In my blog posts, I am trying to avoid having a bitter tinge in my writing.
I’ve heard advice to avoid politics in my blog, unless I want to have a political blog.
I want to write about happy things, like the anticipation of spring in this very cold corner of New York.
When you live in Western New York, winter can drag on until mid April.
When you live in Western New York, you hang on to your “sleeping bag” puffy black jacket until Mid-April.
“Spring” sports have begun in school.
Youngsters at this very moment are at an ultimate frisbee match.
Outside temperature right now is 28 degrees.
And it’s still snowing.
And when you are a Western New Yorker, a yearning for spring makes beautiful, sweet bouquet at Trader Joes – prices at $1.49 for 10 flowers – extremely hard to resist.
So I picked two bunches and carefully placed them in my cart, as to not crush their happy yellow heads.
As I got on line, I happened to check the label of the flowers.
“These flowers were proudly grown for you in England.”
England. A product of England, eh?
Nope. I put them back.
Wanna know why?
Because my love for Israel is stronger than my desire for a floral impulse buy.
The UK, in the past decade, the anti-Israel atmosphere has only thickened and intensified.
In the UK, it is just fine and socially acceptable to call upon the boycott of Israeli products, Israeli-created technology, and even Israeli intelligence all under the guise that Zionism= racism.
Zionism, by the way, is no way related nor does it ever condone discriminating one because of one’s race, religion or sexuality. Zion comes from the Hebrew word “excellence” which is what Theodore Herzl dreamed about – the creation of a homeland that would be for the Jewish people but would also serve as an example and a resource of excellence for the rest of the world.
At Oxford University, students are set to vote whether or not the university should boycott all products and companies that have ties to Israel.
In the UK, academics at top Universities call for a boycott of collaborating with universities in Israel. At one point, there was a petition to arrest any Israeli academic visiting England upon landing for war crimes.
And finally, I thought about England’s Chief rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks address at last month’s AIPAC conference, which he referenced how anti-globalisation protests in England quickly devolve into anti-Jewish protests. You can check out the video here:
All these thoughts swirled around my head as I admired the daffodils.
i didn’t start a protest to boycott Trader Joe’s, as many Arabs have done outside TJ’s around the country for daring to carry Israeli products.
No. I just had my own personal boycott.
No England. You can keep you daffodils. I’ll boycott you back. And I’ll wait for my own flowers to pop up in a few weeks, thank you very much.
My latest student sat before me sullen. Sad even. Completely disengaged. The chid complained of a headache, even a stomachache and could NOT find the strength to sing.
The child had not a chance to review the sentences given to it to study months ago. The child’s iPod had also mysteriously stopped working, so he/she could not listen to the melodies of the chanting either.
I get it.
To many emerging young Jewish adults, studying for one’s B’nei Mitzvah may not be your thing. You’ve got a life, for gosh’s sake! That life is full with homework and friends and sports and has nothing to do with chanting a strange language in a building you hardly go to!
And what does all this Hebrew mean that I can barely read and hardly understand?
And how am I going to find the time to study?
When it comes to hunkering down and preparing for one’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah, many obstacles can get in the way. In a recent post on the Jewish culture blog Kveller, a rabbinical student even honestly put it out there: why put your kid through the motions of having this Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony if it is devoid of meaning, when a small percentage of Jewish adults even volunteer to read from the Torah after they reach that milestone day.
Here is why.
Like it or not, kid, you are the next link in this 5,000 year chain that cannot be broken.
Last night, after my student left and after dinner and dishes, I watched a PBS special: Space Shuttle Columbia: A mission of Hope, about the 10th anniversary of the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster. What made it all the more tragic was it was the first time an Israeli, Ilan Ramon, son of Holocaust survivors, took a trip to space.
And on this unique mission to space that bonded this unique multicultural team of astronauts was
a tiny Torah.
A Torah that survived the Holocaust.
A Torah that had been used to prepare a boy for his Bar Mitzvah in the hell of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. A boy that survived and grew to be an old man living in Israel still in possession of this tiny scroll.
A Torah that, when Ilan Ramon heard of its story, he knew it had to accompany him in space.
For all of the Jewish people.
I’m not going to retell the story here. I won’t do it justice. But if you can, watch with your family Mission of Hope, and you will understand the Big Picture of why joining the Jewish community as a fully participating adult is an incredibly precious honor.
