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Thursday, December 31, 2009

To Walk the Land and to be Counted

This has been quite a busy week in terms of getting around! A family was in from out of town whom I knew very well and had asked me to accompany them on some of their tiyulim in the greater Yerushalayim area (I am not--yet--a guide but with the exception of the 3rd day we had "professional" guides along the way). My purpose was to add a "flavor" to the trip both in terms of history and in terms of Tanach and Jewish Thought .

While I have been to Hevron numerous times, it is ALWAYS a treat to visit such an inspirational place as this. I say inspirational both in terms of the ancient history of our People and in terms of the local Jewish population. The few hundred Jews living there are TRULY seeing to it that Hevron maintains a Jewish presence...Kol HaKavod to them!

The next day, I found myself again in Ir David. I can not say this enough times...no matter if you have or have not been there before...it is an obligatory visit to see things that you only have learned about or heard about. Our guide was outstanding and made all of what we saw come alive. Imagine seeing David HaMelech's palace...the actual spring from where the Bnei Yisrael took water for the ceremony in the Bet HaMikdash for Simchat Bet Hashoeva and on and on and on...every step...every view is another peek back in time!

Our final day took us to the Southern Wall excavations and the Davidson Center. Again, a stop NOT to be missed on a trip...I read to the family from the Tanach from the sections dealing with the ascension of the bet HaMkidash and the subsequent downfall...we walked the ancient streets that still are there with the huge boulders thrown on those streets dating to the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash. We looked at Eicha and saw hope in some of the Kinnot we read on 9 Av every year. What a special moment to stand at the Southern Wall looking at the (sealed) gates through which ancient Pilgrims (and I am not talking with the Indians!) walked to be Oleh L'Regel. While it was cold and rainy (Baruch Hashem!) the mood was one of both joy and anticipation that we WILL indeed see this place SPEEDILY teeming with Pilgrims again!

And we walked...and we walked...and we walked the land...this magnificent Land! And then, I opened the paper this morning to learn some very nice facts and figures about this Land of our's.

As of now, there are 7.5 million residents in Israel (kein yirbu!) of which 5.983 million are Jews(74.5%). This number was bolstered in 2009 from two fronts....an amazing 160,000 (!!) babies were born (Kein Yirbu!!) and 14, 500 new Olim came to this country (that includes US!). BLi ayin Hara a thousand times over, this past year of 2009 was the least amount of deaths (due to murder) via suicide bombings in the past 10 years with a grand total of: ZERO. (Compare that to 36 in 2008). Instead of nearly 2,100 rockets falling on Sderot in 2008, there were "only" 160 in 2009. (Yes, even ONE is too many! But Baruch Hashem, that with Hashem's help, the IDF has accomplished that which they SHOULD have done 8 years earlier).

So, during this week, I certainly felt a part of this Land both in terms of WALKING it and in terms of "belonging" to it in terms of population growth and (B'ezrat Hashem) further expansion.

However, this expansion will only be fully possible if the government removes the RIDICULOUS and onerous building freeze in Yehuda and Shomron.

(By the way, if you STILL call it the "West Bank"--a term I NEVER use--you may want to consider calling this parcel of land what the JEWS call it and not what the Arab propoganda machine labels it. By calling it the W.B., you are referring to the West Bank of the Jordan River, indicating that this area is "connected" to the other side of the Jordan and NOT to the Land of Israel. And for those of you who think it is a matter of semantics...there is NO such thing in that regards...in this part of the world, words and titles make all the difference in perspective!)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Ties that Bind

It occurred to me that I had TWO forms of the word "tie" to write about (poor English grammar..., so sue me)...

When we landed on July 7, 2009 on Aliya, I removed the tie that I had been wearing. A tie had been a part of my wardrobe 365 days a year for the past ten years. That was then...this is now. As of the date of Aliya, I had not worn a tie (nor had a reason to wear one) for almost six months. However, the other night, I attended a wedding (my third in the past few months) and was told that at THIS wedding, I would be best off wearing a tie. So, I opened the bag into which all of my ties had been waiting dutifully to be used and scanned the lot of them. I took one in hand, and while walking to the mirror, I wondered aloud if I would remember how to tie a tie! Well, it was like riding a bicycle, and I was able to put it on with no problems. Except...after not wearing a tie for six months, putting on one now actually felt strange. How is it that something that had been so much a part of my dress had now felt so foreign and strange. I wore the tie until the middle of the dancing when I joined dozens of others who (blessedly) removed their's!

But there is another form of "tie" to talk about as well. On Sunday last week, I got together with some of my cousins from Toronto, who were in town for a visit. Then this past Shabbat, we had the pleasure of hosting Andy's twin sister, Sandy, her husband, Steve and my in-laws, the Shwarzsteins. Sandy and Steve are in for a visit from Chicago and my in-laws were "in town" from Neve Yaakov. As we all sat around the Shabbat table, and as we all sat in virtually the exact same seats at the table as we used to when we got together back in Chicago I realized how close our family ties truly are. We spent a beautiful Shabbat together catching up and picking up right where we last left off.

Our ties to our family both here and in Chicago and Toronto, and our ties to our new community in Maale Adumim are truly very strong ties that bind us together.

So, this past week featured one tie that was uncomfortable and one "tie" that was MORE than comfortable.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Book on Aliya

Living here in Maale Adumim, I have had the zechut of getting to know a lot of people with a lot of talent. Almost on a daily basis, I learn of the accomplishments of one of my fellow residents of this community.

It, therefore, came as no surprise to me that a neighbor of mine, actually living in my building, has just published a book that I wish I had before we made Aliya! Entitled "Oleh Chadash, The New Immigrant to Israel," Rabbi Mordechai Freidfertig captures so much of the Halachik and Hashkafik aspects of aliya for the Oleh. And while his book is geared to one who has or is about to make Aliya, the truth is that what I read in the book would be good for anyone to read.

He was given a very nice write-up in today's Arutz-7 in an article that can be seen here: www.israelnationalnews.com/News/news.aspx/135121

Many of the insights of this book are based on the teachings of Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, Rosh Yeshiva of Ateret Kohanim, a teacher of Rabbi Friedfertig, who disseminates Rav Aviner's works in English.

I stated on the first day I began this blog that one of the purposes of writing all of this is to hopefully inspire and educate readers in the subject of Aliya. Well, here is a book that will both educate and inspire! If you are interested in a copy, please feel free to email me or to comment on this blog entry, and I will send you the information about ordering the book.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Our First Chanuka in Israel

As I have commented so many times before, this first year of Aliya is, quite obviously, filled with "firsts" quite frequently. This past Friday night, with the arrival of Shabbat, we began our first Chanuka in Israel. As soon as we finished lighting, I left for shul hoping to pass dozens of people as they still were lighting or singing a song. I was not disappointed! I passed Chanukiot of all shapes and sizes and placed in all different locations. Some were outside at the entrance of their buildings; some were in windows, some were in doorways and others perched high above the street on a mirpesset (balcony). But...what was beautiful was that everywhere I looked I saw Chanuka being observed. It was magnificent to witness!


There was a different kind of first for us as well this week. Tonight (Monday night), we are all home for Chanuka together for the first time in THREE years! It is so nice to have all three of my daughters together with us and the hustle and bustle that goes with it.










While in the United States, the main "staple" of Chanuka is latkes (read: Levivot), here the main food is, of course, the Sufganiyot (jelly donuts). For those of you who have not had one or may not know what Sufganiyot are, let me try to paint a picture: Imagine taking a small blob of dough, dropping it into a vat of oil, removing this oily blob and then drop it into a vat of more oil and then once it has remained there for a day or so, removing it and then sprinkle it with liberal amounts of powdered sugar. Before it is complete, the baker must take a caulk gun and insert a very sweet, very red substance that vaguely resembles jelly and force it into this oily, dought mixture. Then and only then, are you ready to eat the Sufaginya. While there are all forms of Sufganiyot (including one place that has "designer" ones), the CLASSIC is the jelly product. The average Israeli eats between 986-1,034 Sufganiyot during the 8 days of Chanuka. I, on the other hand, have not had even one (*shudder*) because I can not eat something that I could probably stick a wick in and use as a Chanukia! I have been told that I may have to surrender my Israeli citizenship for not eating one, but at this point I will just have to take my chances.





One final Chanuka note...we have switched from a SHIN to a PEH! Of course, I am referring to the letters on a "svivon" (Dreidel). The miracle happened "POH" (here) and no longer "SHAM" (or over there). The only problem is that some of the popular Chanuka songs don't rhyme with the PEH! Small price to "PEH" for living in Israel (sorry, I couldn't resist!)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Visit to IKEA ISRAEL

For those of you who have been following this blog for months, you know that Andy and I spent MANY hours in Ikea (Schaumburg, IL) before Aliya purchasing a whole host of items. (I will not re-hash all of that here, as it is too painful a memory!) In any case, months ago, in the heat of assembling all of the items we shipped here from Ikea, we found that they had given us three doors for book case extensions that were the wrong color. Many phone calls to Ikea in the USA finally gave us the solution to return the doors to any Ikea in the U.S., once we got them there, for replacement doors. We were told in no uncertain terms by the store HERE that they would not take them in exchange, as it was THEIR problem there, on the other side of the Atlantic.

Well, Andy and I had the opportunity to visit Ikea yesterday. MY motiviation was that I wanted to eat in their food-court while Andy perused the store for things we might need (HAH! We don't need ANYTHING!)...The thought of eating soup, salmon, bread, etc from the food court was a very enticing activity, since on all my visits to Ikea USA (Lo Aleinu), I would sit there and watch people consuming the inexpensive fare as I sat there with my cup of coffee and home made goodies.

