In memory of those who lost their lives in the Holocaust.
Image by kyle simourd / flickr
In memory of those who lost their lives in the Holocaust.
Image by kyle simourd / flickr
I am currently in the midst of planning my first trip to Israel in about three years. This is the longest I have gone without a visit to Israel since I started college. It was a sad realization, with the relief in knowing that I should be touching down at TLV in May.
This trip was prompted by a wedding, one of my cousins in Ramat Gan is getting married and I didn’t want to miss it. While thinking about my trip, I realized that Israel is facing a huge challenge keeping diaspora Jews connected to Israel.
If you are a regular reader of this site, you have seen my contribution levels ebb and flow over the last seven years. There were long stretches where I would write more than five posts per week, but there were also periods when I would write sparsely, such as the recent few months.
Of course, anyone who knows me or my writing knows that it is not for a lack of caring about Israel. I consider Israel the single most important place in the world for the Jewish people, and the modern State of Israel the most important thing to happen to the Jewish people since the Talmud was first written down.
So why a lack of Israel posts from the founder of an Israel blog? There are a few reasons. I have found more profitable writing projects that take more of my time. I have a wonderful relationship with a beautiful, loving woman that I hope to bring with on my next visit to Israel (don’t worry, she’s Jewish), and I want to give her more of my time. I have a good job that takes at least 40 hours per week. I am on the local board for B’nai B’rith and spend time planning events, some about Israel. I own other projects… I could go on and on.
But the biggest reason probably has something to do with the overall problem of the disconnected diaspora. I am over here, Israel is over there. While I am reading about elections and wars, the Likud and Meretz are fighting about Israel’s future thousands of miles away from where I live. New York seemed a long way from home when Superstorm Sandy hit late last year, imagine how far Israel seems from home.
While the flights to get there are easy, the costs and time are not. Just think, the last time I was in Israel, Yisrael Beiteinu was a formidable opponent to both the Likud and Kadima. Labor was on the way down having just lost its longtime leader. Now, parties that didn’t even exist then (Likud Beiteinu and Yesh Atid) are the two biggest in the country and that dying Labour party made a big comeback while the leading opposition party (Kadima) is practically dead.
So, if even an Israel blogger can become a bit disconnected, what can be done to keep people outside of Israel connected? That is a challenge organizations around the Jewish world have been trying to tackle for decades.
The answer is a difficult one. How do we engage people in the politics, culture, and life of a country on the other side of the world? More speakers? More fairs? More nightclubs serving Macabee and Goldstar beer playing Hadag Nachash music? I don’t think the answer is that simple.
I think the answer is making the world Jewish population feel vested in the day-to-day life of Israel. Not just knowing that their Israel bonds and JNF donations helped plant some trees, but actually making them feel like part of Israel.
That is where I run out of ideas. I am not sure how to do it. I just know that even I feel a bit disengaged at the moment, and that is a huge problem for Israel. I am supposed to be the guy that does the engaging!
Just to be clear, this is not me saying that I am done with this blog, that is far from what I am saying. I want to ensure the ongoing success of this site long past my days here, which are not numbered yet.
I am just pointing out a huge challenge that groups like AIPAC should think about beyond lobbying congress. Aish should be engaging us in Israel as much as soliciting our donations for their activities there. Birthright should keep up the efforts to keep us engaged well after our 10 day trip, not cutting back on funding in smaller cities with Jewish populations around 85,000 (that is what happened to us in Denver, and I was being sarcastic when I called it a small community).
What do you think about the future of engagement for the Jewish diaspora? Please share your thoughts and feelings in the comments.
Image by kobylib / flickr
Ever since I can remember myself, I have always been a big music fan. My father taught me from a young age about different musical styles, greatest musicians to have ever lived, and how to use the record player to listen to music right off the vinyl. From classical concerts on Saturday morning to video clips from Woodstock, my father taught it all to me. But not all of these diverse musical genres I was exposed to were popular in Israel, and finding good concerts could get pretty difficult. Imagine my surprise when my father and my younger brother told me about a monthly blues jam session occurring regularly for the past few years – right here in the center of Israel, in the city of Herzelia – less than ten minutes’ drive from Tel Aviv.
But before we go any further, let’s talk about blues for a moment. From Billie Holiday to Ray Charles, From B.B. King to Eric Clapton, blues music has produced some of the most valued musicians in American history. Blues is define as a ”song often of lamentation characterized by usually 12-bar phrases, 3-line stanzas in which the words of the second line usually repeat those of the first, and continual occurrence of blue notes in melody and harmony” (According to the Webster Dictionary). But if you ask Eli Marcus, a blues musician, historian and one of the founders of the “Israel Blues Society”, he’d tell you “There are a lot of musical genres that make you smile because of lyrics or singing, then there is the type of music that’s more emotional and touches your heart. But the blues, you feel the blues deep in your stomach. If you don’t, it’s just not good blues music.”
