The Big Felafel


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Jerusalem Scene category.

He’s no Weiner but I have pictures of the Jerusalem Mayor

newsworthy?

newsworthy?

With Anthony Weiner running in the New York City Mayoral Elections, it’s hard (no pun intended) to remember there are other mayoral elections taking place all over the world—including Jerusalem.

Weiner, if you recall, was a congressman who admitted to sexting and tweeting pictures of himself (selfies with a twist) to women. The story was gold for late-night shows—you couldn’t come up with a better name than Weiner to make the weiner jokes that were to follow.

After the scandal, Weiner went to rehab and was cured. Hallelujah! Weiner then decided to run for New York City Mayor, which brings us to present day news headlines. Oh, and he wasn’t really cured of this sexting disease and more women and pictures have come forward in what appears to be his “Fifty Shades of Weiner.”

But as I said, there are other mayoral elections, and for this Jerusalemite, I’m focusing on the candidates here. Current Mayor Nir Barkat, will once again be running for office, and Moshe Leon of Likud will be his challenger. Leon, is only a recent Jerusalem resident, and hoping to garner support from the Haredi citizens of Jerusalem who do not have a candidate running in this election. In my opinion, Leon has no chance.

I don’t normally talk politics, and frankly don’t even like politicians, but I feel it is my duty as a citizen of Jerusalem and a blogger of the Internet world, to express my gratitude to Mayor Nir Barkat.

Teddy Park Fountain

Teddy Park Fountain

Mayor Barkat has renovated and reinvigorated the city of Jerusalem, and all for NIS 1 a year salary. I love that he wears gap sweaters, has perfect English, and runs to work sometimes. During his term he has worked hard on increasing tourism, entertainment and culture and beautifying the city. Thanks to his efforts, we now enjoy a beautiful new Train Station open-air mall with free morning yoga, delicious cafes and plenty of safe space for children to roam and play freely. Another outstanding achievement is the beautiful new Teddy Park which is home to a fountain that shoots water for a half-hour giving children and adults alike, the opportunity to run, dance and scream like maniacs through the closest thing to a free pool or beach in the city. 

From the marathons to the food truck, and culture beyond, Mayor Barkat has taken Jerusalem to a whole new level and I look forward to seeing what he does with his next five years. I hope he will finally resolve the housing issues for young families, transportation and help us get our first coffee shop in Armon Hanatziv.

As for what I wrote above about the pictures; t’s true, I do have pictures. And it’s true they are not like Weiner’s. For the last three years I have participated in almost every city race, in which the mayor also participated. Every time I see the mayor I ask to take a picture with him.  He has never said no, and always with a gracious smile, and kind words, he has taken time out of his busy schedule to say ‘cheese.’ That’s the type of photos you want your mayor to be taking!

Running buddies

Running buddies

 

Cold but proud!

Cold but proud!

 

Thumbs up...cool.

Thumbs up…cool.

 

Official!

Official!

He may not know it, but he has become my running buddy. We actually run a similar pace, and in the Jerusalem Half-marathon in 2012, during the last few kilometers, running through freezing hail, I saw the mayor, ran by him and said, “I’m going to beat you.” Although I was exhausted and cold, I was motivated by the sheer fact that I would have to now beat the mayor. And I did. Woo hoo.

I look forward to running many a race with my buddy in his next term and remind all of you to vote on October 22, 2013.

 

Advertisements

How the Old Train Station got Her Groove Back!

Choo choo!

Choo choo!

When I first moved to Israel I used to walk by the Old Train Station almost every day on my way to my internship. The station once housed the trains that traveled back and forth to Tel Aviv. Years later it became the home to trash and all things smelly. The building was run down and just creepy.

Today, a gap-sweater-wearing-Mayor of Jerusalem, Ugly-Bettyed the crap (literally) out of the old train dump and brought life back to the old girl. The only way this former-LA girl can explain the change, is to explain it through plastic surgery terms: the train station got a lot of Botox, a boob job, tummy tuck, and of course a face lift. And damn is she hot.