Ah, but now was my chance! We got a ride from a good friend here in Miztpe Nevo (thanks Shlomo!) to the BIG BLUE IKEA in Netanya. On the drive there, Andy asked me if there was anything I wanted to see when we got to the store. I told that I was interested in seeing the EXIT!

Anyways, we decided that since we had nothing to lose, we would at least TRY to get the doors replaced.

THE RESULTS?

The food was great (ok, it was pretty good, but the IDEA of eating there was soooooo good!) and, believe it or not, we were able to get the doors replaced! I went to the customer service department and explained my tale. (She stopped me in the middle to tell me that she did not believe I had made Aliya 5 months ago. I asked her why she would say that, and she said I spoke Hebrew like an Israeli. After feeling very proud of that, I showed her the receipt of the goods we had shipped on our lift a few months back to "prove" we just moved. We began to chat about Olim and Hebrew and some of the obstacles there are and the benefits we get...before I knew it our discussion veered into an Oleh Chadash discussion, putting aside the "door issue" for a few minutes. Once we returned to the matter at hand, she was more than gracious in trying to help out an Oleh. While that was not my "angle" that I had planned on, it certainly ended up working to my advantage! We got the doors replaced (ok, we DID have to pay a small re-stocking fee) and they will be installed by me today.

I must say that it was, all in all, a very pleasant experience! One thing of note...Ikea has many rooms set up as "show rooms" so people can see what their product would look like when used in a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom etc. In the area that they had bedrooms set up, I took a look around for a moment and something struck me as being subtly different from the show-areas in Schaumburg...the show-bedrooms all had Mezuzot! How cool is that!

So, I survived a trip to Ikea and lived to tell about it. I better go and put those bookcase extensions together, before beginning the rest of my day. In the meantime, I will think about the Swedish Meatballs we bought at Ikea to make for Shabbat....I love this country :)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

In Favor of a Settlement Freeze

The big news around here lately has been the decision by the Netanyahu government to institute a 10-month freeze of new construction (with some exceptions) in the so-called settlements of Israel. The public debate has ranged from mild to fierce and everything in between. Newspapers, blogs, on-line news magazines, television...all are debating the issue of this imposed freeze. So, it is time for me to weigh in on such a freeze as well...I am in favor of it.

Now, before you shut your computer off (or throw down the paper in which you are reading this) in anger and disgust at how I could say such a thing, allow me to explain.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word settlement as: "The act or process of settling." Using THAT definition, allow me to explain why I am indeed in favor of a settlement freeze:

* I would like to put a freeze on Israel settling for a government that promises one platform but delivers another.

* I would like to put a freeze on settling for rhetoric and pablum-spewing dictators calling for the annihilation of Israel, while the world is silent.

* I would like to put a freeze on settling for a United Nations which is obsessed with Israel and its condemnation.

* I would like to put a freeze on settling for the world blaming Israel every time something goes wrong.

* I would like to put a freeze on settling for boycotts and calls for marginalizing Israel.

* I would like to put a freeze on settling for allowing a brand new Arab neighborhood to be built near Ramallah but not permitting Jews to build Yehuda and Shomron.

Yes, I definitely support a freeze on settling for such folly and foolishness.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It is December, Already?!

In my previous life, there were certain signs that December was coming up. These signs included drastic weather changes, certain music that was playing in a ubiquitous fashion anywhere I went, cheerful holiday wishes (ignoring the fact that not every single person walking down the street was celebrating the same holiday as they were) and, of course, the PARKING BAN that would go into effect on December 1st in Chicago. This parking ban ultimately led to the annual ritual of bringing out old, beat up lawn furniture to prepare it for use in the street when it would snow.

For the uninitiated in Chicago-ese, let me clarify the last two statements: In order to ease snow clearing, should it become necessary, the city of Chicago instituted a parking ban on hundreds of miles of main arterial streets for the overnight hours, in case it would snow and removal would be necessary. Even if it did not snow, one was prohibited from parking on these streets overnight. (This ban went into effect today and will remain until April 2010). And, another time-honored tradition: Once there was a snowstorm, and you finished shoveling out your parking place, the way you saved that spot was to put old furniture, chairs, etc to mark your territory.

And I have seen none of these signs...and yet, I turned the page on the calendar today to find DECEMBER staring at me...December without the carols, December without the snow, December without the sales, December without the....well, you get the idea.

INSTEAD: It is Kislev...the month of Chanuka...and you see it and feel it everywhere! In stores, on the streets, on the buses, in posters...everywhere you turn there are signs that Chanuka is approaching. It will be very strange when we light our Chanukia and look out our window to NOT see snow...and we will NOT see our green plastic chairs sitting in a mound of snow waiting to be thrust into service. But, that's ok...I don't think I will miss that.

Monday, November 23, 2009

"You See a Video, I See My Dream Came True!"

On my very first visit to Israel with a group back around 2002, I found myself standing on a Jerusalem street corner for a few minutes, all alone. I was awaiting the beginning of a new day of touring but was ready much earlier than everyone else. I vividly recall standing there in the crisp November air observing school children making their way to school. Garbed in backpacks, children of all sizes were grasping small bags of Choco on the way to school, and young students speaking in very animated fashion to their friends. As I stood there, I said to myself, " Why am I not raising my kids in Israel!?! How can it be that they are going to be educated in the Diaspora and not here, at home in Israel?" At that point in my life, I still felt that Aliya was a dream, and one that may not come true. It pained me to think back then that I would not see any of my kids go through the school system in Israel and get an Israeli education. Nor would they have the "youth" experience that Israelis grow up with.

All that changed last night! As many of you are aware, this month in Israel was Chodesh Irgun. It is a month in which kids in Bnei Akiva (A VERY STRONG MOVEMENT IN ISRAEL) participate in a myriad of activities and, in many cases, are out of the house a LOT for various events. The culmination of this month of activities is a Shabbat Irgun, a series of presentations to the public by various classes/groups and, for those in 9th grade, the acquiring of their Shevet name. It is a BIG deal, one of those "rites of passage" in a large segment of the Israeli population.
And there was my youngest daughter, right in the thick of things! She disappeared for what seemed like days at a time to involve and immerse herself in these activities. Her group's performance was a video they put together based on the theme of "V'ahavta L're'acha Kamocha." As I watched this video...as I observed her total immersion into her class and her social group of new friends, I could not help but flash back to that moment on a street corner in Jerusalem seven years prior.

After watching this video, I turned to her and said: "You see a video. But, I just witnessed my dream come true."


I invite you to see the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yy_5QrrCkoQ

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Road Trip!

On Wednesday, I joined a few of my co-workers for a road trip, of sorts. Since I needed to be in Modi'in by 6:45am, I decided to spend the night at nearby Hashmonaim and then make my way to Modi'in early after Shacharit.
The purpose of this road trip was to visit seven or eight hotels/resorts/inns in the Northern part of the country to see their facilities, see their rooms and hear about what services they provide . This way, we can make informed decisions as to places to recommend to those coming to Israel for a visit. Some places would be appropriate for youth groups while others would be for high end travelers and others, still, for those in between.
The weather co-operated, and we were treated to a magnificent day with mostly blue, clear skies, gorgeous temperatures and a gentle breeze. Couple that weather with breath-taking views in the mountains of the Galil, the vista of the Kinerret and the food we were served along the way, all of that made for a MOST enjoyable and educational day. It is so interesting to see what some providers consider "deluxe" when it comes to accommodations while others would call the same room "superior" or "standard." Because there are different needs for travelers, there are indeed different options.

The day was a VERY long day for me since I was first awoken by the Muezzin (Moslem call to prayer) coming from loudspeakers from the nearby Arab village at 4:15am. I did not return home until after 9:00pm. BUT...well worth it! I had a very enjoyable time, and like I said I did in fact learn a lot.


One of the most beautiful views had to have been the view of Har Tavor...the area in which the battle with Devora Ha'Nevia, Barak ben Avinoam and Sisra. I could have sat there all day long!
By the way, for those of you who have stayed in Kibbutz Lavi's guest house, you will be amazed at the new rooms and all of the remodeling they are doing in one of the wings.


Now it is back to work at my desk and not in the field. It is almost Shabbat (tomorrow night!), and we are going away for Shabbat in Petah Tikvah. I am SO looking forward to going!

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Reunion, A Book, and other Miscellany

Once again, many things to write about...

1.) Last night, Sunday, November 15th, I joined a number of others living in Israel for a Class of '76 reunion held right here in Maale Adumim. Well, to be a bit more specific, it was a reunion for Class of '76 for the Ida Crown Jewish Academy. And to be even MORE specific, I didn't even GO to ICJA! But, since Andy DID go there and I DID graduate in '76, and I WAS invited, after all, I decided to go...and I am so glad I did. I saw friends that I have not seen in (some cases) over 34 years. But, in addition to those who had gathered here, we were also joined long-distance, by the miracle of technology, by a large group sitting in a hotel hall in Chicago with a video hook-up. It was so nice to see people from both sides of the ocean get together like that! (When a few people noted that they do not recall me having been in the class at the Academy, I told them that I was undercover and that they just didn't realize I was there!)

2.) Over the years, I have found less and less time to read. Most of my time doing that form of activity was spent either learning for personal growth or learning to prepare classes. But to read a BOOK was a very rare thing for me for years. However, I had one book in my collection that I was determined to read, albeit a book in Ivrit. I pulled it down off the shelf the other day and am already half-way through what has become my absolute, number one, all time favorite book that I have ever read. Now that is a pretty bold statement, especially considering I am only half-way through. So, let me back up and tell you what it is and why I love this book. I am reading the autobiography of Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, former Chief Rabbi of Israel. The title is אל תשלח ידך אל הנער which has won the Israel Prize. Rav Lau shlit"a, was the youngest survivor of Buchenwald. While there are many books written about experiences in the camps, this one is incredible! He weaves his story of the past with anecdotes over the past few years and how many of his experiences crossed into his professional life. How, for example a woman called him and begged him to perform the wedding of his daughter. When Rav Lau said he had another wedding that same day to do, she pleaded with him. Before he relented, he had to ask why it was so critical that HE be the one to do this wedding. She told him that this information would only be revealed to him after the Chuppah...to make an incredible story short...it turns out that it was in this woman's arms that Rav Lau's mother died in a concentration camp. How he describes this moment can not be put into words. If your Ivrit is not at the point you can read this book yet, I urge you to pull out a dictionary and read it... you will not regret it!

