom shishi - the friday of erev Shabbat, he sits on his enormous backpack in front of the Super and other stores where I do my Shabbat shopping. He is probably in his 50's, pleasant, very grateful and we always talk a bit.

I don't know Ze'ev's story; one day I will ask, but for now, I see his forlorn look...except when I come by. When he sees me coming, he always brightens up and smiles and sits up tall....and he always says "It is so good to see you." I know he means it. When I inquired after his name, he looked so, you care about my name? was the look on his face. I'm sure no one ever asked him. I make it a point, every time I see him to call him by his name....names are important. They give us identity.

Ze'ev tells me this is his job...and it is. He probably makes fairly good money, maybe more than I do at the moment, and in Israel, people who live like this receive free health care. It is one of the wonders of this country. It doesn't matter that he may have more shekelim than I have, I still make sure I give something to him every week....and I always look forward to it. For whatever reason he has chosen or been forced to choose this kind of life, it must be so lonely and difficult. I can't imagine. Actually, I CAN imagine, and perhaps that's why I am moved to make a difference in his life. I have seen Ze'ev in other ways, at times, about town - times when the reality of not having enough to see him through the day or the week causes a panic in him. It's distressing to watch.

In the hot summer I sometimes take him a cold drink from the coffee shop on the street where he sits; on cold days, I may bring him a hot coffee. I don't assume he wants it, I always ask and every time he is so surprised and grateful.

Today I ran up to the Avenue for the second time, to get, last minute, my Shabbat flowers. I had felt badly this morning that I didn't have any cash for Ze'ev. I stopped and told him that I would have to catch up next week. "Ze beseder," he would say - "It's OK. Shabbat Shalom. It's so good to see you." But, really, I hadn't been by for a couple of weeks as the hard cash in the pocket has been elusive of late. I did however, have my cartise - my credit card. Since I was also needing a coffee before Shabbat set in, I was happy to think I could go to the coffee shop, and charge a couple of coffees. One for me, one and some pastries for Ze'ev.

But Ze'ev wasn't there, he had apparently left for whereever he goes for Shabbat...if he has a place to go..a shelter or kitchen...I don't know. I decided I would ask the store owner, whom I know, if I could "pre-purchase" a coffee or two for Ze'ev. After all I am there many Fridays and sit down to have a cup of coffee. I know the girls who work there too. I didn't think it would be a problem as in Israel most storekeepers are happy to extend credit if you need it, surely they wouldn't object to receiving a payment for more.

What happened shocked me. When I tried to explain what I wanted, first to one girl, then another, then another and finally the owner who was listening to each conversation...not a single one of them knew who I was talking about. Of course I didn't expect them to know his name, but surely they knew about this man who sits every week just a few feet from their door. I had a hard time calling him a beggar, because to me, Ze'ev is just a nice man with a sad life. But they didn't have a clue who he was, totally unaware that someone sat nearby needing people to notice him. I was stunned.

It was then I realized that they never saw him. He was invisible. Something even deeper gripped my soul. To be poor or unable to cope is difficult enough.... but to be invisible to those around never be heard or seen or recognized that you too are a human being with needs... what a painful thing.

I'm not going to judge the storeowner and his workers. I just felt bad for Ze'ev.

So, Ze'ev, though you won't see this, I just want to say to you ...

"Shabbat Shalom, friend, and may your heart prosper in whatever way you need it to. May you have a Shavua tov (good week) after Shabbat is over, and G-d willing, we'll share a coffee another time."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunny Days and a Thirsty Land

The beautiful fall weather continues - deliciously warm and sunny days, chilly nights. Autumn doesn't get much better than this.

Even so, we desperately need the rain and the enjoyment of the lovely warmth is tinged with concern over the future of our water situation here in Israel....a very precarious one, with a looming crisis in the offing.

The Torah tells us something very interesting about the rains in Israel.

