We welcome our ShinShiniyot – Maayan Gean and Lior Cohen – two lovely women will join us for the 2019-2020 school year. We are honoured to host them.
What’s Family Day Like Without The Family?
By Gil Peled.
We hope you all enjoyed a relaxing Family Day weekend, we know we did. Usually, Family Day is dedicated to the family, obviously, but what do you do when your family is in a different country and you’re away from home?
As some of you probably know, we are being hosted during the year by different families from Holy Blossom and Leobaeck. Those are our “host families”, which we switch every 3 months.
It is definitely a very strange arrangement, but a great one too.
This means that every three months we get to:
- Pack and move all of our stuff
- Find out how useful a duffle bag is
- Adapt to a different diet
- Develop a new sense of humor to fit in with the family
- Get to know a different neighborhood
- Find out the new location of your friends (who also move to a different family)
- Fill in your actual family about the new family
- Meet the extended family, and try to catch up on the family gossip
- And we get excited about meeting the new family,
- While still missing the last one
When we first heard we were coming to Toronto and that we’re going to stay with host families we didn’t know what to expect and we didn’t know how close it would feel to a real family. Today we are facing yet another move (in only 3 weeks), which gives us a new beginning for the 3rd time this year, even though we’re already past the middle of the year. Also, it means we have to leave home again, for the 2nd time this year.
We can only imagine how hard it is to decide to open your house to a stranger, and to let them into your family but only for a temporary period of time. It’s like taking in another child. What we go through with the families is very personal, and yet it’s also a part of a big program that involves 72 families every year. We have to admit, it’s quite an achievement – finding so many families that are willing to host 18-year-old Israelis.
So today we would like to dedicate Family Day to our host families, and everybody else who has hosted before and has been involved in this amazing experience we go through with the families.
[green_message] For the full archive of our Shinshinim D’var Israel postings, please click here.[/green_message]
On Wednesday, January 3rd אלאור אזריה an IDF soldier was convicted of manslaughter after shooting an injured terrorist who no longer was a threat. The soldier’s act sparked widespread public debate in Israel, that became a continuation of an already widespread debate over how one should implement the Rules of engagement orders in the wake of the wave of Palestinian political violence. Because of that we would like to share some details of the case-
On 24 March 2016, nine months ago, two Palestinian terrorists stabbed an Israeli soldier and moderately wounded him in תל רומיידה neighborhood of חברון. Both terrorists were shot and seriously wounded by Israeli soldiers. One of the terrorists soon died. His companion, עבד אל-פתאח א-שריף, lying incapacitated on the road, was shot in the head and killed by אלאור אזריה, an IDF medic serving in Shimshon Battalion of the Kfir Brigade. A video published by בצלם, showing an IDF soldier approaching the supine al-Sharif and shooting him in the head from less than two metres, went viral on Israeli social media, sparking controversy.
This topic is so controversial for two reasons. One is the character of עאבד אל-פתאח א-שריף – a terrorist who murdered Israeli citizens. For that reason many people see justice in killing him and feel no mercy for him.
The other reason is the character of אלאור אזריה – an Israeli soldier who serves in the IDF, just like most 18-year-olds in Israel. Because of that so many people see אלאור as “our child”. It’s so easy to relate to him, as many of us, or our sons and daughters, can end up in the same situation.
However, by shooting the incapacitated terrorist, אלאור practically served as the judge and the executor in this case. Doing that stands against the morality code of the IDF, and the values of Israeli democracy. No matter what the terrorist did, that’s for the judge and the law to decide, as the soldier was not in any danger at that given moment.
We feel that the real issue in this case is how different politicians and public figures used this for their political profit. At the end of the day, אלאור is only one soldier who is a victim of a very complicated reality IDF soldiers have to face. Politicians from the right will say this reality is the Palestinian terrorism, and politicians from the left will say this reality is the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. But actually this reality is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, on every aspect of it, and on that everybody can agree.
At the end of the day the court has made it’s ruling, and that’s what’s important – to be able to accept the court ruling regardless of your position on the case. It is a key element in any functioning democracy, as it is in Israel.
[green_message] For the full archive of our Shinshinim D’var Israel postings, please click here.[/green_message]
Some of you may know and some of you might not, we are soon going back to Israel for two weeks to visit during winter break. This is our last Dvar Israel before the visit and because of that we decided to talk about something that we’ve been thinking of lately and that is- ‘What will we tell our friends about Toronto???” so we made a little list to share with you today:
We’ll tell them that the most common sentence here is “Just you wait for the winter”
We’ll tell them that it’s finally winter
We will also tell them that even though it’s finally winter, it’s business as usual
We’ll tell them that we have a friend that’s a Rabbi
We’ll tell them that it’s pronounced “Torono” and not “Toronto”
We’ll explain to them that if you have sweats they have to be from “Roots”
We’ll show them a picture of Holy Blossom and try to explain that it’s a Shul and not a church
We’ll tell them that everyone here knows Yiddish and expects you to know Yiddish- cause how can you not if your Israeli?
We hope that we will be able to explain how real a host family feels like.
We will then explain to our family that they are still the real family.
We’ll try to explain to our friends what it’s like to come home once a year when they come home almost every weekend
We’ll explain that when people say salad here they actually mean just lettuce and dressing
We’ll tell them that in Canada, even if someone pushed you- you both need to say sorry
We’ll tell them that we put Cipa’s on every Friday at school,
that we spent every Saturday morning at Shul
And that we can sing the ברכת המזון but only with an american accent
We’ll explain to them what it means to be a minority instead of the majority in the country,
What it means to be a minority among other minorities
And what it means to be Jewish and not in the Jewish state.
We’ll tell them of the Israeli flag flying beside the Canadian flag in every Jewish institution
And about the Tikvah that we sing every morning at Leo Baeck
We’ll also tell them about several stereotypes we heard from the kids and shattered, like:
- “What- isn’t everyone in Israel religious???”
- “What you don’t go to pray at the western wall every saturday???”
- “Wait, wasn’t the holocaust in Canada????” (סתומה בלומה)
We’ll tell them that a “zamboni” is a truck and not a kind of an animal
We’ll tell them that scheduling half a year in advance is not enough.
We’ll try to explain how come Israeli products sell the most during an attempted boycott
We’ll also try to explain the love and support Israel receives despite all the difficulties
We’ll explain what it’s like to miss Israel so much and yet to look forward to coming back here!
And finally- we’ll tell them that it’s only the beginning and that we still have a long way ahead of us!!
[green_message] For the full archive of our Shinshinim D’var Israel postings, please click here.[/green_message]
As most of you may know, last week many wildfires broke out all across Israel, Including the greater Jerusalem area, Zikhron Ya’akov and Haifa.
Just to put in proportions the fire incinerated 41 square km and destroyed 600 apartments.
Luckily as a result of lessons learnt from the 2010 Mount Carmel forest fire, no one was seriously hurt. The largest fire occurred in Haifa, where 527 apartments in 77 buildings were destroyed completely, leaving 1,600 people homeless. Causing a damage estimated at 130,500,000 US dollars. 75,000 residents, about a quarter of the city’s population, were evacuated from 11 neighborhoods. Among the evacuated citizens was also Aviv Naftali the Shinshin from 2 years ago. Even though the fire reached his doorstep, it did not cause any damage to his house.
I woke up on Thursday, November 24th, after sleeping-in ‘till around noon on my day off, to find many unanswered calls and text messages asking me about the fire, from many of my friends who live outside of Haifa.
That was how my day started and how I first heard of the fire. Obviously from then on, my day consisted of worried phone calls and texts, trying to get a grasp on the location and size of the fire, while trying to figure out it’s vicinity to my friends’ homes. Meanwhile I also had to try to convince my parents that the fact that only the surrounding neighborhoods were evacuated, does not mean that they should stay in the house rather than evacuate themselves.
After the fire had been put out I struggled to understand the size of the damage. There is one very special place in Haifa, that is dear to so many people. It is a small spring, located in a ravine right near one of the busiest intersections in the city. Over the last 5 years that spring has basically become a “landmark” for people in Haifa. During the fire that place was burned to the ground, leaving just a sad picture behind. Noga can testify how deeply saddened I was when I saw the pictures of the ruins of that spring. The other time I felt this way was just a few days ago, when my brother described the city after the fire, including some of the natural views me and him grew up seeing.
The damage will last for at least 10 years now, and it will always hurt watching it. Now, it’s just something I have to learn to cope with.
Other than the Mount Carmel forest fire in 2010, this was the largest wildfire in Israel’s history. Also, this one was within the city and the population, which made it extremely hard to handle. Despite the difficulties of it, both physical and emotional, the support and concern of the people from this community were heartwarming, and will help us get through this tragedy.