3.) I had a VERY high cell phone bill and had no idea what made it so high. Then I checked the detail...it says that about 20 calls were made on one of my daughter's phones from Jordan. Now, I consider myself a pretty responsible parent and would think that IF indeed my daughter HAD gone to Jordan I would have known. I called Cellcom, and they explained to me that her location at Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu evidentally placed her within range of the Jordanian cell towers and it was pinging off their towers. While they assured me I will be credited, that is not the point of my story...the guy taking care of me on the phone asked me if he could call me back later to review the charges and the credits as he first had to review it with his supervisor. Without blinking or thinking, I told him that it was no problem for him to call me later as I needed to run out and daven Mincha! His reply was to daven well and that he would call me later...I love this country!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ben-Gurion Airport

I went in to the office today, Wednesday, and I had a very productive day. When I was getting ready to leave, a co-worker offered to drop me at a bus stop where I could catch the bus to Yerushalayim, because she had to go to the airport and was going out. We got to talking, and the next thing we realized...we were already at the airport! (The office is a 10 minute drive from Ben-Gurion)

So, now I needed to find the bus back to Yerushalayim near the airport. No problem whatsoever with only one exception...I was at the airport and I TRULY began to have palpitations! Why, you may ask? (If you did not ask, you are welcome to stop reading right now). After visiting Israel 21 times prior to our Aliya (bringing groups, coming alone, etc), every single time I went TO Ben Gurion, I was sad because it meant I was leaving Israel. I, of course, associated arriving at Ben Gurion (not through a plane but by a vehicle) with LEAVING Israel.

I suddenly found myself VERY eager to get out of the airport, as fast possible. I AM NOT LEAVING ISRAEL! I AM NOT BOARDING A PLANE...LET ME GO BACK HOME!!! I can not begin to explain how strange or how uncomfortable I felt being in the airport. Look, I know that when the time comes for me to go on a trip, I will be fine (won't I??!)....but I will know I am going to the airport and then leaving and then returning home to Israel. But, today, just suddenly finding myself there...well, I just NEEDED to get out of there.

As I write this, I am back at home (PHEW!) and nowhere near the airport...for now, I am safe!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Only Six More Days Until Shabbat!

While today is only Sunday, I find myself already thinking about Shabbat...specifically Friday night...and specifically Kabbalat Shabbat. To participate in the serene, melodious nearly-surreal singing is to BEGIN to understand the idea that Shababt is "me'en olam Haba" (a taste of the World to Come). If I could describe in the printed word what it feels like to sit there with a few hundred people singing so beautifully together and the absolute peace at which I feel while singing, I would attempt to put it in words. But the best way to say this is to say that anytime you find yourself in Israel, you must experience a Shabbat in Mitzpe Nevo, especially the Tefilla.

During the week, I often catch myself humming tunes from the Friday night tefilla and think that it is only "X" number of days until we are together again for that mystical time. While I could elaborate further, you get my drift by now!

I had a very interesting thing happen today that, when I thought about it in retrospect, I FULLY understood the situation. I often go to daven Mincha at 1:35pm at the local boys Yeshiva high School. There is, of course, a gate through which all visitors and students must pass and must be buzzed in through the security gate. Over the past few months, the one or two Shomrim (guards) who are at the gates came to know me, and buzzed me in as soon as they saw me. Today, however, I arrived to see a new guard. He asked me for ID...I had been working in the house on some project and was not walking around with any identification. He asked again for me to present ID...when I told him I had none, he would not let me in. As I began to explain how I am there nearly every day, and he said he would not let me in, I just put up my hand, stopped the conversation and said, "Ata tzodek" (you are correct!). Under no circumstances should he have let me in, and he was 100% right about it. As I walked home, I recalled that the #2 Bus was bombed by a homicide bomber dressed like a Chassid. Just because a guy comes with a Kippah and tzitzit out does NOT entitle him to walk freely into a high school.

(PS--As I write these words, I am sitting in our backyard until a moonlit sky filled with 1000's of stars. I look up, and in the distance, I see Jordan and hear the faint sounds of cars on the main road a couple of kilometers away. The beauty of Maale Adumim is staring me in the face one mountain over...Ah, Hashem has truly blessed us!)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Travel Documents

Once a person makes Aliya, they are not entitled to an Israeli passport for a period of one year. Instead, when someone needs to leave Israel, they must apply for and receive a document called a Teudat Ma'avar. It looks identical to a passport, but it is not a passport. It functions exactly like a passport...but it is not a passport. So, you may ask, why give a Teudat Ma'avar instead of a passport, if indeed they function the same way. The answer to that question is very deep....I JUST DON'T KNOW.
But, since my job will eventually require me to go to Chutz La'Aretz, I figured it would be a good idea to get that taken care of and not wait until the last minute. Besides, who knows how long it would take to get the actual pseudo-passport? Well, the answer to THAT question, I DO know...it takes about THREE MINUTES!! I went to the Misrad HaPnim (Ministry of the Interior) branch office right here in Maale Adumim. I brought all the documentation and money; handed everything in, and in a matter of three whole minutes, I walked out with this passport-wannabe! I was shocked it went so smoothly and so efficiently. As I turned to leave, I opened it up and I got a little choked up. Under the title "Nationality" was the word ISRAELI. It truly was a very special moment for me.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Rain, Hot Water and Various Sundry Events

Lots to write about, so I am going to jump right in (and in no particular order):

1. IT RAINED ON FRIDAY A GOOD PART OF THE DAY! Now, back in Chicago, where I know there has been an endless supply of the wet stuff, here it has been sparse to say the least. However, Friday, the "Gishmei Bracha" (rains of blessing) began to descend on Israel. I can honestly say that I have never sat and just watched rain and thanked Hashem for it. Yet, here we were in the middle of Shabbat preparations and everything stopped to look at the first sustained rain of the season. It was actually an emotional moment as we watched what we have been davening for. (While we did get the rain, I heard a statistic today that was somewhat daunting...it will take 500 hours of rain to replenish the Kinneret!)


After the rain, and the sun came out, we saw a GORGEOUS FULL rainbow upon which we had the opportunity to say a Bracha.


(A beautiful view from our back yard prior to the rain and the rainbow after the rain)

2. There was a funny thing that occurred as a result of the rain and showed our "newness" in the country. All of the hot water in our building (and in most in Israel) is supplied by a "dood shemesh" or solar heating of water in the reservoir on the rooftop. When we went to take showers Friday, I was wondering why there was no hot water. Maybe, genius, BECAUSE THE SUN WASN'T OUT TO HEAT THE WATER! Made a mental note to myself that the next time it is cloudy for a significant part of the day,we need to throw the switch that manually heats up the water!

3. I have been asked a particular question lately MANY times that I figured I may as well mention here as well. "Do you enjoy taking busses or do you miss the freedom of having a car?" I have been asked this question DOZENS of times. My answer has actually changed over the past (nearly) four months. In the beginning, I definitely missed the freedom of going WHEN I wanted to, WHERE I wanted to and HOW I wanted to. However, over the past few months my perspective has greatly changed! Consider: I do not have to pay for gasoline, car insurance, maintenance, repairs, licenses and I also do not need to deal with the actual driving (which can be "difficult" at times). In addition, I have the freedom of using my time on the bus radically differently than when driving a car...I can learn, I can read, I can talk to my neighbor, I can simply enjoy the beautiful vistas...and no worries if the traffic is lousy, since I do not have to drive! Having said all that, I still think/hope/plan to get a car one day :)

4. Smachot: On Thursday this past week, Andy and I participated in another simcha. We went into Yerushalayim for a Bar Mitzva of twin boys (sons of Rabbi Akiva and Chanalee Stolper, grandchildren of Mr Lothar and Sue Kahn). It was SO nice to participate in yet another simcha but there was more to come. One of our new friends here in Mitzpe Nevo had a new grandson, and we were invited to the Shalom Zachor. It was so special to participate in our first Shalom Zachor in Israel, but the truth is that this one happened to have had SPECIAL significance, that I did not know before entering their home. The mother of the new boy gave birth in Shaare Tzedek Hospital a couple of days ago. That in and of itself was nothing out of the ordinary beauty of having a baby . But I learned that she had the baby in the very hospital where she was a patient in critical condition, after being injured in the Sbarro bombing on August 1, 2001! Whereas an Arab terrorist tried to take her life, instead she brought a life into this world. What an emotional moment at that table last night!

5. A friend of mine called me while we were on the bus (see above) on the way to the Bar Mitzva (see above) to tell me something he said, I would greatly appreciate. Barnea called me to tell me that he was standing in Rami Levi (a local grocery store chain), and an announcement came over the loudspeaker: "For those who still need to daven Mincha, there will be a Minyan in Aisle 4 in a few minutes." Yet another reason I love living in this country!