The Old Train Station has cafes, open space, fun little shops, tourist attractions, and amazing play areas for kids. It feels like a little bit of Tel Aviv has finally made its way into the Jerusalem Village—and I’m hoping a little beach or canal will follow (what they could totally build a canal or canals in Jerusalem…they built a light rail didn’t they?).

For now, I’ll take what I can get, and hanging out at the train station, drinking a smoothie, while my kid happily plays with a train set or builds another structure with daddy, is damn good. The station is also one of Jerusalem’s more secular areas, catering to a more pluralistic crowd, from non-kosher cafes to concerts on Shabbat. That said, they also have a musical Kabbalat Shabbat at 5pm, showing the versatility of events happening throughout the summer.  As well as food and playtime, the area is home to a great exhibit hall, now featuring a mini-train display that is great for the whole family.

The station is not quite finished yet, with more cafes and shops still being built. I am so excited to see what comes next and how this once abandoned building can still keep things moving!  

 


Stand up: My name. Aliyah. Bureaucracy. And a faxypack.

It’s not everyday you have a captive audience of 400 Israelis willing to listen to your trial and error approach to living in Israel. So, after winning a stand up contest that the New Israel Fund and Bet Hillel hosted in May, I decided to make my five-minute debut about just that: the new immigrant on the block. I was honored to take part in the stand up night, with the other five outstanding and hilarious women that took to the stage. Even better was the fact we were opening for the famously talented Orna Banai. What I also appreciated was how warm the audience was, even though I did my stand up in English. They listened and laughed, and I think they also could relate, even if they are not new immigrants. Bureaucracy is still bureaucracy.

It was a night I will never forget. And an opportunity I hope to have again in the near future.

To see the other ladies click here

I'm the one in pants, and Orna Banai is the the last black dress from the left. Please keep in mind I was 6 weeks after having my second child here...

I’m the one in pants, and Orna Banai is the the last black dress from the left. Please keep in mind I was 6 weeks after having my second child here…


Bang…Boom…Shooting…Terrorist Attack…A Reflection on Mental Illness and PTSD

The horrific school shooting on Friday in Connecticut has hit home for anyone and everyone, no matter where you are. For people in the US the question of gun control, parenting, and mental illness is probably dominating the conversation. A friend of mine writing to me from her computer in New Mexico confessed that she is afraid to go outside because anyone could kill her for no reason.

In Israel we are shocked about the news, because these kinds of shootings don’t happen here. Reckless, and random, that’s not how you describe a terrorist attack. We are scared for different reasons, but the fear and outcome are still the same. And as a parent we are all saddened when it is a school and children that is the target, whether it is random or calculated. The attack is just as shrilling.

While the news is still unfolding, it seems obvious at this point, that the gunman was someone plagued with mental illness. It is an issue that I understand all to well. My brother, who took his own life almost three years ago to the date, suffered from mental illness his whole life. It’s not something I talk about often, but I believe his story is important for the future of mental health awareness and change.

He was always brilliant. He was always upset. And most of the time he was violent. We couldn’t understand him. He couldn’t understand what he was going through. And as much as my parents tried, the system seemed to fail him. My brother turned to religion, drugs, and then the US army to find a solution for his mental problems. The US army should have never allowed my brother to serve with his illness, but during the Iraq war, they seemed to overlook his problems and accepted him to become a foot-solider in one of the most volatile areas of the world.

I can only imagine that what he saw on a daily basis added to the list of emotional and mental traumas he had suffered. When he returned to the US he of course could not function in a normal setting. The Vet office gave him pills to help the problem. They needed it and him to go away. He took the pills. The whole bottle at once in fact. He almost died but was rescued and once his stomach was pumped he realized he didn’t want to be this person.

