The Big Felafel


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Wisdom Gained category.

Single is the way to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Tel Aviv

Another Valentine’s Day trying to separate the happy couples from the sad singles. Oh, but in Tel Aviv this could not be further from the truth (and of course it is far from the truth anyways). It turns out, according to a recent study that a majority of women and men in their 20’s and 30’s living in Tel Aviv, are single. So, like any married Jerusalemite, I went to undercover the mystery behind this shocking new fact. And now I am here to share it with you. I hope you enjoy the results! Take that Valentine’s Day!

 

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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.

 


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…


The Israel Election: What, Who, What? (VIDEO)

The Israeli Election is just a few days away and the campaign ads won’t let us forget it. That said, many people on the streets of Jerusalem don’t know who they are voting for and what’s the point. In my latest Hahafuch News Update, we take it to the streets to hear what the people have to say. 

Click here to check out the post on Times of Israel. 

50 Shades of Blue and White

50 Shades of Blue and White


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.

 


LOL: Avoda Aravit (Arab Labor).

TV show Arab Labor

'Arab Labor'

We all know, well except for maybe the dummy TV Tax people, that I do not own a TV. What’s the point of owning a TV nowadays when you can watch any TV show you want, without commercials online?

And while I love my line up of non-reality reality shows, comedies that everyone is watching; every now and then an Israeli show will make it into my line-up. Most Israeli TV has the same five recycled actors in different TV shows that I can’t stand. But, my friends, there is a show so fantastic, so funny and so well written that I just can’t keep it all to myself.

In honor of the Writer’s Festival taking place in Jerusalem right now, I would like to introduce you to the show Avoda Aravit (Arab Labor). Creator, Sayed Kashua, says he named the show Arab Labor because it is a well-known saying in Israel that any crap work is ‘Arab Labor.’ This kind of humor, tight scripts and incredible actors, makes for awesome TV watching.

Arabs and Kippas

Arabs and Kippas, sure write it in!

The show pokes fun at all of Israeli society. The story and characters are based off of Kashua’s life experiences, which you can also read about in his Haaretz columns. The premise is an Arab family who moves into the Jewish Jerusalem neighborhood of Rehavia. What’s it like to be an Arab living in West Jerusalem? The neighbors make up most of the rest of the cast and include all the stereotypes you would want to see (although I must say I haven’t seen any episode with the token new immigrant, a flaw most Israeli shows make…in my humble opinion). The show has no boundaries and touches upon all those uncomfortable subjects most politicians avoid in their well thought out peace speeches. Make fun of religion? Sure, put an Arab family at a Seder table. The show makes fun of everything from our different religions, cultures, politics and even the level we speak at in a conversation. It’s brilliant. It’s bold. And, yes it’s beautiful.

This is the first Arabic speaking show to be on prime time TV. Don’t worry there is a mix of Hebrew, Arabic and even sometimes some broken English (one of the best episodes which features the BBC and my running buddy Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat).

There are so many hilarious incidents that I want to summarize for you here…but come on, they won’t sound as funny and why waste your time with me when you can watch the real thing?

Do you watch the show? We want to hear from you what you think? And if you want to hear from the creator himself here’s your opportunity this week at the Writer’s Festival. Click here for more details.

 


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.