6. This Shabbat was stellar! Friday night, we ate at friends, had the Shalom Zachor and enjoyed the cool, crisp, night air on our brief walk home. In the morning, we walked about a half hour to a different Bet Kenesset (called Mussar Avicha) for a special Shabbat Olim. New Olim participated in the Tefilla and I had the opportunity to give a brief Dvar Torah at the Kiddush. We ate our Seudat Shabbat in the neighborhood of the Bet Kenesset, an area I have harldy been in since we moved here. (It is important to understand that we live in the Mitzpe Nevo neighborhood in Maale Adumim, and there numerous other neighborhoods. With 32,000--bli ayin hara--residents, this is not a small Yishuv! ) After Seudat Shabbat, I had my first real "test" of my use of Ivrit, as I taught a 45 minute Shiur to women. My subject was "V'Hasheina M'shubachat" ("...and sleep is praiseworthy") and I looked at various aspects of sleep in Halacha and Haskafa. I was very surprised at the very nice turnout--surprised because it was at 3:15 on Shabbat afternoon...and they should have been asleep! (which is why I actually chose the topic).

Well, I think that I have covered all that I wanted to for now. This week coming up is a busy one, and I am looking forward to getting started tomorrow morning. Hey, it's only six more days until Shabbat!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

There's a New Dome In Town

In almost every picture that you see of the old City of Jerusalem, and anytime one drives into Jerusalem and first sees the Old City from a distance, one's eye is immediately drawn to the gold dome that stands behind the Kotel HaMa'aravi. It is hard to miss it, and over the last few hundred years, that view with that gold dome has become synonymous with Jerusalem. The sad part is, of course, that it is a non-Jewish site located on the holiest Jewish site in the world.




Today, upon entering the city by bus and seeing the beautiful vista of Jerusalem, my eye fell on a different dome for the first time! As many of you know, there is/was a synagogue in the Old City known as the Hurva Synagogue, which was a main Ashkenazi synagogue for centuries. In the 1948 war, it was reduced to rubble by the Arabs. It was noticeable for years, when walking through the Old City, by the arch that stood in the place of the ruins.




However, a few years ago, a project began to re-build the Hurva, which is nearing completion sometime (theoretically) in the not-too-distant future. One of the key features is the beautiful white dome that sits atop the newly constructed edifice. It is THAT dome that is now highly visible from a distance as you look towards the Old City. It is THAT dome that we must replace in our national-mind's-eye when we picture the Old City. Our eye should be drawn to the Kedusha (holiness) of what we have and not the the non-Kedusha (see Breisheet 7:1) buildings atop the place that Hashem has chosen for our Bet HaMikdash.




On your next trip, as you stand on a promenade overlooking the Old City or as you merely enter by car or by bus, allow your eyes to be drawn to the dome of the Hurva synagogue and think about what IT symbolizes! Think about the great House that will be built nearby there speedily in our days, AMEN!








IN THE PICTURES ABOVE: A VIEW OF THE SYNAGOGUE IN THE 1800'S
A VIEW FROM A FEW YEARS AGO
A VIEW FROM TODAY

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Perplexed and Politics

While the title of this blog entry could very easily refer to the same event, they are actually two parts of a very interesting day today.
In my role in the tourist industry, I felt it would be in my best interest to enroll in a very special class. Machon Lander has a two-year class to become a licensed tour guide, and I made all the inquiries into taking this class. I felt it would be of a very strong benefit to me personally and professionally. I gathered my necessary documents and hauled all the materials and other paraphernalia to the office for a 1:30pm appointment in Yerushalayim.
Then, as I was sitting there waiting for my appointment, a very strange thing happened. Quite uncharacteristically, I began to second-guess my decision for a whole host of reasons. Usually, if I make a decision about something, I decide, do it and move on. Today was very different. It perplexed me to know end as to why I was wavering on this decision.
However, in the end, I decided that for a host of reasons (not necessary to go into here) I am going to wait for the next go-round next fall and do it then. No longer perplexed...

Politics...as some of you know, I have always been interested in Israeli politics. If you think CHICAGO politics is strange (actually, I LOVE Chicago politics!) they haven't got anything on Israeli politics. However, there have always been certain issues that I felt needed a major overhaul in politics here. Not only have I found someone who shares a very similar view politically but one who is truly out there and doing something about it...Moshe Feiglin of the Manhigut Yehudit faction in Likud. And not only that, I had a chance to meet with him today for about an hour and had a magnificent time. I have always wanted to get active politically so...I will keep you posted! [For further information on Moshe Feiglin you can visit http://www.jewishisrael.org/ . In addition, please feel free to visit his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Manhigut-Yehudit-Moshe-Feiglin/5733858057?ref=search&sid=701265731.2519147086..1&v=wall ]

Friday, October 23, 2009

Language

For as far back as I can remember, I have always had a "thing" for language. Whether it was learning the history of the English language or teaching myself Russian (which I can still read and write but speak very little due to lack of use for 25+ years!), teaching myself Spanish (a language in which I can still carry on a converation) or just learning the sources of various words in different languages.
However, it was always clear to me that Hebrew would be the most important language to concentrate on if I had planned to make Aliya. For years prior to Aliya, I made it a priority to read in Ivrit, speak as much as possible in Ivrit and to continue to learn new words, phrases and idioms. As we began our preparations years ago for Aliya, we were told time and again that a good working knowledge of Ivrit would be one of the greatest assets that we would bring with us.
I could not agree more with this last statement! Because I have worked at it, and because I made it a priority, I have been able to (Baruch Hashem) find my Klitah (absorption) into Israeli society that much easier and find that it opens some doors to me as well. I do not say this to say how great I am because I speak well...I say this to all those who are even remotely considering Aliya! Today, not tomorrow, you should begin to work on your Ivrit. It may be as simple as making a goal of learning a new word a day...a new phrase...making a goal to read an article in a newspaper...anything that will get you closer to your goal of fluency in Ivrit (or at least a good command of the language). Because if your boxes are packed well, or if you have all your items organized well for the movers,or if you write a blog (perish the thought!) all of that will not mean a lot in the grand scheme as being able to navigate all of the various steps (finding a job--Hebrew interviews; dealing with phone, electric, gas companies--in Ivrit, etc, etc. It is vital and I personally encourage it in anyone thinking of Aliya to get started right away! (It wouldn't hurt everyone to learn Ivrit better even if not planning Aliya!)

What made me think of this today? Last night, for the first time since we made Aliya, I dreamt in Hebrew. I vividly recall the dream and that I was discussing an issue with someone in Yerushalayim. I was actually happy to realize this when I woke up. I know that I have heard from many people (Anglos) who have made Aliya that this happens to them as well, but it was nice to experience it as well.
I am also veyy happy that Andy has begun to learn in an Ulpan last week. She placed in Level 5 of 6 levels, so I was REALLY happy to see that. Guess I am going to have to start posting in Ivrit soon!

I am looking forward to another beautiful Shabbat, beginning in a few hours. I still get a little kick out of the fact that Shabbat begins at 4:20 this week and it is HOT outside.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Miscellaneous Musings

1. This week, the country of Turkey has been in the news a lot due to their blood-libel against the IDF and their lack of interest in having Israel participate in military exercises. It occured to me that this week is Parashat Noach in which the ark comes to rest on Mt. Ararat...IN TURKEY! Always, world events, and especially those dealing with Israel, seem to be found in the Parashat HaShavua. An amazing thing, that I have seen week after week...

2. Someone made a very interesting comment to me the other day: Israel is the only country in the world that if you forget something on a bus, one of two options happen. Either you get the item back, because someone returns it, or...they blow it up! Not much in between there!

3. I was waiting for a bus to work today in the Central Bus Station (CBS) in Jerusalem. I am still very proud to sit and watch our soldiers, men and women of the IDF as they make their way to and from their bases or other destinations. I am even prouder, when I see something like I did this morning...a "chayelet" (female soldier) who was sitting in line for the bus saying Tehillim. I don't know if it is that I am still new in the country or my heightened awareness of these kinds of things, but a scene like that just makes me SO proud! She is going off to do her service and fully mindful of the fact that while she may report to someone of a higher rank, THAT officer "reports" to Being of a much higher rank, as do we all!

4. Lately, the newspapers have been filled with very sad stories of murder in Israel. Among those stories is the heart-breaking one (aren't they all!??) about the family of 6 people (three generations) named Oshrenko, in Rishon, that was murdered. Yet, I turn the page and see the accidental (due to negligence) death of a 3 year old girl by the very mini-bus charged with bringing her home from Gan, by running her over and the stories continue...While I was jaded to seeing these kinds of stories on the news in Chicago, here they actually become PAINFUL to read about.

5. Job update: First of all, I love doing what I am doing, dealing with individuals, groups, etc that want to come to Israel on a visit, a tour, for a simcha, etc . I work with a WONDERFUL group of people with whom it seems like I have been working for a much longer time. I am still working on expanding my contacts and looking for individuals or groups looking for a tour operator. If you know of anyone who may be interested in Israel travel, please feel free to send me their info or give them mine! You, my readers, are some of my best resources.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friends and a Hospital Vist

While the majority of this week was more or less a routine week, there were a couple of shining moments.

1. FRIENDS...As many of you know, I attended Yeshivat Shaalvim 1976-1978. Coupled with my education (High School and post-High School) at Beis Midrash L'Torah (Skokie Yeshiva), I was fortunate to have had a fabulous education. At Shaalvim, I succeeded in making friends with whom I have remained in contact over 30 years. In spite of the fact that many made Aliya in the late-70's, and I was still living in Chicago, we remained in contact all these years. The other night, I attended the wedding of the daughter of one of those friends. Steve (and Carol) Rosenbaum married off a daughter this week in Mitzpe Yericho and I had the pleasure of attending. What made it SO special was the group of guys I was sitting with and what this group represented. I had the chance to see friends from Shaalvim whom I had remained in contact and at the same time, I saw some of the guys I had NOT seen in over 30 years. It was a FABULOUS reunion! But what it represented was even deeper than that. When my friend Steve Rosenbaum got married, four of his Shaalvim buddies were "eidim," witnesses at the wedding, two in the Ketuba and two for the Kiddushin. Three of this four "eidim" had made Aliya years earlier, and I was the last to make Aliya. Steve was able to look at our table and see ALL FOUR of his "eidim" sitting together, all four of whom had made Aliya! We were all together again and we took a group picture. It was an incredible moment...it was quite surreal.
Mazal Tov to Steve, Carol and the entire family!
At the same time, we had yet another wedding which I could not attend, but one that Andy DID attend. Andy went to the wedding of the daughter of Barbara (Maryles) and Raanan (Ko) Ashkenazy, which was held in Alon at Eretz Breisheet. She had the chance to re-connect with many of her Shevet Shuva and Chicago chevra, along with some from Shevet Moriah. Mazal Tov to the Ashkenazy and Maryles families!

