Thursday, February 28, 2008

eat this torah...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

13 Highlights of the Trip to Israel

Here are 13 highlights of my trip to Israel...
scroll back through my posts to read more about the trip.

1. Seeing and hanging out with my brother.

2. Praying together at the Kotel, the Western Wall.

3. Shabbat in Jerusalem. We spent Friday night at Kehillat Har El, a Reform congregation in Jerusalem. They honored us with home hospitality, which was awesome, and then we went back for a seudah shlishit and study session, followed by Havdalah.

4. Visiting the new Yad Vashem Memorial and Museum. I hadn't been to the newly renovated version of the museum and it was awesome. For me, the highlight was seeing 8th and 9th grade students from Chicago in the same place as we were. I felt as though I was experiencing it through their eyes as well.

5. Watching people make phone calls on top of Masada!

6. The snow in Jerusalem

7. Going to the mall with a small group on a rainy night.

8. Visiting the grave of Naomi Shemer and singing Jerusalem of Gold.

9. Jeep-riding in the Golan Heights!

10. Meeting young Arab girls in Nazareth in a felafel restaurant.

11. Meeting Robin of Around the Island for lunch!

12. Being silly on the bus.

13. Traveling with this incredible group of women!

More people thought about 13 this week...

Monday, February 25, 2008

Looking for Pictures?

Interested in seeing pictures of our trip to Israel?

Come visit my other blog for pictures in today's post!

Also, see this great shot on the website of Ein Hod's Artist Colony.

Also...if you joined me for my Israel trip updates, please continue to visit me, I post regularly both here and there.

Every Friday I put up a Haiku version of the Torah portion and I write various missives on Jewish stuff!

Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Our Final Day...

We spent our last day of our trip in Tel Aviv...

In the morning we heard from Rabbi Galia Sadon, one of the rabbis at Beit Daniel, the largest Reform congregation in Israel. Her conversation with our group was interesting and fun...I think it's such a great chance for our group to hear from these amazing Israeli women.

Then we headed over to Independence Hall, which our group really found to be an incredible highlight. To sit in the same room that David Ben-Gurion stood in when he announced Israel's Declaration of Independence..."surrender is not an option..." and it never will be, our guide added.

Then we headed to Rabin Square, where, in 1995, Yitzchak Rabin was assasinated. I was particularly touched by the personal reflections of our guide, Renee, who was in attendance at the rally that terrible night.

We went to the Carmel Market for lunch and some last minute shopping (my mom picked up a cool Golda Meir sweatshirt for me!) while I was so excited to have lunch with Robin from Around the Island!!!! (More on this in a later post...with pictures!)

Then we headed over to Old Jaffa, and went through the Ilana Goor gallery, which was pretty darn cool. She is a famous artist who turned her personal house into an eclectic and interesting gallery that is open to the public. It was pretty breath-taking to see her collection and imagine actually living in this amazing house. Then we browsed through some of the galleries in Jaffa and headed back to our rest (although four of us went up to the north part of Tel Aviv, to the boardwalk, and browsed around a bit) before our closing dinner...

We all joined together at Kimmel, a great Moroccan/Turkish restaurant for our closing dinner. We shared wine and good food and a *lot* of laughter as we recalled and celebrated our journey together. "Journey" does seem like a good word to describe the trip -- we travelled together, yes, but I think it was so much more, so much more than just a "trip."

Each time I come to Israel I learn something new. And this time was no exception.

May we all return safely home and may we all return again and again to this amazing land...

Stay tuned for more posts, with that I'm home and reunited with my laptop!

Friday, February 22, 2008



We are safely home...a last post to come about our last day in Tel Aviv...

But until then, I'm in the cab and shaking my head in disbelief that British Airways had the audacity to leave some of our bags back in London! Only some, but let me tell you, I am quite sure we're all done with that airline...twice in 10 days....

Okay, more after Shabbat!!!!
It is nice to be home but I miss Israel already:)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Driving the Dream

Driving the Dream

Up early, of course, and with fresh-baked cinnamon rolls at breakfast!

Even though we could have spent all day at beautiful Kfar Blum, all of Israel awaited us! Okay, just part of it...but you know!

We started our day in Tzfat - one of my favorite cities in Israel. We visited the awesome candle factory and the two synagogues of Isaac Luria, the great kabbalist. We saw a clsss of three-year-old boys whose Hebrew far outstripped mine and who captured the heart of our group!

We walked briefly through some of the galleries (is there ever enough time?) and then hopped back on the bus to Nazareth.

Nazareth is a large Arab city and the traffic getting in was terrible, which I understand is typical and regular! We found a felafel stand where the proprietor was amenable to most of our group and the ladies were patient as we ordered our sandwiches and drinks.

