Hanukkah In The Internet Age

Remember when we were in high school? If we wanted to know something, anything, about a subject, we needed to go to the library and research it.
Often the answer couldn’t be found. I remember thinking to myself as a kid, “How tall is Dave Kingman?” (former baseball player) and of course, for athletes, that type of information was easier to obtain. As a matter of fact, trading sports cards was a great way to store information about your favorite athletes. Nowadays, finding any bit of information (and sometimes, much more than you ever wanted to know) can be accomplished in seconds – even without typing a keystroke, thanks to talking search results on most smartphones.
Continue reading “Hanukkah In The Internet Age”

The Best of Israel – Travel Review

Rick Steve’s Europe Travel program goes to Israel.  In this 26 minute episode, produced with Oregon Public Television, you’ll be immersed into a visual whirlwind of much of what Israel has to offer.

Rick’s insightful commentary accompanies his travels with a generally favorable account of Israel’s main tourist attractions.  He meets up with locals at restaurants and on the streets to get a sense of the the cultural climate.

However, much of the commentary is shaded with the American brand of “political correctness” and the need to try and show the Palestinian side.  This is a highly simplistic accounting of what Israel has to offer.

So much is missing, that I’d be remiss to even mention a few of them. At least 1/2 of the episode focuses on religion.  Jewish, Moslem, and Christian holy places.  The author does, however,  succeed in only 26 minutes, to give enough of a sampling that viewers will want to see more.

Burning Down The House – Lag Ba’omer

Lag Baomer “Camp Fire” Stories:
Story #1:
It was 1995, and it was our first Lag in Israel as Olim. The kids down the block had a massive fire going, built from construction wood. The flames were at least two stories high, and they were about 10 meters from our apartment – at most! Being a newbie, I called the fire department. The conversation was almost laughable, if it wasn’t so sad. The gist of their reasoning for not coming out to check the fire was that I was an Oleh and I didn’t know how “things were done here”.

Story #2:
It was 1997, we were driving back from my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah, which was held in a Kibbutz up north. Motzash”k was Lag Baomer, just like this year. We drove back from the north down the coastal highway (Highway 6 “Kvish Shesh” wasn’t invented yet).
Continue reading “Burning Down The House – Lag Ba’omer”

Children Are Crossing the Street & the Buses Keep Flying By

Near Misses & Tragedies

I’ve been noticing many near misses with young children, unattended or under-attended, who cross the street without having enough time to make


it to the other side.  Many children also cross the street diagonally, which adds to the danger, since they are in the street longer.

Tonight, I saw two mothers pushing their strollers with small children by their side.  Two of the younger children in the group ran ahead and one of them was actually in the dark street, at an intersection, with cars flying by.  The mother didn’t even shout out – since she didn’t notice.   I yelled for the child to go back on the sidewalk (from a distance of 100 meters away).  The mother was still oblivious, engrossed in conversation with her friend.

The other night, I saw a child, possibly 10 yrs old, playing ‘chicken’ with a bus.  He crossed the street slowly, and saw the bus was coming.  Instead of hurrying up to the other side, he slowly walked to require the bus to either slow down or swerve.  I know the kid was doing this on purpose, since I saw the smirk on his face as he crossed.  The bus drivers, for their part, are always in a rush to make their schedules.  Yes, they should be more careful.  But we cannot rely on them.  We must train our children to be defensive.

We also cannot rely on miracles.  Yes, Hashem (G-d) watches over us, even the foolish amongst us, but we cannot rely on His mercies to extricate our children from these constant dangers!  I don’t have to list here the statistics of children (and adult) pedestrians who have been killed in Israel in the past decade for us to know that this is a real issue.

Advice For Every Family
1. Review with your children the safety rules for  crossing the road.  Look both ways, look again, cross only at a crosswalk, cross with adults, etc…

2. Experts recommend for children 8 years old and younger to be crossed only by an adult.

3. Never, ever, cross diagonally.

4. If you see a bus or car coming, do not assume they will stop for you.  If you are already in the crosswalk and a bus is coming, run or walk very quickly to the other side of the street.

5. Tell your kids you love them and want them to come home safely.  Explain to them they’ve been given a big responsibility and should always be very careful.

Let’s hope for a safe future for us all.

Michael Jackson’s Kids Are Jewish

What were the odds? Michael’s first wife is Jewish, and by Jewish tradition, that makes his children Jewish too.

Is this one of those things that everyone else but me already new?

Prince Michael I is 12, that means next year he can be called up to the Torah.
Now that’s a Bar-mitzvah you won’t want to miss.

JTA News

Mayumana – A Great Israeli Show

I attended the Mayumana Dance show last night in Tel Aviv-Yafo. Their latest act is called “Momentum”. They were simply fantastic. They play at the fully-packed Mayumana house on Louis Pasteur Street in the heart of Old Yaffo several nights per week.

The show is a mix of street dance, music, song, and multi-media. There is audience participation and the atmosphere is electric. It’s sort of like Stomp with many percussion-led skits, but with music, dance, and song too.

Mayumana was founded in 1996 as an unique Israeli dance troupe that performs around the world. Their World and Israeli casts include players from many countries. We thoroughly enjoyed the performance, and highly recommend that everyone who likes percussion, music and dance should try to get tickets. Here’s a chance to see world-class entertainment and support Israeli Arts at the same time.

Here’s a short video from the end of the show, the players escort the audience out of the theater and into the parking lot.

Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade

Herzl would be proud. On Friday, Tel Aviv staged the 11th annual Gay Pride Parade. The newspapers report that over 20,000 attended and the groups represented in the event included Bat Kol – Jewish religious lesbians (weren’t they called ‘Orthodykes’ once?), Transgenders for Change, the Israeli Arab lesbian group Asawat, among others.
The event capped off the month long celebration of Gay Pride month in Tel Aviv, which was an official part of the 100 year anniversary of Tel Aviv’s inception celebrations.

7.2 Average Births for Haredi Population in Israel

Some good news for a change.

This weekend’s Haaretz reports (in Hebrew) that the Haredi population in Israel, the fastest growing segment, now has an average of 7.2 births per family. Obviously, since this is an ‘average’, there are B”H many families who are having as much as 13 or 14 children each.

Ken Yirbu!

Coughers in Shul, Put on a mask…Please.

Israel finds 17 more A/H1N1 flu cases

Consider this: You are sitting near someone who is coughing up a lung. You know that he often travels overseas for work. He just got an aliyah and benched gomel, returns to his seat cough and all. Do you worry that maybe he has the swine flu?

Stay Home
With the WHO (World Health Organization) now classifying the Swine Flu as a world pandemic, we really have to think twice about where we go and who can enter our ‘private’ space. Sneezing and coughing, aside from disturbing other prayer goers from hearing the chazan, also raise the possibility of you catching whatever they have. There’s got to be heter (permission) somewhere that says you should stay home and not get others sick in order to make a minyan.

Mr Pink Floyd, We Don’t Need No Education!

Tear Down the wall says Roger Waters, former band member of Pink Floyd.  Mr Waters visited Israel in 2006 and played a single concert to a sold out makeshift open air stadium of 50,000 (paying) Israeli Jews.  He also found time on his whirlwind visit to hop over the fence (or over the big bad wall, as he would put it) and spray paint some graffiti on the Palestinian side.

Roger Waters of Pink Floyd at the Israel Security Fence
Roger Waters of Pink Floyd at the Israel Security Fence

Three years later, at 65, Roger Waters is ambivalent about his having visited Israel (and taking in millions of dollars spent by adoring Israeli fans).  Mr Waters thinks that the wall is actually a colonialist action by Israel.  Never mind that this wall was put up to help prevent terror attacks and bus bombings of innocent civilians.  Never mind that the wall has essentially stopped terrorism from the areas in where it was erected.  Never mind that the US has a longer and bigger wall with it’s Mexican border in several high-trafficked areas (and Mexico is not at war with the USA!).

What would I say to him if I had the chance to sit him down and explain the whole thing.  Would I tell him how the wall has given Jewish families in Neve Yaakov and Gush Etziyon, to name a few, the chance to leave for work in the morning without wondering if their kids would be burying them that night?  How much Jewish blood can be spilled for Mr. Waters to acquiesce to Israel attempting to prevent further savage acts.  How many children living in the southern Jerusalem neighbourhood of Gilo should be forsaken?

These questions may remain unsolved to many, but to me it’s pretty clear.  As Israel’s government spokesman, Mark Regev put it ever so bluntly, “We don’t need no education about suicide bombers coming into Israel and murdering innocent people, and how the security barrier has prevented that by more than 95 percent”.

Thousands Celebrate Israel at Manhattan 5th Ave Parade

Today was NYC’s annual 5th Avenue Israel Celebration “Salute to Israel” Parade. Tens of thousands filled the streets of midtown Manhattan for the annual celbration.  The parade marks the anniversary of Israel’s independence in 1948.

I love a parade.  Everyone loves a parade.

Bloomberg Israel Celebration Parade - AP/Boston Globe
Bloomberg Israel Celebration Parade - AP/Boston Globe

I saw the headline and had fond memories of the time a few years back, in 2002, I had just flown in on business to Kennedy Airport and hired a taxi to take me to the hotel I had reserved near Times Square in Midtown Manhattan.   Unbeknownst to the driver (and me), that was Israel Celebration Day in New York City.  We reached the midtown tunnel with relative ease and then came to a standstill around 43rd and Lexington Ave.  After about 20 minutes of wondering what was going on, the driver turned on the radio and we heard the play by play of the 5th Avenue Parade.

I remember the smile I gave to Mohamed my driver.  It was sweet but knowing.  Ah, the pleasures of being Jewish in NYC (as a tourist).  Eventually, I did make it to the hotel, and I even had enough time to throw down my belongings and run back to the event.  For Israeli citizens, our Israeli (and Jewish) pride swell at outward displays of affection to Israel and Zionism.  The feeling is exponentially greater when the affection is showered from outside our little country.

Thanks New York!

Waltz With Bashir Wins Best Picture

Israeli animated feature film Waltz With Bashir won the prestigious American National Society of Film Critics honor for Best Film of 2008.

This is a great accomplishment for the Israeli movie industry and follows in the heels of Beaufort, the Israeli film that was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the 2008 Academy Awards.  What’s more amazing is that the film won for Best Film, and not for Best Foreign Film.

Waltz with Bashir has received praise at several film festivals, including the prestigious Cannes Festival in 2008, where it was met with a standing ovation.

Waltz With Bashir (???? ?? ?????) directed by Ari Folman, is an animated documentary of the memories of the director was a 19 year old soldier during the 1982 Lebanon War and deals specifically with his memories of the Sabra and Shatila massacre. For all film lovers who are interested in this genre, this is a must see film.

Waltz With Bashir – Movie Trailer

Interview with Director Ari Folman