Thursday, April 29, 2010

MAMILLA and "Fairy Tales" exhibition

Mamilla is one of the great places here in Jerusalem for tourists and for the residents of Israel. Walking through her promenade you arrive to the Old City of Jerusalem instead of taking a bus! At the end of Mamilla, Jaffa Gate greetings you!

Mamilla has a long and attractive promenade where the tourists and residents can find wonderful stores. Is like being in the Fifth Avenue of New York, or in Michigan Avenue in Chicago, without listening to a car horns or looking for a place where you can park your car, or ride in a taxi or in a bus!

As well as there are nice stores, coffee shops and restaurants, the promenade of Mamilla hosts a wonderful and incomparable exhibition of Israeli and international artists, named: “Fairy Tales”. Is a unique exhibition of the works artist, such Alma Moriah Vinik, Orna Ben-Shoshan, Sarah Knoll, Yael Erlichman, Dani Katz, Martin Kizalstein , Becky Levy, and others.

Here are some pictures:

And here more!!!You can see one of the sculptures with the artist, noooooo! is just us (Bill and I) :).

Here is one of my favorites sculptures!

The exhibition is really great! You are invited, and it is FREE!!!

While I was walking, something called my attention in some of the walls: numbers, and numbers, and more numbers. I asked to one of the people who works in one of the coffee shops what are these numbers represent, and he explained me that some of the walls at Mamilla promenade were built with the original stones that had been used for the Mamilla neighborhood in the late 19 century. Each one of the stones has a number so the people who built the Promenade can reassemble the facade buildings of the Promenade as they were long time ago. This place was, at that time, a Jewish-Arab business district.

The exhibition will be only until October 2010, please come and enjoy it!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Memorial and Independence Days in Israel

Last April 19th, Israel commemorated the Memorial Day to honor the families of the soldiers who fell in battle in Israel since her Independence, in 1948. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, Israel has lost a little more than 22 thousand soldiers. Sometimes, I cannot understand why a country that got the Independence still has to fight for her survival, as Israel does.

Still today, the soldiers have been trying to give to the Jewish people a place where to live, a place where to be as a Jew without any problem. Since 1948, there are soldiers who participated in more than one battle: Independence War in 1947-1949, The Sinai Campaign (Operation Kadesh) in 1956, The Six-day War in 1967, The War of Attrition in 1968-1970, Yom Kippur War in 1973, The Lebanon War 1 in 1982, The Second Lebanon War in 2006. To all of these wars, we need to add the “Gulf War” in 1991, when Iraq attacked Kuwait while Israel was receiving a lot of missiles (scuds), Israel not answering any of them. In addition to all these conflicts, we cannot forget all the terror attacks which Israel experienced with great loss of life for both soldiers and civilians.

Some people, here in Israel and elsewhere, are asking: how long must Israel still fight for her existence? Nevertheless, I think there is only one answer: "Being a Jew". For as long as there are persons in this world who cannot understand what it means to “live in peace”, for as long as there are persons intent to “organize and live” the life of the Jewish people, for as long as there are persons who do not accept the right of Israel and the Jewish people to exist, we will not have peace in the land of Israel.

When I was kid, at school I learned that Israel is called the “Land flowing with milk and honey” . . . . Sometimes, however, I think we need to add something sour…

Coming back to the day I am describing, something reminds us that this day is Memorial Day: Here in Yehuda’s desert, where we live, the peacefulness of the place was interrupted around 8 PM on the eve of that Day and at 11 AM the following day: A siren.

The sound was like the land was waking up and screaming for her soldiers, crying because another soldier was buried. She, the land of Israel, does not want to cry any more. She does not want to be again witness of the tears and pain because another life was taken from – and returned inside -- the earth.

As of seven years ago, another event has been added to all the commemorations of Memorial Day: the “Remembering, Singing and Telling with Hope and Together” event.

Dov Kalmanovitz, a terror attack survivor, has been organizing, since 2003, this event. In 1987, "the first intifada started when a Molotov cocktail was thrown into Dov’s car". And, while he struggled between life and death, “he vowed that, if he survived, he would do something for the common good” -- and this event emerged from the keeping of that vow.
Here is a picture of this year event.

Every year, the theme of this Event is different. This year, it was celebrated at the Binyenei Ha’uma [Convention Center], in Jerusalem. And the theme was “ bereaved families who have lost more than one member”. On this occasion, we remembered the soldier pilot Asaf Ramon(who died in September 2009). He was Ilan Ramon's son, the first Israeli astronaut who died when "Columbia broke apart during re-entry into the atmosphere over Texas on its way to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in February of 2003".

In the same event we also remembered the family Peretz who lost two sons: Uriel (Lebanon, November 1998) and Eliraz (Gaza, March 2010).