The “Israel Blues Society” was founded by the previously mentioned Eli Marcus (also known as “Dr. Blues”), Johnny Mayer, attorney Ilan Yonash, and high-tech worker\musician Nimrod Margalit. They collaborate with Assaf Ganzman, the owner of a chain of bars in Israel called “Mike’s Place”. Back in 2008, Nimrod tells, he came back to Israel after spending several years abroad. “I was missing a Blues scene in Israel. I looked online and came across a blues forum of about 6 people.” They had their first meeting, and the ball started rolling from there. The Mike’s Place Jam was founded, at the yearly “Bom Bamela Festival”. The Mike’s Place stage dedicated an entire day for blues performances. As time went by, the organization got bigger and bigger. It now has over a thousand members. The society was recently registered as a NPO, and is the Israel branch for “The Blues Foundation”, an international organization based in Memphis.
Friday’s blues jam sessions are held in Mike’s place on a monthly basis, starting around noon. Going in, you get to enjoy the Mike’s Place hospitality, American cuisine, a wide variety of beers on tap and some of the best song in blues music history performed live. I personally recommend you try the amazing Mike’s Place “Sloppy Joes”, as it is by far one of the best I have ever tasted . The musicians taking the stage are as diverse as it gets – from 70 year old keyboardists, a guitarist who works as a gynecologist, a nineteen year old guitar player and even a fifteen year old drummer. One of the more well-known members of these jam sessions is Noa Golan Barel, who became renowned as a prominent contestant on the Israeli version of “The Voice”. Her husband, by the way, is a regular drummer at the jams, and has a band of his own.
But the activity of the “Israel Blues Society” does not end in the monthly jam sessions. The society promotes and encourages performances of blues musician from abroad, such as John Bonamassa, Robert Belfour, and more. It also encourages the activity of Israeli blues musicians. “As a result”, tells us Eli Marcus, “more Israeli blues albums came out these past two years than in the past twenty years”.
What’s ahead for the Israeli blues scene? Next month, on October 18th the “Israel Blues Challenge” will take place. In this musical competition, blues bands will compete for the honor of representing Israel in the” International Blues Challenge 2013″ which will take place in Memphis Tennessee. There they will compete against blues musicians from all over the world for the honor, a cash prize, an interview at BluesWax and a lot of performances booked for them. All that’s left to do now is wish all the contestants good luck!
The “Israel Blues Challenge” will take place on October 18th, 8:30 PM at Mike’s Place Herzelia. No reservation needed; entrance is free.
For more information:
Israel Blues Society website: http://www.blues.org.il/
Israel Blues Society Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/IsraelBluesSociety
The start of the 2012 London Olympic Games has arrived with great excitement and expectation for thousands of athletes and coaches, and for millions of viewers around the world. For some, however, the Olympic Games represents negative feelings and bad memories. Chief amongst those are the families of the 11 Israelis who were killed 40 years ago at the Munich. For these people, the Olympic Games will always represent a reminder of the cruel way in which innocent lives were cut short in their prime.
With the passing of 40 years since those tragic events, has come a concerted effort by the bereaved families of the athletes and coaching staff to hold a formal commemoration at the London Olympic Games in memory of the victims. These efforts have been formally supported by millions around the world, including a number of national governments. Special resolutions and requests to hold a minute’s silence at the London opening ceremony were adopted by governments in Australia, Canada and the USA amongst others. It is astonishing that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games have opposed these efforts, and decided against holding a minute’s silence in memory of the murdered athletes and coaches as well as the German police officer who was also killed by the terrorists.
This decision is almost tantamount to the IOC denying the link between the cruel loss of life, and the Olympic movement. There can be no denying that the athletes and coaches were in Munich, in the Olympic village, only for the purpose of competing in the games. They were kidnapped and killed on the watch of the IOC and the organising committee of the Munich Games. Nothing would be more appropriate, than for a minute’s silence to be held at the biggest event of the games, which is undoubtedly the opening ceremony. This would allow the IOC to acknowledge the tragedy that was allowed to take place when the IOC was on duty, and also to memorialise the names of the innocent victims in the tragedy. The act of opposing a formal memorial at the opening ceremony is a way of denying responsibility for the event, and also serves to reduce the significance of this tragedy.
