The Big Felafel


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Good Causes category.

Like=Candy! The Purim Mishloach Manot Project for Lone Soldiers. Yay!

Purim is definitely in the air. What I mean is Jerusalem is now full of even more crazies than usual. Little kids are already wearing face paint and getting dressed up in celebration of the holiday. People seem to be drinking more around me, and I’m going to say it’s because of a countdown to Purim. And those oh so delicious (OK they’re not the most tasty pastry but go with it), hamentashens are filled with all kinds of gooey goodness and being sold in every bakery or makulot in the area.

You may not know yet what costume you are going to wear, but I know you want to be a good person this Purim and I’m here to help you make sure you do just that. Eli, of Eli’s Shop in the Mahane Yehuda Shuk, has a very special Purim campaign for lone soldiers and you are about to become a part of it.

The only online shuk vendor is reaching out to the social media community to make sure lone soldiers have a super sweet Purim. The shop has teamed up with the Lone Solider Center in Memory Michael Levin to help provide Israel’s lone soldiers with Purim treats.

“We’re doing this because it’s a unique way to use social media to donate to charity. People all over the world can participate in this and give to lone soldiers in Israel this Purim just by clicking “like” with their mouse… (no credit card required!). We will donate the candies ourselves in the name of all our Facebook Fans in appreciation of their support” Eli tells us. 

The Purim Mishloach Manot Project for Lone Soldiers is a great and easy way to give this Purim. Eli’s shop will match a candy to mishloach manot (Purim gift basket of goodies) for every like the page receives. So all you have to do is like the page (which is awesome, because it’s a shuk vendor online) and you have done your part to ensure that a lone solider—a person who has chosen to come to Israel and serve in the army on their own— will have plenty of sweets this Purim.

We at The Big Felafel will do our part to spread the word. This is an awesome cause and we hope these soldiers get baskets full of candies as a thank you for the incredible work they are doing to protect Israeli citizens.

The Center is dedicated in memory of Michael Levin. Levin was a lone solider who cut a trip short visiting his family in America in order to serve in the Second Lebanon War in 2006. He had to fight to be with his unit and unfortunately he died fighting in Lebanon. This center not only remembers Levin’s heroism, but honors and takes care of other lone soldiers like him.

It’s a mitzvah to give someone a mishloach manot. To give a lone soldier a candy in that mishloach from anywhere in the world is just awesome. This is the ultimate way to celebrate the most fun Jewish Holiday ever!

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A Big Felafel Exclusive: Unorthodox.

We at The Big Felafel like to think we are super cool people. You may agree. You may not agree. And we might not care. Who are we kidding, we would care. But when my friend Shira Katz asked if I would be interested in writing about a documentary film she is producing called ‘Unorthodox’ I had a moment of awe.

I felt cool. Really cool. Because this film is amazing. ‘Unorthodox’, a feature documentary, tracks the lives of three teenagers from the modern Orthodox community as they spend their post-high school year studying in Israel. The film follows the teenagers through their journey in Israel and America. The documentary tells this intimate story with personal video diaries, giving us those real life moments that are both raw and profound.

As well as the story of these three teenagers, the documentary weaves together Anna Wexler’s own story. Wexler, the woman behind the documentary who left her modern Orthodox community, reveals her own life story adding a very private layer to the film.

In this exclusive behind the scenes, check out our Q&A with filmmaker Anna Wexler herself and a special Vlog from Producer Shira on the Kickstarter Campaign!

 

Q: Why did Anna decide to do this documentary?

A: In a sense, this documentary tells my own story. I grew up in the Modern Orthodox community in New Jersey, and as a teenager, I broke away from the religion. I watched as many of my friends graduated from high school and went to spend a year studying in a seminary in Israel. These friends had also grown up in Modern Orthodox homes, but like me, they had rebelled, and were not religious by the time they went to Israel. When they came back from their year in Israel they had completely changed: some of my male friends no longer spoke to me since they didn’t want to get “distracted” by women; others now wore black hats and spent their mornings learning in yeshiva. My friends who were girls were suddenly wearing long skirts and long sleeves. And everyone strictly adhered to Shabbat (no more going out on Friday night) and kosher.

