“I would like to share an event that I participated in. In the entrance everyone received one Israeli flag and one American flag. The hall was crowded (approximately 1000 people) we sang HaTikvah, we danced Hava Nagila, even a Holocaust survivor came to speak! In addition, the organizers told us that during the last year they opened and will continue to open chapters in different campuses around the states, where they will educate students interested in loving Israel how to engage in Israel advocacy. This is because of the aggressive anti-Israel activities towards American Jewish students and Israel. At the end of the event, it was announced that $50,000 has been raised to support Israel. Neither Jews nor Israelis organized this event; it was organized by “Christians United for Israel”; whose membership is more than 1 million. In one month they organize approximately 30 “Nights to Honor Israel” across the country. In the United States there are 78% Christians (246,780,000), 66% support Israel; 28% of this group love Israel unconditionally. To simplify this there are about 69,098,400 Christians who will always stand with Israel!! It warms the heart to know there are people like that in the world.”
My first month in Peoria, teaching at PHDS every Tuesday and Thursday, but this Thursday was different.
We finished our morning prayer and suddenly Yona asked the kids to sing the national-anthem, all the kids moved their heads to look at the American flag. My first month in Peoria and I felt more foreign than ever, “what should I do?”, ”How should I stand?”, I felt like a stranger and very uncomfortable, but then without any notice ALL the kids sang the Israeli national-anthem “Hatikva” (the hope), it was beautiful, the first time that I heard my national-anthem here and not in Israel, there was no accent, just pure words that came from their sweet hearts; And I felt I belonged more than ever.
You are invited to come explore Israeli culture and join the conversation as we watch movies, explore the media, the people, the food, the celebrities, the minorities, the music, and the variety of conflicts found inside Israeli society.
We’ll discuss the tension between the Sephardic and Ashkenaz, the Israeli Arabs and Palestinians, secular and religious and much more.
This will be an ongoing series beginning Thursday, Nov. 6 at 7:00 at the JFP Offices. Come explore Israel with us.
Judaism gives us the power in Rosh-Hashana to make a difference to make a change, is it really possible?
In the G’mara, Shabbat 156 we see the following:
“He who is born under Mars will be a shedder of blood. R. Ashi observed: Either a surgeon, a thief, a butcher, or a circumciser. Rabbah said: I was born under Mars. Abaye retorted: You too inflict punishment and kill.”
When you are born your nature has been chosen already –if you are born under Mars you will be seeking blood and to kill! Even the great Rabbah who was born under Mars will inflict punishment and kill.
So how can we make a difference? Let’s look again at the text; the G’mara says that perhaps our nature has already been decided but we have the power to decide where to take it – to the good side? And to be a circumciser ? In the middle to be a butcher, or to choose the wrong direction and to be a thief ?
Look at your beliefs, where do you feel you belong? How do you want to spend the next year?
Do you want to keep your old routines ? Or do you want to make a change and take it to the good direction and go to a nice Hebrew lesson and meet some friends? The decision is in your hands.
Shanah Tovah Umetukah!
It’s already been a week and it’s going so fast….
Being Jewish in America isn’t an easy thing. While in Israel, you don’t have to do much to be or feel a Jew, here things are different, and to be a Jew, it means that you choose to work hard and to pay for it!!! (Double meaning)
A father who wants to spend the high holidays with his family, and his boss doesn’t let him go because he doesn’t see the importance of that.
Paying membership for the temple or the synagogue, even if you aren’t really going there a lot.
Although Sunday is considered a day off, parents make an effort to give their children a Jewish education at Sunday school, or have them attend a Jewish Day School where they learn not only secular studies but also Hebrew and Torah.
This is Crazy!
And you dear people, you are all doing it because you want to believe somewhere deep inside that all the hard work will pay off and the Jewish nation will stay forever.
I’m full with admiration,
I want to thank to each one of you for being there for us, for Israel.
A Guest column from Gal Hartman:
8 weeks have passed since the day I came back to my homeland, and here I am, sharing with you some of my thoughts and fears, hoping to be able to share with you what is it like to live in fear, 24/7, with no end in sight.