The restaurant was filled with youngsters after school eating lunch. A group of 13-year-old girls was sitting near us and they captivated the imaginations of our women. We spoke to them and took their picutured and the they whipped out their cell phones and took OUR pictures! They were adorable and seemed excited to practice their English on us!

Most of the group then went to the Church of the Annunciation, a short walk away. The church was gorgeous, full of mosaics donated by many different countries.

Then of course it was back on the bus!

We went to Ein Hod, an artists' colony outside Haifa. Because we were very late, many of the artists were not open but the man who gives "tours" asked some to stay open as he guided us over to their studio/shops. While it felt like a hefty sales job, the art and surroundings were beautiful and many of us bought in one or two of the studios. A spot to return to with a long afternoon, for sure.

And now...we are on the way to Tel Aviv. It's hard to believe we've been gone just about one week! It does feel like much longer...

I think everyone's having a good time and we keep reminding them that there is good reason to come back - there's always more to see and do! I do love Israel.

Driving through the Dream

Up early, of course, and with fresh-baked cinnamon rolls at breakfast!

Ein Hod

Tel Aviv

So much to do so little time to blog!

So much to do so little time to blog!

As we drove north, the group marvelled at the complexity of Israel's politics and landscape. Even to know that just an hour or so behind us was snow in Jerusalem and here was sun?

We went to one of my favorite sites in Israel, Beit Shean. (Like the Torah portions, each one is my favorite...) Although the weather was cold and blustery, we had a great time looking at all the Roman ruins. We especially enjoyed the ancient "bathrooms" and we took lots of pictures :)

After this, we stopped at the Kinneret Cemetery on the shores of the Kinneret - the Sea of Galilee. In this beautiful cemetery are buried some of Israel's pioneers and famous folks. We went to the grave of Rachel, Israel's national poet...and we placed stones on her grave and read some of her poems. Then we visited nearby the grave of Naomi Shemer and sang a little bit of Jerusalem of Gold, her most famous song. We also read a bit of the last poem she wrote, in honor of Ilan Ramon, the Israeli astronaut who died in the Columbia disaster. Although it was set to music after her death, she wsnt able to do that herself. The Kinneret Cemetery is sucha peaceful and beautiful spot and the overlook is gorgeous.

We stopped in Capernaum, where St Peter was said to have lived. Today a modern church stands next to an ancient synagoge and Christian prayers mingled with Jewish do we know where is St Peter's house? It was the house that had 11 layers of the floor - meaning that the home had been occupied through hundreds if not thousands of years.

Very interesting - and someplace I'd never been before! As Rabbi Ben Bag Bag says about the Torah, turn it and turn it for everything is within it. The same is with visiting Israel. There is always something new to find and see.

Continuing up north into the Golan, we watched the view as we climbed in our bus...we came to the city of Katzrin and had a yummy lunch and what Renee termed the best ice cream in the Golan. You know it's good when even your guide who recommends the ice cream goes and eats it! It really was fabulous! (My mom wants me to note that it was really gelato...I had tiramisu flavor - yum!)

After lunch we embarked on a Jeep tour (they were actually Land Rovers) to see the Golan Heights. As Warren Christopher once said "ah....Geography IS important!" - we saw the very important significance of the Heights...from them you can just see the whole of Israel arrayed before you. The beauty is breathtaking but the knowledge of the danger to the towns and kibbutzim and fields and PEOPLE below if these high parts are not in our hands....

We saw wild boar and jackals in the fields and talked about the ruins of the Syrian army bases. The recent rain and snow had left the off-roads very muddy and full of deep puddles. At least we didn't have to get out and push!!!

Our jeeps dropped us off at the Golan Winery where we toured and tasted...yum!

We arrived in the evening after the wine tour at our hotel in Kibbutz Kfar Blum. The hotel was lovely and the dinner delicious.

After dinner most of us met together in the somewhat noisy lobby and shared stories, some details about the trip, and it was just a nice chance to be all together.

Everyone thought the hotel was wonderful and I know we all slept so well after such a busy day:)!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008



As we left Jerusalem in the slushy snow this morning and came down from the hills of Jerusalem, the snow turned to rain and then tapered off...

...and off in the distance over the hills of the desert appeared a beautiful rainbow! We stopped to take a picture but it we drove we saw another one - a full bow! It was truly a blessing...

Blessed are You, our God, Creator of the World, who remembers the covenant with Noah with each appearance of a rainbow.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Snow in Jerusalem!!!!

Snow in Jerusalem!!!!

It's here! Everyone said it would be but who really believes the weather guy?

It's awfully pretty but might not be so good for our schedule....

The wind is howling in Jerusalem!

The wind is howling in Jerusalem!