2. A Hospital Visit...I had occassion to visit a former student (Sruli Gutstein) in the hospital as he had an emergency appendectomy the other day. (He is doing great, Baruch Hashem!) He was in the Shaarei Tzedek Hospital on the 8th floor. I had been to the hospital before but never (that I recall) was I upstairs on that floor. As I walked down the hallway, I noticed something that struck me very sharply...a Bet Midrash/Bet Kenesset. In many hospitals, Jewish or non-Jewish, most often there is a chapel of sorts. When I would make hospital visitations in Chicago, invariably I walked by a chapel. It always made me a little "jealous" that there was a chapel and not some form of JEWISH worship available. But, after all, we do/did live in a Christian land and that was the majority of the hospitals.
What a sense of pride I had as I walked into the Bet Midrash to check it out. I expected a small room, some siddurim and a few tattered Chumashim. WOW, was I wrong! The Bet Midrash/Bet Kenesset was beautiful! It was a regular, operational Bet Kenesset. NEVER would you think you were in a hospital! What a Kiddush Hashem...it was also very nice to see SO many practitioners who were Dati walking down the halls. I felt this way anytime I would see a doctor in Chicago walking in the hospital with a Kippah. But to see dozens...wow....welcome home, Zev!

As I was exiting the hospital, though, I stopped cold in my tracks as I stared for a number of moments at a large picture of Dr. David Applebaum hy"d (former Chicagoan) hanging on the wall. David, and his daughter, Navah, hy"d had been murdered the night before Navah was to marry. As I stood there, looking at the picture, I thought about the wedding dress of Navah that I saw at Kever Rachel and how she would never wear that dress. Upstairs in the hospital, I received such joy from seeing the Bet Midrash. Here, I experienced the pain of the murder of two wonderful human beings. Those few minutes in the hospital truly embodied the idea of "the best of times and the worst of times."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

At the Conclusion of Simchat Torah and "The Season"

After a month of Elul, blowing shofar, L'david, Selichot, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Teshuva, Tefilla, Tzekada, Sukka, Lulav/Etrog, Hallel, Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah, the month-long intense period known as "The Chagim" has now come to a close. It has been a fantastic run and one that will forerver be remembered by us as our first "set" here in Israel.

The Chag was SO beautiful here! Last night for Hakafot, the ruach (spirit) was so strong in Shul. Then, in the middle of the Hakafot, we went out to the Kikar (a very nice traffic circle with trees, grass, etc) and joined another Shul nearby for joint Hakafot out in the street. It was a sight to behold as I just sat there for a minute absorbing the scene that I was watching. It was SO enjoyable and SO nice to be part of. In the morning, the ruach was good, but when about 60 boys from Bnei Akiva showed up, the ruach was incredible! They electrified the entire place! After everyone had his Aliya, there was a shul-wide Kiddush in the social hall, which was beautiful. Someone gave a Dvar Torah, made a Bracha Achrona and then it was back upstairs for the rest of Torah reading and the end of Tefilla.
Remember, that here in Israel, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are on the same day. So, I was interested to see how things would work going from the joy and glee of Hakafot to the more somber mood of Tefillat Geshem and Yizkor. It worked SO well! Moving the seats back in place (having been moved for the dancing) and the nusach of the Tefilla now changing and becoming more low-key were actions that seemed to affect the mood in the Shul. Tefillat Geshem is recited here before Mussaf (not as part of the repetition of the Shemona Esray) and was preceded by Yizkor. It was as if a switch was thrown and we switched from the festive feeling of Simchat Torah to the more tempered feel of Shemini Atzeret.
The day is so short here that by the time we got up from the table from our host from lunch, I had about 45 minutes until Mincha. A short time later, we davened Maariv and the Chagim of 5770 are now a part of history.

And now, real-world life begins again...for some that means returning to Chutz La'aretz. For others it is saying good bye to friends or relatives who may have come for an extended stay. For others, it means no more Tiyulim for a while but a chance to go back to the office.

Whatever it means to anyone, one thing is for sure...this was an absolutely magnificent few weeks. Our thanks to the greater Mitzpe Nevo area for having made this such an enjoyable experience. Next stop...Chanuka...but, it will have to wait 2 months...until then, back to work!


Shavua Tov!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Imagine If the Shoe Were on the Other Foot

Let's imagine if the shoe were on the other foot...

In what has been seen as a major incitement to the peace process, Avraham Midrechov has charged that the Moslem Antiquities Authority (the organization charged with protecting all ancient Palestinian finds dating back to 2006 C.E.) has been digging secretly under the popular Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall. It is believed that if this reprehensible behavior continues, Jews from all over the world will be called to action to preserve the sanctity of Ben Yehuda and Fro-Yo everywhere. Various secret militants (who are so secret that they don't even cover their faces with cloth for fear that some will recognize the shmatta their mother used on the couch when they were little and reveal their identity) have stated that they intend to file a protest with the UN in order that they condemn Israel for the Arab excavation that is certainly happening there.

Judge Rasha Goldstein has been dispatched to the location to investigate the charges. Wait...this just in...Judge Goldstein, who has nothing against the Zionist enemy, uh, I mean, Israel, declared that he had reliable witnesses that say they never ever saw such digging take place. In his words, "These very credible witnesses say they have never seen such digging and therefore Israel is the agressor and the Moslem world must attack the Zionist enemy." (The Jewish population of Israel thanks Judge Goldstein for his unbiased and detailed report)

In related news, an artist in Saudi Arabia drew a likeness of Moses showing him with a hooked-nose representing a stereotype of the Jew since ancient times. In reaction, militant Jews all over have issued a "Shanda" against this artist urging Jews all over to revolt against Moslems where ever they may be.

Finally, the Israeli government has decided to relocate tens of thousands of Jews around the city of Jerusalem in order to form a human shield against attacks by Iran who will not bomb Israel since they only have Uranium to run a couple of air conditioners for President "I'm-in-a-dinner-jacket."
=============================================

Now, all of this is preposterous...imagine the world listening to any of this. BUT, these are the kinds of claims and actions the Moslems are indeed perpetuating every day and the world licks it up with glee. They claim Israel is digging under the Al Aksa mosque; they DO declare a fatwa on a Danish artist for drawing Mohamed in a poor light (and kill many because of it); they are indeed attempting to move thousands of Palestinians to the edge of Gaza so that Israel will have to think twice of going in again with an attack should Israel be attacked again.

And the world does not bat an eyelash. The world accepts all these claims and actions.

Let us not forget the following quote:

By means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell -- and hell heaven. The greater the lie, the more readily it will be believed.
--Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf

Time

TIME: Ever since we made Aliya, my concept of time as far as the DATE, the DAY of the week, and the time of the year seems to be disrupted. While yesterday marked three months that we moved, it seems on one hand like yesterday and on the other hand like a year ago. I find myself checking often what the DAY of the week is (even after saying the Yom in the morning); I find myself surprised at times that "it's OCTOBER!?!?" or any other time-related issues. But the one thing that has me really confused is the following: In Chicago, when the time changed to Standard Time and the clocks moved back one hour, to me and many others, it signalled the beginning of winter. It also meant that when Shabbat began at 4:30pm, it was cold, wet and often snowy.
We changed our clocks here just before Yom Kippur, and now Shabbat begins around 4:40pm. Mincha on the weekdays is about 5pm. I find myself often thinking: Hey, it is dark early, Shabbat is starting early...it is "supposed" to be cold. BUT...it is still beautiful outside and the temperature is NOT cold. My brain is still having trouble absorbing that.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Closing a Circle: Summer 2005 to Fall 2009



































(See explanation below of the pictures above)















As you are painfully aware, in Summer 2005, Israel threw out over 8,000 Jews from Gush Katif and attempted to re-settle them. I will not review and repeat all of my personal objections to this terrible action, but suffice it to say I was VERY public in disagreeing with the government of Israel in what they did back then. (History has shown that MANY of those who supported the making of Gaza Judenrein made a HUGE mistake).








However, yesterday, I participated in a small ray of hope of those expellees getting back on their feet! As I mentioned a couple of days ago, a Sefer Torah was written in honor of Toronto philanthropist, Kurt Rothschild. This Torah was then transported to the community of Halutza for placement in their temporary Aron Kodesh before the permanent one is ready. I joined about 500 others as we went to this new community. It is located in a hustling, bustling metropolis of barren land (an oxymoron if I ever heard of one!) at the Southern tip of Gaza and 2 km from the Egyptian border. They have caused the desert to bloom and have risen like the mythical Phoenix from the ashes of Gush Katif! Currently, there are 15 families, but the building is being geared towards a community that will house (B'ezrat Hashem) about 500 people. The area is beautiful and serene. It was SO special to dance, sing and rejoice at this event. Besides the festivities, we also had some speeches and light refereshments in a Sukka built just for that day. The evening ended with us davening Maariv under a black sky with millions of stars overhead. (If you ever want to feel the vastness of the cosmos and the grandeur of Hashem, try davening in a desert area under millions of stars!)







A HUGE Yasher Koach to World Mizrachi and Mr Solly Sacks for organizing this event and being a driving force behind it all. It was a HUGE Kiddush Hashem and one that I will not soon forget!