He escaped to another state and became another person. But you never escape mental illness. Now he was alone. But still had his pills. Many pills. On the outside he tried to fit in and become the citizen the US wanted him to be. On the inside he remained traumatized. His demons, the ones from childhood and now war, never went away. He died alone, overdosing on pills in his home.

In my eyes, my brother never really had a chance. He never received the proper health care he needed. He was given jail time for his actions. And pills for his pain. He took his life, and I thank God he never took anyone else’s. His violent outbursts led to fights and broken limbs, but never death. He was 24 when he died.

 Now that I live in Israel my battle with mental health treatment turns to the issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As a citizen and journalist I have met many children and adults with PTSD in Israel, and they are not treated for this severe issue. After experiencing just two rockets in Jerusalem, I realized just how serious trauma can be. When the first rocket hit on Friday night, I will admit that it was the first time I did not have an appetite for Shabbat dinner. I was afraid to leave the shelter, quickly packed an emergency bag and couldn’t stop shaking. I had to be a mother, a wife, and still somehow walk the dog. But I was no longer me. The one rocket hit my core.

I heard the second rocket. I will never forget that boom. I stood in a stairwell and could see the blue sky. I waited for the rocket to appear and crash. Of course it was miles away, but my mind couldn’t handle the truth. As well as the boom, I heard to the beautiful voices of children singing songs about Chanukah. They too were stuck in the stairwell with nowhere to go. How many of these children will forever be affected by war, terrorist attacks and hate? And these children experienced two rockets, what about those down south who had rockets rain on them for years?

Mental illness is just as serious as a broken arm. Just like a broken arm, you are not able to work at normal capacity. You are no longer completely functioning. And until you can get use back in that arm you will never be the same person. We don’t realize how much we need that arm until it is broken. With mental illness it takes moments like a school shooting or rockets to make us realize that our minds can be broken too.

I have shared this post today because we all need an outlet. For the US I hope that there will be a serious change in the healthcare system that puts more weight on mental and emotional illness and behavioral problems. Not more pills in a jar. For Israel I hope we can add more emphasis to PTSD and give people the proper attention they need. After all you can have IVF free in this country, up to two healthy births, but therapy is only partially subsided.

 


Thanksgiving in Israel: I Know How to Give Thanks. Now Get Me My Pie!

Get in my belly.

Thanksgiving in Israel is just not the same as in America. The truth is, in America I was thankful for the week off and to eat a lot. But in Israel, every Friday I manage to stuff my face with a Thanksgiving style meal. In Israel when I celebrate Thanksgiving, especially this year, I know what I am thankful for.

I am thankful to the soldiers that protected me for the past week. Leaving their homes, some still with diapers on at the age of 18, these men and women put their lives on the line to serve their country. These are the people I normally try to push ahead of in line on a bus, or fight with in the supermarket, but this week they weren’t there for me to attack, because they were under real attack.

I am thankful for the people that live down south and their example of strength and courage. They have had to deal with the rockets for the past several years. No one should have to experience this, and yet they have on a daily basis. How do they do it? How are they so strong? I experienced two sirens and one loud boom, and I am still shaken up. So how do they do it? I am thankful for them and their courage to try and live normal lives under these horrible circumstances. I admire them and can only hope the rockets are part of their past and they can now move on into a quieter future.

I am thankful for Israel.

I am thankful for my friends.

I am thankful for the amazing healthcare system.

I am thankful for old Israeli women that can make loud jokes on the bus in a time of fear.

I am thankful for family.

I am thankful for the delicious Israeli food.

I am thankful for quiet.

I am thankful for Jerusalem Fashion that makes no judgment on my crocs when I ride my bicycle.

I am thankful for the war jokes that get us through the harsh times. That makes us laugh when we are falling a part.

I am thankful.

This one-week of terror makes you realize how simple and quiet can be so good sometimes. This week has made me appreciate what I have here. It has made me realize I don’t want to be anywhere else. It has made me thankful.

