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
It has been a while since the last time I wrote here, and I would like to share some of my thoughts with you. I went back for a short visit to Israel after exactly seven months since I left to Peoria.
The main purpose of my trip was to celebrate my mother’s 50’s birthday, and my Grandfather’s 80s birthday. The celebrations were a huge success, and of course I took the opportunity to meet many of my dear friends and family.
On the way to Israel I had some time to think about how much I miss everything. As an Israeli, there were many things I took for granted: the warm weather, the short distance from the beach, the loving family and friends, the best variety of food, the language and many more.
When I left Israel and started my journey here as a Shlicha- I realized how many of those things I would miss; how great is to be in Israel, and how easy is to complain (too hot,too loud,too expensive). I am having a wonderful time in Peoria, but I now realize that I will never complain about it being too hot!
There’s this assumption in Israel that America is the best of the best, and I do appreciate America for being the first and strongest democracy in the world, but I guess that there’s no place like home.
I love Israel 10 times more now, than last summer( before I started the Shlichut Program) because I took it all for granted. I love it because of its tremendous importance as the only Jewish country in the entire world, because the weather is amazing, and because it’s my, your, our country.
And yet, there are also sad cases that make me very frustrated. Only a few days ago, Ehud Olmert, Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was convicted in bribery scandal.
It’s a big shame to the entire country, and I’m very upset that it happened- but I’m also thrilled to know that the majority of the country criticizes and admonishes his behavior.
I also realize that every country has her difficulties and challenges. May we have better days and better reasons to hear about our political elite,
Purim is coming!
So we all know this joyful holiday and of course the story of Purim- the Megila.
In Israel, it is very common during the holiday to see people of all ages dressing in funny, beautiful and even crazy costumes.
These times, we have another Haman- Rouhani and Iran- who insist on threatening to destroy anything that has to do with Jews and Israel. Only yesterday we saw how The Israel Defense Forces said Wednesday it intercepted an Iranian shipment of “advanced” weapons bound for “terrorist organizations” operating in Gaza.
The Israeli navy stopped a Panamanian-flagged civilian cargo ship and boarded the vessel, the IDF said.
So I think that the threat from Iran is worse than Haman! If we could do to their government what we did to Haman, not only would it do us good, but their own people would be grateful as well.
This is our generation’s Haman, and we have to fight and eliminate the threat just like we do with the graggers (noise makers). Then good times will come to the people of Israel.
…”that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province ,and every city ,that these days of Purim should not fail to be observed among the Jews ,and that the memory of them should not perish among their descendants”..(Ester 9:28)
We are going to have a great time during Purim- the first party will be for the PHDS students on Monday morning, and on Saturday we are going to have a great evening with dancing, Hamantashen and Java Jews!!
Wish you all a wonderful Purim,
When is the right time to leave? An opinion about the Jewish people in Ukraine these days.
Jewish organizations in Ukraine call to Israel:” Ukrainian Jews are in an emergency, help us! “
The earth is burning under the feet of the Jews in Ukraine, and this week a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a synagogue – an event that was documented on a security camera. Jewish organizations in Europe made an urgent appeal to the Israeli Government to send guards immediately to the Jewish communities in Ukraine, to protect the Jews. “That’s why the State of Israel was established”.
Rabbi Margolin, a known Rabbi in the Jewish community in Ukraine said: that this moment is a test for Israel to prove her commitment to the Jews of the world: ” The Air Force fly- over of the death camps at Auschwitz conveyed a clear message that the state shall ensure the security of Jews around the world even in foreign countries ,” he concluded . “No need to get into a situation so extreme , and unfortunately it now requires the intervention of the State”
Anti-Semitism is really frequent in Ukraine these days. Only a month ago a member of the Jewish community, Dov Ber Glickman (30),was attacked while he made his way to his house on a Friday night. He was attacked by three young men, and after he fell, they stabbed him three times, apparently in his limbs. His condition was described as stable. A week earlier, another attack happened to a Israeli Jewish teacher –in the front of the building where he lives. The Jewish community describes their daily routine as “real fear”, and demanded that Israel take care of their Security.
I think that the situation the Jews in Ukraine are dealing with leaves them no choice, but to leave, and move to a place where they can live safely. The most common option will be, of course, Israel. Unlike other difficult times in our history-where Jews had to suffer and had no other place to go- this time, they have a Jewish country, that will be happy to have them.