Wednesday night was capped off with a beautiful open Sukkah (thanks Jeremy and Susie!) with many friends...it SO feels like Chol HaMoed Sukkot. It is wonderful...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Wow, Was I Misunderstood and the First Two Days of Chol HaMoed

I received MANY emails and comments on my last posting about celebrating a One-Day Chag. Most of the comments/emails were in the form of telling me that a two-day Chag is great, and I shouldn't be so happy about one-day. Many writers felt that the implication was that I was slamming those who were in Galut and keeping two days. SO...let's be clear: MY note was about my feelings about keeping one-day and, therefore, experiencing an even closer and deeper connection to Israel and our absorption here. My comment in no way was reflecting on what people were doing in Chutz La'aretz. Please go back and re-read the last posting and no where will you find a negative comment about keeping two days in Chutz La'aretz. I hope that clears this up...

Now, onto Chol HaMoed and what has been going on here...BUSY!!

Sunday, Day #1 of Chol Hamoed...After a nice meal with our family and my in-laws at Village Green, we got together with Fred and Adina Aaron and family for a while. It was great to see them and others from Chicago on our outing and we were thrilled to have them visit us in MA. Towards the latter part of the day, we were to meet some friends in Ramot Gimel for an Open Sukka, but we were kind of early so we went first to Machane Yehuda (open market). As we had not eaten in a long time and were not going to for a while, we bought a couple of small items to tide us over. But, as some was Mezonot, I needed a Sukka in which to eat...no problem! In Yerushalayim, there is a plethora of Sukkot. But we stumbled on a Chabad Public Sukka and made fast friends with some guys learning in Yeshivot for the year. Some young children offered us water and were truly thrilled to welcome us to "their" Sukka. I love it! Then, it was off to the Sukka party and then back home for some much needed rest.

Today, Wednesday was incredible once again, as I made my way to J'lem early to go to the Kotel. There, I participated, along with about 50,000 other people, in the public Birkat Kohanim (priestly blessing). It was a VERY moving experience. I took many pictures and videos and hope to get my act together and post some of them soon. The last time I was at this event was when I was 13 years old. I guess I should attend once every 37 years or so!

This afternoon, Andy and I attended the Annual World Mizrachi Sukka gathering. To be honest, I thought it would be 50 people with light refreshments. Wow, was I wrong! About 400 people with a gorgeous meal in a beautiful Sukka was what greeted us. The food and live music were great and we truly had a wonderful time. One MAJOR purpose of this gathering was to act as a prelude to tomorrow's event...a Sefer Torah was finished today in the Sukka (actually, it was already finished, because it is Chol HaMoed and they would not be able to actually write the letters today. Instead, many of us, myself included, had the opportunity to go over some letters to "finish" the Torah.) Then, tomorrow, I will be joining approximately 500 people going to a Yishuv in the Negev called Bnei Netzarim-Halutza where this Torah will be given all the proper honors of a Hachnassat Sefer Torah. The beauty of this event is that this community is made up of people who had been thrown out/evicted from Gush Katif and whose lives had been uprooted and (in some cases) destroyed as a result of the events of Summer 2005. (The government STILL has not righted the wrongs of that summer, vis-a-vis those who were thrown out). I look forward to attending this occassion tomorrow. In the meantime, we are now off to ANOTHER open Sukka in our neighborhood.

Best wishes for a Moadim L'Simcha!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

At the Conclusion of Our First One-Day Chag...

The only word I can come up with for our first one-day Chag in Israel is: "INCREDIBLE!!!!!!" I can not fully explain in writing how this Chag felt. I will say that:

* The feeling of walking around the neighborhood and seeing hundreds of Sukkot and hearing singing and watching all of the people visiting other peoples' Sukkot, well...Dayenu!

* The sounds of hundreds of people davening on Friday night, singing in unison and on Shabbat/Chag morning, singing in unison and the overall feeling of elation of the mood of Sukkot, well...Dayenu!

* The delicious meals that we were treated to at other peoples' homes both at night and by day, and the excellent company, well...Dayenu!

* The Seudah Shlisheet with about 40 new and not-so-new friends at a nearby Sukka and the Zechut of saying a Dvar Torah in their Sukka, well...Dayenu!

* But the ultimate for ME has to have occurred at 5:58pm tonight. But first a bit of background...I have known for years, that we would be making Aliya. Back in 2006, I bought a set of Machzorim for use in Israel for the Chagim. I put a note inside the Machzor for Sukkot that read, " I bought this set of Machzorim in August 2006, to be used on Sukkot when we make Aliya (IYH) in summer of 2009. Chag Sameach!" I looked at that note, as I opened my Machzor on Friday night, and I was overcome with emotion. I was fulfilling that dream! And a part of that dream was to live the Israeli life, which meant only having a one-day Chag. And at 5:58pm tonight, we made Havdala and ended the Chag and began Chol HaMoed. It was a very emotional moment for me, as I felt my klitah (absorption) into Israel that much more acutely. And for that I truly say...DAYENU!

And now the FULL week of Chol HaMoed begins. We will be in J'lem tomorrow, and I look forward to many get-togethers this coming week.

From Maale Adumim, Mitzpe Nevo neighborhood, I wish you and your's a joyous Sukkot and a wonderful Chol HaMoed!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Two Incredible Days!

Wow, has it been busy! These past two days have been very busy and intense and (BH) all for good things!

Let's start with Tuesday...the day began with me going up to Or Yehuda to go to the office and spend some good quality time there. Upon my return to J'lem, I was supposed to go to an Open House dealing with a tour guide course. Unfortunately, it was cancelled and I merely received the info by mail. I spent some time in town and then went to Midreshet Devora (a new Seminary in J'lem) and spoke about making the most of their year in Seminary. From there, it was off to Bayit Ve'gan for the next phase of my (Posner) cousin Bar Mitzva. It was so nice to see some cousins I have not seen in a long time. This is yet another perk of moving to Israel!

Wednesday was a great day...I mentioned a few days ago that I was going to be doing something a little different and that you too would be "involved" in. Well, I made my first of what will be a number of appearances on a local radio show that is also broadcast in the USA. It is called "Rusty Mike Radio" (www.rustymikeradio.com) and the show from yesterday will be available to download right after the Chagim. I spoke about my time in Chicago, Aliya activism and the company I work for. Future shows will deal with Aliya and Aliya-related issues.
Then, I participated in a FABULOUS 7-hour trip/tiyul with a group of other tour operators. We started at the base of Har Ha'Zeitim (Mount of Olives) and discussed the various historical and Tanach-based issues of the area. From there, we participated in sifting through the rubble that was removed from Har HaBayit by the Moslems, learned how to ride on a Segway (for the purpose of knowing what kind of tiyulim are available), took a ride in a 4x4 up through part of East Jerusalem for two unreal views. One view was in the direction of Har HaBayit that was probably one of the best views I have ever seen. The second view was towards the East and afforded me a long-distance view of Maale Adumim. How interesting to see our place from that perspective!

Then, the most interesting part of the day. We had the opportunity to go through a new area in Ir David that has only been visited so far by archeologists and not by visitors. We walked through the newly uncovered Mei HaShiloach and traced the path where visitors to ancient J'lem would go on their way to Har HaBayit for the Chagim. We saw the area exactly from where water was drawn for the Simchat Bet HaShoeva. And then, one of the most astounding things of all...we walked along a HUGE staircase that led directly to the Temple Mount (not going IN actually, of course) and learned an incredible fact. Below the stairs there was a once-in-a-lifetime find! For the first time, archeologists found complete bowls WITH ashes from cooked food in situ under the stairs. They were not broken and put back together by the archeologists but were complete and in tact! These items are more than likely from people hiding from the Romans in the final months before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. It was so exciting to be among the first to see all of these things!
We were also treated to music under the start-lit sky by three young men living in Ir David (among 70 Jewish families). If you have never been to Ir David, or if you have not been there for the last few weeks (things change EVERY DAY!) you owe it to yourself to visit when you are in Israel!

Sukkot is coming and it can be seen, felt, heard EVERYWHERE you turn! People are building sukkot everywhere you look, stands with people selling Lulavim and Etrogim pop up on what seems like every corner; huge tents with dozens of vendors selling Lulav, etrog sets and items for sukkot...it is incredible. And the prices?? You can get a beautiful Mehudar set for about 90 NIS (approx $22.00) which is less than a 1/3 of what I was used to paying! Ah, the law of supply and demand!!!

One last comment about Sukkot...sadly, at the Central Bus Station, there are two men that LIVE under the underpass that goes from the CBS across the street to Binyanei HaUma (the other part of the bus station). Last night, on my way home, as I passed one of these two men, I noticed that someone had given him a Lulav and Etrog for Sukkot. Homeless, he may be, but he has his Lulav..."Mi K'amcha Yisrael..."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Yom Kippur

Our first Yom Kippur in Israel...I had been looking forward to it for a long time. On Erev Yom Kippur I had a headache that knocked me out for a while, and I was "happy" that it was the day BEFORE the fast, assuming that I would be ok for the fast. WRONG...I woke up in the middle of the night of YK with a massive headache (not from fasting obviously) and tried to go back to sleep. Sadly, I found myself for the first time since I was a little kid at HOME for the morning and mid-afternoon. I slept most of the time but did manage to daven as much as I could. By Mincha time (2:50pm...how nice and early) I was doing somewhat better and decided to attempt to go to shul for the rest of the day. I did not feel my usual self, but stayed anyways. Between Mincha and Neila, I had the zechut to speak. I was very happy to have had the opportunity to say a few words at that point in the Tefilla, and it seems to have been well received. By Neilah, I was going in and out of the Shul in order to stay until the end. I am very glad I did, because at the end of the davening, not only did we sing "L'Shana Haba'a Birooshalayim" ("Next Year in Jerusalem") but we danced around the Shul as well...I found it VERY moving to be so elevated at the end of the Yom HaKadosh.
The tunes for the Tefilla were also very moving and I am very happy I was able to be in the Shul for as much as I was able to be.