I wanted to find out what happens over this year—what makes people change so drastically, and why do the changes happen so reliably, year after year? Originally I wanted to write an article or thesis about the “year in Israel” but I met a producer who suggested that I make a documentary film about the experience. So as a sophomore in college, I got my close friend Nadja Oertelt on board. We taught ourselves a bit about documentary film and together we set out to follow three teenagers through their year in Israel.

 

Q: How, if any, has the goal changed throughout the process?

A: I think the goal has always remained the same—to find out what happens over the year in Israel. What changed was that I became a character in the film. All throughout production people told me that this was my story and that I should be in the film, but I stubbornly resisted. It was only many years later, in the editing room, that I realized how much richer the story would be if you watched the teenagers travel to Israel through my eyes, and if Orthodox Judaism was explained through my childhood experiences instead of using onscreen text. In addition, I saw that my story—of leaving the community—could add another layer to the film, and thus the film could encompass a broader variety of personal experiences with religion.

 

Q: Why did Shira become an Associate Producer?

A: I met Shira when I moved to Israel, and we’ve been close friends since 2009. When I was working on the full-length rough cut this summer, she provided helpful advice and feedback, and when I was working on the trailer this fall, Shira was there at all hours of the night. I would share my screen on Skype and she’d help me tweak the individual cuts. Nadja and I have been thinking about bringing on a third person for a while now, and Shira was always the front-runner in my mind (I don’t think she knows that). When we launched the Kickstarter campaign in December and were overwhelmed with responses, Nadja and I decided that it was the right time to bring on a third person and we made Shira a formal offer. Lucky for us, she accepted.

Shira also has a personal connection to the film—she grew up in a religious home and has been through her own struggles with the faith.

 

Q: What’s it like filming in Israel as oppose to America?

A: People react to the camera differently. In America, we felt that people tended to be more suspicious—Americans have a deep-seated sense of privacy and personal rights, and they are sensitive to potential violations of those rights.

When we filmed in Israel, we often encountered the opposite issue—people were so enthusiastic about being on camera that they’d wave their hands in front of the lens or stick their faces right into the camera and shout random things. Fortunately, Nadja—who was doing the filming—doesn’t understand Hebrew, so whenever they yelled at her, she was able to block it out pretty easily. I found myself clearing the way and trying to fend people off as Nadja was shooting.

 

Q: Why should people see this film?

A: First and foremost, it’s going to be a great movie with a fascinating narrative! By weaving together the very different experiences of four characters, the audience will really get a picture of the varied personal struggles that people undergo with fait. This is something that is not really openly talked about, especially in the Orthodox community, where on the whole, it’s not okay to seriously question. Unorthodox will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will definitely surprise you—there are plenty of plot twists.

Also, I think that Unorthodox will bring up important discussions about the year in Israel and the Modern Orthodox educational system. On a personal level, I’d really like the film to spark conversation about attitudes towards people who seriously question, or outright reject, Orthodox Judaism. We’ve gotten so many emails from people who are not religious but who are afraid to “come out of the closet” for fear of losing their families and social networks. Right now the approach is largely black or white: you’re either religious or not. The reality is that religious beliefs are fluid—it’s a journey, not a two-sided coin.

Don’t just look forward to the film, make it happen and join their Kickstarter Campaign.

 

 


What July 4 means to Israelis: 35 years since the heroic rescue in Entebbe

In honor of the 35th anniversary of the heroic IDF rescue mission in Entebbe, Uganda, The Big Felafel received a moving guest post about Major General (Res.) Doron Almog (the “first man on the scene” in Entebbe) in which he reflects on the historic raid and highlights the importance of standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

Entebbe’s Message 35 Years Later: Leave No Man Behind
By Doron Almog

Thirty-five years ago today (July 4, 1976), an Air France flight was hijacked and diverted to Entebbe Airport in Uganda. Shortly after landing, all of the non-Jewish passengers were released and the remaining Jewish passengers were held hostage. One week after the hijacking, I commanded the first task force to land in Entebbe as part of a daring mission that freed 105 hostages.

Faced with immense challenges, we pulled off a thrilling (yet bittersweet) victory. At the time, we saw the feat as an illustration of the strength and vitality of the Israeli army and the Jewish spirit.  Upon reflection (so many years later), it is clear that it also highlighted the importance of standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

It should be noted that my participation in Entebbe was voluntary. After my brother, Eran, was killed in the Yom Kippur war (he was injured in the Golan Heights and bled to death after sitting untreated for seven days), I was given the choice of leaving my combat unit as a bereaved soldier.  However, I chose to remain in the military in order to change the ethos of the IDF and make absolutely sure that no soldier would ever be left behind again.

It was this philosophy that drove me to participate in the Entebbe raid and numerous other military operations throughout my career and, ultimately, set the stage for the next phase of my adult life.

After our son was born – and we named him Eran after my late brother – he was diagnosed with severe physical and cognitive disabilities.  In an instant, my world was turned upside down. At first, I had a very hard time coming to terms with the fact that my beloved son would never speak or hold down a job, and would always be dependent on others to provide his every need.  But my “no man left behind” philosophy prevailed, and I found the strength to be the father that Eran needed me to be.

In fact, my time with Eran allowed me to develop my philosophy even further, and I became committed to changing the way society views the disabled.  I realized that it is not enough to make sure that these wonderful children don’t get left behind.  We must ensure that they are given every opportunity to excel and reach their greatest potentials.

For the Entebbe raid, our IDF battalions travelled 2,500 miles to fight for those who could not fight for themselves.  It is time for us to harness that bravery, resolve and dedication to our fellow men, to turn our sights inward and focus on the urgent rescue missions in our own neighborhoods. These “hostages” are in very real danger every day of their lives and are often abandoned. They are the weakest members of our society and are completely dependent on the kindness of others. We don’t need to launch a complex tactical mission to set them free.  We simply need to wrap them in love and help them integrate into our social fabric.

Make no mistake: our commitment to care for the disabled members of society remains immeasurably more difficult than any military campaign I have ever led. But we must stand up and fight to provide them with the care that they deserve. Because, in the end, our generation will be judged by how well we complete this mission.

 

Major General (Res.) Doron Almog is the founder and Chairman of Aleh Negev – Nahalat Eran, a village named in memory of his son, that provides a continuum of residential care for children with severe disabilities as they grow from adolescents into young adults. Learn more about Aleh at www.aleh.org.

 


Running in Jerusalem or How to Make Buns of Steel!

As I train for the Jerusalem half-marathon, I have come to realize that the Holiest city in the world was meant to be a land filled with extremely fit people. You cannot run five minutes without finding yourself climbing up another hill or flying down one. And when you’re running in your first half-marathon – that’s 21.1 kilometers or 13 miles – you realize that maybe Jerusalem isn’t the best place to start. Then again when you live here, there isn’t much of a choice!

Thanks to the new Gmaps Pedometer, creating my running routes has been easy— but there’s nothing easy about the actual runs. Every route has hills, it is unavoidable. Not only that, Jerusalem doesn’t have a beach, a lake or a boardwalk (I know there is the Haas Promenade in Talpiot, but really not the same as a boardwalk), that could make the run more visually exciting. Sure there is the Jerusalem Forest, but that is just more of the same, with crazy hills and inclines that my legs, butt and thighs will just not accept. And true, we do have the Old City which is a cool place to run through, if you like thousands of tourists getting in your way, cars trying to squeeze through the narrow streets, and broken roads that make for embarrassing and painful (being embarrassed hurts more than bruises) falls.

But I have challenged myself, body and mind, to run this year’s Jerusalem half-marathon and March 25th I hope to achieve my goal with thousands of others. While I am super excited about the half, the real deal is the first full Jerusalem marathon taking place the same day. With over 10,000 people registered, it looks like this will be the country’s biggest marathon, so take that Tel Aviv (with your beautiful beaches, boardwalks and HaYakron!). Continue reading this entry »


From Rockets to Knowledge: The Difference We Can Make for Sderot Youth

Summer camp was the best place on earth for me as a kid (probably still would be as an adult). Being a camper and escaping from real life for a week or two at a time was just so needed from ages 7 to 15. I mean school was hard, what with all those math problems, and recess was already filled with drama, whether it was a fight about who would play mom in “house,” or boys with cooties; camp was always the much needed break and promise land away from my problems.