The Israelis have been rather obsessed with sheleg this week. Sheleg, the Hebrew word for snow, seems to strike both fear and glee into the hearts of Jerusalemites! Everyone is sure it will snow (as though even the meteorologists here are close to God) and have been worrying over our plans...we plan, God laughs!

So...the wind is howling, the rain is pouring down, and perhaps it will snow. During my year-in-Israel it did not snow, although usually Jerusalem gets about one snow a year. So i would be excited to see it, so long as it does not hamper our plans too much!

Today was a glorious day. The sky was blue, the temperature warm, and we headed south to Masada. Some of our group climbed the formidable mountain but most took the cable car to the top. Even though it was almost midnite back in Chicago, a couple of us took great delight in making phone calls from up there!

Monday morning is a very busy time on Masada becuase of all the Bnai Mitzvah! But we still enjoyed our tour and hearing the tale of Masada...

As we made our way back down the wind definitely began to pick up. Lunch at Ein Gedi followed by an excellent hike through the Nature Preserve. We saw ibex (hebrew Yael! Like my girl) and hyrex, a cute furry animal. Some we close enough to almost touch. Ein Gedi is where young David hid from the wrath of we read a poem/midrash about Abishag, his last and youngest wife.

We got a chance to stop at the Ahava factory store and then headed to the Dead Sea! The wind was really going now and as we walked down the path to the water the people coming up told us that they were closing the beach for the wind. Of course, we said, so laughably typical of our trip so far!? We went down anyway and took pictures wading in the water. The wind nearly knocked us over! A few minutes in the sulfur bath and we were on our way back to Jerusalem.

And none too soon as the wind began to howl and the rain started to come down....

So we might go to the mall, what else do you do on a rainy night? Our guide told me that was very Israeli of we'll see. We're having a great time - the group has a wonderful sense of humor about all the interesting occurances and our guide, Renee, is fantastic...(Hey, Renee, are you reading?:)

Our journey continues...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

So much to report on our journey...Shabbat was lovely - we shared wonderful services on Friday night at kehillat HarEl, Am Shalom's sister synagogue, where the music was fantastic and the sermon highly relevant - it was about clothing, the clothing of the high priest of course...but to our group, most of whom were wearing the same clothes in which we travelled, it was very funny!

It is great to travel to Israel and yet hear many of the same tunes at Shabbat services. Wherever we roam, Jews can feel at home!

The day of Shabbat was mostly spent in the Old City, followed by a study session back at HarEl and a seudah slishit, the 3rd meal of Shabbat before Havdalah. Then we had a night on the town, eating and browsing Ben Yehuda Street's many shops!

Sunday dawned beautifully - bright blue sky and mild temperatures. We began by meeting with Hannah Pick, Anne Frank's closest childhood friend. Our time with this lovely lady was altogether too short - her stories were fascinating. Then we immediately left for Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial and Museum.

I had not yet seen the newly redone museum. It was done so well, moving through the years and moments of the atrocities in a moving and beautiful way.

The museum was perhaps even more incredible because of the young soldiers also touring. To see their emotion, most of them tough sabras, was beautiful. Also we shared the tour time with the 8th and 9th grade Chicago teens on the Taam Yisrael program. So good to see these young people gaining this wonderful experience and so moving to see our next generation here in Israel.

The most powerful image to me was the hall of remembrance - a very tall room with shelves stretching above and beyond the floor, lined with books containing the testimony of survivors. Alongside these books were the empty shelves - all the testimony we do not have - all those who did not live to tell their story. The image was a stark reminder of what we've lost.

We came back out into that gorgeous blue sky, and breathed in the air of modern Israel in all her splendor.

We went to Mount Scopus and saw the Chagall Windows at the Hadassah Hospital. They are truly gorgeous.

We returned to our hotel and met briefly with Linda Epstein of the Chicago JUF - she shared he job with us and how she is so instrumental in guiding our money in Israel.

Then we met with Alice Shalvi, founder of the Israel Women's Network and the mother of Israeli feminism. She's quite a sharp and formidable woman and our group enjoyed her talk very much!

Ah....for me a trip to Jerusalem wouldnt be complete without eating at the Village Green, an amazing vegetarian restaurant. (My brother ate across the street at Burgers Bar...go figure) It did not disappoint!!!

Tomorrow we're off to Masada.
Hope for good weather for us - they are predicting snow!:)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Shabbat is coming to Jerusalem

Shabbat is coming to Jerusalem

Any early wakeup took us to the Kotel (Western Wall) tunnel tour - an incredible walk under the houses and along the excavation site of the Kotel. Our group was tired but agreed that the visit was thoroughly worth it!