This week we would like to start by asking you the question, what do you see when you imagine an Israeli person?
You don’t need to give us an answer, just think about it. What picture comes to your mind when you think about Israelis?
Maybe some of you think about a relative or a friend that you have in Israel, maybe some of you think about Noam & Bar, Aviv & Tal or even about us.
But today we want to mention a population that is not the majority in Israel, and we think it is very important to talk about this community- especially this week.
Ethiopian Jews started making “Alyah” in the early 1960’s. First illegally as individuals and only later in two waves of mass immigration assisted by the Israeli government: Operation Moses in 1984 and Operation Solomon in 1991. Today Israel is home to the largest Ethiopian Jewish community in the world with more than 138,000 people, and they make up about 2% of Israel population.
As a minority in the country coming from a very different environment, speaking a different language and celebrating a different culture, many Ethiopian Jews have had a hard time becoming a part of the Israeli society.
In the past year many issues such as discrimination, police brutality and racism towards Ethiopian Jews have surfaced causing a rise of awareness regarding their status.
Last year many of them decided to take action and demonstrate on the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Some of these demonstrations turned into violent riots but their purpose was a call for peace and equality. Despite the wrongful behavior of our society one man was able to rally above, by making history in the IDF.
5 days ago Lieutenant Colonel Avi Yitzhak has graduated from the IDF’s prestigious course for brigade commanders, thus becoming the first Ethiopian Israeli brigade commander.
Lieutenant Colonel Avraham Yitzhak will be promoted to the commander of medicine in the southern command. He made an Aliyah in 1994 in the age of 19, all on his own. Today he lives in Be’er Sheva with his wife and 4 children.
Yitzhak started his medicine degree before he made an Aliyah, when he was just 16 years old. He completed his studies in the Ben Gurion University and while finishing his medicine PHD he began his army training. After many years serving in the IDF he was able to inspire his entire community with his latest achievement.
We chose to talk about him today because we have had the privilege to hear him speak in the ASI (Association for soldiers of Israel) concert just two months ago. In which he received a standing ovation for saying “”The sky is the limit. In my community, people need to understand this,”. Although Avi Yitzhak broke the glass ceiling, we still need to remember that we have a long way to go in order to improve the status of Ethiopian-Israeli Jews and any other minority in the Israeli society. And we can only do it by changing our perception and accepting different people.
Noga’s D’var Israel
I would like to talk today about a subject that is very close to me- and that is the youth in israel. (Or us some like to call us- troublemakers). But more specifically I would like to talk about youth movements and mostly about the Israeli scouts- which is very different from any scouts you may know and is very close to my heart.
So for a little bit of background, A youth movement is not a youth group. It is an organization formed in a way that children in grades 4-8 are counseled and mentored by teens usually in grades 10-12. These kids come on a weekly basis to activities that usually teach in an informal way basically anything the councelors want to, with a goal that by the end of the year they form one strong group out of a grade.In many places it’s the most social event of the week.
In Israel of 2016, there are more than 250,000 active members in youth movements.
So my main question and what I would like to focus on is why? being in the scouts as a kid is pretty obvious- its fun, its social and its what everyone does. But why would high school kids today spend so much time hiking, doing outdoor activities, preparing for real camping trips, being in charge all year of a group of little kids and I don’t mean just doing activities for them- actually being in charge of everything that happens to them. So
In order for you to understand this question I’m going to try and explain in two sentences what it actually means to be a counselor in the scouts through high school. It means coming home every day around 10-12 pm and just then starting to study for exams, because straight after school you went to a team meeting for 4 hours ending up with just one written program. It means having personal talks with each and one of the kids in your group and being the first person they come to when something happens, it means becoming best friends with your teammates and missing full weekends of fun- for trips with your group and half of your summer at camp (but a real camp with tents- not like here).
and how do I connect to all of this? I moved back to Israel in grade 5 and signed up for the scouts- just because all of my grade was there. We have a “שבט” of 600 kids in my tiny moshav (which is considered pretty big). Eventually in grade 10 I became a counselor of grade 5 with 6 other teammates. In grade 11 I was head of 80 grade 4 kids (first years) and 9 grade 10 counselors. Being a head of a grade basically meant I was in charge of everything you can think of. All the way from being in touch with parents and financial issues to leading my new counselors who did not have a clue what they were doing and making them into an actual team of counselors- and eventually to being the first person they come to when something happens.