Every kid needs camp. But some kids need it more than others. While back in the sixth grade I stressed out about my boy problems, today the children of the city of Sderot are more worried about rocket fire and staying alive. For over eight years the threat of rockets and war has plagued the city of Sderot. That means that the children of Sderot have grown up with this continued danger, and some of them were literally born into it, making this the only life they know.

Sderot Knowledge Campers

This summer, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has opened up its doors and teamed up with The Canadian Friends of Hebrew University and Committee for a Secure Sderot to provide 200 youth with the opportunity to escape Sderot and the rockets and have a week of fun and learning in the Israel’s capital.

For one-week these kids can enjoy regular kid activities like swimming, bowling and going on hikes without worrying about where the nearest bomb shelter is or make sure their ears are alert for the warning of rockets. On top of the usual fun stuff they will also participate in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder workshops (PTSD) with trained professionals to help them with the trauma they have experienced and most likely will experience again. And to add to the experience the kids will also have the privilege of learning science in labs at the Hebrew University. This is a great treat for them, because coming from a periphery town these kids are barely getting a decent education let alone the opportunity to study at the top university in the country.

I met some of the Sderot kids that are at the camp and was taken away with their candid stories about living in a warzone. Even though most of them are 13 to 16-years-old, they talk like grown ups, speaking about the fear of death and life under fire. Each one of them has a story or stories about kassams (rockets) falling outside their homes, inside their living rooms and for one boy, on the pillow he had just been resting his head on before getting up to go the bathroom. They speak about these incidents void of emotion (due to the trauma); yet listening to them you feel their pain and understand the necessity of bringing them out of the city even if it is for one week.

While each youth is special, there was one that really stood out to me. His name is Daniel and he will be 16-years-old in a month. But unlike teenagers in America, he is not worrying about passing his driving test; instead he worries about surviving rockets. Daniel was a camper in this Knowledge camp but back in Sderot he volunteers helping younger children deal with PTSD as well as to cope with the stress and anxiety of everyday life. Daniel thinks he is just living life, but to me he is defining it. Everyday he survives his fear, he lives his life, and he supports others and wakes up to do it again, day after day.

If you want to help sponsor a camper like Daniel please check out my Give2gether page. It doesn’t take much for you to make a difference for kids like Daniel, and yet it’s all the difference in the world. I’m sponsoring Daniel or at least I am doing what I can, I hope you can do the same.


CNN World Report: Jerusalem’s YMCA Preschool

peace-preschool This week my piece  for Israel21C on Jerusalem’s YMCA Preschool was on CNN World Report. It starts around 9 minutes. I love this show because it takes news stories from around the world to show what’s going on in those countries, as opposed to what the media thinks is most relevant in those places.


Partial Passover Anxiety Relief: Collection of Chametz by Shachen Tov in Jerusalem

The Passover/Pesach frenzy has begun as I greedily relish bread (gasp!), cookies, cakes, and other leavened products (naughty!) before I have to give it up for a week.

What I have not been relishing, though, is the thought of cleaning my house.  The anxiety for Pesach starts weeks before, as I second guess if I should buy one or two bags of pasta; 3 or 4 rolls; 1 or 2 packages of flour… you get the idea. But, no matter how much you try to space it out, thinking this year I’ll magically be chametz-free the day before the holiday, you know these attempts are futile.

So, instead of trying to fight it, this year I got an email from my friend Dena, who told me about  Shachen Tov Organization (Good neighbor) who is collecting donations of chametz (closed packages, only), before Pesach.  They will be selling all the contents of their warehouses, and after Pesach they will distribute it to the needy families they help. If you are interested, please contact the person in your area:

  • Ramot – Ortal – 054-5868427
  • Katamon – Sara – 052-5389994
  • Nachlaot – Chagit – 050-7881007
  • Gilo – Shalom – 054-3395419
  • Baka – Yossi – 052-7203673
  • Ramot Eshkol – Meno – 052-6674062

Further information – Matan – 052-5389996

shachen tov

And of course, for your viewing pleasure, The Matza Ball Rap