I pray for better days in Ukraine, and in any other place on the globe that has no tolerance, pity, and feelings. May we find the way to live without fear.
These days,the Haredim in Israel are facing a revolution: a new law that will force each Israeli citizen to either serve in the IDF or perform National Service. In the March issue of ChaiLights I will include my opinion about this situation- and here, I’m going to mention the little group among the Haredim who do serve the country, in a very unique,helpful and significant way.
The organization I would like to focus on is Zaka: “Founded in 1989 in Israel, ZAKA was originally formed to respond to terror attacks and deal with the retrieval, identification and burial of the deceased. Since then ZAKA has grown to a world renowned humanitarian organization, providing search & rescue, autopsy prevention, medical response and mortuary services. With over 2,800 volunteers based in over 15 countries, ZAKA can provide rapid response and deployment in short notice providing their expertise and equipment where needed.
In 2003 a British Member of Parliament recommended that ZAKA be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2005, the United Nations recognized the ZAKA International Rescue Unit as an international humanitarian volunteer organization (NGO). As a result of its UN recognition ZAKA has since been requested to assist at natural disasters (e.g. Japan, Haiti, New Orleans, Thailand); plane crashes (e.g. USA, Mexico) and terror attacks (e.g. Mumbai, Mombasa, Istanbul).” (taken from http://www.zakarescue.org/about-us/).
This phenomenal organization is leaded by Haredim, their president is Yehuda Meshi Zahav, a bright Haredi and a real Tsadik (righteous person). They provide help 24/7 in Israel and abroad- to Jewish people and to non Jews.
Among the divisions in Zaka we can find mortuary unit, search & rescue, medical unit, missing persons unit, and more. A basic tenet of Judaism is dealing with the importance of saving a life. And if we cannot do that, we should make sure that the dead will be buried. And these are some of many reasons why the Haredi volunteers are determined to help.
Unfortunately the quantity of the Zaka participants is low. Zaka, like many other organizations, needs help. And the Haredim can serve the country in other ways- volunteering daily in Hospital/police/fire departments. There are many possibilities- and Israel is willing to help.
Unfortunately, it seems like the general approach of the secular public in Israel towards the Haredim-is really bad. In the media, we hardly hear/see any good things about the Haredim. I believe that once the Haredim will serve the country- in many ways-they will be much more appreciated, and will have a better chance for success as independent people- who serve in the army, work, and pay for their bread.
I hope that the new law will open a new future to address the problem of inequality in the burden, that all the Israelis should do their best, so Israel will continue to exist, no shortcuts to anyone.
Israel at the Olympic games:
This week I had the honor to watch the winter Olympic games. Among all the countries, one delegation made my heart melt- you guessed right- the Israeli delegation. 5 athletes who will compete in sky, figure skating and speed skating.
One couple that was really unique was the Jewish-American Andrea Ania Davidovich and the Jewish Russian Yvgeny Krasnopolsky. Davidovich is 16 years old, and Kransopolsky is 25 years old- and they decided to represent Israel. They took the former professional ice dancers Galit Hayat and Gennada Krasnipski on as their coachers- and started to practice in New Jersey.
Israel doesn’t have the facilities for winter games and the USA provides a location for the Israeli competitors to practice.
Last Monday, the couple made history and made it to the final stage, and last Wednesday they achieved the 15th place overall.
For the first time, Israel has a better future in the winter Games, because Davidovich is very young- and the face that she represents -Israel-give us the hope for a better future with the winter Olympic games. I hope that the best is yet to come, and wish lots of good luck to them!
Next Wednesday I will be having an Israeli Lunch and Learn at noon
“Ariel Zilber, one of Israel’s most revered singer-songwriters, is 70 years old. Many believe it’s about time he got a lifetime achievement award from ACUM (the Israeli version of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers)—and he almost did. But the planned award fell through at the last minute due to Zilber’s political beliefs, deemed by many to be too radical.
It all started less than a week ago, when the singer Noa turned down her ACUM award because of the group’s decision to award the big prize of the evening to the controversial Chozer B’Tshuvah star. She said she objected to Zilber being honored, arguing that granting him the award would give legitimacy to his many extreme public statements. For starters, that includes his support of Rabbi Meir Kahane, as well as his statement advocating for the release of Yigal Amir, Yitzhak Rabin’s murderer (a statement he now denies). Following public pressure from Dalia Rabin, the daughter of Yitzhak Rabin, ACUM soon decided to downgrade his “lifetime achievement award” to a “prize for contribution to music.”