And now it is time for the rest of the week in preparation for Sukkot. I am going to FINALLY experience my first one-day Chag. I will gladly report on that next week. In the meantime, I hope that YK was good for all of you and that you walk away having made at least one decision of one thing to change for this coming year. (Remember...that is not a "resolution." It is a DECISION, a conscious one at that, that you will make a change in your life to be a better "Eved Hashem" (servant of Hashem).

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Shabbat, Birkat Kohanim and Clocks

1. Shabbat in Yerushalayim was beautiful! We went in for a simcha, and every aspect of the Shabbat was outstanding. I was up (very) early and walked to the Kotel to daven vatikin (shemona esray at sunrise, at 6:30am), which was GREAT! It was about 17C degrees with a cool breeze and it seemed that the entire city was sleeping while a few hundred made their way in quiet contemplation towards Judaism's holiest site. While I was there, I observed something that I found SO inspirational, which leads me to item #2...

2. At every tefilla in Shacharit and then on Shabbat twice with Mussaf, when Kohanim are present at the minyan, there is Birkat Kohanim (duchaning). While we were about to hear Birkat Kohanim of Mussaf, I noticed a Dati (religious) policeman putting his "gear" on (radio, gun, vest, etc) nearby and straining to hear where we were at that moment in Tefilla. He then came over quickly and stood for Birkat Kohanim. He closed his eyes and seemed to be transported somewhere else in his mind. He bowed his head to receive the blessings of Hashem through the Kohanim. As soon as the Birkat Kohanim was over, he opened his eyes and went very quickly to (evidentally) post in for his watch. It was SO awesome to watch a police officer of Israel, a fellow Jew, who specifically came to get these blessings before standing guard over HIS fellow Jews. I felt so good seeing this...

3. We changed the clocks last night in advance of Yom Kippur, which begins tonight at sunset. The change of the clock (BACK one hour) means that not only does Kol Nidre begin quite early (5pm!!) but we FINISH the fast at 5:55pm with Maariv and eating beginning again after 6:05pm on Monday! THAT is great...I think I will be able to handle that.

I am also SO looking forward to next Shabbat with the first day of Sukkot. It will be my very first one-day Chag...the way it was meant to be! I am psyched!!

Wishing everyone an easy fast and a Gmar Chatima Tova...daven as if your life depends on it...because it actually DOES!

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Week That Was...

While I generally like to write a few times a week, this week has been particularly busy for me therefore giving me less of a chance to write. BUT, it won't stop me on Erev Shabbat before we leave for Yerushalayim (see below).

I found the fast of Tzom Gedalia much easier than I expected. I think that this is mostly due to the amount of food that I consumed on Rosh Hashana and the "stored-up feature" the body is blessed with. I am indeed sorry for what happened to Gedaliah ben Achikam (See Melachim II/Kings II, Chapter 25) and his murder, but I must admit that it is indeed quite convenient to have a fast day right after Rosh Hashana and all of its meals!

After spending a very productive day in the office on Tuesday, we all had a wonderful experience on Wednesday. One of the (many) perks of living in Maale Adumim is that it is one of the few communities in Israel where the government provides additional funding for programs for Olim. This program falls under the title of Community Aliyah Program. As such, we are entitled to a few extras that some new Olim do not receive. One of those special events was this Wednesday evening. A group of over 40 people (members of every family that made Aliya this summer to MA) went to Eretz Breisheet (http://www.genesisland.co.il/) Here we travelled back in time to the time of Avraham Avinu and his servant Eliezer. We (when I say "we" I mean the rest of the group!!) travelled on camels, had a sumptuous meal sitting on the ground, and enjoyed the GLORIOUS evening and the mountainous view. While I had been here many times and knew the one that runs the place, it was my first time here as an Oleh. It SO felt like I was there with a group, but the best part was that at the end of the evening, we went HOME and not to a hotel!

Yesterday was an all-day day in Yerushalayim...My cousin is celebrating his bar Mitzva this Shabbat in Yerushalayim (where we are all headed soon) and he put on his tefillin for the first time, read the Torah and served up a wonderful breakfast. (In addition, I have yet a SECOND cousin who is ALSO celebrating his Bar Mitzva this Shabbat in Yerushalayim also. We will B"H be attending bot the Bar Miztva of Ari Posner and that of Nachman Sharp) That was the first of seven stops that day in Yerushalayim...along the way, I needed to get going on a brochure for the business I represent (www.tlalimgroup.com) so I had to visit the printer I was suggested to use. (Having been in the area of Purchasing for 17 years, and having quoted printing before many times, and having dealt with so many printers, it was SO awesome to sit and deal with a woman who was a frum person, whose computer screen displayed a picture of her 3 daughters (triplets) all dressed for Shabbat. What a difference!) I met with an old friend (Ron Allswang...not so old...just we know each other a long time!); I also spent some significant time at AACI (Association for Americans and Canadians in Israel) and got some great suggestions for the tour business I am in. While I was there, I was introduced to someone with whom I will be doing something quite different next week (and potentially for the weeks after as well). Once this comes to fruition, I will let you know (and you will be able to participate as well...a little mystery never hurt anyone!)

So, now it is time to get ready for Shabbat and get to Yerushalayim. One thing that I noticed this morning. All along, people have been asking me how this time of year has felt compared to when I was in Chicago in my role as a rabbi. I think that this morning, I was able to identify one way it was definitely different: the Aseret Yemai Teshuva (Ten Days of Repentance) do not feel as intense as they have the past 10 years. First of all, that is not because they are any less important. The reason, I think, is due to the fact that I am not spending day and night working on speeches, dealing with the day-to-day issues of prep for Yom Tov in the Shul and not in classroom teaching about the Chagim. All this tells me is that I best get out my copy of Messilat Yesharim and get busy!

I don't know if I will have a chance to write before Yom Kippur or not so I will wish all of you an easy fast. Actually, while the FAST should be easy, that should be the ONLY easy part of the day! Remember that Tefilla (prayer) is called Avoda She'b'lev which means "Heart Work." But I prefer to think of it also as "Hard Work." A suggestion...before Yom Kippur, open your Machzor and pick ONE section that you review and think about before you walk into the Shul for the Yom HaKadosh. Certainly, 99.99999% of people do not understand all that is said on Yom Kippur and reviewing even some of the tefillot in advance is advantageous. A good place to start is probably the Viudi/Confessional. After all, if you do not understand it, then what good is it doing you!?!?
Ketiva Va'chatima Tova!
(PS--This greeting is on the electronic banner/sign of every bus in Yerushalayim!)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

"How Was Your First Rosha Hashana in Israel?"

I was asked this at least 20-30 times today, and I was thrilled to give everyone the same answer: MAGNIFICENT! The tefilla, the ruach (spirit), the food (we ate out all four meals), the learning, the entire atmosphere...all added up to make a WONDERFUL way to begin 5770.

But, let me back up a bit and make some comments that are a little more specific.

Erev Rosh Hashana, on Friday, the entire feeling one had walking down the street was that the Chag was on the way. If you looked across the street from the shul I daven in, you would see men lining up to go to Mikveh. In front of one home, there stood a man who was practicing his davening before entering the shul later in the day to be the Chazan and lead the Tefilla. Kids of all ages rushing hither and yon (did I really just use that expression?!?!) doing their part to get ready. The local Makolet (grocery store) and all of the other shopping locations were in pre-holiday frenzy mode. And the aroma...the aroma walking down the street...it is a wonder I didn't just gain weight from the smell!

And then, as dark descended upon Mitzpe Nevo, we joined the rest of the country in welcoming the New Year, 5770. I looked at the mountains that surround our area and thanked Hashem out loud that I had the zechut of celebrating our first Rosh Hashana in Israel.

I had the opportunity to speak (at the Bet Kenesset HaGilgal) the first night, as well as to be the Chazan for Maariv. I paused on a number of occassions before Rosh Hashana wondering what it would be like to NOT be a functionary (in the role of Rav) for Yom Tov. The best way I can answer that question is to say that on the one hand it was indeed a wonderful feeling to be able to daven at the pace I wanted to; not to have to be concerned about giving a lot of speeches (and hope they would turn out as good as I thought they sounded in my head); not to have to be responsible for overseeing all of the aspects of the Yamim Noraim. And yet, there were points at which I did indeed miss the role. It is hard to put my finger on it but maybe over the next few days I will be able to give voice (so to speak) to these thoughts. At the moment, let it suffice to say that for the VAST majority time I was quite comfortable in my new role.

We had the opportunity to eat, as I said before, at four different households over the Chag. It was so special to see how each family approached this time of year with different customs, foods, philosophy, etc. We also had the opportunity to eat at the home of the Rav of the Shul, Rav Elisha Aviner among other homes. EVERY single family with whom we ate were so gracious and so kind to us.


Now that Rosh Hashana 5770 is a memory, it is time to set our sights on the Aseret Yemai Teshuva (the Ten Days of Repentance). I have a number of things planned over the next few days but it will certainly be a different experience than the past 10 years.

That is the update from Maale Adumim (Mitzpe Nevo neighborhood) for now. I want to take this opporunity once again to wish everyone a Shana Tova!

