Pages

December 29, 2012

Making the world a better place



We are the proud owners of an electric car. Not a hybrid, it is 100% electric. Better Place introduced electric cars to Israel about six months ago and we felt compelled to be a part of their innovative vision.

The car is a Renault Fluence sedan. I am no car maven, but when it comes to this vehicle, I can wax poetic.

We charge the car in our garage at an electrical post installed by Better Place.  And when I am ready to go, I turn the keys in the ignition and look for the green ‘Go’ sign on the dashboard. There is no sound as there is no engine! I place my foot on the accelerator, pull out of the driveway and pick up speed. The only noise I can hear are the tires padding atop on the road. I cruise along in silence.

Heading north to Tsfat, I get onto the highway. The car has great pick up and ease. It is as fast as any car on the road, it hugs the curves with stealth, and ahhhh, it is tranquilly quiet.

It is also sparkling clean as there is no tailpipe to excrete emissions into the air.

Oscar, our onboard computer, is always calculating how much charge we have left. It can also locate the nearest battery switching station and the GPS will direct us there. There are several dozen battery-changing stations in Israel now as well as plug-in posts in most towns.

The first few times we went to have the battery changed, I felt as if I were in a science fiction movie. Better yet, I felt as if I were in the futuristic, peaceful, energy saving, green Israel of my dreams. This was because our battery changing station was in an Arab town and we were looked after by an enthusiastic Arab employee who also bought into this vision. I love the idea of Arabs and Jews working towards something together, especially if it is something that can make the world a ‘better place.’

The Oscar ushers us off the road to a change station in the Galil. A Better Place employee stands ready, ipad in hand, and offers us a coffee.  He is there to help us with any questions about the switching process, but really has little else to do as the entire procedure is automated.

I pull up and onto a track similar that found in a car wash. I put the car into neutral and turn it off. Then we sit back as the car is taken along. It is hoisted up slightly and a robotic arm unscrews the battery and takes it out. Meanwhile the onboard Oscar gives us a playback step-by-step. Within minutes, a new battery is put in, bolted in place and the car is ready to go – with a 100% charge. Time elapsed? Six minutes.

As soon as the process is over, an electric arms lifts. I turn on the car and sail onto the highway. Cost? Nothing (save for the minimal electrical costs I pay monthly, much like my cell phone plan).

Better Place cars are new to the Israeli car scene. Within time, I hope many more Israelis will become forward thinking and jump on board. The cars are priced the same as a regular gas guzzler so there is no reason to say no, especially with the soaring gas prices here.


My electric car hummed at a red light the other day. The gas-guzzling car ahead of me had this bumper sticker: ‘My next car is going to be electric.’ I hope to float past many more electric cars on the road in the next year. If this program meets with success, it has the potential to revolutionize the world--and is yet another beautiful way for modern Israel to do tikkun olam.

December 13, 2012

Happy Chanukah -- 'There's No Place Like Home'


We arrived in Tsfat for the fifth candle of Chanukah. Snaking up hairpin turns, we ascended the mountain from Rosh Pina, leaving behind sweeping views of the Golan and Mount Hermon, whose crest was tinged flamingo pink from the setting sun. A tiny tip of its peak was blanketed in sparkling white. Was that snow?

When we reached Canaan, the town nestled above Tsfat, a crimson sun was sinking behind the mountains. A broad expanse of sky swept across our windshield, open as far as the eye could see.  It was crisp, and as I breathed in fresh dusk air, I immediately experienced an expansiveness that I feel nowhere else in the world. I felt calmer, renewed. This is the Tsfat that I crave.

Leaves crunched underfoot as we walked into the courtyard. The lemon tree rustled in the wind while the old, gnarled grape vine, twisting wisteria and brittle pomegranate trees shuddered, bare of leaves. Compared to the balmy weather in the center of Israel, it felt like winter up here (or fall to a Canadian).

We placed the Chanukiah outside our gate and lit the fifth candle. The town was hushed as the lights glowed inside the glass box, eerie shadows jumping across the stones. We sang the blessings and left the flickering oil lights, a symbol of the timeless miracle, and a testimony that we are still here, strong and proud.


Back to the mundane, we ran out to the grocery store, shopping list in hand. Pushing the cart through the vegetable aisle, we heard an announcement over the loudspeaker.  “You are invited to light the fifth candle of Hannukah with us.” 

I grinned at my husband across the pepper bin as he dropped a bag of potatoes into the cart. ‘An Israel moment,’ we both said at once, as he grabbed his iphone to capture it. We both speak the same lingo and are thrilled that we can still savor the magic of living in Israel. For where else in the world would such an announcement be made?