This morning, despite the “Cease fire”, Hamas kidnapped an Israeli soldier.
I’m sitting here crying, hoping it’s just a nightmare.
2 days ago was the 30 day anniversary of the murder of the 3 kidnapped kids: Naftaly, Gilad and Eyal.
I went to the memorial ceremony, with other thousands of other people, watching the families, feeling sorrowful just looking at their eyes,and somehow, they were so strong. 3 pairs of parents that in one day lost their children in a merciless revolting kidnapping by monsters- made by the Hamas.
Today is the 26th day of Tzuk Eitan- Operation Protective Edge. 61 of our beloved young beautiful smart brave soldiers- were killed.
61 new bereaved families, their lives ruined forever.
And many wounded soldiers, that for some the recovery will take years.
In Israel,when a soldier is dead, we all mourn.
Here at the age of 18, our kids are called to the army, some of them are called to a dangerous job, that in times of war they may pay with their health and their lives.
This might be the reason why Israel is such an amazing nation. In which other country would you see 30,000 people that are going to a funeral of a soldier that they never met? This was the case in the funerals of two lone soldiers, that made Aliyah from USA leaving their families far away and volunteering to become proud Israeli combat fighters.
Sean Carmeli and Max Steinberg. z’l, were the two Americans that made Alyia by themselves, joined the army’s Golani’s combat elite unit and were killed in a very tragic way.
Most of the world proclaime that Israel is the enemy, that our army isn’t human, and that Israel should be eliminated from the map.
Nothing new under the sun, we already know that we hardly have the world’s support- and even worse, that the world lies and hates us.
So here are some questions that I would like to ask the people who don’t support Israel:
Just try to imagine: terror tunnels underneath your streets, how would you react?
The tunnels that were built by Hamas under Gaza straight to Kibbuztim and other places in Israel, were meant for Hamas terrorists to do mega explosions in Rosh Hashana. They planned to bomb dinning rooms of hotels, kibbutzim and other places, kidnap and murder Israelis. This has been confirmed by captured Hamas operatives.
In the last 26 days there is not one day without rockets from Gaza, we have less then 3 minutes to go to the shelter. What about senior citizens? Sick people? Can you imagine what a mess it can be for them?
What about the mental price of kids in pre- school that are scared from the siren and are told to lay on the floor, covering their head?
The children, the elderly and disabled are those being helped by the Federation Emergency Campaign “Stop the Sirens”. Donate what you can and donate it NOW, the needs are immediate.
I ask you to please watch this video.
And please pray for our brave soldiers and citizens. And spread the video and what you learned.
Guest Column from Lior Zyser:
Lior was the Shlicha in Peoria from 2009-2011. She is finishing up her degree at Hebrew University this year and serving as a Youth Director in one of Jerusalem’s “Ring Neighborhoods”.
“A generations which will cease to believe in peace, will cease to believe diplomatic solutions, and therefore cease from pursuing peace and will forever choose the path of constant war as the only way of being…
I believe that teaching for peace as a humanistic and educational value, will constitute a kind of anti – toxin to the militarization of the consciousness and thought, that lurks at the doorstep of our schools, youth clubs and military camps “…
“Educating for Peace in times of War“- Yigal Allon
A short brief of what happened in Israel in the past month:
- three Israeli teenagers were kidnaped and murdered by Hamas terrorists in the West-Bank
- As an awful revenge- Israeli extremists tortured and murdered a Palestinian teenager.
- This led to attacks and violent demonstrations of Palestinians all around Jerusalem and the West Bank
- This brought to the arrests of Hamas activists
- This led to rockets and missiles launched against Israeli civilians from the Gaza strip
- This brought to the terrible situation of having to target terrorists in Gaza
- A cease-fire was accepted by Israel and Hamas (with the mediation of Egypt)
- Israel stopped the operation, while Hamas kept firing rocket on Israeli civilians.