In response to the decision by the London organisers not to hold a formal memorial ceremony, chairman of the Palestinian Olympic Committee Jibril Rajoub has written to the IOC President to thank him. He wrote, “Sport is a bridge for love, unification and for spreading peace among the nations. It must not be a cause for divisiveness and for the spreading of racism’”. Perhaps Mr Rajoub conveniently forgot that it was terrorists linked to his own organisation who carried out the heinous crime, murdering 11 innocent sportsmen and a police officer in cold blood. It is clear that Mr Rajab didn’t wish to miss an opportunity to make a fool of himself in writing such a ridiculous letter. It is fair to say, however, that the IOC invited such a response by behaving in a way that can be interpreted as denying the importance of such a commemoration.
Various commemorations which have been held on the fringe of the games, one at the Olympic village and one hosted by the Israeli ambassador to the UK, do not go far enough to formally respect the memories of innocent people who should have been protected by the IOC and games organisers. They were let down by these people who allowed them to be kidnapped from the campus of the games. The only crime that they committed which resulted in them being given the death sentence, was that they were Jews and Israelis. Surely, the least that the IOC can do is to allow their memories to be formally commemorated?
The English Football Association has provided a great example for the IOC in the way that the Hillsborough disaster, and the 96 Liverpool fans killed in 1989, continue to be commemorated. A minute’s silence is held at every football ground across the country on the date that is the anniversary of this tragedy. This includes grounds which have nothing to do with either of the teams in the game on the day, or the ground where the game was held. It is a true mark of respect when even those unrelated to the event are able to stand silent for a minute in memory of the victims. It remains unclear to me why this was not possible at the opening ceremony.
While the memories of those who were killed will never be forgotten by their families and the people of Israel, the time has come for the IOC to memorialise the names as well. A minute’s silence at the opening ceremony is the respectable and respectful way to do this.
Until such time as the victims get the public recognition that they deserve, we can each play our part in ensuring that their memories are not forgotten. The Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth has written a prayer to commemorate the victims. This can be found using the following link. Please read it, and encourage those around you to do the same.
May the memories of the 11 be for a blessing for their families, and for all Israeli sportsmen and women.
If you’ve ever looked for some added value to you usual nighttime hangout you ought to have been in the city of Rehovot last week. Had you been there, you would have had the pleasure of taking part in the annual “Beer, Science and Good Spirits” night, a wonderful initiative by the city of Rehovot and the world renowned Weizmann Institute of Science. This collaboration is what led to the creation of this wondrous tradition.
The event, which started out as a one-time event three years ago, for Rehovot’s 120-year celebrations, quickly turned into one of the city’s most expected cultural events. Over 30 scientists and graduate students from the institute held lectures in local hangouts – bars, pubs, restaurants, and cafes. The subjects of the lectures varied from “Nuclear Energy – a Dream or a Nightmare?” to “How Was Life Created from Still Matter” and many more.
The Weizmann Institute of Science, for those of you who haven’t heard of it, is a multidisciplinary research institute situated in the City of Rehovot (about 20 minutes south of Tel Aviv). The institute, which was founded in 1934 as “The Ziv Institute” is the third institute for higher education to be founded in the state of Israel. It was created with the encouragement of Haim Weizmann, Israel’s first president who also served as the institute’s first president. In his honor, the institute received its new name in 1944. The institute has five faculties: Mathematics and Computer Science, Physics, Chemistry, Biochemistry and Biology. And just for you to know, chemistry Noble prizewinner for the year 2009, Dr. Ada Yonat, completed her doctorate at the Weizmann Institute, and stills works there today!
Rehovot’s Mayor, Mr. Rahamin Maloul referred to the event and said, “We broadened cultural and recreational activities in the city, while promoting education and literacy. Rehovot won the county’s education prize this year, and is now nominated for the national education prize, and The Weizmann Institute has an important part in it.” Weizmann Institute current president, Professor Daniel Zajfman said, “The Weizmann Institute sees for itself the obligation and the privilege of sharing with the public the scientific discoveries and the excitement that comes along with them. We’ve learned that the public is not only thirsty for different drinks, and not just for beer – but also for knowledge and news from the scientific front.”
The lecture itself was fascinating; Shamia was very articulate in his speech and worked the audience well, took many questions and was overall an excellent lecturer. But most importantly, Shamia took this complex subject and made in approachable and easy to understand, even if the last time you heard about biology was in the eighth grade.A perfect sign for the success of the event could be found in the parking lot. Never mind how far I had to park to find a spot, but while walking to my lecture of choice I was stopped by many drivers asking for directions for the different lectures and was asked about the night’s itinerary. I, personally, went to a lecture by Tal Shamia, called “Excuse Me, What is the Time?”- Shamia, who came to the Iceberg ice-cream parlor in casual wear and a big smile, talked about an hour about the internal biological clock of every cell in the human body, and the human sleep cycle. He addressed issues such as sleep disorders, the affects of sleep deprivation on the human body, how the sleep mechanism is affected by working in shifts and even about jetlag – He explained about how out body’s biological clock responds to sunlight and metabolic processes, but the latter one has more impact. According to an experiment perform at his Weizmann Institute lab, if you were to fly abroad and refrain from eating before and during the flight, then eat according to the new time zone in which you are in – you should experience little to no jetlag at all!
