Wednesday, September 16, 2009

We're on the same team, folks!

I just don’t understand it. Call me na├»ve, call me an optimist, but I believe that all Jews are supposed to be on the “same team”. Sure, we’re all different. Some of us are more religious, some of us have all but a very tenuous connection to our Judaism, but we are all Jews. Among the religious, this feeling of “achdut” or brotherhood should be even stronger. Yes, some of us are Chassidic, some litvish, some yeshivish, some dati, but we are all G-d fearing Jews.

We are all supposed to be working towards the same goal – to bring holiness down to this world, preparing a place for the ultimate redemption – the coming of mashiach, meanwhile working on our own holiness and relationship with Hashem. A tall order to be sure, and we all approach the process in different ways, but we shouldn’t be sabotaging each other in the process.

This past week I became aware of an Orthodox Jewish woman who is also a “blogger”. I had never heard of her before but in my inbox, under “google alerts” was an alert about messianic Judaism that I decided to follow. There, for the entire world to see, on a Hebrew Christian website was a quote of this Orthodox Jewish blogger who was writing some very negative things about me. I suppose that the most confusing thing was that this woman doesn’t even know me.

Jewish law has a lot to say about “loshon hara” (literally, evil speech – gossip) and the consequences of engaging in such activities are grave, indeed. But one of the things about loshon hara is that it must be true. Many people think that loshon hara is telling lies about another person, but it’s not. That’s called “motzei shem ra” – this also has dire consequences, but is a different thing. While it could be said that loshon hara is a more serious sin, motzei shem ra has far more devastating consequences. How?

It is said that the reason that the second beit hamikdash (temple) was destroyed was for “sinat chinam” or baseless hatred. At the time, there was so much infighting and sinat chinam among the Jewish people, that our behavior towards each other resulted in the destruction of our holiest site and the worst exile in our 4000 year history. It is said that if we have not merited to see the temple rebuilt in our generation, then we are as guilty of its destruction as those who lived to see it happen.

When a person speaks loshon hara, they speak true words, even though they are negative. It could be said, then, that there is a “basis” for such speech, albeit still forbidden. However, when someone speaks motzei shem ra, they do not speak the truth and there is no basis for such negative speech – baseless hatred. Perpetuating negative speech which is untrue is a major contributor to our continued exile and why we must continue to pray for the coming of mashiach.

May this be the year that we overcome the temptation to speak of our fellow Jews negatively, that we learn the true meaning of “teamwork” and that we merit to see the coming of mashiach and the end of our exile!

Kativa v’chatima tova l’kulam – may we all be written and sealed for a good year!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Right vs. Easy

I miss my sister. As I sit here thinking about my sister more nearly 6000 miles away, my heart breaking for her difficult life circumstances, I am reminded of a conversation I had nearly 2 years ago with a bus driver in Jerusalem.

I had an appointment in Har Hahotzfim, the Hi-tech “industrial” area of Jerusalem. I had never been there before and I had to ask the bus driver to tell me when to get off the bus. Fortunately, I had already been forewarned that it was one of the last stops. About 5 minutes from where I had to get off, I noticed that I was the only one left on the bus, so I moved up to the seat behind the driver.

Looking at me through the rear-view mirror, the driver says something in that rapid Hebrew that sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie. I respond to him in my VERY poor Hebrew that I am sorry, but I don’t understand much Hebrew.

Picking up on the obviously American accent, the driver changes over to English. He asks me where I am from, how long I’ve been here, where I live now, etc. – standard fare for conversations with taxi and bus drivers. I answer all his questions and then he says, “so you made aliyah?”

“Yes,” I respond with a huge grin.

“Why?” He asks with confusion written all over his face.

“Because this is Israel, Eretz HaKodesh, the Jewish homeland,” I reply.

“But it’s terrible here, America is so much better, so much easier. Why would you give that up to come here?”

Totally caught off-guard, I simply reply, “It’s the right thing to do, it’s where all Jews belong.” And then after a short pause, I add, “sometimes it’s more important to do what’s right than to do what’s easy.”

