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The Pew-rim Report – assimilation in Shushan

March 11, 2014 by

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graph

The results of the in-depth research into Jewish norms in Shushan recently released by the Pew Foundation (The Pew-rim Report) reveal worrying signs of growing assimilation, affecting the future of the Jewish People in Persia’s empire.

It would seem that while levels of “Pride in being Jewish” are at an all-time high, leading even to refusals to bow down to government officials, intermarriage is by no means frowned upon. Indeed the role model of a certain Esther, whose Uncle encouraged her (noch!) to marry the non-Jewish King, has been inspiring beautiful young Jewesses around the empire to follow in her footsteps.

What is more, since the Pew-rim Report (sometimes nick-named the Scroll of Esther, so prominent a role does said maiden take in their research) makes no mention of the children of King and his Jewish wife, we are led to assume they were not brought up as Jews.

European commentators insist the more worrying aspects of the report are in its indicators of rising anti-semitism (referred to as “Hamanism” in the report), while American interpreters are split as to the seriousness of the Esther example. Some cry “Gevalt!”, while others reach for a beer.

We at Makom can only comment that such a painful study of assimilation and anti-semitism is clearly of no educational value, and the Jewish People will no doubt aim to forget it was ever published…

 

Becoming a Beach Bum

March 10, 2014 by

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“Nava and Yoella’s Great Hike – “Shvil Israel”

This week, we walked from one of the holiest cities in the world, Jerusalem, to a city that the both of us avoid, Tel Aviv. From Tel Aviv we walked north along the shores of the Mediterranean.

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Finally getting to the Kotel!

Hiking Highways

You know you are in a city, when you pass a huge sculpture of this friendly face. Free bag goes to whoever knows what junk food this behbeh represents.

So we spent our last week weaving through beach bums, jelly fish and main highways, how’s that for a change of scenery?

On Friday, we were joined by a special individual who had been in the army with Nava, Gideon. He rushed us the whole morning and told us we had to get to Neve Shalom for a surprise. Upon arriving, we learned that Neve Shalom is a community consisting of both Arabs and Jews who live together happily. As we walked through the town to reach “the surprise”, we noticed the family names written on the houses, some in Arabic and some in Hebrew. Finally we made it to Gideon’s special surprise. We entered a garden with a sign on the front gate written in Hebrew, Arabic and English “The Spiritual Center”. We walked down a narrow staircase surrounded by forest. Upon our descent we spotted isolated benches in the forest. On each bench sat a person in meditation. This place is known to host meditation and self reflection sessions for the locals of the area.

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In the middle of the forest sat a white dome. Gideon explained that the dome is uniquely designed to amplify every sound to the point where a pin dropping makes a noise as loud as a bird’s chirp. The dome is used for meditation sessions and yoga as a way to keep people silent and aware of every movement for even the smallest movements make a noise. Despite its name “the silent room” the amplifying affect makes a great room for a concert. As we entered the silent dome, instead of sitting in silence, we got lost in the music of two girls who sat and played guitar. Nava had fun afterwords screaming to herself in the dome, feeling her voice as if she was screening into her own ears.

Eli, our trashman tour guide

As we passed through the Ayalon valley, we were approached by a man picking trash. He asked us if we knew where we were walking. We knew the general direction, but that wasn’t the answer he was looking for. He sat us down gave us the history of the area in a quick 10 minute session. He began with the story from Yehushua, when god stopped the sun from setting and we won the battle. He continued on to the Maccabee revolt, the conquest of the Crusaders, all the way to the ’48 war when we broke the siege on the road to Jerusalem. It was 2000 years of history in a single spot.