Now enough sappy crappy, I am ready for my turkey, pumpkin pie and a belly full of yummy.

 


Jerusalem Festival Frenzy Summer 2012

Jerusalem, the city of Festivals! If there is something that can be turned into a festival here, it will!

There are so many festivals and events happening this summer in Jerusalem that I couldn’t keep track and had to compile everything in one place. Enjoy!

Wine Festival at the Israel Museum

Drink in style at the Israel museum with jazz music and wine from all over Israel.

Dates: July 30 – August 2, 2012
Time: 7:00pm-11:00pm
Entrance: 80 NIS for a glass to refill all night long. You can buy your tickets online, by phone: 02-6259703 or at the door.
Location: Israel museum  

 

Two B’av- Festival of love

An evening about love including short films from Ma’aleh Film School, stand up with Daniel Kishenovsky, Hakovah Hahafuch- songs to make you dance, lectures about love and so much more. More info
Dates: Thursday, August 2, 2012
Time: 8:00pm
Entrance: 55 NIS
Location: Beit Yehudit, 12 Emek Refaim

 

Jerusalem Woodstock Revival

The 2012 Jerusalem Woodstock Revival will feature a great range of musicians, including some of the leading names in Israeli rock, all devoting their voices to the sounds of the 60′s and the sounds which originally dominated the famous Woodstock Festival. The sounds will include those of legendary singers Neil Young, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and The Grateful Dead.

Dates: Thursday, August 2, 2012
Time: Doors open at 4:30pm
Entrance: 100/140 NIS
Location: Kraft Stadium More info

 

Beer Festival

Over 50,000 liters of more than a hundred brands from all over the world will be offered, mainstream, boutique and local brewed. Every night on the main stage, the audience will enjoy a live show by Israeli bands and djs. More info

Dates: August 22-23, 2012
Time: 6:00pm-12:00am
Entrance: 30 NIS
Location: Old Train Station

 

Arts and Crafts Fairs

Jerusalem’s Mayor, Nir Barkat, announced that he wants to extend the arts and crafts fairs in downtown Jerusalem so that there are fairs running every Tuesday thru Friday, starting in August, 2012. More info

Tuesdays: “Designers on Hillel” features fashion and accessories on Hillel St. and discounts at nearby restaurants and cafes. Starts August 7, 2012 from 4:00-11:00pm 

Wednesdays: “Mesibar” on Rivlin St – A festival for the whole family including street performers, Zumba classes, farmer’s market, and workshops for children. Starts August 8 from 5:00-11:00pm

Also on Wednesdays, take a look at the fine Israeli arts and crafts at the boutique shops on Yoel Solomon St. from 12-9pm

Thursdays: “Retroshalayim” on Agrippas between the Mahane Yehuda shuk and King George St.- Vintage, antique and second-hand items. From 12:00pm-10:00pm

Fridays: The Bezalel fair on Shatz-Bezalel St. features the of Bezalel students sell paintings, woodwork, jewelry, photography, accessories, and more. From 10:00am-4:00pm.

Also on Fridays, the artist and farmer’s market in the German Colony at 12 Emek Refaim St. is from 9:00am-3:00pm

 

Chutzot Hayotzer – International arts and crafts fair

Chutzot Hayotser features artists from around the world who come to exhibit their crafts. Each night at 9:00pm, there is a concert given by one of the following performers: Shiri Maimon and Shimon Buskila, Ehud Banai, Mashina, Shlomi Shabat, Hadag Nachash, Barry Sakharof, Yehudit Ravitz, Eviatar Banai, Shalom Hanoch, Mosh Ben Ari and Aviv Gefen. More info

Dates: August 6-18, 2012
Time: Sunday to Thursday evenings from 6:00pm-11:00pm and Saturday night one hour after the end of the Shabat until midnight.
Entrance: 60 NIS Discounts available
Location:  Sultan’s pool, across from the Tower of David

 

Balabasta Festival in the Shuk Mahane Yehuda

The Balabasta festival will liven up the alleyways of the shuk (as if the colorful produce and yelling wasn’t enough) with every type of music you could ever dream of, including reggae, rap in Arabic-Hebrew-Gibberish, Amharic poetry, blues, klezmer, and much more. There will also be art exhibitions and light installations. B’kitsur, you gotta check out the craziness!
Dates: Sunday evenings on August 5, 12, and 19, 2012
Time: 5-11pm
Location: Shuk Mahane Yehuda
Entrance: Free!

 

Free activities in the park

 

Every Tuesday from 5-7:30pm, there are free activities for kids in public parks around Jerusalem. Activities include planting, street art, origami, sports, and more. More info

Dates and Locations
July 31: Beit Elisheva, Old Katamon
August 7:  Park Nayot, Yehoshua Yavin 1
August 14: San Simon
August 21: Sokolov Park, Talbiyeh 

 

Hatzagan

Children’s story telling in the park (in Hebrew)
Date: Monday, July 30, 2012
Time: 5:00pm
Location: Sokolov Park, Talbiyeh 

 

Summer events at the Nature Museum

More info

Hagilgul

A play about the lives of insects. The performace is full of humor and songs and tells the story of one caterpillar who didn’t want to grow up. To order tickets, call 02-563-1116
Date: Thursday, August 2, 2012
Time: 5:00pm
Location
: Nature Museum, 6 Mohliver St. German Colony
Entrance: There is an entrance fee

The Young Pharmacist

Activities for parents and children. A tour around the garden to see the healing properties of plants and make “medicine” out of them. Each week will focus on a new topic.
Dates: Tuesdays: July 31, August 7, 14, 21, 2012
Time: 5-6:15pm
Location: Nature Museum, 6 Mohliver St. German Colony
Entrance: There is an entrance fee

The Nature Detective
 
Activities for parents and children. A tour of the museum and the little petting zoo to explore the mysteries in nature and solve them with games, riddles, and performances. Each week will focus on a new topic.
Dates: Wednesdays, August 1, 8, 15, 22, 2012. (A special evening event on August 15, 2012 8-9:30pm)
Time: 5-6:30pm
Location: Nature Museum, 6 Mohliver St. German Colony
Entrance: There is an entrance fee

Savta Galia Story Time

The Nature Museum invites children ages 3-7 for story hour (in Hebrew) with stories related to nature and the environment and integrates a workshop, petting animals, and activities in the museum.
Dates: Mondays 4-6:00pm; Saturdays 10:00am-12:00pm.
Location: Nature Museum, 6 Mohliver St. German Colony
Entrance: There is an entrance fee

Health day at the Nature Museum

Lectures and workshops about holistic and natural medicine. 
Date: Sunday, August 12, 2012
Time: 5-8:30pm
Location: Nature Museum, 6 Mohliver St. German Colony
Entrance: Free!

Thursdays in the garden

Outside the nature museum there is a community garden, run by volunteers. Work in the garden starts from 4:00pm on Thursdays. Once every two weeks, the volunteers eat together. At 6:0pm, Yisrael Golan tells a “garden midrash”.

 

Festivals at the Malha Mall

Elmo Festival

Make a puppet theater for Elmo and friends, creative workshops, Elmo games, watch Sesame Street episodes (in Hebrew – Rehov SumSum)
Date: July 30, July 31, August 1, 2012
Time: 11:00am-2:00pm and 4:00pm-7:00pm 
Location: Malha Mall 02-679-1333
Entrance: Free!

Madagascar Festival

Circus workshop with plates and balls, circus hat workshop, makeup with a professional makeup artist, make circus animals out of paper, workshop on tight rope-walking and stilts.
Date: August 5,6,7, 2012
Time: 11:00am-2:00pm and 4:00pm to 7:00pm 
Location: Malha Mall 02-679-1333
Entrance: Free! 