Seeing the pictures of Miriam (the mother of Uriel and Eliraz), and Shlomit Peretz (Eliraz’s wife) during the funeral of Eliraz, one realizes there are no words that can really bring any comfort. Nevertheless, Miriam said: “My sons told me to lift my head up high, to fight and not to give up. I hear their voices saying, continue, continue”. We just need to continue and live fully for as long as we will be here in the world.

I think that there is no home in Israel that did not lose a family member: father, brother, sister, son, daughter, wife, or extended member family because of a terror attack, or because of war. Some, like Peretz and Ramon families, have lost more than one loved one.

I remember when I was here in Israel, as a student, back on 1972-1974, when the Yom Kippur War broke out... For weeks, I heard the stories from the soldiers themselves who came back from the war field, telling what happened to their friends from the same platoon, telling their memories and their feelings; I also recall the stories about the soldiers who did not come back home... One of the mothers told me: “We know that here in Israel we just give bith to our children, rise them up until the age of 18; and after is not up to us”. It was sad, but this is the reality. Until when? Who knows…

In the United States and other countries we also commemorate Memorial Day. Here in Israel, however, the feeling is different. The feelings I had that Memorial Day here were beyond words. Being very very close to the soldiers, during the Yom Kippur war and today, it shakes my veins, my memory shivers.

I close my eyes and remember those days, and now the memories are coming back: the fear, the tears... The horror of those days keeps echoing in my heart – but, as Miriam Peretz said, we just need to continue...


Once, a long time ago, I read some where: “If you cry because you do not see the sun, the tears will not give you the opportunity to see the stars”.

Yesterday, we cried because the father, the son, the brother or the husband died in the war by giving his life so that his children, father, brother, wife can have a home. They gave their lives so that we can celebrate today that we have a country --we have a land for our children, the future of the country.

This year, Israel celebrated her 62nd anniversary. From north to south, from east to west, the entire country was decorated with Israeli flags: blue and white.

Most of the people were, likewise, dressed in blue and white. People were dancing in the streets, and having picnics and BBQ’s in their yards or in parks. Music, laughter, and happiness were present in each person, in each home, and in each place where people were gathering.

It was the Day for Israel, the Day which proclaims that, no matter what the rest of the world says, will say, or would like to say, ISRAEL ALWAYS WILL EXIST.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Yom HaSHoa vehaGevura, the Holocaust and Heroism Day


Every year the Jews, and some non Jews, commemorate the Holocaust and Heroism day. In my blog, I will not re-tell what I see and hear in these services every year. This time, I will simply write freely about what it means to be in Israel in this painful day.

Never again!

..."When the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, General Dwight Eisenhower, found the victims of the death camps he ordered all possible photographs to be taken, and for the German people from surrounding villages to be ushered through the camps and even made to bury the dead. He did this because he said in words to this effect: ”Get it all on record now - get the films - get the witnesses -because somewhere down the road of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened.”

When I read this paragraph, here in Israel the only thought that came to my mind was an interview I had with one of the students at Northwestern, who asked me what I thought about the declaration of one of my "colleagues" affirming ”The holocaust never existed". I answered her: "How do you feel if someone were to tell you that September 11th never existed". The student was lost for words in continuing the interview.

I cannot imagine that a "professor" can affirm such a thing...

Now I am in Israel, it was 10 AM, on Monday, April 12, 2010. That day, Israel was commemorating Yom Hashoa, [Jewish Day of Holocaust Remembrance]. There are not words to express what I really experienced in these moments.

Outside it was a little bit cold, the wind slowly were moving the branches of the trees, the birds did not sing, everything was very quiet, only a strong and loud sound of a siren, that last two minutes, was calling all the people of Israel to stop whatever they are doing and give respect to the people who were killed by the Nazis many years ago:

Bus and car drivers stop their cars,

some of them go out from their car and stand next to it; other drivers sit in their cars and wait,

each one of the pedestrians stop, as if they were paralyzed.

Nothing in the entire land of Israel moved.

It was like watching a movie – when, suddenly, it stops.

I heard the siren, and I felt my blood growing cold;

the sound made me think of thousands of little children murdered during the Holocaust,

I was hearing their screaming,

I closed my eyes and imagine their tears,

their terrified feeling while the Nazis were taking them away from their parents,

and ...

You know the story, I do not need to tell you what happened..

Celebrating Passover in Israel

Ha lachma anya
[This is the bread of affliction]
( …)
Hashata hakha, l'shana haba b'ar'a d'yisrael
[Now we are here, next year we will be in the Land of Israel].

Every Jew who lives in the Gola [the exile, out of Israel] always dreams to be in Israel and celebrate Passover. Passover is the celebration of freedom that starts on the eve of 15 of Nisan (March 29, this year). The preparation for the holiday starts -for some people- months before with the removal of the chametz (leaven) from the house. We do a deep cleaning: each corner of the house needs to be clean of chametz, (mainly means anything that has one of the five major grains: wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt). Also, depending on whether the person is Ashkenazi or Sephardi, and he or she had more things that he/she considers also chametz, this could significantly affect the perception of what needs to be cleaned. However, I will not get into this here. Suffice it to say, some Jews are stricter than others.