Zohar, our insider connect to Lod

We have made it a point on Shvil Yisrael to get to know the harder neighborhoods of Israel and the initiatives taken to develop those areas. We stopped in Lod, one of the most problematic cities in Israel and we were given a private insider tour by our Shvil Angel, Zohar. Lod is known for the high crime rate, drug trafficking, but most of all the silent war going on between the Arab and Jewish population. There is a large Arab community in the center of the city and more and more groups of Jews are moving into the city to increase the Jewish demographics of the town. Zohar is one of these idealistic Jews who feels that he is the modern day Zionist by settling his family in Lod. We visited a university student village established by the movement Ayalim. Ayalim works at building student villages in underprivileged neighborhoods in order for the students to help develop the area. Here is a little bit about Ayalim’s Lod project: http://ayalim.org.il/en/the-lod-project/

After two months of hiking, Nava's toes are starting to feel the kilometers. Thank you Yoella for sacrificing fabric from your shirt to make piggy-blankets for Nava's toes. That is true friendship and ahavat yisrael.

On our way to Tel Aviv, we walked through the jungle-looking path along the Yarkon River.

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It had been raining so our path became a little bit more challenging than we expected.

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Nava wanted to stay in the jungle in fear of having to enter Tel Aviv society.

Had a special treat when Yoella's father landed in Israel. He works for the Jewish National Fund and came on a work trip to visit JNF sponsored sites (many of which we have passed or will be passing on Shvil Israel).

The rest of the week, we spent barefoot, walking the shores of Tel Aviv. Walking past old men playing matkot, girls tanning, and surfers surfing while we were shleping our hiking bags. Let’s just say I don’t think people were staring at us to check out our beach bods. Nava convinced an Israeli beach bum that she met at the Kotel to join us for a few hours. Originally, he agreed to join old if he could drive along side us on his 4×4 but in the end joined us by foot. Yoella asked for the history of the beach but instead he gave us the insider scoop about prostitutes that sit by the beach and wait for cars to come pick them up. While he was explaining, someone actually drove up and we saw it in action!

Idan, our Tel Aviv guide teaching us about prostitute beaches. Now say that with an Israeli accent.

Helped this hippy beach bum clean up trash in his backyard and he invited us back to his "pirate ship" for some beers and a Shachta. QUIZ QUESTION: What is a shachta? Whoever sends in the answer first will get a free shachta!

One of the many jellyfish we pased while walking along the beach. Stay clear, we’re not sure if he’s still alive!

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unnamed (3)

Thi

This week, we walked from one of the holiest cities in the world, Jerusalem, to a city that the both of us avoid, Tel Aviv. From Tel Aviv we walked north along the shores of the Mediterranean.

Finally getting to the Kotel!

Hiking Highways

You know you are in a city, when you pass a huge sculpture of this friendly face. Free bag goes to whoever knows what junk food this behbeh represents.

So we spent our last week weaving through beach bums, jelly fish and main highways, how’s that for a change of scenery?

On Friday, we were joined by a special individual who had been in the army with Nava, Gideon. He rushed us the whole morning and told us we had to get to Neve Shalom for a surprise. Upon arriving, we learned that Neve Shalom is a community consisting of both Arabs and Jews who live together happily. As we walked through the town to reach “the surprise”, we noticed the family names written on the houses, some in Arabic and some in Hebrew. Finally we made it to Gideon’s special surprise. We entered a garden with a sign on the front gate written in Hebrew, Arabic and English “The Spiritual Center”. We walked down a narrow staircase surrounded by forest. Upon our descent we spotted isolated benches in the forest. On each bench sat a person in meditation. This place is known to host meditation and self reflection sessions for the locals of the area.

20140302-063646.jpg

In the middle of the forest sat a white dome. Gideon explained that the dome is uniquely designed to amplify every sound to the point where a pin dropping makes a noise as loud as a bird’s chirp. The dome is used for meditation sessions and yoga as a way to keep people silent and aware of every movement for even the smallest movements make a noise. Despite its name “the silent room” the amplifying affect makes a great room for a concert. As we entered the silent dome, instead of sitting in silence, we got lost in the music of two girls who sat and played guitar. Nava had fun afterwords screaming to herself in the dome, feeling her voice as if she was screening into her own ears.