Hello Kitty Festival
 
Bag-making workshop, jewelry workshop, makeup corner with a professional makeup artist, photo booth with Hello Kitty. Special performance of Hello Kitty with songs and dancing on Monday, August 12 at 5:30pm
Date
: August 12, 13, 14, 2012
Time: 11:00am-2:00pm and 4:00pm-7:00pm 
Location: Malha Mall  02-679-1333
Entrance: Free! 

Tom and Jerry Festival
Photo booth with your favorite characters, creative workshops, fun games for the whole family
Date
August 19, 20, 21, 2012
Time:
11:00am-2:00pm and 4:00pm-7:00pm 
Location:
Malha Mall  02-679-1333
Entrance: Free! 

Performances at Malha:
Saba Tuvia: Thursday, August 2, 2012 at 6:00pm 
Miki: Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 6:00pm
Yuval Hamebulbal: Thursday, August 16, 2012 at 6:00pm 
Dod Haim: Thursday, August 23, 2012 at 6:00pm 
Roi Boi: The Jungle Boy: Thursday, August 30, 2012 at 6:00pm

 

JELLY ice cream party
 

The goal of this party is to encourage kids to read at least 10 new books before the party. More info

Date: Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Time: 4-6pm. 
Entrance is free. Call AACI 02-561-7151 to RSVP
Location:  Gan HaShoshanim park (Pinsker St, Talbiyeh)

 Kite Flying Festival

Learn to make and fly a kite at the Israel Museum!

Date: August 27, 2012
Time: 10:30am-7:00pm kite workshops; 4:00pm-7:00pm Kite flying and a musical parade.
LocationIsrael Museum
Entrance:  30-40 NIS for kite workshops, otherwise entrance fee for kite flying is included in museum admission

Street Festival on Emek Refaim

The street will be closed to vehicles and will be filled with street artists, food stands, bands, and more.
Date: September 10, 2012
Time: TBA
Location: Emek Refaim, German Colony
Entrance: Free! 


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!


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.

 

 


Happy Hannukah Shuk Style!

EliShuk

EliShuk...it's for real!

The Mahane Yehuda Shuk is one of my most favorite places in Jerusalem. Almost everything is cheap. You can sample the fruit or the nuts with just a wink of the eye. There are so many different smells you can’t tell the good ones from the fish-head ones. And you get to meet a very unique part of Israeli society, from those that do all their shopping there, to the people that have owned their stalls for generations.

I recently found out that a friend of mine, Alex King, not only has a father-in-law with a stall in the Iraqi shuk, but that he also has the stall online…on Facebook. Not only is this awesome, but I am pretty sure this is the only shuk shop branching out into the social media world.  Alex admits his father-in-law is not the most web savy person, but is just as excited to share his shop online as he is to any customer in the shuk.

For anyone that has out of town guests, tourists or just friends that want to go to the shuk, you should definitely make Eli’s shop a part of the tour. As a part of the online presence, Eli uploads pictures of the latest products and makes sure to give his online audience a special treat with giveaways! Ahhh, now I really have your attention! What kind of treats are we talking about?

Well click hereto score yourself some delicious chocolate coins just in time for Hannukah, and stay tuned for other yummy goods.  And now for a little Q&A about the man behind the stall, the treats and the Facebook page!

Giveaway

Hannukah giveaway

When did Eli’s shop first open in the shuk?
The shop at its current location was established in 1958 by Na’im Shkuri, Eli’s father who immigrated from Iraq in 1951. Up until 1978 the shop sold fruits and vegetables. Since 1978 it branched out into confectionary and in recent years other areas such as electrical goods.

Who is this Eli?

Eli of Eli's Shop

Eli of Eli's Shop

Eli Ben-Na’im was born in Amhara in Southern Iraq. He made Aliyah in 1951 and moved to Jerusalem. He spent his teenage years in Kibbutz Ein Karmel in the North. He served in a combat unit in the army. He has served in all of Israel’s wars from the 1956 Sinai Campaign up to and including the 1982 Lebanon War. He is married, has four daughters and seven grandchildren (with number 8 on the way!). Eli has worked in the shuk since the mid- 1950’s.