If that’s not inspiration enough, then look at this photo below:
this is a recent picture of men, Holocaust survivors, who never got to be Bar Mitzvah boys. Until today.
Now, stop kvetching, stop whining, and go study.
I’ve even been Freshly Pressed!
The one post that I got this honor was, ironically, a post about being Jewish!
This post was a tongue-in-cheek take take on how Jews perceive Halloween. For a Jew to be funny on WordPress, that’s okay. Poke fun at themselves or at their religion, or express ambiguity at one’s Jewish identity, that’s cool too!
But to write about Israel from a pro-Israel standpoint? Apparently, that falls on deaf ears to the WordPress gods.
I wondered to myself in all the favorable posts I’ve written about Israel, in my writings about my travels there, why blogger love didn’t come my way.
As a Jewish educator and a Jewish mother, as a trained writer and reporter making multiple trips to Israel, I wrote thoughtfully.
In one post, after experiencing hostility towards women by the ultra-Orthodox, I wrote critically.
I added great photos of all I saw. I showed pictures of how Israeli soldiers keep ALL religious sites safe and accessible to ALL religions.
I’ve written about how Israel helps earthquake victims and how Israel develops state of the art agricultural and medical advances that can benefit all of humanity.
Still my stat counter didn’t budge. Maybe, my writing isn’t all that. But still, I wondered.
So, out of curiosity, I entered “Israel” into WordPress’ search engine. This is what came up:
A blog post criticizing Israel for blocking backers of Palestinian protesters for entering Israel:
Oh, and what blog post popping up into my reader spewing falsities about Israel would be complete without calling Israel an apartheid state, Israel as apartheid state
PLENTY of those posts to go around. One, filled with so many lies I had not the energy or the strength to refute every lie this blogger claimed to be true, was Freshly pressed. WordPress Freshly Pressed not one but two diatribes all but legitimizing and justifying Hamas and their industry of death.
Then, there are the tried and true tales of Israeli occupation of Gaza, never mind the fact that Israel withdrew from Gaza completely in 2005.(What, what about the blockade you say? If Gazans would only import food and clothing and construction supplies to develop an oasis of hope for a Palestinian state instead of using its resources and spending it on BOMBS imported from Iran smuggled in from Egypt, there would be no need for a blockade).
And genocide in Gaza, when the deaths of any Gazans are actually welcomed and glorified, that’s why the innocents are used as human shields.
All these blog posts delegitimizing Israel floated right to the top of my searches for posts on Israel. You know what else floats?
When I looked for Israel blogs that defended Israel’s right to defend herself from months and years of missile attacks from Gaza, or any post that gives the Jewish state any legitimacy, they were way down on WordPress’ search engine results.
Worse than the violence, worse than the missiles, worse than even the mothers in Gaza who cry for their martyred sons wishing they had more sons to give to Allah, is all the misinformation about Israel in the media, WordPress being just another guilty party.
The year mark of my most recent visit to Israel quickly approaches. It was my fourth journey to the Jewish state. It won't be my last. In fact, if I could, I'd have no hesitation to go there on the next plane.
A few things made last year's trip during Chanukkah very special.
The first is family. Unlike my first two trips to Israel, this time I went back as a wife, a mother of three children accompanied by their grandparents, both sets.
The year mark of my most recent visit to Israel quickly approaches. It was my fourth journey to the Jewish state. It won’t be my last. In fact, if I could, I’d have no hesitation to go there on the next plane.
A few things made last year’s trip during Chanukkah very special.
The first is family. Unlike my first two trips to Israel, this time I went back as a wife, a mother of three children accompanied by their grandparents, both sets. Seeing Israel’s historical and religious sites through the eyes of three generations was once-in-a-lifetime goosebumps every single minute.
Secondly, we have Israeli friends. Friends from teaching. Friends made in summer camp. These friendships deepened our connection to the land of Israel more strongly than any tourist or archeological site.
Nearly every day of our trip, friends met us for dinner or lunch in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. My son reconnected with his friend, son of two rabbis, who met us for lunch after we celebrated my son’s Bar Mitzvah.
Friends came and met us wherever we were on tour.
They hung out with us on the beach near our hotel.
My good friend from Modi’in met up with our group not once but twice.
She’s An artist. A teacher. A true intellect. We have shared our different perspectives and deepened our understandings of what it means to be a Jew in America and what it means to be a Jew in Israel. I’ve connected with few people in my life as I have with her, though we will seldom see one another face to face. On a wintry day by Tel Aviv standards, we chatted on beach chairs with our spouses and watched our daughters play in the waves.
Or they accompanied us to the Israel museum in Jerusalem.
There are the friends we did see and the friends we couldn’t see. I spent one night on a very long phone conversation with a friend from high school now living in Modi’in. At the time, she was newly diagnosed with breast cancer. All the plans we made almost a year in advance to get together, to spend time, to celebrate Shabbat, were reduced to that one phonecall. I was thankful just to be in the same time zone as her as I listened to her talk about the hard choices and treatments that lay ahead.
Now. Now the bombs fall.
When you have friends and family in Israel, focus on anything else has been nearly impossible. Eating? Making meals? Even taking walks? Just a temporary diversion until I can get back on the computer again and check in.
I read an update from my tour guide who heard the bomb sirens and made it on time to the nearest shelter.
I read updates from people who sleep with shoes on and who get tips on how to get to sleep again after they settle into their cot in their safety room.
I read an update from my Modi’in friend, now done with chemo treatments but who must now train her daughters how to run to safety depending on where they are when the siren sounds.
I read an update from my neighbor, now visiting in Israel describing what it was like to see the Kotel plaza evacuated.
Is this any way to live a normal life? What is normal? Why must this be accepted as the status quo?
What to do? Whether you’ve been to Israel a dozen times, or have never been there, whether you can name dozens of Israeli friends or never met anyone from the Middle East’s only true democracy, there is something we as freedom loving Americans can do.
We can tell the world the truth. We can expose Hamas for their lies and their brainwashing. Social media can expose how Hamas truly operates as nothing more than a brain-washing hate cult that glorifies death enough to seduce its women and children into becoming human shields.
When you have Israeli friends and family, the latest flare up between Israel and her Arab neighbors is not just a news story, it’s a personal attack.
I know I’ve been posting about this nonstop if you follow me on Facebook. But please, don’t ignore Israel’s fight for hearts and minds. Their war on terror is ours. Do what you can do from far away to defend her.
"How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty?" - Bertrand Russell, 1970.
The dream of a “Palestinian state” lies shattered and torn, existing only in the imaginations of those who refuse to see how far we have fallen from the dream of equal rights for every man. In truth it died long ago, like an abusive stepfather forced onto its people, its shadow looming large over the Middle East, the scars it left in its wake so deep it will take generations to heal.
While gardeners and farmers feel the drought first, it won’t be long until we all feel it. No one, not even your neighbors who keep watering their lawns despite the news that more than 50 percent of the country is facing a drought not seen since the 1950′s is immune.
This summer has been brutal on our water supply. Newspapers and media reports are full of the plight of the farmer as they watch crops wither because most are at the mercy of rainfall for water.
But perhaps this drought is waking us up to appreciate the most precious resource we all take for granted. And it may be time to rethink and apply some extreme agricultural practices as the earth heats up.
In times like these, we can take a lesson from Israel.
Israel is one of the driest countries on the planet. On average, it receives only 19.4 inches of rain annually. Yet, thanks to cutting edge technology, and even more, the stubborn willingness of a people who know that in order to practically live in Israel, you have to believe in miracles, Israel blooms.
This tiny country has learned to efficiently use every drop of water that falls from the sky in the summer or coats the mountains in the north in winter to grow some of the most beautiful produce in the world. Check out this photo of huge greenhouses growing vegetables like eggplants, tomatoes and peppers in the Negev Desert. Check out this photo courtesy of Daniel Lawrence’s blog:
Israel not only makes the desert bloom, but it has developed technology and methods that the rest of the world can use to reverse and prevent desertification, as noted in this post from israel21c.org. Israel21c.org is an online magazine that offers topical and timely reports on how Israelis from all walks of life and religion, innovate, improve and add value to the world.