A crowd gathered at the service counter and the manager grabbed his siddur and belted out the brachot over the loud speaker. His words echoes across the dairy section and bounced into the fruit aisle before warming up the freezer section. The butcher in his dirtied white apron left his post, while the baker in his white hat stopped making sufganiot  (donuts) to stand by the small boy in a kippa who proudly lit the five candles. And whether we were watching at the boy's side or deciding which cut of meat to prepare on Shabbat or waiting in line at the cashier, we were all present.

video




These are the moments that keep me inspired and proud; and these are the small actions that fuel this country with a vibrant Jewish identity.

As Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home.”

Hold on, are there sufganiot in our shopping cart?






December 10, 2012

Filling The Void


Israel is changing. Slowly and cautiously, secular Israelis are meeting the religious world.  I had such an encounter last night when I went to see the award-winning film ‘Lemaleh et haHallal,’ or ‘Filling the Void.’

We were in a movie theater in Herzeliya, where the audience looked to be about 90% secular.  The movie was 110% religious. The people sat respectfully, hushed. They laughed at the humor and they cried when there was tragedy on screen. And I am sure that when they left the movie theater, they had a better appreciation of the Israeli Hareidi world. This is exactly what motivated Rama Burshtein, the director to make this movie.

In fact, she did such an exquisite job, I felt as if I were sitting right in the fictional family’s apartment. I could practically feel the splashing of water in their kitchen sink, the deep sobs of loss, and the sipping of wine at a Purim seuda.  The punctuated silences often rang louder than words. The camera angles were so fresh and unique, we felt as if we were participating in their lives. One moment, we were an infant before his bris watching rabbis lean over him , then we were a mourner sitting shiva, and a guest being blessed by a bride with true kavannah.  

And I felt as if this on-screen Hasidic family were royalty. They spoke respectfully to each other, they dressed beautifully and they strove to do the right thing. In every action, there was a higher purpose.

As I left the movie theater, I felt elated as if I had finally seen the perfect film; no swearing, no violence and no nudity. Nothing blew up. And yet, it was full of tension, drama, depth and spirit.

When I read about the making of this movie, I really saw how these two worlds are meeting and evolving together. The film director used secular Israelis actors. Since they had little contact with the Hareidi world, these actors had to become immersed in religious customs,  practices and etiquette. Later, when they were on set in their costumes, they worked side by side with religious people who were doing the wardrobe and sets. Apparently, the secular and the religious crew looked so seemless, men could only tell who was who by pulling on beards.

I sincerely hope this is the beginning of a new, powerful genre of films in this country. Filling the Void fills a cinematic gap like never before. 

December 4, 2012

Tizku l'mitzvot!



In times of trouble, everyone in Israel rallies together. This is when our country becomes united as one strong, generous family.

Over the past weeks, I collected a few emails to illustrate this. While some initiatives are from individuals who live in my neighborhood, others are from larger organizations. Everyone was involved in extending a helping hand, from young school children to teens and adults.

Here is just a tiny sampling of the care, love and generosity that radiates in Israel. And these are just from my email inbox…imagine what caring treasures popped into others’ inboxes in Israel and across the Jewish world.
.................................................................................

In response to the inquiries we have been receiving, we wanted to share with you what Leket Israel is doing now and will continue to do in the event that a cease fire is reached to provide support and respite to families in the South:
                Supplying 1,400 sandwiches a day to children in shelters throughout    Ashkelon
               Allocating food vouchers to 400 families in need
              Making Leket Israel's fleet of trucks available to Homeland Security
  Feeding 500 children on a fun day away from their shelters

................................................................................

 I managed to pack my car literally to the top with clothes, toys and food. On top of that we managed to raise over 4,000 NIS!! Almost everything was collected Saturday night.This Sunday we will be heading back down to Sderot, along with whomever would like to bring a car and join. Everyone is welcome to bring whatever they can donate to my house. We will go through it and pack it into the car to take down on Sunday. If anyone has any questions, would like to help, has an extra car to use in case we need or just wants to tag along and see first hand what is happening, feel free to contact me any time. If I don't answer, I will call back. You can call, email or SMS. Thank you again for all of your generous donations. They were overwhelmed (in a good way) with the amount that we brought down this Sunday. Hopefully we can top it this Sunday.
................................................................................................................................................................

A Raanana soldier who finished his service a week and a half ago, would like to arrange a big delivery of snacks and clothes for soldiers serving in the South this coming Thursday morning. 

No contribution is too small, and all closed packages of food, snacks, granola bars, protein bars, nuts, dried fruit, candy, chocolate, cakes, cookies, drinks, warm gray army socks, and green or black undershirt gufiot are welcome. Little handwritten notes to the chayalim would make the care packages extra special and are more than welcome! 
           
The drop-off point is the food collection box outside our front door - no later than 23:00 this Wednesday night.  
           
If you live near a makolet, bakery, or kiosk that would like to donate as well, the more the merrier. 
Please pass this email along ASAP to your own email distribution lists today.
Ideally, he would love to have several carloads of goodies ready to go on Thursday morning, so please...everyone out there, let's show our amazing chayalim how much we're all thinking of them! (And we're not saying that just because we're the parents of one... :-) Tizku L'mitzvot and besorot tovot! We are standing by, waiting for the box to fill up outside...
.............................................................................................................................................