י כִּי הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה בָא-שָׁמָּה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ--לֹא כְאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם הִוא, אֲשֶׁר יְצָאתֶם מִשָּׁם: אֲשֶׁר תִּזְרַע אֶת-זַרְעֲךָ, וְהִשְׁקִיתָ בְרַגְלְךָ כְּגַן הַיָּרָק.
10 For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou didst sow thy seed, and didst water it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs;

לְרִשְׁתָּהּ--אֶרֶץ הָרִים, וּבְקָעֹת; לִמְטַר הַשָּׁמַיִם, תִּשְׁתֶּה-מָּיִם.
11 but the land, whither ye go over to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water as the rain of heaven cometh down;
יב אֶרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ דֹּרֵשׁ אֹתָהּ: תָּמִיד, עֵינֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בָּהּ--מֵרֵשִׁית הַשָּׁנָה, וְעַד אַחֲרִית שָׁנָה. {ס}
12 a land which the LORD thy God careth for; the eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year. {S}
יג וְהָיָה, אִם-שָׁמֹעַ תִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶל-מִצְו‍ֹתַי, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם, הַיּוֹם--לְאַהֲבָה אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, וּלְעָבְדוֹ, בְּכָל-לְבַבְכֶם, וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁכֶם.
13 And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto My commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul,
יד וְנָתַתִּי מְטַר-אַרְצְכֶם בְּעִתּוֹ, יוֹרֶה וּמַלְקוֹשׁ; וְאָסַפְתָּ דְגָנֶךָ, וְתִירֹשְׁךָ וְיִצְהָרֶךָ.
14 that I will give the rain of your land in its season, the former rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 11:10-14 (verses and translation:

The Torah is saying that Israel isn't like Egypt where the crops and land are watered by irrigation trenches etc. The Land of Israel, which G-d watches over continually, will be watered only by the rains from heaven. And those rains are dependent upon us, His People. These verses are directed to the nation, not to individuals.

If we as a nation hearken and re-hearken (hearken in this passage is a double verb) to the commandments that G-d gives us - "to love G-d and serve Him with all our heart and soul " - THEN He will bring the rains in their seasons, the former and latter rains. If we choose NOT to hearken to His Word to us to love Him and serve Him with our whole heart, then G-d will withhold the rain.

It's pretty straightforward. The verses continue to define the parameters of "the Land" in question. In verse 24: .."Every place whereon the sole of your foot shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness, and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the hinder sea shall be your border."

As a people we may have endless discussions about the commandments and what they mean or don't mean, but in this context, at it's simplest, spurning the very Land that G-d cares for, and which His eyes are continually upon, SURELY is not indicative of loving G-d and serving Him with our whole heart.

On the contrary, from Gush Katif to Amona, from Yitzhar to Hebron, we have not loved and defended the Land. And instead of serving G-d (let alone with our whole heart!) we are serving a god of false peace by offering up the Land of Israel.

If we don't love the Land He loves, with the deepest of passion, and we have the temerity to try to give it away, why should He bring the rains for our hills and valleys to drink up??

This goes for the collective nation, across all segments -from the most devoutly observant to the most secular secular. As a People, we have only brought this pending water crisis upon ourselves (along with several other pending crises).

As a People we can do teshuva and begin to love that which G-d loves....and to hearken to His Word. ....we must!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Relecting on the Election

Nir Barkat has won the mayoral seat in Jerusalem - for which I am thankful....I hope!! One never knows with politicians how things will actually shake out in reality...but he seemed to me to be the best candidate.

There were a few irregularities, but all in all it seemed to be a quiet but interesting race. The turnout was lower than expected (37% in Jerusalem) but what caught my attention was that there seemed to be a LOT of involvement and interest from the younger crowd - people in their 20's and 30's - for all parties and candidates. THIS is really good news I feel, and am encouraged that there is interest and excitement amongst the younger group - where sometimes there is apathy and disinterest.

One of the parties which ran for city council (and who garnered 2 mandates or seats) is a party called Hitorerut B'yerushalayim in Hebrew, or Wakeup Jerusalem-Yerushalayim. (known simply as Hitorerut (Wake up!) ) It is a combination of both secular and religious young people, which also is an encouraging sign - that religious and secular groups are working together for the good of the City. I will be intereviewing some of the leaders of this movement to tell you more about it. Watch for some forthcoming pieces on them.

As things settle down now in City Hall, our thoughts turn to the pending national elections....heavier on our hearts because of the vital and strategic importance of it and the leadership that will emerge. But I have to say, at least elections are finally forthcoming and this corrupt government that is now in place will hopefully be put aside. We live in an hour of great peril but also one of great possibility.

Which will we choose???

