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 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!


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... 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 . In addition, please feel free to visit his Facebook page at ]

Friday, October 23, 2009


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 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 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 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: 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 is "supposed" to be cold. 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 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 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" ( 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 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..."