Sometimes its more important to do what’s right than to do what’s easy…

Its not easy to sit here knowing that my sister, nearly 6000 miles away needs me. That she needs my hug, my big sister advice, a shoulder to lean on, my ear, my heart.

And I need her, too.

But sometimes its more important to do what's right than to do what's easy.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Maybe its not all 'afuch?

Its not all ‘afuch!

Just a few days ago, I received an email indicating that Nefesh B’Nefesh is sponsoring a contest, the winner of which will be on board the charter flight to Israel on September 7th. This winning blogger will also be attending NBN’s 2nd International Jewish Blogger’s conference.

When I received the email, indicating that people should be nominated for the contest, only one person came to my mind. This person is Dr. Rivkah Lambert Adler, secretly known as the Aliyah angel.

Rivkah’s love of Israel is contagious, her love of all Jews regardless of what color kippah they wear (or don’t) or how long their sleeves are, etc., is inspiring and her “joie de vivre” is what makes Rivkah a person you just can’t forget.

Rivkah, and her husband Rabbi Elan Adler, are the primary reason, along with Nefesh b’Nefesh, that we were able to make aliyah. Because of life circumstances beyond their control, the Adlers cannot make aliyah yet, even though it is the one thing that occupies most of their life and consumes most of their energy.

Instead of allowing the disappointment of her delayed aliyah plans to rule her life, Rivkah has channeled that energy into a drive that she uses to help others fulfill their dream of aliyah, and as I said before, my family has been on the receiving end of this beautiful gift that Rivkah has given to the Jewish world.

How hafuch it is that the two people who most want to live in Israel cannot? And yet, how very right it is that they have turned their hope deferred into a blessing for the rest of us.

I look forward to welcoming Rivkah’s daughter on the September 7th aliyah flight, and I hope that she will be on it too. But most of all, I look forward to the day I meet the NBN flight that finally brings Elan and Rivkah to the one place on earth they most want to be – home!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

What does ceasefire mean?

In January, Israel agreed to a ceasefire after "Operation Cast Lead" where we went into Gaza to try to put a stop to the constant rocket fire coming from there.

So what exactly is a ceasefire? Well, apparently it means we CEASE and they Fire!

According to Israel National News, at least 234 rockets and mortars have hit Israel since the end of Operation Cast Lead last January. That's an average of one rocket or mortar every day for 8 months. That may not seem like much, but I ask again, what is the definition of a ceasefire?

Why does the world seem to think that if we just compromise "enough" we will see peace? The Arabs do not want peace. Don't believe me? Here are some quotes from my favorite website,

“Al-Qassam warriors, rain rockets on the settlers! Don't let any Jew sleep!
The Al-Aqsa Brigades will make you tremble in Haifa and Tel Aviv; they will strike you in Safed and Acre.
Because we do not distinguish between [Jewish] Palestine and [Arab] Palestine.
For [as] Jaffa is the same as Gaza, Tel-al-Zuhour [Tel Aviv] is the same as Rafah, and the Galilee is the same as Hebron.
We make no distinction between the parts of the earth of the homeland.”

— Song broadcast on Hamas radio station Sawt Al-Aqsa
August 16, 2005

“We will continue our martyrdom operations inside Israel until all our lands are liberated, by God's will....We won't lay down our weapons as long as Jerusalem and the West Bank are under occupation.’

— Muhamemd Hijazi, commander of a Fatah- affiliated militias in the Gaza Strip
Jerusalem Post, September 12, 2005

“We will not rest and will not abandon the path of Jihad and martyrdom as long as one inch of our land remained in the hands of the Jews.”

— Raed Saed, a senior Hamas leader
Ynet News, September 19, 2005

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Whose Temple is it anyway?

Israel National News reported today that a small group of Jews touring the Temple mount managed to get in a short prayer before being escorted from the site. According to the report, the Arab League “reacted with fury” stating that such an act was a “violation of international law” and “a serious blow to the holiness of the site”. Amr Moussa, the Secretary-General of the Arab League claimed that Jews should not be allowed to pray at the site at any time.