- A ground operation started last-night in Gaza
What will be next?
A few months ago I started a new position as a Youth Director of one of Jerusalem “Ring Neighborhoods” – East Talpiot (Also known as Armon HaNatziv). This neighborhood, like the others, was built in a land that was added to Israel after the Six Day War in 1967, and was aimed to create a circle of Jewish neighborhoods that will protect the city of Jerusalem from any future attacks by the Palestinian villages surrounding it.
This means that the Jewish residents of East Talpiot live in very close proximity to Arab villages (Zur Baher and Jabel Mukabar) and have constant friction between Israeli and Palestinian civilians. When the three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped by terrorists were found dead in the West Bank- the Palestinians in Zur Baher celebrated with fireworks and loud music (which maybe just was a way to celebrate the breaking of the Ramadan fast that day). After the terrible death of young Muhamad Abu-Khadir by Jewish terrorists, riots began in the villages near-by and Israeli citizens were attacked in the neighborhood. My boss’s car was hit by rocks as he was driving to work, and fire was set close to Jewish homes in the area.
Our youth took it very bad. The first day they went out to the main streets of Jerusalem calling “Death to all Arabs” and attacking peace activists who were protesting against violence. That same day they told me (as we were watching the Soccer World Cup games) that they went to throw rock at Palestinian cars, and that it was okay because “they (the Arabs) do it all the time! So why can’t we?”
A lot of difficult things come up when working with teenagers in such times: lots of violence, racist comments and despair. It’s hard to educate for peace in such times. It seems like Jerusalem became the center of the conflict, and everyday people from both sides were arrested for violent behavior. Alarms go off daily (in the southern part of Israel, it happens every couple of minutes) and people must run for cover. Here in Jerusalem we have more than a minute to run to the shelter, but for families, elderly citizens and people with disabilities- it’s just not enough time. I can’t even imagine what people in Sderot and the Western- Negev are going through these days.
We see on the news that children and civilians in Gaza die as a result of the IAF attacks and it’s painful and terrible to watch. Only children- like the students I work with, like Gilad, Naftali, Eyal and Muhamad- they didn’t deserve to die. I feel terrible for people in Gaza who have no choice but to accept Hamas regime, and to be used as human shields. Hamas is hurting Israeli and Palestinian civilians alike, and they must be stopped.
But in the middle of the fighting, as rockets fly above us and racism and hatred grows on both sides- we do our best to keep educating for a better future. There is no other way in a land like this- divided and populated by two nations, filled with history and faith.
That’s why we do what we can to continue with summer activities for youth. Sit down and talk to them about the situation, ask them how they feel, show them the other side and pass on human-values such as tolerance, pluralism and respect. That is the meaning of educating for peace in a time of war, even if peace seems to be just a dream at this point. It’s hard not to lose hope, but we have to start now- so that the generation of future leaders will be the one that might end this war.
One of the hardest days in Israel is definitely Yom Hazikaron. When this day is over- we start the holiday of Independence day- which is the opposite: a very happy day and a huge celebration in Israel all over the country. Between the saddest day to the happiest day there are only 60 seconds.
On this coming Sunday we will in Israel we will commemorate the Memorial Day for soldiers who were murdered/killed since the establishment of the country. Since Israel is a very small country, and since serving in the army is an obligation- we all know someone who was killed in the army, or someone that lost his loved one in such a tragic way. In recent years, the name of the memorial day was changed into “Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism”.
During this day, there’s a siren all over the country at the exact same time.The siren is heard all over the country and lasts for one minute, during which Israelis stop everything (including driving, which stops highways) and stand in silence, commemorating the fallen and showing respect.Many religious Jews say prayers for the souls of the fallen soldiers at this time.The official ceremony to mark the opening of the day takes place at the Western Wall,and the flag of Israel is lowered to half staff.
Od Me’at Nahafoch Leshir (Soon We Will Become A Song) is a project initiated by one of the leading radio stations in Israel, Galei Tzahal in 2001. This project is to have prominent Israeli artists record songs written by soldiers who lost their lives in the service of Israel. Over 50 songs have been recorded to date.