Final note...while the davening was wonderful and the tunes beautiful, there are two noteworthy items: I was very moved in Mussaf when we all began to sing along with the chazan as he sang a piece that the word YERUSHALAYIM was the focus of the song. While we sang, I looked at the mountains surrounding the outskirts of Yerushalayim...what a feeling!! Secondly, I missed the tunes I was used to and missed the Baalei Tefilla from KJ. I will learn new tunes over the next many years (IYH) but do know that the old tunes still will continue to run through my head.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A True "Obama-Nation"

Get it? A true "abomination"? This is how I feel as I look out over the area near our home, known as "07" (Efes Sheva) and see the building that is in process and knowing that this is the end (theoretically) to the new construction for a while. And I believe it IS an abomination. It makes the neighborhood I am in an OBAMA-NATION in that the building, or lack therein, becomes a tribute to President Obama and what HIS desire is for MY neighborhood. I do not see him as concerned about the build-up of fissionable material in Iran leading to a nuclear bomb. Nor do I see him as concerned about the trade in human slavery in Sudan.

But, building in 07 or in Mitzpe Nevo is an impediment to peace.

Hmmmm....a true Obama-nation! Maybe President Obama and Judge Goldstone should go out for a bite to eat. They would have so much to discuss...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Two Highlights and "The News"

First some highlights from yesterday. After going in to the office for a few hours yesterday, I found myself in J'lem late afternoon to wait for Andy for an event later that evening (see below). At about 6pm, I realized that I still had to daven Mincha and I asked in a Falafel store on King George if the guy knew of any minyan in the immediate area. He sent me over to Agripas saying that he was sure there would be one in the vicinity, but he did not know exactly where. At the first little hole-in-the-wall store that I saw which was selling Tefillin, Mezuzot, etc, I stopped in and asked him as well. He asked me what time it was, and I told him 6:10pm. He told me to come back in 20 minutes as there is a minyan for Mincha IN HIS STORE at 6:30. Sure enough, at 6:30pm, about 20 people came pouring in to this 3 square meter shop with many of us (myself included) standing outside on Agripas to daven. It was so interesting to watch that as we began, people would walk by and say "Hey, a minyan for Mincha!," and they would run over and join in. I found that little incident so great...



The "event" that evening was a הרמת כוסית (a toast) held a the office of the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat. Andy and I joined about 100 others who made Aliya in the past few months (to the Greater Jerusalem area) for this evening. We began by standing on the balcony on top of the building affording us a 360 degree view of the city....make that THE city. The song Yerushalayim shel Zahav went through my mind as, in my mind's eye, I watched soldiers capturing the Old City in June 1967. It was a most magnificent view of a most magnificent city! The event was sponsored by Nefesh B'nefesh and was well attended. They mentioned last night that this summer alone 3000 people made Aliya! Yasher Koach!!



And now for the news...



I am sitting with a copy of today's and yesterday's Jerusalem Post sitting next to me. Below I present to you a list of headlines exactly as they are printed with my providing only a little commentary afterwards:

* 500 Palestinian damage suits filed against Israel since 2000

* Saudis won't engage Israel until it ends occupation

* London anti-Israel rally moved following threats by far-right wing group

* Anti-semitic attacks hit Argentina and Russia

* Bin Laden says 9/11 was in retaliation for US support of Israel

* "You should have buried me" tearful Rona Ramon tells her son at funeral

* UN probe alleged Israeli crimes against humanity in Gaza

* UN report cites Israel's "deliberate and intentional" war crimes in Gaza

* IDF accused of unjustifiably killing civilians in Gaza offensive

* "No light at end of tunnel" says family of Schalit

* 3 UK Moslems jailed for liquid bomb threat

As far as the summary of the "key findings" of this report about Israel in Gaza, allow me to summarize THAT summary:

Israel must do anything in its power to put itself in a position of existential suicide; they must retreat to the borders they held while enslaved in Egypt; they must take responsibility for any death within 10,000 miles of their borders; they must allow all muderers to be freed from any jail; Israel should allow Palestinians free access to all areas of Israel (while providing that any Israeli that goes into Palestinian land will be arrested and dealt with in a most severe way.)

The Palestinians on the other hand must promise to not put too much starch in their laundry and not to jaywalk. THAT will surely bring peace to the region.



Now, if you think I am exaggerating this a little, open up any legitimate newspaper and look for a summary of the recommendations of this so-called committee of the UN. Notice the "one extreme to another" treatment of Jews vs Palestinians. Tell you what...I will save you the time of looking it up. Here is a link to the Jerusalem Post where the "Key Recommendations" are listed:
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1251804580149&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

As I mentioned once before in Chicago...it was the proper title to give to this body politic overlooking the East River...the United Nations. It is proper, both in terms of the NAME and in terms of the abbrevation, the UN. They are indeed UNITED...united to be a force against the State of Israel. Rockets fall on Sderot and Israel is a war criminal. People are beheaded in Saudi Arabia and Israel is the war criminal. Women are murdered in Arab countries in so-called honor killings and Israel is the war criminal; Palestinians who aid Israel are taken out to a public square and hanged and Israel is the war criminal. Yes, they are indeed United against us.
And the abbrevation? The "UN." If you look up the prefix of the two letters "un-" you get the following definition: a prefix meaning “not,” freely used as an English formative, giving negative or opposite force in adjectives and their derivative adverbs and nouns. How fitting for the UN...they are UN-fair, UN-reliable, UN-bending, UN-ceasing in their campaign against Israel, UN-abashed, and the list goes on and on!

So, that is the report from Israel for today. I need to go back to my "occupied" home in the "settlement" of Maale Adumim and get to work. Hmmm....a "settlement." I did not realize that a city the size of Maale Adumim (33,000+ bli ayin hara) and having all of the facilities and services that we have, qualifies as a "settlement." Did you ever notice that the media NEVER refers to ANY Arab village as a settlement!?!?!?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Abu Dis and Abu Dat...

We live near the Arab SETTLEMENT of Abu Dis...that is what the background to this title (Andy's idea!)...So this post has a little bit of this and a little bit of that...

1. A clear miracle: A few days ago, there was a water main break up near the top of the hill near us and evidentally, this made the road pretty slick. One of the women who lives in the neighborhood (the wife of the Rosh Yeshiva of the High School) was driving in that very spot and lost control of her vehicle. She went through a fence and down into the wadi below (about 100 meter drop!) and with the grace of Hashem and in an open miracle, lived through the experience. (She ended up with a broken pelvis...but she is alive BH!) She was wearing her seat belt and thank G-d had no kids in the car at the time.

2. Chayalim/Soldiers: I had to go into Yerushalayim this morning for a meeting. As I stood by one of the bus stops in Yerushalayim, at the Central Bus Station, I looked around and saw hundreds of soldiers who were heading back to base after Shabbat leave. I stood there feeling a deep sense of pride in each and every one of them. Each one of them is truly out there helping to defend OUR country and doing that which I did not do (I came at an age that is considered ANCIENT and will do no army service. I WANTED to when I was 19, but that is a story for another time.)

3. Rain: It never rains this time of year in Israel...well, almost never. Today, as I headed into town, I saw deep black rain clouds that certainly looked like they were about to unleash their fury on the Holy City. Sure enough, when I got in, the street was wet and the temperature quite cool...for about 20 minutes. I saw people calling others on their cell phone to report this unusual event. Not to be outdone, I got a call from Andy that indeed in Maale Adumim, we had our first "rain" of the season. It, too, lasted about ONLY 2 minutes...

4. Lobby: I had a meeting at the Sheraton (no-longer-Sheraton) Plaza this morning in the lobby. While I had been there many times in the past with groups or by myself during past trips, it was my first time there since making Aliya. It was such a great feeling to sit there in the lobby of this hotel and know that when I was finished, I was going back home to Maale Adumim and not to the airport! It is little things like this that put a smile on my face each and every day...

5. Smoking: One thing I will never get used to is the amount of smoking that goes on in Israel. Not only that, but that it is perfectly legal to smoke in public and private buildings in situations that in the Untied States would be forbidden. This is certainly one area that could be improved as far as health concerns and consideration for other people.

6. Rosh Hashana: It is this coming Shabbat. I still can not believe it is here and that I am zoche (merit) being here in Israel for the Yamim Noraim and Sukkot (our first 1-day Chag...more on that later!!)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Clarification of My Position

I have heard from some people that they are not clear still about what my position at Tlalim is and what the company does. Herein is a clarification. I hope this helps.





One additional word: This kind of business grows based on referrals. This means that even if you do not plan on making a trip anytime soon but you know of someone who is thinking of it, please do let me know! I will be more than happy to help out! In addition, I am always open for suggestions, so feel free to suggest away.

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(http://www.tlalimgroup.com/default.asp?lang=en)


I have accepted a position with the Tlalim Group. The Tlalim Group has a 25 year history of expertise in tourist services in Israel. We have an international presence with offices in the United States, Russia and Japan in addition to Israel.


Think of me as your concierge for Israel. I can assist a single person who is merely looking for a hotel reservation for a few days in Israel or at the other end of the spectrum, I can assist in putting together multi-week tours around the country.


The Tlalim Group is able to handle this wide range of services and everything in between. From the family that needs a guide for two days, to the group that wants to do a Bar/Bat Mitzva in Israel or an organization seeking an educational, historical tour of the Land of Israel...all of these can and have been handled by The Tlalim Group.


My personal goal is to find such individuals, families or groups interested in travel to Israel and assist them in any way possible. I will enable them to have the best experience possible in Israel.

There are truly a world of possibilities in this position that will continue to develop and be expanded (IYH) over time. YOUR input, referrals and suggestions are always welcome!



Due to the fact that the office is so far away, I am able to work out of the house except that I go in once a week to the office. I also am in the process of setting up meetings with people HERE and outside of Israel to discuss various ideas for trips.



I can not believe it is already THURSDAY and Shabbat is tomorrow night! We are invited out for Shabbat meals again and for all of Rosh Hashana...what a great community.



Final note...I am speaking on the first night of Rosh Hashana at one of the local Batei Kenesset. While I look forward to a "year off" it IS nice to be somewhat involved with one Dvar Torah! (I guess it is really in my blood...)