Why did Eli decide to bring the shuk shop online?
The shop has been online for half a year now. The Facebook platform was chosen because it offers great social media tools and can also act as a website for the shop, even for people who don’t have Facebook.

All the merchandise in the shop can be seen on the page (in the photo album section) and new products are regularly added.

Sweets

Sweets for your sweetie!

The page gives the shop a way to communicate with its customers and the wall offers a forum for the customers to post and to talk, fostering a little “on-line shuk community”.

Moreover, all the photos, updates and posts give the user a “taste of the shuk on your computer” which is widely enjoyed by fans that outside of Jerusalem and all over the world.

Most importantly, the page offers fans special deals and discounts from time to time, so click “like” so you can enjoy them!

What is unique about Eli’s shop?
Eli has worked in the shop since it was established in 1958 making the shop probably the last remaining family-run establishment in the “Iraqi Shuk” part of the market that is still staffed by the original founding members. It retains its authentic old-fashioned Jerusalem shuk character. (Most other shops in the Iraqi Shuk are now rented out or subcontracted to hired workers).

To learn more about Eli’s Shop, products click here.

To find Eli click here.


The Jerusalem Light Rail: The Ticket is More Than Full Price

I suck at this!

Wow it has been way too long since we have blogged. I am sure it’s been a difficult few months for you, our readers. How have you managed to live without my adorable sarcastic posts and Rebecca’s incredibly informative write-ups?

So let’s just jump right (or write) in. I’m writing what I am sure will be one of many angry light-rail train posts. Now that the train has been up and ‘running’ for the last few months, I am interested to hear what people think of it. So share your comments with me after you finish reading.

On principal I am not riding it. That and it doesn’t actually go anywhere I need to go.

However, the train and I have met in passing. It’s like a bad date you have to keep reliving, because the person lives a few blocks from you. So, indeed I am not at all fond of this crap train. The train butchered the city with its tracks. It forced stores to close down, has turned the city center into a pretty little ghost town. It causes traffic jams. And some old guy just got hit by it.

But the worst of all? The city is using it as yet another way to rob its citizens. No, I am not referring to the ticket price (as I write this, news has just broken that they plan to charge NIS 6.40 for a ride). No I am referring to the ticket you get when your car gets stuck in the intersection thanks to the new traffic light system, programmed for the train and not the people.

Do I think Israeli drivers are more dangerous than the threat of Iran actually building nukes? Yes I do. But the ones that are getting ticketed at the intersection of Jaffa (by the municipality) are getting fines for fake reasons.

That’s right, the police are standing by waiting for cars to get stuck in the intersection where they then tap on the window, ask the driver to come with them, and give them a big fat ticket. I have heard from several people that the tickets range from NIS 500 to NIS 1,000. I have also heard and even seen for myself that hundreds of people are getting tickets. You do the math on that and you’ll see how the city is planning to get itself out of debt with this method.

Before you get to this evil intersection, you are stuck in a horrendous traffic jam. I believe this is the part of the psychological torture that drives the drivers into the intersection where they get stuck. Instead of having two lanes, all the cars are forced into one lane, thus further frustrating your target ticket audience. Add to it, the many drivers that cut the line of cars by driving on the wrong side of the street, and you have a pretty angry driver that just wants to cross the light already and get from A to B. And I don’t have to tell you that the drivers who are driving on the wrong side of the street, literally meters from the police, don’t get a ticket. Why would they.

The train sucks. Its only lightness is how light it is on any concept of how to truly benefit the city and people. The city sucks for handing out tickets to drivers that don’t deserve them, while standing by and doing nothing about the real issues. With all this sucking, you would think that the whole problematic ordeal could be sucked away into a black hole somewhere.