The following song was written by Lieutenant Erez Shtark. Erez grew up in Kiryat Ata with his parents Bracha and Meir and his brother and sister. Erez was a good student and keen volleyball player. He was a great commander and a role model to his soldiers.
On Monday evening, February 4, 1997 two IDF helicopters on their way into Lebanon collided in the North of Israel. 73 soldiers were killed, including Erez, who was 21 years old.
Nothing will Harm Me
Lyrics: Erez Shtark
Music: Yoram Hazan
Nothing will harm me, nothing.
Not a woman, not a terrorist’s bullet, nothing.
Because that’s the vow I made to my brother,
sister and parents.
And I cried by night, and I worried by day,
I was afraid that something would harm my
and my father’s voice echoes in my head:
If anything should happen to you
there is no point to my life
there is no point to my tomorrow.
If you’re standing here above me,
I probably didn’t keep my promise.
I am sorry, honestly
I am sorry
I am sorry
If anything should happen to you
there is no point to my life
there is no point to my tomorrow.
Nothing will harm me,
Not a woman, not a terrorist’s bullet,
Please join us to a “Lunch and learn” about the Israeli memorial day on Wednesday, May 7th at 12:00pm at the federation office.
My experience at St Ambrose University.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to be a guest speaker in a class that is studying the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and it was very interesting.
I was telling the students about my childhood in Israel, and how when I was 10, during the year 2000 the second intifada started. It was a tragic routine of violence, terrorism,and fear that never ends. Terrorists that bombed buses all over the country- buses where kids, babies and people of all ages were on them. It was in restaurants, in hotels, (there was a really known and sad attack in an Hotel in Netania back then during the first Passover Weder). During the Intifada, that started in 2000 and finished in 2005, 1,178 Israelis were murdered and 8,022 Israeli were injured.
I wanted the students to know these details, I wanted them to know why Israel built the fence that surrounds Gaza, and I wanted them to know that the Palestinians are not Israeli citizens. I feel bad for them for living in such bad conditions- but this is not under my control, and not the responsibility of my country. There were many years that Egypt was in charge of Gaza and the Palestinians. What were they like then? As you can guess, not better.
During this year I’m trying to tell people what Israel is like, and also to debunk so many wrong impressions people have about Israel. The media, unfortunately, shows in many cases a very twisted reality, or if I can be more honest- lies. There was never Palestine, there is one Jewish country in the entire world, and Jewish people lived there for many years, decades. The Jewish people that immigrated after World War II,are not the only Jews that lived there.
So many people never met Jews in their lives, and when you don’t know something in these days, you might want to search for it online, and the internet is filled with information. The problem starts when the information is radical and twisted, which can sometimes happen on the internet.
Next week we will remember Yom Hashoa. I invite you all to come and join us to hear our speaker Walter Reed, a Holocaust survivor, let’s show him our respect by coming in large numbers to hear his life’s story.
So after a long, cold and exhausting snowy winter- the spring has arrived!! Words cannot describe my huge relief and happiness to finally enjoy the warmth of the shining sun. In few days, we will celebrate the Spring holiday- חג האביב- chag ha’aviv- Pessach. Pessach is a very family oriented holiday, and this is going to be my first one without mine, and I find it very interesting. I’m surprised to see how different it is to celebrate it in Peoria, since there are many challenges to deal with. Also, people don’t get days off from work, and if all the family wants to gather around the table-they might need to fly from different states- what an operation!
This week we celebrated Pesach with the seniors, it was a blast.
I also had a lunch and learn about Jewish literature-and there was one poet that I’d like to share with all of you. The reason I think it’s so relevant is because its my first time celebrating the holiday as a Jew first and not in Israel .
Here is a link to Judah Ha-Levi ‘s poems
I wish you all a happy Passover- Looking forward to see you all in the lecture we will have on April 24th at 7pm “The Anti-Semitism today”. Yours, Gal