Eli, our trashman tour guide

As we passed through the Ayalon valley, we were approached by a man picking trash. He asked us if we knew where we were walking. We knew the general direction, but that wasn’t the answer he was looking for. He sat us down gave us the history of the area in a quick 10 minute session. He began with the story from Yehushua, when god stopped the sun from setting and we won the battle. He continued on to the Maccabee revolt, the conquest of the Crusaders, all the way to the ’48 war when we broke the siege on the road to Jerusalem. It was 2000 years of history in a single spot.

Zohar, our insider connect to Lod

We have made it a point on Shvil Yisrael to get to know the harder neighborhoods of Israel and the initiatives taken to develop those areas. We stopped in Lod, one of the most problematic cities in Israel and we were given a private insider tour by our Shvil Angel, Zohar. Lod is known for the high crime rate, drug trafficking, but most of all the silent war going on between the Arab and Jewish population. There is a large Arab community in the center of the city and more and more groups of Jews are moving into the city to increase the Jewish demographics of the town. Zohar is one of these idealistic Jews who feels that he is the modern day Zionist by settling his family in Lod. We visited a university student village established by the movement Ayalim. Ayalim works at building student villages in underprivileged neighborhoods in order for the students to help develop the area. Here is a little bit about Ayalim’s Lod project: http://ayalim.org.il/en/the-lod-project/

After two months of hiking, Nava's toes are starting to feel the kilometers. Thank you Yoella for sacrificing fabric from your shirt to make piggy-blankets for Nava's toes. That is true friendship and ahavat yisrael.

On our way to Tel Aviv, we walked through the jungle-looking path along the Yarkon River.

20140302-064937.jpg

It had been raining so our path became a little bit more challenging than we expected.

20140302-065225.jpg

Nava wanted to stay in the jungle in fear of having to enter Tel Aviv society.

Had a special treat when Yoella's father landed in Israel. He works for the Jewish National Fund and came on a work trip to visit JNF sponsored sites (many of which we have passed or will be passing on Shvil Israel).

The rest of the week, we spent barefoot, walking the shores of Tel Aviv. Walking past old men playing matkot, girls tanning, and surfers surfing while we were shleping our hiking bags. Let’s just say I don’t think people were staring at us to check out our beach bods. Nava convinced an Israeli beach bum that she met at the Kotel to join us for a few hours. Originally, he agreed to join old if he could drive along side us on his 4×4 but in the end joined us by foot. Yoella asked for the history of the beach but instead he gave us the insider scoop about prostitutes that sit by the beach and wait for cars to come pick them up. While he was explaining, someone actually drove up and we saw it in action!

Idan, our Tel Aviv guide teaching us about prostitute beaches. Now say that with an Israeli accent.

Helped this hippy beach bum clean up trash in his backyard and he invited us back to his "pirate ship" for some beers and a Shachta. QUIZ QUESTION: What is a shachta? Whoever sends in the answer first will get a free shachta!

One of the many jellyfish we past while walking along the beach

unnamed (8)

unnamed (3)

This trip doesn’t stop evolving; it is continuously snowballing into something bigger than we anticipated. We have one more day of the salty, blue waters and soon we will be climbing up the foresty hills of the Carmel. We’ve enjoyed walking distances and climbing heights, but nothing beats sitting on the dock of the bay watching the tides roll away.

Yoyo & Nana

p,s, Here are some pics of us on the way to our next destination

1NavaSEa

1YoHill

s trip doesn’t stop evolving; it is continuously snowballing into something bigger than we anticipated. We have one more day of the salty, blue waters and soon we will be climbing up the foresty hills of the Carmel. We’ve enjoyed walking distances and climbing heights, but nothing beats sitting on the dock of the bay watching the tides roll away.