Last I checked, the Temple Mount is called the Temple Mount because that is where the JEWISH Holy Temple stood, long before there was any such thing as Muslims. The very thing that makes the site holy is that Jews prayed there.

Solomon’s Temple, or the first Temple was built nearly 1600 years before there were any Muslim buildings on this site, and the Dome of the Rock wasn’t erected until 620 years AFTER the SECOND Temple was destroyed in 70 CE.

Would someone please explain to me why it is that our prayers defile the holiness of the place and theirs don’t? Would someone please explain to me how the world determines who has the right to claim a holy site?

We were there first, but apparently that doesn’t count. One might assume then, that if being the first doesn’t count, being the last does. But wait a minute, we were the last, too…having liberated the “Old City” in 1967 and reclaimed what was rightfully ours. Clearly someone has changed the rules in mid-game.

And while we are at it, while the Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, it is only the third holiest site in Islam – they’ve got two others, why can’t they leave our alone?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Ten things I love about Israel, now that I’ve lived here two years…

Ten things I hated about Israel when I first got here…

1. Everybody spoke in a foreign language

2. People cut in line

3. People push to get everywhere – the bus station, the bus, the bank

4. Taxi drivers drive like lunatics

5. In Jerusalem there are people begging for money everywhere, including the restaurant while you are eating.

6. It’s hard to make a living here

7. It’s hot

8. Light switches on the outside of the room, especially the bathroom

9. Everything is expensive here

10. Water is scarce

Ten things I love about Israel, now that I’ve lived here two years…

1. Everybody still speaks a foreign language, but now I understand a little more of it

2. People still cut in line, but now it’s a game

3. People still push to get in line – nothing good to say about that.

4. Taxi drivers still drive like lunatics, but they are the best ulpan teachers in the country!

5. Israelis are the most generous, giving people in the world, and if you find yourself stuck at the bus station with no money to get home, all you have to do is ask – they’re used to it.

6. It’s so hard to make a living here that people do whatever they have to do, and there’s no shame in it. In a community full of hi-tech people you may have neighbors who take in ironing, bake challah and Shabbat kugels or sewing to make ends meet, and everyone is fiercely loyal to support their neighbors before going elsewhere.

7. You never have to worry about scraping ice off the windshield before going anywhere

8. Light switches on the outside of the bathroom means that when your teenager is taking too long playing a video game or reading a book while on the pot, you can turn off the light and annoy the heck out of him.

9. Cucumbers are the only thing in Israel that is not expensive. Thank G-d for cucumbers!

10. “Water is scarce, that means we all have to conserve,” sounds much better than, “My lawn is dead because I am scatter-brained and keep forgetting to water it” or “You mean you’re supposed to bathe more than twice a week?”

It’s all just a matter of perspective, now isn’t it?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Things I wish they told me BEFORE I made Aliyah

There are tons of Olim out there who have blogs about making Aliyah. This blog is not about making aliyah, its about me, Penina. But, since I have made aliyah, its a subject at the forefront of most of what I do. I gabbing with friends, I have found certain things come up again and again. Please feel free to add your own "things I wish they'd told me" but please, let's not make it an Israel-bash.

#1 thing I wish they'd told me before I made aliyah - Israel is NOT AMERICA. OK, they did tell me that one, but I suppose I never really considered what that would really mean:

- no walmart
- no target
- no Sam's club
- deoderant that costs 30nis ($7.50) instead of $2 (do they consider deoderant a luxury???? seems that way on the bus sometimes)
- lipstick that costs 80nis ($20) instead of $6

Ok, that's all petty stuff

#2 - there aren't really any laws in Israel, only suggestions that are selectively enforced, depending on the mood of the police officer, person, etc.

#3 - if you get one answer from a civil servant, come back the next day and you'll likely get a different answer (in either direction)

#4 - you can get a 100nis ticket for crossing at a crosswalk if the signal isn't green (ask my husband about that!)