The lecture took place in the patio outside of the ice-cream parlor, and from where I was standing I could easily see that the café next-door and the pub across from us were totally packed as well. Many people from all over the area came to hear illustrative lectures in layman terms over a cold beer, iced coffee or sweet ice-cream, which also served as a relief from the Israeli summer-time heat.
So if you are ever in Israel on the month of July, and you like trying something different and learning something new, be sure to look for the lectures of the next “Beer, Science and Good Spirits”. Because whatever it is you’re going to learn on your vacation, you might as well do it over a cold beer, right?
This is a guest post from Roni Ezuz
Whenever Israel is portrayed in the media, it tends to be around its politics, security situation or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This situation makes it very difficult to understand the cultural richness that can be found in this beautiful country. Whenever Israel does get mentioned in positive contexts such as these, it seems as though the only cultural centers in Israel can be found in either Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. And while Tel Aviv does contain an overabundance of cultural and touristic attractions, it does not hold a monopoly over such events. Many such events take place outside of Tel Aviv, and here is a prime example for just such an event.
The throng of hundreds of men, women and children of all ages, which filled the streets of the city of Rehovot (a small city 20 miles south of Tel Aviv and the home of the world famous Weizmann Institute) last Tuesday night, could attest to that fact. This huge crowd rushed the streets in order to take part in the annual “International Rehovot Festival for Live Statues”. This three day festival has taken place this year for the third time, and this year it was bigger than ever.
Over 150 performers from all over the world, including France, Spain, Germany Argentina, and of course Israel, participated in this fantastic spectacle. These unique artists created colorful and exciting live statues of different themes for the purpose of the event, making fantasies come to life.
This year the event’s compound was divided into four different sections: one for Israeli artists, one for international artist, and another for participants who created original human artworks especially for the purpose of competing in the festival’s contest, and the last but not least, was the one dedicated to live statues made by children. These children had taken part in a new project for advancement of the arts, funded by the city of Rehovot. The contest’s grand prize was a special grant.
The festival itself showcased many interesting original exhibits, such as three bored fifties house-wives, a glowing alien hanging from the treetops, a music-box with a live dancing ballerina spinning in front of her mirror, a human flowerpot, a scary gargoyle, fairies, centaurs, goblins and even a mermaid captured by a fisherman. But most extravagant was the exhibit situated right in the center of the street – a big cage full of climber plants and bananas, hosting a very lively live statue of a monkey. The monkey was jumping up and down the cage, banging on the bars of the cage, calling out to the crowd and even hanging from the cage’s ceiling!
A personal favorite of mine was a beautiful white nymph who, whenever a passing child threw a coin into her hat, gracefully showered him or her with sparkly “fairy dust”.
The highlight though (for most children present, anyway), were the makeup counters, available for all who wished to actively participate and join these colorful celebrations of original art. In addition to all of these, the city has also situated many food stands along the streets. As you can probably imagine, the children were over the roof with joy, running around from one live act to another, eagerly waiting to see what would happen as these still masterpieces came to life with the toss of a coin.
But make no mistake, this celebration was not solely meant for children. Many young adults, older couples and teenagers swarmed the streets, inspired by the wonders on display, cooperating happily with the performers as many of the statues roamed between them, just waiting for a photo-op.
This wonderful initiative did suffer from problems such as crowdedness and the unbearable heat and humidity typical to the Israeli summer and the lack of organized parking area. But all of these were hardly anything to consider as this carnival was rolling around you.
If you did not get the chance to go this year, don’t be too saddened. This festival is quickly becoming a very strong and steady tradition in Rehovot. And I bet that next year, it will be even more impressive. Definitely a lot to look forward to!
The public was allowed into the Knesset Building where the casket of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir lay in state in the main hall.
The annual Hebrew Book Week was held in Jerusalem from June 6-16. Thousands of people of all ages came to see and buy books, they crowded into The Liberty Bell Park every evening.
The Jerusalem Festival of Light in the Old City runs June 6-14, outside Jaffa Gate “Cupola” towers above the walls. More photos of these light masterpieces at The Real Jerusalem Streets.
Mountains of fresh cherries at the Machane Yehuda Market Cherries sweeten every event, but the season is short, so you must grab them when you can!
The Guy Behind The Blog
Eric is the founder and editor of IsraelSituation.com. He has been to Israel many times including a semester at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the former president of the Israel advocacy group at the University of Colorado and teaches about Israel and the Media at a local religious school. All Authors…