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Polls Have Closed

Well, it's over . We voted and now we wait for the results. I went early this morning and young people representing the various parties were situated with tables and handouts - just in case you hadn't decided yet how to vote. It was quite a smooth procedure once in the voting station (mine was in a local school building as were many). Mayoral candidates were each identified by a yellow slip with their name on it, and City Council parties all were designated by two letters standing for the party (e.g.טב ) and each one had a white slip. So, you pick up the yellow slip for the Mayor you want, and the white slip for the council party you want to vote for, stick them in the corresponding color-coded envelopes, drop the envelopes in the box ..and voilà, you are done!! Slick!
So who is winning? The final votes won't be counted 'til morning, if then, but the exit polls in Jerusalem are showing secular Barkat winning over hareidi candidate Porush. Much of the national religious camp favored Barkat because they felt he was the best candidate to deliver a unified City and have the most influence regarding the issue Olmert and others have dangled over our heads - that of dividing Jerusalem between Jewish and Arab populations.
There were some interesting incidents.....hareidim blocking voters from going into the polls, Arab leaders forbidding the Arab population to vote, which is another story altogether, slips for Barkat reportedly disappearing, and Porush supposedly bringing busloads of people who are somehow Jerusalem residents but living in other Israeli cities, into Jerusalem to vote. Since the polls closed at 10 pm and Barkat was needing a large turnout, all through the evening megaphoned cars went through my neighborhood urging people to get out and vote for Barkat - even volunteers knocking at my door late into the evening.
This, for the mayor of Jerusalem.. a teaser for the national elections coming up in February. (we hope!!!!!)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Election Eve

I must say, that on the eve of elections for city mayors and councils all across Israel, I find myself quite excited. Given that I have become rather disillusioned about the power of the vote - anywhere in the world - ( I did NOT vote in America's recent episode) I am a little surprised at my feelings.

It is my first opportunity to vote in Jerusalem - even in Israel. ...and there is not a more important City in all the world. I took this very seriously, talking to many people, listening to the candidates, and I feel I am coming into the election as an "informed voter."

None of them have my 100% support - that is there are issues with which I disagree, with each one. But, in truth, there is also something I like about each candidate - an attitude on one or more subjects, a plan perhaps, or just the persona of the person.

Two weeks ago I received my "invitation to vote" as it is called here. I like invitation to vote. It is simply a notice telling you where your polling place is and information about hours etc. It is your ticket to get in the door of the voting booth. But where else except Israel would it be called an invitation? I felt honored. I've been invited to vote!! NOT like it was in America : With a finger shaking in your face, and screaming "if you don't vote you are a baaaddd person - UN-American, etc. etc." In the US, in recent years I felt it was not so much of a privilege or a responsibility, but something that took on a life of it's own, yet with little consequence. But boy did you feel guilty if you didn't go to that voting booth!

Guilt isn't a big commodity here in Israel though, and so even if I didn't vote I would just feel differently about it. Besides I'm laughing a little, because we all know that the last national election (when WAS it???) was a complete fiasco, and the people of Israel were totally betrayed. In Israel, for the national elections, we vote in a party not a person. Whoever is the head of the elected party becomes the Prime Minister. And in 2001 the nation voted in Likud on a nationalist platform, only to have the head of Likud (Arik Sharon) quit that party and form a new party (Kadima) with a completely opposite agenda from that of Likud...(it was the agenda Likud ran AGAINST, and that agenda was soundly defeated.) YET, amazingly amazingly, Sharon remained the head of the government....with a party that was never, not ever, voted in. The rest is history, as they say....and now we have a prime minister who has resigned ...but is still prime minister..making far reaching and disastrous decisions.

But I digress. Back to my invitation to vote in Jerusalem for Mayor and City Council. Now, we vote for a person for Mayor, and for a party for Council. Even knowing all I do about Israeli politics, I still feel honored to have been invited to vote...and I will do just that tomorrow morning. ...

... keeping you posted and giving you a first hand report on all the excitement.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Sunset on the Mediterranean

By the sea... I had a meeting in Tel Aviv last night, and as I usually do, I went early so I could take a walk by the sea, refreshing both my feet and and my mind. It was lovely, even when a sudden rain surprised us after sunset.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


As I have reflected on the events of this past week, a couple of things stand out in my mind. The night of the terrible destruction at the Federman Farm, the media picked up and highlighted an anguished cry from a by-stander, who basically cursed the IDF. It has been the topic of discussion, anger and accusation by all levels of the government. Everyone has been focused on this unfortunate statement, and no one noticed that the government violently destroyed the homes of two Jewish families, without warning and without an iota of concern. I don't know if the by-stander was simply overcome with emotion as this heinous crime was being carried out, or if he was a planted provocateur. Either is a possibility.