Yoyo & Nana

p,s, Here are some pics of us on the way to our next destination

1NavaSEa

1YoHill

Boker Tov Yerushalayim

February 19, 2014 by

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“Nava and Yoella’s Great Hike – “Shvil Israel”

Shalom shalom friends and family!

I write to you from ztubah. So what is ztubah?
In order to really explain what it is, one would have to carry home a large stack of history books in order to cover all the time periods that have left a mark on this hill. Luckily, wiki can gather it all on one page.
So here we go. Ztubah is a hill located west of Jerusalem that was a Canaanite settlement in the time of David as recorded in Melachim. There are olive presses, agriculture terraces, wells and water systems here from the time of the first temple. Dug into the hill are ancient caves that were used by Jews living at the end of the second temple in order to hide from scary Romans during the Bar Kochbah revolt. It then became a settlement in the time of the Mishna known as Guy Tzuvim. The crusaders took over the hill and built a fortress which remains untill this day. Stone houses and wells are scattered around the hill which were abandoned by Arabs during the independence war.

And finally, in 1948 the Palmach conquered the hill and a kibbutz was established called Tzuba. The kibbutz grows apples, blows glass and has a chocolate factory. That is called geulah (redemption) my friends. Jews returning to their site and making chocolate.

So, I am sleeping on a hill full of stories and lives and years and changes. Every place that I rest, my foot embodies heritage of thousands of years.

Along my trek, I walked through the valley where David beat Goliath, I by mistake ate a plant that Reuben gave to Rachel for fertility, I jumped in a spring that was an ancient mikveh and I slept in an ancient cave that was once used as a hideout from Romans.

I am walking, eating, swimming, and sleeping the Tanach.

I think back to one of my favourite authors from the time of the early pioneers to Israel, A D Gordon, who said it well,
“We come to our Homeland in order to be planted in our natural soil from which we have been uprooted, to strike our roots deep into its life-giving substances, and to stretch out our branches in the sustaining and creating air and sunlight of the Homeland”.

I have been planted into my indigenous home where my history took place and I am continuing it. Bellow me are caves where they hid, beside me grow the fruits they ate, above me is the Gd that watched over them. In front of me is the city that they traveled to for two thousand years.

Everyday, I walk closer and closer to the city and now I am finally breathing the Jerusalem “mountain air clear like wine and the smell of pine…Jerusalem of gold”, as Naomi Shemer sang.

Tomorrow is the big climb to Jerusalem. I think about those who have done it before me. Abraham with Isaac; An Israelite and his family on Pessach walking up for the holiday sacrifice; A Jew from Ethiopia who has just been brought to Israel and has dreamt about seeing his city for his whole life; A tourist who comes to put a note in the wall.

And now me.
This week on the radio, they played the gospel soul song “By the rivers of babylon, there we sat down
Ye-eah we wept, when we remembered zion”

It’s been stuck in my head ever since. Poor weeping Boney M. She’s sitting down and missing out.

See you tomorrow Zion!

Sent from my iPhone

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Wake up and smell the flowers

February 16, 2014 by

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“Nava and Yoella’s Great Hike – “Shvil Israel”

I don’t usually watch TV but I’m blaring it in order to drown out the sound of Nava throwing up. No she’s not pregnant and no we did not party last night and most importantly, we did not eat another unidentified plant which made her sick. Nava’s vegan tummy is too sensitive for our Moroccan hosts. Nava is sitting with me now feeling wheezy, regretting the super spicy (not actually) shakshuka that she ate in order not to offend our hosts. We arrived lunch time on Friday. Mazal, our hostess, opened the door and before asking us our names or where we were from, she said “sit” while pulling out the chairs to the kitchen table. Mazel is a true Moroccan who shows affection through feeding people.

Nava in a field of kalaniot.

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The L word and Israel

February 14, 2014 by

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 loyalty

Image by Neil Mercer

I would like to talk about the L word.

Loyalty.

