Yichiam to Klil

On Friday, on our way to a lovely weekend at a field school on the coast of Israel near Achziv, we took a hike along with friends of ours on a trail that started at the Crusader Fortress at Yichiam and ended in the ecological village of Klil. We passed lots of other hikers- old and young, Jews and Arabs, all out on a magnificent day.

Because it is already spring in Israel, which one determines by seeing the blooming of the almond trees

we were treated to a very lush experience. Climbing down the mountain we saw this vista

We walked along a dry creek bed, filled with stones.

and we saw beautiful cyclamens,

brilliant anemones,

and even dazzling wild roses.

It was the perfect prelude to a lovely shabbat stay by the sea where we enjoyed the brilliant sun and the clear blue water of the Mediterranean.


We have an apartment that we rent out short term. It had been unoccupied for a week or two. Then we were contacted by someone who needed it for just a few days. A new baby has been born, a first child, a son. The new grandparents were flying in for the brit. Even thinking about it puts a smile on my face.

And so this morning at 6:30, I greeted two very happy, very excited (and probably very tired) people who had just flown in to see their new grandson. I am told that after their short stay here, they will return home and will be here again in another 3 weeks or so for the pidyon haben.

Mazal tov!

Fame in the era of plagiarism

This morning I received an email from my son. He had received an email from his brother-in-law in Los Angeles with this question:

“Isn’t that your father?”

accompanied by this photo:
Bar Mitzvah

Well, yes. It seems as if my husband is moonlighting in LA teaching Bar Mitzvah boys… and I never even noticed.

Or maybe it’s because someone saw this photo
Matan's Bar Mitzvah

in my blog in this posting about our grandson Matan’s Bar Mitzvah in Jerusalem.

And yes, my husband did teach him.

So, thanks, sir, for making my husband famous, but I can guarantee that you can’t hold a candle to him when it comes to teaching boys for their Bar Mitzvah.

Oh, and one more thing, a request for permission to use the image would have been polite. There is no such thing as a secret in the modern world.


For years it’s been building, the idea of Israel being a pariah state. We’ve been accused of pretty much everything, almost all of it without any basis. The foreign media allege that it’s Israel that’s been endangering the Middle East, in fact, the whole world. The wikileaks documents seem to show something different, and although their collection and publication constitute crimes, what they reveal seems to shed light on the true content of international diplomacy.

It is seldom that I read the news and weep. But today is one of those days. You see, yesterday a horrible inferno was unleashed in the Haifa area. At least 40 people have been killed by the fire and a huge area of Israel is in flames. The fire is not yet under control.

And what did I read? The assistance from foreign sources is streaming in– from Greece, Cyprus, UK, US, Bulgaria, Egypt, Jordan, Spain, Russia, and even from Turkey! Also, as of Sunday morning, Switzerland, Croatia, Italy and Norway. We are not alone. When we needed help, the rest of the world was there to help us– even those who criticize us and boycott us and condemn us. They came running to help us. The first planes landed very early this morning from Greece. The Bulgarian firefighters were on the ground at around the same time, fighting side by side with the Israelis. Underneath, there is human decency. I am grateful. We are grateful.

This may be more miraculous than the long-lasting oil.

“Honors” surprises

As I thought about people who should have been honored and haven’t been, I thought about a teacher, Elsie Chomsky, I had in Hebrew college. She taught education and her ideas were brilliant and eye-opening! She was a household name because she had also taught my mother!! She was married to a man who became very famous (at least in Philadelphia) but my perception was that she was overlooked.

In thinking about her, I decided to do a google search and see if there was anything at all written about her. What a surprise! There was a whole 38 page article.

But that is not the whole surprise.

You see, on page 11 was the following:

Here we come to a dramatic break in Elsie Simonofsky’s story. Sometime in
l926-27, she left her job, family, peer-group, and friends to move to Philadelphia.
An air of mystery surrounds this period in her life. Her file in the Office of the
Registrar at JTS contains a “To Whom it May Concern” letter dated December
10, l926–a strange time for Hebrew teacher to be job-hunting– affirming that she
has satisfactorily completed her teacher’s diploma and is “entitled to teach in
Jewish religious schools.”

Why might she have decided to relocate? One source attributes her departure to
an unrequited romantic attachment; she felt she simply had to leave New York.

In 1965, I was engaged to be married. Four weeks before the planned wedding, with guests already RSVP’d, the apartment already carpeted, and a final fitting of my wedding gown, my fiance decided that he didn’t want to marry me. I was an emotional wreck. I had such difficulty believing it that I didn’t call any of my friends to tell them, but on the following Sunday, when I showed up at Hebrew college, there was no way of avoiding it. I told my friends and I burst into tears. I couldn’t remain in class, and so I went and sat in the student lounge.