We are collecting packages for families in Netivot and soldiers serving in the South in cooperation with the City of Netivot. Collection has started and will continue through this Thursday at 09:00. If you would like to participate please bring the packages to our home. 
Suggested contents: 
Non perishable food items in closed packages such as dried fruits, cookies, cakes, candies and bottled drinks 
Notes, letters of appreciation and children’s drawings.
...........................................................................................

In the past week, there have been more than 800 rockets fired at our brothers and sisters in Israel.  It is a frightening time for all of us who love Israel and especially for all Israelis living in fear and suffering with emotional distress.
        
There are families from the South who can benefit from a shabbat away from the constant barrage of rocket attacks and non-stop alarms.  Please let me know if you are interested in hosting a family this shabbat November 23-24 or the next shabbat November 30 - Dec. 1, and also let me know how many people you are able to accommodate. 
.....................................................................................................
Fish for Shabbat!!
         They are bombing  the South again! How can we help!?!
Over 3 years has passed since Operation Cast Lead and the bombing of the South. For the past 3 years, communities from the Merkaz have been ordering straight from Moshav Tekumah in order to help financially support the inhabitants of the South.
 Quality Fish
 Fresh or Frozen
 Whole or cut
 Whatever the customer orders! Great Service and cheap prices!!
..................................................................
COMMUNITY   TEENAGER   APPEAL
 Come be part of doing an act of kindness for OUR soldiers
VOLUNTEER  TONIGHT, to write “a note from the heart” to our soldiers in the south.
Your notes will be added to parcels which will be delivered to our soldiers
Date: Today, Tuesday 20 NovemberTime: 19.30•  
.................................................................

We have been given approval to organize food (snacks, baked goods....) and drinks to take to my son's base in the South on the border

His group are 130 soldiers who have been waiting for 8 days and their base is running out of food and drinks

I will be leaving in the morning and would appreciate any donations that can be dropped off at my house.
.....................................................................................................
Friday 9-2pm products from the South including food, clothing, jewelry, organics and more will be sold in the courtyard of Yad L'Banim enabling Raanana residents to actively show their support for small businesses from the South attempting to make a living under the current circumstances.
.................................................................................................................................

Hi everyone, shavoua tov. I have had a request from the lady on our yishuv who packages bags for soldiers during war and peaceful times for men's deodorant and toothpaste.

These items are very expensive here and during the last war when I sent the same request you guys gave very generously and even though the war thank G-d seems to be over, many thousands are still on the borders and in bases. And are to remain on alert for months to come, and so I have been asked if you could ask friends, dentists anyone u know who can provide supplies
...........................................................................

Victory For Israel

Israel’s armed forces were ready at a moments notice to protect our country, our people and our land. Over 60,000 soldiers were put on notice and reported for duty when called, despite primitive living conditions, leaving their families and jobs and danger of falling rockets.  

When it was determined that a ground war was not going to be necessary, thankfully there were very few casualties and our army had proved their abilities and most of our soldiers have been sent home or back to their regularly scheduled army service.

Victory for Standing Together

Just as our army was ready instantaneously, so was Standing Together's army of volunteers.  With Drop Off points all over Jerusalem, Bet Shemesh, Gush Etzion and as far as Petach Tikvah and Yad Binyamin, we collected thousands and thousands of packaged foods, toiletries and warm items for our soldiers. Despite the danger, we had many volunteers accompany us to the border to help with distribution.
Financial help came from all over the world and we were able to purchase thousands of pairs of socks and gloves for the soldiers. Thank you to everyone for your contributions.
........................................................................................................

Thank G-d, there have not been any more rockets fired at Israel this week. However, the physical and emotional damage done, as well as the loss of business is still very real for the residents of southern Israel.

Kol Hakavod to everyone who has participated in the "pizza project." As of now close to 1000 pies have been ordered and sent to families/ soldiers in the south. Pies were ordered from all over Israel, the states, Germany, England.... I have been hearing how thankful the recipients have been, and the pizza stores are thankful as well.

Let's keep this going and send the message to the residents of the south
that even when they are not in the headlines they are still in our thoughts and prayers.
......................................................................................................


Dear Beit Knesset members,

Our Tenth Grade Bnei Akiva volunteer group is raising money to help the residents of the South who lost income during Operation Pillar of Defense.  We have contacted a number of bakeries and a candy store in the South and we would like to help them sell their products to you.  We will be knocking on doors this coming Tuesday (December 4) between 3:30 PM and 5:00 PM to take orders.  You can also order by phone before Wednesday (December 5).  The orders will be delivered on Friday December 21. 
...................................................................................


Tizku l’mitzvot. May we all merit to continue doing more mitzvot. As we all know, and can see, one good deed leads to another.