Sometimes the cleaning can be very painful, depending of each person. We are doing this to remember that our forefathers, when they were leaving Egypt were in a hurry, and did not have time to let their bread rise. I remembered when I was a child, my mom and I used to clean also the walls and the doors of each room in the house. I thought it was unnecessary, but it was the tradition of her home, and she kept it, and now I keep it and my husband thinks that I am “cuckoo” -- but is a family tradition and that is what really identify us a Jews, the traditions. Such time-honored traditions explain why we need to remove all the chametz form our homes, also from our work place, from our cars and from every place where we will be during the chol-hamoed [the intermediate days' between the first and last days of Passover] which we allow for work or travel.

As you can see, the process of cleaning the home of all chametz in order to be ready for Passover is a huge task.

A few days before Passover started, we went to Mea-Shearim in Jerusalem, the home of the ultra-orthodox Jews. To go to this area is really interesting: it is like walking in a village of 100 years which has not changed at all: the styles of living and of clothing are the same as they had been in Northern and Eastern Europe for their ancestors. When I go there, the Amish communities in the States came to my mind. But, anyway, when we went there this time, I saw something very interesting, which I had not seen before. It was the Hagalat Kelim [ceremonial dish washing for Passover].

We usually have a second set of dishes just for Passover, which we save year after year. But, some people just wash some of their dishes and do not need to buy new ones for the Holiday. As you can see in the pictures, (taken by Eyal Dor-Ofer), the people bring their dishes and utensils and other person do the “hagala”. I am pretty sure there are some utensils and/or dishes that cannot be “kasherize” but most of them yes.

After this, we went to Ben Yehuda street, it is a nice place where to shop!!!! And also, while you walking along the boulevard, you can listen to people who play their violin or organ and the pedestrians give them money. In this boulevard we met two young ultra orthodox boys offering to sell your chametz. Is not enough that you will clean the house from the chametz, but also you need to “sell it”. In earlier times, the people “sold” their chametz to a non-Jew and it was taken out. But, when it became a practical problem, the people use to put the chametz in a locked place and then sold it to a non-Jew. In case that the person cannot arrange the sell personally, so he/she gives to Rabbi the “authorization” to sell his/her chametz. Therefore, we gave the “authorization” to these two boys to ask their rabbi to “sell” our chametz.

When my cleaning was completed, on the night of the 14 of Nisan, I prepared ten pieces of bread and put each one in a piece of paper, and then I distributed them around the house (not in the bathrooms) and turned off the lights. Before the searching and turning off the lights, my husband lit a candle, recited the blessing, and with a wooden spoon, and feather, start to look for the bread’s pieces which I had “hidden”. He put each piece in a paper bag – and, when he finished the search, I turned on the lights and kept the bag in order to burn it next day, before 10 AM.
While we were in the States, my husband used to go to the synagogue and burn the bread with other people. This time was different, however. We went to a park, and burned the bread. See the pictures under the title “burning the chametz”.

During chol-hamoed, we went to Jerusalem, to the Kotel. According to the Torah, there are three festivities during which Jews must go to Jerusalem: Pesach [Passover], Shavuot [Festival of Weeks], and Sukkoth [The Feast of Tabernacles]. We are here in Israel, so we went to Jerusalem -- it was a wonderful day, not so hot, not so cold we tried to get in to the Old City, but it was REALLY crowded. It so happened that the day we chose, without our knowing it, was the day that was Birkat Hakohanim [Priestly Benediction] at the Kotel [Western Wall]: “Thousands of Kohanim (descendants of the priestly tribe) join together in one voice to bless the Jewish nation.” It was amazing!! These pictures were taking from the Web, it was impossible to take any picture there, for you could not move.

Being in Israel during Passover, smelling the land, listening to prayers, walking on the streets, give feelings completely different than when you live in the Gola. We celebrate our Seder as always, but the feelings we experiments were amazing. Everything was just chaval al ha-zeman, as we say in modern Hebrew: Great!, Awesome!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

According to the Torah there are three festivities that the Jews must go to Jerusalem: Pesach [Passover], Shavuot [Festival of Weeks] and Sukkoth [The Feast of Tabernacles]. And during the Chol-Hamoed (the intermediate days of these three Holidays, which means the 2-6 days)of Passover and Sukkot there is Birkat Hakohanim [Priestly Benediction] at the Kotel [Western Wall]: “Thousands of Kohanim (descendants of the priestly tribe) join together in one voice to bless the Jewish nation.” It was an amazing experience!!(This pictures were taking from the web site)

Passover in Israel

The following two pictures are related to the "Hagalat Kelim" [Washing dishes ceremony before Passover]. These pictures are courtesy of Eyal Dor-Ofer.

The following two pictures are related to Burning the Chametz(leaven):

In my next post I will explain what this customs are.
Until my next post.
Have a wonderful day!