A couple of minutes later, Mrs. Chomsky appeared. She and I had never had a personal conversation. She was my teacher. She sat on the sofa next to me. I don’t remember the exact words she said , but it was something like this.

“I just heard what happened. I know how hard it is because I went through it too. Believe me, your future is going to turn out better than you ever dreamed.”

So yes, I know what happened to her in 1926.

But there’s more.

My parents sent me to Israel and Europe for the summer, just a few weeks later. When I came down to the hotel lobby at the President Hotel in Jerusalem my first morning, Mrs. Chomsky was there. Together we walked to the Wizo shop on Jaffa Road so that I could buy an embroidered blouse for my sister. Having her show up there so unexpectedly, I thought it was as if she were my guardian angel.

Oh, and about my future… she was right.

A word about Sukkot

I walk around my sparkling bright city of Modi’in and everywhere I see sukkot. I see them on balconies, in front of houses, in plazas next to apartment buildings, in front of restaurants, even at the health club. And you don’t have to be traditionally observant to have one. Lots of our non-traditional neighbors have built them too– some using the same materials we use, others draping sheets or cloth across wood or metal and placing decorations inside.

I find these sukkot to be captivating. I began to think about what it was that captivates me and I realized that for me it is analogous to seeing a very tiny baby. Who doesn’t feel love and compassion and especially protectiveness toward a little baby? And why? Because babies are so very vulnerable. They are completely and totally dependent on someone else to care for them.

The sukkot, to me, represent that same vulnerability. We are strong, we live in big stone buildings. We have indoor plumbing and washers and dryers and air conditioners– but one week a year, we are vulnerable. We represent ourselves out there on the street or balcony or shopping center as vulnerable. And as I looked at am yisrael, the people of Israel, putting ourselves out there, open and vulnerable, I thought of two things: how despite the fact that we live under a constant state of threat, we are willing to make ourselves vulnerable and how it is only because of a deep and abiding faith that we continue to do it.

I pray that our Protector will continue to protect us and that sukkot will be a holiday of pure joy when we can know that despite the frailness of our dwellings, we are safe.

These are my people

Last night my husband and I met friends for dinner at the Tel Aviv marina. I must confess, I was never there before. Aside from the worrying about finding a parking space (you pay the money, you find the space), it was a delightful experience. At the water there are any number of cafes and restaurants. There was also a concert going on and the music wafted across the water. But what amazed me most was the people– laughing, smiling, enjoying life. The place was hopping with people of all ages, singles and families and older folks too. And people were happy and lively. My people. It gave me such joy to be among them. Israelis know how to work, how to innovate, and how to defend themselves. We have not forgotten how to just have fun!

And then this morning I saw this wonderful video.

These are my people.

Being an Israeli…

The whole world is against us…

How true!

Let’s look at how the international law reads:

San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea, 12 June 1994

You may find the full text here


Neutral merchant vessels

67. Merchant vessels flying the flag of neutral States may not be attacked unless they:

(a) are believed on reasonable grounds to be carrying contraband or breaching a blockade, and after prior warning they intentionally and clearly refuse to stop, or intentionally and clearly resist visit, search or capture;

OK, friends, Gaza is under blockade from Israel and from Egypt. Essentials such as food and medicines are being delivered daily and pictures of Gazan life on a daily basis shows no humanitarian crisis. What is being blockaded are materials that can be used either themselves as weapons or to make weapons.

Now why would we stop those items from being imported into Gaza?

Perhaps because over several years Israeli homes, schools, and playgrounds have been bombarded by Hamas controlled Gaza with rockets and mortar fire.

So we have a blockade to keep the people who want to kill us from killing us.

And these “peace activists” (read: terror supporters) were coming to break the blockade.

The Israeli commander said that we would be happy to transfer, after clearing it, all humanitarian aid under the supervision of those who brought it. All we wanted to know is that we would not be allowing in weapons that may kill our civilian population. They refused. The terror supporters brutally beat our soldiers, threw them off of decks and off the ship, and fired weapons at them. They were armed with clubs, iron bars, and long bladed knives that are only used as weapons.

And the world says we overreacted? Really?

Read the international law once again. These people were breaching a blockade, and after prior warning they intentionally and clearly refused to stop, and intentionally and clearly resisted visit, search or capture. In that case, they may be attacked. Under international law.

So this evening, all throughout Israel, Israelis gathered at major intersections with signs and flags in support of our military and our country.

My husband and I and our granddaughter, Kinneret, joined them here in Modi’in. As the cars passed us on the road, practically every one of them beeped their horns, waved, smiled, or all three.

Yes, world, we do have a right to live, even if it’s not politically correct. But that’s another post…

Mount Grizim

Yesterday was Pesach sheni, one month after Passover when someone who had missed Passover could celebrate it. However, for the Samaritans, שומרונים it was Pesach!

The Samaritans believe in the Torah, but not in any of the other Biblical books, nor do they accept the Talmud or other rabbinic writings. Since modern Judaism is a product of rabbinic interpretation which they don’t accept, their religion differs in major ways from normative Judaism.

Yesterday a bus of Modi’in residents made its way to Mount Grizim to watch the Passover festivities nd to learn about the Samaritans.

All told, there are about 700 Samaritans in the world and all are living either in Holon, Israel, or on Mount Grizim which is located in Samaria (what some people call “the West Bank”). For the Passover observance, all Samaritans must come to Mount Grizim and participate. Busloads of curious Israelis and tourists arrived to watch the festivities.

On a fairly warm day, the mountain was cold and windy. As we walked toward the location of the ceremonies, we saw some sheep grazing. They looked so peaceful and I couldn’t help but feel sad for what was to happen to them.

Sheep on Mount Grizim

Sheep on Mount Grizim

We went to the museum which was small, but well kept and we were lucky enough to have one of the Cohanim talk to us and tell us about their beliefs and observances. I found it fascinating that they take the same basic laws from the torah as we do and observe them differently. For example, on Yom Kippur, among the Samaritans, everyone fasts, even babies. The only exception is for those babies who are still nursing.

The Cohen, Yefet, with a sefer torah behind him

The Cohen, Yefet, with a sefer torah behind him

Yesterday, we were instructed not to bring with us anything that would be considered chametz, not kosher for Passover. We came to see the ritual slaughter of the paschal sacrifice, the lambs.

Lambs being brought to the ceremony

Lambs being brought to the ceremony

Passing by us on the street

Passing by us on the street

In addition to the Samaritans, there were hundreds of people who had come to watch the ceremony as well as dignitaries from the Palestinian Authority with whom they also have cordial relations. There also were almost as many professional photographers as there were sheep.

People crowded around the enclosed area where only the participants, dignitaries, photographers and some very persuasive visitors were allowed to be. We occupied a grandstand, a hillside all of the areas around the fences, and areas overlooking the site including roofs of buildings. It was very difficult to see and even more difficult to photograph as the people in front of us kept swaying and blocking our views and never thought of saying “why don’t you take a couple of pictures standing in my place and then switch back with me.” It was cold and windy and pretty frustrating to be standing on my feet for about 2 hours and not seeing much.

What we did see were many men approaching the ceremony. Most were dressed in white, however it appeared that the men of higher stature wore green robes. All of the elders some robes and each had a staff that he walked with.

Approaching the ceremony

Approaching the ceremony

Lambs in the pen, unaware

Lambs in the pen, unaware

As we stood and watched, we heard chanting. The leader would begin the chanting and then all of the men would chant. The words were not intelligible to us because they speak a different dialect. The chanting was not unpleasant, but the noise and commotion of all of the onlookers and of the non-participants made it difficult to appreciate. We saw some dignitaries, cohanim/priests, I suppose, on the podium and then there were two long lines of men. also dressed in white, many of them wearing boots, facing each other on either side of a long trench. A glimpse of two of the men showed them each holding a lamb between their legs.

At a certain point, a word was shouted and then in a couple of seconds there was cheering and shouting and people kissing each other. Although we had seen nothing, we guessed that at that point, the lambs were slaughtered. We later found out that we were right. There was such joy and elation among the participants that I found it incomprehensible.

While we were not looking the animals were skinned and gutted and later we saw a few put on huge skewers being readied to be thrown into the deep, round pits that had been burning for hours.

We were told that at that point, the people would go home and only return around midnight to claim their lamb that would be eaten with the people they were close to.

A few commments:

1. I am glad that I went. It certainly was an experience unlike any other I have had. that said, I wish they could have kept their ceremony purer– with less noise and fuss and extraneous noises and people and bustle. It didn’t have a spiritual quality that I could grasp.

2. I am still feeling very sorry for all of the lambs, and especially so when I think of the joy that slaughtering them brought to the people who did it. I never imagined that animal sacrifice could be anything but deeply solemn and deeply moving.

3. I am pretty sure that I heard our neighbor’s cat praying this morning saying “…שלא עשני כבס”

(If you don’t know Hebrew, it probably isn’t worth explaining it…)


I don’t like putting up political posts. Sometimes they threaten friendships, and I really don’t want to lose any friends. But what’s been happening lately is so troubling that I can’t remain let it pass. Here’s one article about it.