I guess everyone has their own reasons for it, and there are so many reasons- if it’s wanting to make a change, social reasons or even because it’s just something you do. But what all of these counselors have in common, is that feeling of satisfaction after finishing the year, seeing your personal impact on a whole group of kids, seeing the change they have done in a year, knowing that without a doubt they count on you for everything- I think that alone answers the big WHY.
I could go on days about the scouts and the different roles and still it would be just the tip of the finger. The youth movement world is huge and it has so many aspects to it. I guess if you’re not part of it you will never understand. Though I do hope I was able to make you understand a little bit. To be honest there are many things that i have a problem with in israel, countless things. But i do know that growing up in the scouts has shaped me into who I am today and that it’s so unique and so special and actually it’s- so Israeli. that when I grow up I will definitely want my kids to grow up the same way i did- in a youth movement- in israel.
Just a note from Rabbi Helfman-> I used to work in the reform tnuat noar in England. It ran just like this… North America is the only place in the Jewish world, really, where these tnuot are not popular. HaShomer HaTzair and Habonim Dror still run like this in Canada, but that is it. I wish we could turn NFTY/YEAH/JVC into more of a Tnuat Noar….
Yitzhak Rabin’s memorial day was held in Israel about a week ago, and every year around this time the question arises – “how do we remember his legacy, his murder and the incitement that led to it?”.
Rabin was murdered 21 years ago in a peace rally to which 15,000 people attended. Since then a very big part of the remembrance of him was a yearly peace rally. It is held in the same place where he was murdered which is now called “Rabin Square” and is partially funded by the government. What makes this rally unique is that among many people that go, youth movements are also very involved. As part of being in a youth movement, both Noga and I have attended this rally several times before.
This year was the 21st memorial day for Rabin and because of that the 20-year-long Rabin Memorial Day Act has expired, which means there is no official memorial day. On top of that, this year the government has decided not to fund the rally anymore. As a result, not enough budget could be raised in order to have the rally- and it was cancelled. Which means this year for the first time in 21 years – there was no official ceremony\ gathering in honor of his memory.
These shocking acts that erase the memory of Yitzhak Rabin and his assassination lead us to a very difficult question- “Did we learn anything from the murder?
On the background of signing the Oslo Accords, acute incitements against Rabin himself started arising. Big violent rallies were held, signs showing Yitzhak Rabin in nazi SS uniforms and as an arab terrorist were held, photos of him were burnt while people chanted in the background “Death To Rabin”. Some will say that these were just the extremists, but many of the major politicians today lead those rallies, including our current prime minister.
Today the incitement continues, so what have we learned?
During the latest elections the use of fatalism and incitement was the main strategy used by both major parties. For example slogans reading “It’s either US or HIM” and “Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls”.
In the past few years the use of the word traitor has become a common name, used for anyone that has the courage to criticize any sensitive issue. It is so common that the chair of the כנסת allowed himself to call for the revocation of citizenships from citizens who are Human rights activists.
These examples show that the incitement wasn’t something that ended with three gun shots in 1995. It is a phenomenon that is continuing, growing and is worldwide today- as you can see even from the US elections this week
However there is also a majority of people fighting against the incitement. The peace rally in memory of Yitzhak Rabin represented them. Now for the first time in 21 years, we have to find different ways to remind ourselves how dangerous incitement and political violence can be for our democracy.
Gil’s D’var Israel
Today I chose to talk about one of my interests from growing up in Israel, despite it’s weak connection to Israel. That interest is the game of Football, and why did I choose to talk about it today? Because I believe the story of Football in Israel, surprisingly, is pretty similar to the story of Israel itself.
So when does that story begin? Well the story of Israel might have started thousands of years ago, but the story of Israeli American Football started in 1988.
Where did it start? In the holy land. About 20-something men from Haifa and Tel Aviv found out they all have this weird thing in common – their affinity to a sport that was not aired on Israeli TV, was not played in Israel, with rules unknown to just about any Israeli, and back then the internet was not what it is today, so there was no real way of knowing about it. Kind of like the Jews in the Diaspora that found out that other than being Jews, they share their affinity to the land of Israel.
So these men started playing together 8-men tackle football on public fields in Haifa and Tel Aviv. Much like the first Jews that settled in small groups in Israel.
It wasn’t until 2004 that they thought about forming a league, which back then consisted of only 3 teams (two in Tel Aviv and one in Haifa). And it wasn’t until 2006 that they received a wealthy donation from the Jewish billionaire and owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, to build an official field and buy official football equipment. It wasn’t until 2008 that the league received official recognition from the State of Israel, Only 60 years after Israel received its own recognition from the world and the people of Israel.