It is a word that went out of fashion many moons ago for many people, but it still lives in our relationships.  To Full Post

On the bus from Tzfat…

February 9, 2014 by

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דנית

On the bus from Tzfat to Jerusalem there are mainly ultra-orthodox Haredi men and crying babies with side-curls. About a third of the population are Breslev girls in long skirts (anyone from outside Israel would probably just think they’re hippies), and then there are the outsiders who on any other bus in Israel would probably be the majority – soldiers.

 There are about 2 or 3 of those weirdos in olive green. Today, I was one of them. 

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Hillel Open and Closed: 5 comments

February 9, 2014 by

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Mahatma Gandhi once famously said: “I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”

It would seem that the gusts of wind currently swirling through the Hillel environment are throwing up a similar assumption and a similar question. The assumption is that Hillel is someone’s home which visitors are welcome to enrich but not to change. And there is a hanging question as to what might knock us off our feet?

A fascinating and healthy discourse has emerged over National Hillel’s guidelines for Israel programming on campus. We at Makom have been following the discourse with great interest. As key advisors to the Hillel-Jewish Agency Israel Engaged Campus initiative, as seasoned practitioners of complex dialogue on Israel throughout the Jewish community, and as consultants to Jewish organizations around the world on exactly the same issue of guidelines and red lines – we’ve noticed a few anomalies and a few opportunities. To Full Post

Farewell desert.

February 9, 2014 by

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“Nava and Yoella’s Great Hike – “Shvil Israel”

Dearest friends and family,

I write to you during my favorite time of day. The sun is setting slowly on my back as she ceases to provide the world with energy for the day. My body begins to slowly calm as it tires  and my mind settles to rest.

I’m sitting on a cliff looking down at the results of a natural disaster. This rainbow colored sandbox that I played in today is called “the small crater”. The crater was formed as a result of earthquakes, water pressure, flash floods and any other type of natural mayhem. The crater was once a giant mountain that through time caved in. Now, we can look inside the open mountain top and see the layers of the earth.  The walls of the crater are striped with sand of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and pink; each layer representing a different time-period. I am thankful for all the rocks that rumbled and the mountains that exploded and the ground that overturned and the water that bossed everyone around as they all worked together in a team effort to reveal to us the hidden colors of the earth.

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Drawing the lines

February 8, 2014 by

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Recent controversies within the American Jewish community over what kinds of Israel-related activity should be allowed within Hillel Houses, raise issues that are much bigger than just student life on campus. Debates about Open Hillel and Swathmore College, touch on questions of communal boundaries and in particular of what ‘red lines’ Jewish institutions should draw in excluding some kinds of Jews.

 Israel, once a unifying factor in Jewish communities, has become a source of communal discord

In my forthcoming book Uncivil War: The Israel Conflict in the Jewish Community (David Paul Books), I discuss how Israel, once a unifying factor in Jewish communities, has become a source of communal discord. I argue that a plurality of Jewish positions on Israel have emerged in recent years and that supporters of these positions often come into conflict with Jews who hold other views. In response, I make the case that it is essential that Jewish communities begin to come to terms with the divisions within them. To Full Post

The World On A Slant

February 2, 2014 by

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“Nava and Yoella’s Great Hike – “Shvil Israel”

Mitzpeh Ramon was great, a real gem in the desert. Mitzpeh Ramon is considered the “biggest hole” in Israel since it is the farthest town from any city; Beer Sheva is an hour and a half away by car This distance creates a really unique, quiet environment which we found very relaxing and comfortable. Nachum and Gila, our gracious hosts from Mitzpeh Ramon suggested that we leave our huge bags at their house on Friday morning , head out for a day hike, hitchhike to Dimona (where we planned to spend Shabbat with my siblings), and to return on Saturday night to Mitzpeh Ramon to pick up out bags and continue our trek. Once Nachum mentioned that the hike we had planned for Friday could be done in sandals without our packs, the decision was made. We left our bags and met up with a new travel buddy we met at a trippy dance party the night before, Nicky, and headed out for a wonderful hike.

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