Since no one disputes Ariel Zilber’s major contributions to Israeli popular music, ACUM’s decision sparked an immediate cultural and political firestorm, with many defending Zilber’s right to the lifetime achievement award. Interestingly, not only right-wing politicians like Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett, and Minister of Culture Limor Livnat protested the decision—so did many others who believe in art, music, and, most important, freedom of speech.”
Quoted From Tablet Magazine
How can we judge an artist- and where are the limits? Some people might boycott an artist’s work due to his beliefs. In the past, during and after World War Two, it happened with the musician Richard Wagner- who was anti-Semitic, and many Jews refused to listen to his music.
Nowadays we can take the example of Roger Waters, from “Pink Floyd”- who recently compared Israel to the Nazis in Germany. Personally, and like many other friends of mine in Israel- I will change the radio station if I can so I will not hear his music- despite the fact it’s great music.
This brings me to the power of admiration. When we adore an artist, in many cases we do much more than love his work. Usually we also love his ideas, way of life and the contents of his songs. It is difficult to separate between the product and its creator. And this might be the reason, that we are really critical when it “touches” us- and hurts us.
We might also take an example from our favorite artists: if I may say, some of the modern singers, such as Miley Cyrus, is a tragic role model for girls- mostly because of her provocative behavior and clothes (or whatever she puts on to cover herself).
And back to our discussion about Noa and Ariel Zilber: as Israeli, I would like to say that I understand why people are mad at each one of them, their behavior hurt people – Zilber said awful things about the IDF, Itzhak Rabin, the Gay community, and many others. Personally, when I’m watching him protest for the release of Igal Amir-I feel terrible. I just think to myself what a wonderful world it could be if people will just know how their words affected others.
And Noa- probably the most successful singer that Israel has ever had –a singer that was invited to the Vatican to sing in front of the Pope- and her resume in music is astonishing- but she hurt many Israelis by saying that the pain of a mother that loses her son in a war is identical (whether they die in a suicide bombing or are martyred in one)- and that’s why during the Israeli Memorial Day for soldiers, she goes also to support Palestinian families.
I believe when someone is getting such high and international recognition-they should consider what their words and acts sound like. In many situations, it can cause fans to realize that behind the art there’s a character that represents your most hated concepts.
On 1 November 2005 the UN General Assembly decided to establish an international memorial day commemorating the victims of the Holocaust. UN resolution included among others the following sections:
• The UN encourages the member states to develop educational programs that will affect the younger generations to learn the lessons of the Holocaust to prevent future crimes.
• UN rejects any attempt to deny partially or completely the Holocaust as an historical event
• UN condemns any manifestation of religious intolerance, racism and violence against groups based on ethnic or religious.
I wonder why the world didn’t mention this already years ago? What took the world so many years to establish a date to this ??
In Israel, we mention the Memorial Day in many ways: ceremonies in schools and in universities, many movies that deal with this subject are on the television at this date, and holocaust survivors that are telling their personal tragic and heroic stories are in the media, and everywhere.
The problem is that these holocaust survivors will not live forever, and we should make sure that their stories will never be forgotten.
Teaching and educating people about the holocaust is a huge challenge. Unfortunately, there are still mean people that deny the holocaust. Like it never happened.
Personally, when I hear about someone that denies the Holocaust (especially if he is a lecturer, teacher, or any other character that has an influence on others), I’m offended, angry and moreover – ashamed.
Ashamed that these people dare to cancel with a great disrespect one of the world’s most tragic murders in the entire history.
My father made Alyia to Israel in 1971, when he was 17. He made Alyia from Poland. In school, and ever since he could remember – he was considered “the Jew.” My father lost all his uncles and grandparents in the holocaust. Despite all this, in my father’s house the “Shoa” was taboo.
My father and his siblings never dared to ask their parents about what happened “there”. They knew it is too painful. That there are questions that they can’t even give an answer for, such as: How did this happen? How did 6,000,000 Jews be murdered, burned, and tortured, and no one stopped it?!?
We , as Jewish people, as a nation that fought and won in every single war and battle – even when the Nazis killed many of us – we are here, alive. And we should make sure to continue to tell our history, as much as we can, to each person – with an emphasis on the young generations.