However, this is not the reason for the similarity between Israeli football and the State of Israel.
My high school football team (the Haifa Rams) consisted of Jewish, Muslim and Christian players, living in Haifa, the Druze villages Daliyat al-Karmel and Isfiya, the US, many small towns around Haifa, and one refugee from South Sudan (who, by the way, was by far our best player). All coached by a man from Tennessee, and a man from California, on a soccer field in the private Hebrew Reali high school in Haifa. And who pays for all of this? Robert Kraft and another good Jew who grew up in LA (hence the name of the team – Rams).
So what is my point?
Look at the diversity we had in a group with around 30-40 people that are involved in our team. And that doesn’t end here!
That diversity is spreading all around the Israeli football community. Do you know how many people are a part of this community? There are about 2000 players, coaches and referees that are involved in football in Israel in one way or another (that is if you also count flag football as real football). The entire Israeli football community (which includes the people I just mentioned, fans, managers, medics and even donors) is probably smaller than 3000 people.
Think about that number for a second. 3000 people. That is smaller than the Holy Blossom community. You can probably fit the entire Israeli football community in 2 services in the main sanctuary!
And in that community, the number of different kinds of people wishing to be involved in it, is unreal.
That is the story of Israel.
Look at how many people are involved and engaged in our tiny little country in one way or another. They might not always be involved as we might wish them to be involved, but they are involved. It is a blessing and a curse, but for some reason Israel has that quality, and it creates the most interesting group of people, connected from all around the world.
And that is something we should all embrace.
So with Rosh Hashanah and all the high holy days coming up, the difference between toronto and our homes in Israel at these times is becoming very significant, and originally that’s what we intended to talk about. But with the passing of Shimon Peres we couldn’t remain indifferent to it. We can’t find the words that will convey to you why this is so significant for us because it’s very emotional. We originally found a passage by Yair Lapid a former writer and journalist, and a current politician. We believe that in a way what he wrote can show the unique Israeli experience and mentality that we relate to as Israelis and that we miss so much during these times. We decided to read the passage anyways, because we find Shimon Peres as one of the greatest symbols of Israel unrelated to politics, and this is our way of bringing his memory to you.
“This is the only country where a patriot is someone in a car at a red light who buys a blue and white flag that was manufactured by a Thai worker out of a fabric that was woven in a Gaza sweat-shop from a Russian boy.
It’s the only country where the unemployed go on strike.
It’s the only country where 60-somethings still despise their platoon commander from basic training.
It’s the only country with members of parliament who choose to remain
silent can’t be quiet.
It’s the only country where the Transport Ministry has erected a roadside sign reading: “Cohens, keep to the left of the road”, leaving drivers wishing that the Cohanim will drive a little bit faster please.
It’s the only country where people visiting your home for the first time ask “Can I help myself to something from your fridge?”(If you are lucky. Some don’t ask.)
It’s the only country where you can get a read on the security status of the country simply from listening to which songs the DJ is playing on the radio.
It’s the only country where a corporal’s mother has the cell-phone number of the platoon commander (and he better watch out…)
It’s the only country that’s launched a telecommunication satellite into space, but where no one lets you finish a sentence.
It’s the only country that has come under fire by missiles from Iraq, Katyushas from the Lebanon, suicide bombers from Gaza, and shells from Syria, yet a three-roomed apartment still costs more than one in Paris.
It’s the only country where an Israeli meal is composed of Arabic salad, Romanian kebabs, Iraqi pita bread, and creme Bavaria.
It’s the only country where Muslims sell holy souvenirs to Christians, in return for currency bearing the features of Maimonides. (הרמב”ם)
It’s the only country where you leave home at 18 to go to the army, and at 24 you’re still living there after you are done.
It’s the only country where, on a first date, the guy asks his date where she did her army service. It’s also the only country where it turns out that she was more of a combat soldier than he was…
It’s the only country where just 60 seconds separates the saddest day from the happiest.
It’s the only country where most people can’t explain why they live where they do, but have a ton of reasons why it’s the best place to live.
It’s the only country where, if you despise politicians, abhor clerks, hate the situation, are disgusted with the taxes, loathe the standard of service, and detest the weather, it’s a sign that you love it.
And it’s the only country I could ever live in.”
Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah