Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jewish Leadership Balance Shift: Israelis Looking at American Jews

The late Prime Minister Rabin may have been the last Israeli leader taking the lead from an American president (Clinton) / © 2009

The balance of power in the world Jewish community is shifting. To some slowly, but here in Israel it seems like a volcanic eruption. From the 1880s Jewish immigration: community, religious, political, financial and spiritual leadership was not in Israel, it came from Europe. After the Holocaust it shifted from Europe to the United States. Israelis built a state, but still listened to outsiders for advice and guidance. As Israel grew and prospered it started developing it's own vision and leadership style. But until recently, Israel was still looking for outsider leadership advice. As Israel has gone through wars and peace periods, differences in policy with foreign Jewish community leaders started Israel in a more independent stance. Taking advice from the outside faded over the years. Today, events like negotiating with the Palestinians and immigration of Jews from the US caused a bigger and faster shift in leadership power. In Israel, this is new. As leaders, Israelis are still not sure of how to lead the world Jewish community. In education and Jewish culture, programs like Taglit-Birthright (a program started in the US) shows how Israelis can contribute and lead Jews in the diaspora. Today, Birthright is as important to Israeli leaders as it was to American leaders in the past. Experiencing Israel first hand is something that Israelis finally undersatnd. Israeli NGOS and government departments are now thinking of doing a birthright program with Israeli resources. Specially for Jews not in North American communities. Some say: that's about time.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Modern Living in an Ancient Land: Echoes from the Past


Colonia Aelia Capitolina map, a Roman city built by Caesar Adrea nos in 130 CE on Jerusalem's ruins. A reminder of the ancient in modern Israeli life. (image from WikiPedia (http://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/היסטוריה_של_ירושלים)

Modern Israel is a new creation in an ancient land. In Israeli's daily life, there is a mix of the modern and the ancient at the same time. Entering Tel Aviv University's Frankel gate reveals a row of Roman statues lined up as they were guarding a procession of students entering campus. The Eretz Israel Tel Aviv Museum* gardens are dotted with ancient Hebrew and Roman mosaics. Family law is based on Rabbinical legal practices going back 1,000 year with basic values taken from the Torah, Talmud and Mishnah. Israelis regularly quote biblical and Talmudic verses in daily conversation. The speaker's richness in planting a fitting quote shows their religious knowledge and even where they grew up. Jerusalemites and Tel Avivians often compare their biblical and Talmudic knowledge. Jerusalem speakers, living in a more orthodox city use more biblical phrases. Tel Avivians using fewer but with more meaning sometimes. Less you use something, higher it's importance.

Living a modern life in an ancient land brings tensions between the two. On one side Israelis want to live in today's world with all the benefits and pleasures of a modern world. On another, Israelis from the earliest immigrants to today, want to discover and preserve ancient culture, values and practices. The land is filled with archeological digs, stringing a continuous path in time like breadcrumbs in a barren land. Culture and knowledge of ancient writings is continuously studied and interpreted to our modern language.

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Israel's Most Enduring Green Policy: The Green Line, Agriculture, Drip Irrigation

Fish ponds in lower Gililly. Northern Israel was first cultivated in the 1880s and started a 130 year tradition of turning Israel into a green space. From the air the effort has become Israel's ''green line'' / from Israel's PickiWiki Site

Last week I wrote about passive solar water heating [here]. Saving energy is a crucial and useful policy and affects every Israeli. A more environmental policy going back more than a century is greening the desert: planting forests, cultivating agriculture and cultivating urban green spaces. Israel's green line is one of the most important long term green activity. It is actually Israel's biggest contribution to the world and can affect more people in the surrounding states than any political and military activity. Politically the green line has become synonymous with Israel's 1948 borders. Today, the name is synonymous with the Palestinian struggle and Israel's security border. The name actually comes from aerial photos of Israel contrasted against background of the surrounding states. Essentially Israel looks green from the air. This is an amazing accomplishment considering the climate and history of the region. Since the first immigration of Jews to Israel in the 1880s, there has been an immense effort to plant forests, make living spaces green and cultivate agriculture. The effort has been a crucial economic engine in early years of the state when Israel became an agricultural economy. It is also been a symbol of care and nurturing of the land to millions of Jews around the world.

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Let's Go Israel: Half of a Travel Guide for A Short Trip

Let's Go Israel is a great guide if you are coming for business or a short trip. Plenty of background information. See excerpts on the Let's Go site: www.letsgo.com

What tour guide do you use on your travels? This question has as much to do about style as it is about information. Are you an organized planner? Or one who noses around and explores open eyed? Do you like traveling in style? Or are seeking real life local experiences?

I met Tim, an American coin collector on Hilton beach a few weeks ago. He came to Israel for the ancient coins. At first he was not planning on touring anything but Jerusalem, the museums and coin shops around Tel Aviv. But he brought two guides, one for Christian pilgrims and another was Let's Go Israel (official site) see book on Amazon: Let's Go Israel

I was surprised, since he looked rather buttoned down and serious about his coin collecting. More of a small businessman dress and mannerism than a backpacking college grad on a summer adventure. Tim was from Tennessee and has been collecting coins for over twenty years. He actually started collecting coins on a post college trip to Europe.

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rachel's Tomb In Bethlehem: A Woman's Night Prayer

Night prayer at Rachel's tomb. On any given night, orthodox Jews fill the small space surrounding the old grave. Rachel's tomb is in Bethlehem close to Jerusalem about 1 1/2 hour from Tel Aviv. / © 2010

On any night, Rachel's tomb is filled with orthodox Jews praying. For women it has a special meaning. Last night I was visiting and a group of women were kneading dough to make challa rolls for their congregation. Making the bread at the tomb meant something special and they said a special prayer for friends. Overhearing some of the women, one said a prayer for a woman looking for a husband and another for a better paying job. Some said prayers for their children and their neighbors. People flowed in until 10 PM, closing time. There was even a tour bus around 9 PM, apparently they came from a Jerusalem hotel and only half of the group wanted to go.

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