So here are a few tips we can learn from Israel to conserve our water resources not only during times of drought, but for the long haul:
- Stop Watering Your Lawn. Right Now. – You! Yes, you, the suburbanite! Fuggetabout your lawn. (okay, fuggetabout it is technically a Brooklyn/New Jersey and not an Israeli term, but let’s get back on topic) Israelis don’t have silly things like lawns. Lawns are nothing but vanity. I’ll say it again: STOP WATERING YOUR LAWN NOW. Your brown lawn has gone into dormancy and watering your lawn artificially just puts more of a strain on its root system. It will come back soft and green when the rains return.
- Use drip irrigation – Did you know that agriculturalists in Israel invented drip irrigation technology? Instead of wastefully watering your garden through a sprinkler, where most water evaporates into the air, use drip irrigation to deliver the water right to where the plants need it – the roots.
- Save that H2O from your A/C - As shown in the photo above, Israel has developed technologies that draw humidity out of the air for irrigating crops. On a smaller scale, you can do the same by catching water runoff from your central air conditioner (my hose empties into the slop sink) to water plants and vegetables
- Less Wasting Water at Restaurants – When you sit down at a restaurant in Israel, don’t assume that the waitress will automatically fill your glass with endless glasses of water. No way are they just giving water away if it’s not asked for. You have to ask for the water, sometimes twice – in two different languages, until the waitress gives you a glass of water. So, next time you dine out, if you are not going to drink the water, tell your server not to pour, or refill your glass.
- Selective Flushing – Here is a picture of just one type of toilet flush in Israel: The flush mechanism is divided into a big section and a small section. If you are reading my blog, you are indeed a very intelligent person, so I’ll let you figure out what purpose each section serves.
- Shower Shorter, or Shower with a Friend - a drought is a great excuse to share your shower.
- Rejoice in the rain: Finally, instead of getting all bummed out when your ball game or picnic gets rained just be thankful. Think of the farmers who need the rain for their crops and livestock (a.k.a. your food, right down to that box of Cheerios and glass of milk at the breakfast table). Any event, even a wedding, can have a postponement, a change of venue or a rain date. But there is no substitute for the blessing of rain.
A note came home in my son’s backpack to state that today, this Friday, the school would be celebrating “International Heritage Day.” Third through fifth grade in my town is a time when students study the cultures of many countries. My child this year studied the cultures of Egypt, Japan, Australia. In successive years they will study about China and ancient civilizations from Greece to Rome to the Inca and Mayan Indians in social studies.
As a culmination and celebration of all this international study, third graders in my son’s school were asked to wear a hat that represents the culture of their immigrant ancestry.
Like most self-respecting Ashkenazi Jews, my family has roots in Russia and Poland. And, if you want to find some real exotic roots in my family, I believe my paternal grandmother was from Vienna, Austria.
But the Polish and Russians never looked upon my ancestors as their fellow countrymen. We were just: Jews. Yids. Pretty much second class citizens. That’s why Jews from Poland and Russia came over in droves to the United States – for economic if not religious freedom.
In my house, we don’t have any connection to Russian or Polish culture. How we identify, ethnically, is through Jewish culture.
So, what hat to use? The Moroccans have the Fez. The Mexicans, the Sombrero and the French, the beret, the Italians have the Fedora (acually, my older son has taken up wearing the fedora because he is so very dapper).
So, this brings me back to the question: What country do we identify?
I should have just put a Yankee Doodle style hat on my son’s head. We are Americans. But are we something else as well? Is Judaism a people? A religion? A Culture?
With what other country do we identify?
I could have chosen an Israeli Kibbutznik style hat, but that would be so … 1950′s.
So outdated. And, as much love as we have for our spiritual homeland, we are not Israeli.
So of course, to show off our heritage, we selected this one.
A kippah, in the Bukharan style, that we purchased this winter in Jerusalem as we made our way to the Western Wall.
This is the hat of our heritage.
I haven’t posted a photo challenge in a few months, but if you are a blogger, this is a great way to draw eyeballs to your site.
And what a better blue than the blues I saw in Israel? (If you know me, you know I will not miss an opportunity to show you my pictures or tell you about my latest trip to Israel.
I could have portrayed the impossibly clear blue skies of Jerusalem.
But no, I wanted to take you to the Grottos of Rosh HaNikra, one of the northernmost spots on Israel’s coastline, just on the border of Lebanon.
I hope you enjoy this photo. But even more, I hope you get to visit this very spot someday soon: