The Big Felafel

Category Archive

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

“Safe Sex in the Holy City”

worldaidsdayIt’s World AIDS Day once again and we still don’t have a cure. That said we must continue to stay safe and informed about the disease. Here in Jerusalem it seems we’re more worried about terrorist attacks, getting jay-walking tickets or a spontaneous protest headed up by those crazy Haredis (see what happens when you don’t have TV, you have to make your own Entertainment at the expense of others). But the truth is, AIDS is a deadly disease in Israel just like the rest of the world. And even if it doesn’t make headlines like the Swine Flu, it’s still affecting your life and your loved ones.

Staying safe and informed is the best way to battle the disease until we find a cure and the Jerusalem Open House is the best way to do that. The organization has a weekly clinic open on Sundays which provides a free and completely anonymous rapid HIV testing service, as well as counseling, information and education about HIV/ AIDS. The clinic has also packed up their bags and visited other sites to give these free and anonymous tests. This World AIDS Day they will be at The Hebrew University’s Mt. Scopus campus giving those tests to students and staff alike.worldaids2

As well as the free testing, the organization will be celebrating “Safe Sex in the Holy City” Thursday, Dec. 3rd at the Talpiot club ‘Campus’ where your NIS 40 entrance fee will support the clinic. The night’s festivities will begin at 11:30pm and rock on until the wee hours of early morning. Best of all there will be a drag show to keep us entertain while staying safe.

And so to get you in the party mood, I remind you of the World AIDS Day post I wrote about last year.

For more info about the organization check out their website or contact Shira at

Chanukah Time! Flash Mob in Jerusalem

In case you’ve been following my tweets you may have noticed that I’m obsessed with Improv Everywhere and the whole idea of going into places and doing random things to surprise strangers and cause a scene. Every time I’m in the central bus station or supermarket in Jerusalem, I just want to break into song and dance or freeze in place like they did in Grand Central Station in New York City or Tel Aviv’s version.

I finally got my chance to partake in a flash mob last Friday at Jerusalem’s popular hangout spot, the midrachov/Ben Yehuda St.  Nefesh B’nefesh organized the mission, taught us the dance, and now, released the official video. Enjoy and Happy Chanukah!!

And if you still want more, here’s the Making of the Flash Mob Video.

Here are some of my other favorite Improv Everywhere videos:

Israel the Airhead!

This country is funny. Have you ever met someone who is an airhead yet somehow they have a full scholarship to a top university? They can figure out math problems that use numbers and letters but they can’t remember to look both ways before crossing the street? That airhead is Israel.

light rail 1It seems weird but after I tell you what I tell you, I think you will agree. Here’s why Israel is such an airhead: Trains. It comes down to trains.

In Jerusalem you have the light rail, or you have the tracks, dirt and mess of what is supposed to be a light rail. It’s been in the process of being built for about 10 years and who knows when it will ever be ready. In fact it was recently reported that practice trains will begin to ride some of the tracks- which means they will find all sorts of problems and have to rebuild, remodel and restart the whole train game. The light rail has literally eaten up the center of the city and left its remains like a toilet. You know it’s true even if you don’t like the analogy. Stores and cafes have shut down due to lack of commerce, buses travel down narrow one-way streets which are used as two-way streets and sometimes even three-way streets (dirty). My favorite people-watching cross walk at King George and Jaffa has disappeared along with the businesses and bustle of everyday life.

Yet all this said something so innovative and brilliant is also happening on trains in a different part of the country.train Israel Railways is offering a lecture series, from top Professors while you ride your usual morning commute. This is pure genius. Where did they come up with this? Rather than staring out a window, listening to your iPod, or trying not to fall asleep and miss your stop, you can now have a refreshing cup of morning coffee and refreshing lecture from top Hebrew University Professor Chanoch Gutfreund on “Einstein’s Love Letters.” I mean could you think of a better way to start your day?

So there’s my point in case. The Jerusalem light rail makes this country an airhead, twirling her hair around her finger and staring into space. Yet, while she may look like no one is home, the sheer genius of train lectures makes you realize that indeed the lights are on and only getting brighter.

Be Cool. Matisyahu gives us a much needed beat

Kenneth Cole Celebrates  Fashions Night Out

Living in Israel is never easy. Understatement. And now with talk about a third Intifada, actual rioting in the Old City and calls of the destruction of Israel from Arab leaders in East Jerusalem to Arab leaders in the Arab nations, life here seems to be more stressful than ever. Reading the news makes me nervous to walk the streets, ride the buses or be in crowded places.

But I still go out and I still live my life here. In fact last night I went to the Matisyahu concert held at Sultan’s Pool right outside the walls of the Old City. On my way I couldn’t help but worry about the possible terrorism that could take place. My mind has a wild imagination, so I was worried about the parked cars, the people with big bags and making sure the security guards were thoroughly during their job—not to mention my fears of 18-year-old “Shana Alef” girls and boys that would probably be drinking beer and standing next to me at the concert (some might argue that is the scariest of all).

But when the music started all the fears, worries and doubts disappeared into the raging beats and all I could do was move to them. Matisyahu’s lyrics and mere presence reminded me that this isn’t just a concert in Israel, this is a part of our way of life and nothing or no one can change that. We are the Jewish people and this is our Homeland. The songs helped to remind me that life is hard, life for the Jews has always been hard, but we can still find the joy in the fog of hate and we can still bust a move.Matisyahu hits the stage at Rumsey Field!

So I danced to the music. We all danced to the music—even if our moves were that of Jewish white boys and girls, and we couldn’t manage to stay on rhythm. We danced because we could. Because we were dancing in an ancient pool of the Israelites. Because the Old City, might be old but we are keeping it young. We are keeping it. We’re dancing for our ancestors; we’re dancing for our future. We’re dancing cause we think we’re cool and we’re dancing because we know we’re afraid.

The last piece that Matisyahu left the crowd with is his famous song “Jerusalem.” The lyrics say it all, “Jerusalem, if I forget you, fire not gonna come from me tongue. Jerusalem, if I forget you, let my right hand forget what it’s supposed to do.” From the prayers of King David to the hopes of the next generation, thank you Matisyahu for reminding us to move to the beat and keep going.

The Big Felafel to be on Social Media & Aliyah Panel at the Second Jewish Bloggers Convention


After unexpectedly being listed as one of the 100 Most Influential Jewish Twitterers, The Big Felafel is finally getting its crack at stardom, more specifically, stardom amongst Jewish bloggers who live in Israel or want to move to Israel.

I am really flattered to have been asked to be on the panel “Aliyah Doesn’t End At the Airport! Employing Social Media for a successful Aliyah” at the upcoming Second Jewish Bloggers Convention in Jerusalem. Personally, I think it’s more fun to be in the audience and make wisecracks, but this year I’ll be on the stage and have to leave the peanut gallery to everyone else.

Besides being ridiculously addictive and at times stalker-esque, it really is amazing how many people I’ve interacted with and how much I’ve learned via social media – blogging, twittering, facebook, linkedin, etc.  And, although we haven’t written much lately on The Big F, since August is the vacation month in Israel, I hope we’ve also been able to share our knowledge and help others with their Israel journey.

The best part of the conference last year was meeting fellow bloggers and seeing the person behind the blog. This year it will be fun to meet people behind the tweet, as well.

Other posts about the conference:

Jewish Blog-Con: A Zionist Love Story – loved it! Orit Arfa likens Israel to a lover and confesses her feelings through the good and the bad.

The Details:

September 13, 2009

2-10pm: what? you’ve never been to an 8 hour conference?! Well, at least snack time is included. But I think nap time might be needed as well. I guess the thinking was to make the convention convenient for people in the US.


LIVE in Jerusalem: You can register for the actual, real-life, in-the-flesh, come-out-of-your-shell-and-meet-people conference in Jerusalem (50 NIS includes buffet dinner) here:

LIVE in your home via Webcast: You can watch it live over the web, but you still have to register here:

The schedule:

2:00 PM – 5:00 PM Registration and Workshops


2:30 – 3:00 PM

Session 1A

Monetizing your blog:

Dos, Don’ts and Great Expectations.

with Stephen Leavitt

Session 1B

Networking for Money:

Your Social Network has value.”Give and ye shall receive”.

with David Abitbol

Session 1C

Defending Israel Through Social Media Tools:

with Jameel@Muqata, Israel Matzav, Yishai Fleisher and Ashley Perry

Will not be webcast or recorded.
Space is limited.