The Kotel, ah....each time I come to Israel I stand in awe of those stones, cut and placed in almost miraculous fashion (because of their size and the available technology)....the beauty of those stones, worn by so many hands...

Like so many, i think of the moment in 1967 - Har haBayit b'yadeinu! The Temple Mount is in our hands! The moment when those young paratroopers came to this place and their tears fell...

The Old City is such a magical place - ancient blending with cards and Roman glass, Internet cafes and stone ruins. A brief walk through the ancient Cardo (and a few moments to shop) and we're on our way to Mahane Yehuda.

Machane Yehuda is an outdoor market that positively buzzes on Friday afternoons. The crazy frenzy of last-minute shopping is intense and exhilarating! We found dates and pita and cookies and pomelos and strawberries and rugelach and, of course, felafel !!!

Even though we don't have our luggage,
even though we are so tired from no sleep and crazy travel,
Shabbat is coming. Shabbat in Jerusalem...such a blessing, such a joy.

May this Shabbat bring blessings.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

We've arrived in Israel....

We've arrived in Israel....

....But without our luggage.

Oh well - even the air here is better than the air anywhere else so how can we possibly complain?

(I would write lots of mean things here abour British Airways in the hopes that someone from their PR department would see it but I'm too tired )

We ended up with any interesting side journey to Brussels (sprouts, anyone?) and finally have arrived (it's 2:15am)....

Tomorrow we go to the Old City!
Stay tuned....

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

We're off!

We're off!

Today was the most beautiful day Chicago has seen in a long time! The sun shone for extended periods of time and the copious snow glittered. I woke up thrilled that a snowstorm had not marred our plans....until I learned that our flight was cancelled because of weather in London!

After much worry and wrangling we were all safely rebooked on a slightly later flight (ideally we'll still make our connection!) And we are all happily chatting and snacking and about to board our plane!

See you on the other side:)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Was the House Episode anti-Semitic?

The episode "Don't Ever Change" of the TV show House (which I don't watch all that often, btw) has been brought to my attention so I made sure to watch it.

In brief, a woman who is ba'alat teshuvah (chosen to become Orthodox, or in this case Chasidic, a specific type of Orthodoxy), falls ill at her wedding and, as is customary on the show, her case is complicated and mysterious.

The doctor, Gregory House, is snarky and disrespectful of the woman's choice of religious rigor. He says that people don't change. He is relatively obnoxious. But his commentary doesn't really bother me -- because he is rude about *everyone* in my opinion,which I believe is how his character is always supposed to be. (He is remarkably knowledgeable about Judaism, though, even to knowing what Eyshet Chayil is...anyone out there know, is the good doctor supposed to be Jewish?)

The woman is adamant about her choice of frum-ness, and seems incredibly sincere. She is embarking upon an arranged marriage and the new husband is kind and attentive.

The thing that bugged me the most about this episode was the woman's desire to celebrate Shabbat with her husband before she embarks on the surgery. She frustrates the surgeons who trick her into bringing Shabbat in early. Her husband goes along with this charade. But I can't figure out exactly how early they do this -- does he go along with it as part of the pikuach nefesh, the commandment to save a life? In that case, even he is part of the fulfillment of the commandment. What bothers me here is that she is picking and choosing her commandments -- Shabbat over Pikuach Nefesh just doesn't work. There are far too many stories about different situations in which saving a life trumps the Sabbath for me to understand how she wants this! On the other hand, her own sentimentality about spending Shabbat with her new husband does seem sincere. (okay, the acting was just fair, imho, but this isn't a review of the acting!)

(for those of you who are interested, it's permissible to "bring in Shabbat early" -- approximately an hour and a quarter before sunset, which happens most often in families with young children in the summer who want to start Shabbat before 8pm. I'm guessing that in this episode it was far more than that before sunset.)

Okay, so was this episode anti-Semitic? I don't think so. Was it a good and wonderful portrayal of Chasidic Jews? Nah. Is TV ever good at that? Not so much.

What did you think?

Friday, February 08, 2008

time to build the mishkan....

Time to build the ark!
God gives Mo some instructions...
who and how to do.

If your heart moves you
bring your gifts for the Mishkan*
gold, silver, copper,

colored yarn, linen,
goats' hair, ram skins, acacia
oil, spices, gems...

Make two cherubim
and put them on the cover.
Make a table too.

Make a menorah
six branches -- of purest gold,
to light it all up.

Put the Ark, table,
and the menorah into
the Tabernacle.

Weave a curtain of
Purple, blue and crimson yarn
as a partition

Cover the Mishkan*
with fine twisted linen stuff.
Make it beautiful!

*AKA Tabernacle

Things are about to get a tad bloody...stay tuned for next week!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Did you know...

Did you vote?

It's a big day...

Decisions, decisions...