But my thoughts were really turned to the IDF and their role in this....I wondered how and why they were involved at all.....and because I know these soldiers in Hebron, I was quite perplexed that they would be party to this terrible happening.

Midweek I found my answer....the young soldiers were lied to and tricked so that they would protect the destruction....they were told that a terrorist had been spotted and no one was allowed to enter the Farm....including journalists (who would of course report what was going on.) On Wednesday the Army admitted they had tricked the soldiers because they were asking them to do something immoral and illegal and they knew the soldiers may refuse the orders. Many of these soldiers were very dismayed and one young man in particular was devastated to learn he had been a part of such a travesty.

I go back to my earlier post, that our young men are tender. The Army knew they wouldn't violate their charge as soldiers to protect our citizens, so they were tricked into protecting the yassam police, who apparently have no conscience, while they (the yassamniks) did the evil deed.

In the end, the attempt to brainwash our young people and eradicate this gentle compassion will backfire on those who are so determined to do so. Our compassion is a part of who we are as a people, and though it has been misplaced by this generation of leaders, it is bright and shining in our young people .... and this gives me great hope for our future.

(See TodayinIsrael for more on this subject)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Destruction of the Federman Farm

Sometimes things happen in Israel that bring great anguish and anger. It can be a pigua (terrorist attack) or some other tragedy. We are such a small country and we are so interconnected with one another that when something happens to one family or individual, it is if it happened to the rest of of us. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily true if that tragedy happens to Jews in Judea and Samaria...and more and more lately, so many tragedies are perpetrated by our own government against our own people.

The media has done such a successful job of demonizing the settlers who are our pioneers that often other Israelis are either unaware of the event because the media neglected to even cover the story, or they cover it with such hatred and bias towards the settlers that the general population is left confused. Confused and feeling guilty. Confused because they see the travesty done to these families yet they are told not to care. Feeling guilty because they know in their own hearts that these brave pioneers are the backbone of this country, the courageous ones, and they (the general population) have done nothing to protest.

Saturday night, Oct.25, after Shabbat, at 1 am., our Defense Minister (who is supposed to be defending us against our enemies) ordered an unannounced middle of the night raid to destroy two of the homes of it's own citizens, tearing terrified young children from their beds, and taking a year old baby away from her mother. Unbelievably, children were beaten and even arrested and the homes and all the belongings of 2 families were totally obliterated.

Why? Because Jews dared to settle their own Land. What happened that night was a statement by a departing prime minister that even though he personally is fading from view, lovers of Eretz Israel need to take notice... they (we) won't be tolerated. (Please visit my parallel site Today in Israel, where I discuss this and other events more fully)

We went to the Federman Farm in Kiryat Arba where this tragedy occurred. Their story is almost beyond description. Because the homes and belongings of the Federmans (9 children) and Tors (4 children) were completely destroyed we brought a truckload of food, clothing, furniture, household and personal items they no longer have. It will be a beginning of rebuilding, but as we all know, there are so many personal things that can never be replaced. We went as a team to show support, solidarity, and bring chizuk (to strengthen). As always in these situations, we were the ones who left strengthened and amazed because of the extraordinary emunah (faith) of these remarkable people.

More on this later...........

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Uneasy Silence

There was a silence in the City this morning...broken early enough in my neighborhood by the familiar sound of the police bullhorn as they stopped pedestrian and vehicular traffic so that expert sappers could examine, and perhaps detonate, the suspicious object in the bushes near the coffee shop. B'H, there was no danger, and traffic soon resumed. Yet, as I ascended the hills of Jerusalem to reflect on the days ahead and inquire of Heaven, there remained an unusual silence permeating the air. What was it? Were we just weary after 3 weeks of chagim (holidays) and somewhat sober about settling into our normal routine again? Were we a bit in awe of G-d because a day after the prayers for rain, (on Shmini Atzeret) our skies today were cloudy and gray? Had He indeed heard and heeded our prayers?

While all these things were possible, the silence was an uneasy one, as if we were waiting for something...but it was something that didn't feel good.

By early afternoon I knew why....In the Jerusalem suburb that I can see so clearly when I look out over the western hills, at almost exactly the time I was feeling this uneasiness, an arab terrorist attacked police and murdered an 86 year old man on a street in Gilo. In the hills where my ancestors lit rosh chodesh fires and camped for the chagim, and where my neighbors and friends live today in a return to our Land, a palestinian arab in his 20's re-enacted the ancient jealousy and hatred against Am Yisrael (the people of Israel), and carried out this evil act. A young mizrachi Jew (Yoav Mizrachi) pursued and subdued the killer after police shot the terrorist in the stomach. The koach (strength) and courage of the young Jew must be viewed as a shining light against the depravity of the other.

Last Motzei Shabbat

His name is M. and he is a young Israeli artist. As he sat in my living room describing his feelings about the art that he creates and why, I was touched by the earnestness of this young man. I was reminded of another young man, who after my home was robbed, and my life fell apart on several other fronts, took my hands in his, looked into my heart and tenderly said "God .....He test you" . And I remembered another whose tenderness and love for wheelchair bound individuals outshines anything I have seen. I thought of the young Israeli soldiers that I know and how many times I have witnessed their compassion towards those they protect and those they inspect.

It is one of the great strengths of Israel that her young men are tender. Someday this will be recognized by the rest of the world and they, the nations, will be "startled" at what they have missed. ...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Journal portion written June 25, the day of the dedication of the "String Bridge" as it is called - at the entrance to Jerusalem. Suspended in air, it's modernistic appearance seems out of place - an unbefitting symbol for the entrance to this unparalleled City, even a bit superfluous and pompous. But that's neither here nor there... My mountain top experience put things in perspective.

I was not thrilled with this monstrosity at the gateway to kind of looked like an accident waiting to fact, there have been some engineering issues with it already. I can see it from my window....or at least part of it, sticking up above the buildings and totally out of place in the Jerusalem landscape. At night there is a flashing white beacon at the top, presumably to alert low flying aircraft. Ahh. modernizing this ancient city is quite the task, and everyone wants input. Interestingly, now, months later, it is beginning to look like a familiar landmark - but one that highlights the struggle between imposed modernity and the unique character of Yerushalayim.

That night however, I was out walking in the hills, overlooking the City at night as I love to do. I was depressed and tearful about matters unrelated to the bridge and had actually forgotten about the dedication. Yet, even from my place in the hills, one could feel the festivity. There were fireworks, songs and speeches and it was that kind of warm Jerusalem night where the sounds and activities that are taking place in the City reverberate throughout the hills and neighborhoods. My spirits evenutally lifted but it wasn't the bridge that did it - it was a 6 year old girl and her abba, and a beautiful 29 year old man whose spirit could not be broken. Here is a portion of my journal entry for that day:

"Tonight as I stood on the mountain top and saw the bridge being dedicated across the way with fireworks, lights and hoopla, somewhere the songs of Zion were being sung. I'm not even sure if they were coming from the bridge dedication or from closer by...on warm Jerusalem evenings, the sounds of the night mingle together as they reverberate throughout the hills. The songs were beautiful and they filled my heart with tears.

My thoughts at first were of the phony politicians there, giving Zionist speeches at the same time that they are betraying the country. How dare they depression deepened.

And then I met a young man and his little daughter. The man - about age 30 - stopped me and pointed to the bridge; he and his daughter were both so excited to see this magical creation floating the air. The little girl, about 6, said to her Abba, "Daddy, will it stay up in the air, or will it just fall down?"

It was not the first time I have observed in Israelis a simple wonder at ordinary things......To hear the sweet innocence from a 6 year old is one thing, but to see it in the general population is another... In the midst of the balagan, the turmoil and an enemy crouching at our door, Israelis still believe in the magic of life, and with it comes hope.

Then I remembered something else even more important that I knew was taking place just a few blocks away - in the other direction from the bridge. A very special 29 year old man, in spite of his pain from a difficult year of personal hurt and betrayal, wanted to make a difference in the lives of those who needed affection, and he was making a room full of handicapped men and women feel important and happy and loved by throwing them a party.

It was then I knew that in spite of the olmerts and the pereses, Israel would survive.

The ability to marvel at the magic of life and the strength to take hardship and pain and turn it around by reaching out to others is a unique combination that Israelis possess.....and I knew that in spite of everything traumatic that goes on here, we will make it.