This was reported in YNet this week, I do not believe it was reported on in the states:
A Haredi man gets onto a plane, and on the way to his seat, he realizes that in the seat next to him there is a woman. On El-Al flights, the Haredi have the right to ask to move their seat, and the flight attendants will do all they can to meet the request
But what happens when a woman asks to move her seat after seeing that a Haredi man is sitting next to her? This question has some renewed interest after a woman who flew with El-Al decided to check to see if her request would get the same attention and efficient treatment.
The results, as you may guess were different: “Excuse me, miss, may I ask to move my seat?”, she said to the steward, “the seats are chosen for the passengers by conditions that have nothing to do with personal requests such as “preferred company in the seats next to me”. She was told “Please go back to your seat”.
So why do the Haredim get all the attention, and know that they can ask to be moved and get it- while other passengers need to accept the fact that this is not their private plane, and they cannot make changes?
The challenges in the relationships between some Haredim and the rest of the citizens in Israel have always been great. Judging someone based only on his appearance, voice, color of skin, religion or gender- is what I tend to define as discrimination, and it’s bad and severe is it looks and sounds.
Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, but some people insist to behave like we were in middle ages. I believe there’s enough room for everyone- for all beliefs, colors, and approaches. We should learn to respect each other and then we might find the solution to many of the problems.
In addition, on a completely different subject, I would like to ask help from you.
Yesterday, A 4-year old girl and her 1-year-old little sister died, and two of their siblings (aged 5 and 7) are in critical condition after being exposed to pesticides in their home in Jerusalem. The parents asked all Am Israel to pray for the 2 sons that are struggling for their lives in the hospital. The sons’ names are Michael Haim Shlomo ben Michal, and Yitzhak Refael Isaac ben Michal.
A Guest Blog from Golan Sieradzki:
A note from Gal:
Golan Sieradzk received his BA in Business Management and International Affairs from Tel-Aviv University.
He has offered me to write this article this week in my blog, and I hope you’ll find it as interesting as I do.
In the History of our people, the Jewish People, we’ve had few great leaders – Moses led us to leave Egypt, King David won Goliath and conquered Jerusalem, Judas Maccabeus was a military hero and Bar Kokhba revolted against the Roman Empire in Masada. Last Saturday, one of the prominent leaders on this list, Ariel Sharon, passed away.
Sharon was a controversial leader – many people, Israelis and Arabs, still suffer because of his decisions, personally I don’t agree with many of them, and truly believe that we have been paying a very expensive price because of them. But, this week is the right moment to remember the other hand – Sharon and Yitzhak Rabin were the last viewable leaders from the list of Jewish leaders.
Sharon and Rabin were political opponents with different solutions to the Middle East, but the comparison isn’t ridiculous – they both started their careers as agriculturists and left their private ambitions to serve the new state in the new Israeli Defense Forces; they both were military commanders and heroes who were responsible for the great victories in the Independence War (1948) and the Six-Day War (1967), and Sharon was responsible also for the victory in Yom-Kippur War (1973) in the southern battlefront. But the main reason for my comparison is that Sharon and Rabin believed during all of their lives in a strong handed policy against the Palestinians, but when they became Prime Ministers, they understood the responsibility of the Israeli leaders’ role, they knew better than anyone the price of the war, and they made brave and unpopular decisions, sometimes against their own personal opinions and life’s work, ready to pay a private price – everything was based on the inspiration of changing the history of the Jews and the State of Israel. As PM, they both gave us hope, they both thought strategically about the long term and not tactically on the short one; and unfortunately, the processes that they both started were stopped before a final accomplishment.
I remember as a child during the daily terror attacks at the beginning of the previous decade – the security absence to go around streets, the scares when I couldn’t reach my family on the phone after explosions in Tel-Aviv, and the infinite arguments with them whether I’m able to take buses or to shop in malls. Ariel Sharon solved this unbearable situation, and afterward decided that lives are more important than land – and unilateral disengaged Israeli settlements in Gaza Strip. Exactly like Rabin, we’ll never know what would happen if Sharon had accomplished his plans.
This is the right time to mention and remember Ariel Sharon’s magnificent contribution to the huge Aliyah from Russia at the beginning of the 90′s, and his ability as PM to preserve and improve the relations between Israel and USA, supported by the American Jewish communities.
I miss these unique kind of leaders who understand the role of the Israeli Prime Minister, who are ready to take hard and unpopular decisions, who are able to believe in something, to say it and to do it.