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
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.