3:05 – 3:45 PM

Session 2A

The Business of Blogging:

Using your blog to build a sustainable business and recurring income.

with Zack Miller

Session 2B

Twittering for Bloggers:

#JBloggers Everything you ever wanted to know, but were afraid to ask. From Intro to Expert.

with Ahuvah Berger

3:50 – 4:30 PM

Session 3A

Fascinated with Facebook:

How to use Facebook to promote yourself, your blog, your products and your services.

with Jacob Richman

Session 3B

Twittering for Bloggers:

#JBloggers Everything you ever wanted to know, but were afraid to ask. From Intro to Expert.

with Ahuvah Berger

Session 3C

Be a Better Blogger:

Nobody cares what you ate for breakfast: How to write the compelling blog post to build readership.

with David “Treppenwitz” Bogner

4:30 – 5:00 PM Networking time: Meet your fellow bloggers.
Light refreshments will be served


5:00 PM (10:00 AM EST) Opening Remarks

5:10 – 5:25 PM Convention Kickoff Speaker:
How Social Media is Influencing Community

David Horovitz, Editor in Chief, The  Jerusalem Post

5:30 – 6:45 PM First Panel: Jewish 2.0
Social Media and the Future of the Jewish Community

David Kelsey / Jewcy (News and Media),    Yonasan (Jonathan) Rosenblum / The Jerusalem Post (Religion), Orit Arfa / LA Jewish Journal (Community),     Tova Serkin / JGooders (Philanthropy)

Danielle Sheldon /Jewlicious

7:00 – 7:45 PM Dinner

7:45 – 8:00 PM Comedy with Benji Lovitt “What War Zone

8:00 – 8:45 PM Keynote Speaker: Defending Israel Online

Ron Dermer: Senior Adviser to the Prime Minister of Israel
to be followed by Q&A

8:45 – 9:45 PM Second Panel: Aliyah Doesn’t End At the Airport!
Employing Social Media for a successful Aliyah

Clifton Flack / JobShuk,  Zev Stub / Janglo,
Rebecca Markowitz / “The Big Felafel“, Marc Rosenberg (Nefesh B’Nefesh)

Moderator: Allison Kaplan Sommer
With Q&A at the end.

9:45 – 10:00 PM Closing remarks
Hope to see you there! If you’re still around and not too tired, please come say hi!

The Bomb Still Explodes: The Hebrew University Bombing 7 Years Later


Frank Sinatra Cafeteria Memorial

Yesterday I took part in a live twitter chat with Maia Sigal Leslau, a victim of the Hebrew University bombing. The terrorist attack took place on July 31st, 2002 at the Frank Sinatra Cafeteria on the Mt. Scopus campus. The Hebrew University was intentionally targeted because it stands as a symbol to the revitalization of the Jewish people and is home to thousands of students from all over the world.

The bomb— a cell phone in a bag on the table of the bustling café, where students gathered mid day to eat a quick lunch or take a much needed break—went off and killed nine people and injured over eighty. One of those nine was my friend Marla Bennett.

I remember the phone call about her death that changed my world forever. I was in complete denial and to this day I have not really accepted her passing. I remember demanding proof that they knew it was her, that they knew she was dead. And even though I got my answer it never felt real.


Marla Bennett, 24-years-old z"l

Yesterday, the opportunity to speak with Maia helped me cope with reality. She personally told me about the bombing from her point of view. She didn’t hear the bomb go off, but she said she knew something was wrong. She was alert and asked her friend to take her bag and call her mother.

Maia survived despite shrapnel piercing her brain. She lost sight in her eye and still has scars, not to mention the emotional scaring. I would think that anyone that survived the bombing would be afraid, angry and have a loss of faith. But not Maia. She is a strong willed young woman, who actually became more religious since the bombing.

Maia is inspiring. She not only inspires me to be more thankful of what I have, but made me realize that if Marla had survived the bombing she too would be like Maia. Marla would be strong and do her best to stay positive in the face of evil. Marla was the nicest person I ever met. Nice as in good intentions, a big heart, a never ending smile and hope that survived her death.

The chat may have been short with 140 characters at a time, but the message is long lasting.

Thank you Maia for your candor.

Marla not a day goes by that I don’t wish you were still alive.

Below please find some of Maia’s comments during the conversation. The twitter chat took place through Hebrew University’s twitter account: @HebrewU (English) and @HebrewU_heb (Hebrew).

@FelafelBalls I’m getting over it every day, every morning when I get up and thank G-d for being in this world, for being alive.10:06 AM Jul 28th

@slerner #izkor I became religious after the bombing, understanding and believing this is the hand of G-d keeping me alive.10:16 AM Jul 28th

@charliekalech #izkor I’m sad abt the 9 people who are not w/ us any more. I’m sorry for myself that someone changed my life without asking.10:12 AM Jul 28th

@dejerusalem #izkor The bombing was not really a surprise, sad to say. During 2002 it was a daily routine in Jerusalem.10:36 AM Jul 28th

@miriamschwab #izkor It’s on July 31, the memorial will be held tmrw on campus. My lesson: We have only one Land, this is the true home.10:53 AM Jul 28th

@dejerusalem #izkor I’m one of the lucky ones, I’m a survivor. I always remember I could have been a victim. It is always with me.11:02 AM Jul 28th

Israel PR: Leave it to the Youth and Put it on Facebook

Israel’s PR for Israel is crap. That of course is an understatement. But this past Sunday Hebrew University students decided to contribute their young and savvy minds to help fix the problem. The students, currently StandWithUs Fellows, launched a Facebook tool called Israpedia to promote their country.

With already 3,000 Facebook friends using the application, the tool is bound to make PR history inIsrapediaLogo a country where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs only joined Twitter last week. The idea is similar to that of Kassam Counts and is actually built by the same developers. Like Kassam Counts, Israpedia takes over your status message on Facebook and makes updates for you. The difference is that Kassam Counts was updating how many rockets were fired into Israel, where as Israepedia will supply interesting facts about Israel as your status updates.

The idea is that Israel has many sides to it, but somehow the news just likes to focus on the one bloody aspect forgetting that this country also invented a method to get rid of bad breath through the use of laser technology–for example (brought to you by Israpedia). The random facts go beyond the conflict and shed light on Israel’s magnificent achievements, rather than its war statistics.

The students have put their heart and mind into this project and have shown the rest of their peers that we all have the potential to make this country a better place and let the world know that were awesome too.

 Check out their facts page at

 For the application:

Get Your Fourth of July Party on in Jerusalem!


July 4th Decorations

If you’re a former U.S. citizen, you know that even though you live in Israel, giving up certain American holidays is not easy. Case in point: the Fourth of July, Independence Day. While July 4th celebrations mirror those of Israel’s Independence Day, not celebrating the actual day, Fourth of July, is just too much!

I can b-b-q any day of the year (not really, but I could try and find someone that would b-b-q for me everyday of the year) but there is something that makes the meat a little juicer on Fourth of July. I could watch fire crackers go off almost everyday throughout the summer, thanks to the loads of weddings in Jerusalem, but the fireworks of Fourth of July seem to sparkle and crack just a little bit more.

What I am saying is celebrating Fourth of July does not end when you make Aliyah from America. You can’t give up the cheerleader in you that wants to jump for joy on that particular day. It’s not that I am rooting for America’s independence but more for my hamburger, day off and awesome display of fireworks in the middle of summer, that’s the essence of the big day—a day that can leave a big hole if you don’t celebrate properly.

So, here are a few ways to party down for the holiday. Do one or all of them, but just don’t forget to celebrate and fill the hole (and the stomach)!

Themed Shabbat meal: Yes friends, if you like cheesy then take advantage of this year’s celebrations which fall on Shabbat day. You can have b-b-qs (if you keep Shabbat then b-b-q right before Shabbat comes in and keep meat on hot grill or hot plate), make cakes with red, white and blue frosting and make sure to invite lots of friends who bring lots of drinks!

Saturday Night go out:
Summer on the “Roof”:
B-B-Q & Bar
Live musical performances: Remedy and Holler Band and more!
Fireworks at midnight
Location: 37 Pe’er Kening (Talpiot, across from the Hadar mall)
Tickets cost NIS 80, but if you reserve them before then it’s NIS 60! There are also special group prices. For more info or to order tickets call Gita at 052-562-4488 or Assaf at 054-396-0799

Get Started Early: July 1, 2009
Starting at 3pm
AACI’s Independence Day Celebrations
Schedule of Events:
2:30pm Grand Opening:
Exhibitions, hot dogs & refreshments for sale, tickets for movies on sale, music, AACI table selling raffle tickets and tickets to Roy Zaltsman performance, Chinese Auction and more!
3:00pm Screening of It Happened One Night, Screening for Children of Chihuahua of Beverly Hills
5:00pm Screening of Fargo, Screening for Children of Aliens vs. Monsters
7:00pm Live Performance of Roy Zaltsman Special Telepathy Show, Screening for Children of Hotel for Dogs
7:45pm AACI Hai Society Reception (by invitation only)
8:45pm Greetings
9:00pm Israel’s Premiere Screening of Public Enemies
Movies/Show NIS 28 each (Special Reduced Price)
To Order Tickets Online go to:
For Directions go to:…

Hotdogs for Sale! -Kosher-
Apple Pie/Brownies
Chocolate Chip Cookies for Sale!
Saidels Bakery & Herby’s Bakeshop

Location: Jerusalem Cinemateque 11 Hebron St. For more information about the celebration, call 02-561-7151

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.

A Post to Jerusalem’s Mayor Barkat: Did Your Landlord Raise the Rent Too?

apartment-drawingThis is an open letter to Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat, the city council and young frustrated Jerusalem citizens who have waited for change long enough.

Dear Mayor Barkat,
What’s up? I’m sure you’re busy, but this is an urgent matter which affects the young population of Jerusalem. Six months ago you were elected into office promising great change for the city. But when it comes to your commitment to the young people of Jerusalem and the disastrous housing problem, you have yet to make a dent, submit a proposal or take action on the matter.

Once again, I know you are the mayor and dealing with a full plate, but I can’t help but feel neglected. And I am not alone. I also point my neglected finger at the party Hitorerut-Yerushalmim (Wake up-Jerusalem) that also made unfulfilled promises to young voters.

Although the economic situation is running on an empty tank of gas, landlords across Jerusalem continue to raise the price of rent. Almost every person I know has been informed by their landlord that their rent will be going up at least 10%. So, while your apartment ages and becomes more rundown you find yourself paying more to live there. Fair? No. Is our city council and mayor aware of the situation? Yes.

Mayor Barkat today is the day to make change. Why are there no proper consumer rights organizations to protect you from corrupt landlords? Why is their no proposition making its way to the Knesset floor demanding rent control? The stories I have heard from rent raising to threats of being kicked out, are endless yet there seems to be no beginning to your fight against this fraud.

There was so much talk about affordable housing before election day but come the day after and the day after that, I have yet to hear another word about it. While Israel and the international community debate about construction in settlements and outposts, no judgment is made on the housing catastrophe in the country’s capital.

Is asking for rent control such a far fetched concept? Isn’t it you who wants and needs people to stay put in your city? Students and young families belong in the heart of the country and are the key to the revitalization of this city, but you have yet to try to open the locked — bolted — doors. Soon the only doors left will be those of vacant apartments where the rent became more than a couple could budget, or a landlord that yelled at his tenants too many times or simply homes that are unsuitable to live in — leaving the young to move out of the city and out of their dreams.

Do not become like all the other politicians, representing their interests before concerning themselves with their citizens’ fears. Give the next generation what they rightly deserve, a home for the future at a reasonable price.

Yours truly,
Molly, a concerned young citizen of Jerusalem