The Big Felafel


Story time and JELLY ice cream party in Jerusalem

Don’t get nauseous yet. A JELLY ice cream party is not what you think. Thanks to a friend, I have now been exposed to a whole new kind of JELLY – the Jerusalem English Library for Youth, one that is not red and gooey, but instead offers story time, day camps and other activities, including an ice cream party at the end of the summer (for free!). 

As an English speaker living in Israel, I have to make a concerted effort to teach my daughter English. My husband speaks to her in Spanish and she learns Hebrew at daycare. So, I was obviously excited when I found out that there is English story time in Jerusalem. This gives my daughter another place to hear English and for me, another place to connect with other English-speaking parents.

JELLY (Jerusalem English Library for Youth) is an AACI program that offers the following:

  • Monday evening story time: Each week, different parents volunteer to read books over a half hour. The story hour is free.
    • When: Mondays at 4:15pm. September 1 to the end of June.
    • Location: Baka Matnas (community center) at 3 Issachar St. 
    • Contact: Deborah, 02-671-8514
  • Summer JELLY ice cream party: To encourage kids to read, the goal of the party is to have kids read (or have read to them) 10 books. 
    • When: Wednesday, August 22, 2012, 4-6pm. 
    • Location:  Gan HaShoshanim park (Pinsker St, Talbieh)
    • Admission is free. Call AACI 02-561-7151 to RSVP
  • The JELLY Summer Theatre Workshop: The 12-day workshop is for 6-9th graders with the thrill of being on stage, as well as the crafts that go into producing a show, culminating in two an evening performances of a play, on stage in a theatre for family and friends. 
    • When: July 16-31 2012
    • Location: Baka Matnas (community center) at 3 Issachar St. 
    • Contact: Deborah, 02-671-8514
  • Camp JELLY – an Adventure with Books: for kids going into gan hova or 1st grade.  All activities such as arts and crafts, games, songs are based on books -each day with a different writer or theme. Lively but structured with aim to encourage English and a love of books.
    • When: August 12-16 2012
    • Location: Baka Matnas (community center) at 3 Issachar St.
    • Contact: Deborah, 02-671-8514
  • English library for youth: The Baka library has 50% English books.  The picture books for younger kids (and teachers’ library) are on the 2nd floor  and all other books of the Baka library including easy readers to adults are on the 1st floor. JELLY volunteers do the mending, shelving, entering books into computer, etc.
    • Hours: The Baka library is open Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 2-7pm & Tuesdays 9-12am
    • Taking out books: To join is free with a security check. 
    • Location: Baka Matnas (community center) at 3 Issachar St. 
    • Phone number: 02-671-1734

 
Any other questions about JELLY or ice cream, you can be in touch with Deborah Lionarons jellyaaci@gmail.com

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The future of Israel according to the Israeli Presidential Conference 2012

The Israeli Presidential Conference “Facing Tomorrow” is an annual conference run by Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, which brings together some of the biggest names in politics, technology, and… sex therapy. The conference discusses what the future holds for the world, and specifically for Israel. At the age of 89, you gotta give Peres credit for still having game and putting on a great show. As Tony Blair, who spoke at the conference, said “I did the the math and it seems you were a minister (of Knesset) before I was even born!” and as Dennis Ross said “In 20-30 years, many of us won’t be around anymore, but you Shimon, will definitely still be here!”.

I feel honored and privileged to be able to attend such an extraordinary conference that has the potential to inspire the world and bring the Jewish people together, and therefore hesitate writing anything negative since I know first-hand how hard it is to organize a large event. Having said that, I would like to give you a real sneak peek as to what it’s like to be at the conference and what the future has to offer, for better or for worse.

Here is a preview of how the future would look, based on my experiences at the Israeli presidential conference:

  1. Hot, messy, long lines: For those of you familiar with Israel’s line culture (which is to say, a long, rich history of being… culture-less), you may not be surprised that we were thrown into a hot mosh-pit of a registration area with no clear division of lines and little air-conditioning on a sweltering summer day, so we just picked a spot to stand and hoped for the best. Oh, how we pined for those ropes at the airport to restore order but the only remnant of airport life here was the tight security and the little scarves that the registration ladies wore. I guess I had my hopes high for an orderly line experience being that this is the conference about the future of Israel.

    Lesson learned: The future of Israel may not contain enough ropes.

  2. Free wine and fancy bite-sized snacks: I am pleased to announce that the future of Israel will be overfloweth with half-full glasses of red and white wine, as well as adorable and tasty hoers d’ouerves such as, but not limited to: breadsticks with salmon, toasted bread with eggplant drizzled with honey, and my favorite, a vanilla ice cream with a chocolatey treasure at the bottom.

    Lesson learned: I think once you have some wine in your system and some small treats in your belly, you can start to relax and fully appreciate the world and strive for peace. Or at least come to terms with the hot mess of a line you just had to stand in (see #1).

  3. Chaos and confusion: Once we arrived and enjoyed sipping our wine and nibbling on spinach something-or-other, we tried to get into the plenary session featuring Shimon Peres, Henry Kissinger, and Tony Blair.
    But alas, you must have a ticket to enter the plenary session. A ticket? Even though you already have a badge and enjoyed some wine and are clearly “in”? Yes, you must still have a green paper ticket to enter the hall. Waaaaaah. Although crying didn’t work, divine intervention did. My friend spotted someone whispering “tickets.. does anyone want a ticket?”. “DID YOU SAY TICKETS?! YES!!” she screamed, and so we whisked ourselves up the 5 flights of stairs to the nosebleed section and sat down just as it began.

    So you may be thinking, obviously when we came the next day, we knew to get tickets to all the plenaries and never go through the confusion again and live happily ever after. But no! We only got tickets for the morning plenary session and got an unclear answer of whether or not tickets were needed for the afternoon plenary session. SIGH.
    Lesson learned:
    The future will be confusing. And ticket-based.

  4. Women relegated to the back of the bus, again: The conference deals with many social and economic Israeli issues, such as the tent protests and how to create a greener Israel.  The conference could have dealt head-on with some major women’s issues in Israeli society such as women literally sitting in the back of the bus. And, at the conference itself, less than 10% of the speakers were women.  I met a women from the NCJW who told me that statistic, so I hope she’s right.
    Lesson learned: The future will tiptoe around women’s issues.
  5. Sex is still alive and well: You will have more energy as you age then ever before – just look at Shimon Peres, Henry Kissinger, and Dr. Ruth. Dr. Ruth, a psychosexual therapist, age 83, once again dazzled the crowd with her frank discussion on the importance of relationships, sex, and family life in the era of new media.  She also managed to use her sexual references to compare the early exit of Israeli startups to premature ejaculation. Only Dr. Ruth could get away with making that comment on a stage in front of thousands of people, including many dignitaries, such as Peres and Kissinger.

    Dr. Ruth – not afraid to speak her dirty mind. (Photo courtesy of the Israeli Presidential Conference)

  6. Ayaan Hirsi Ali will hopefully run the world: What an incredible woman. Author of “The Infidel“, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has had a crazy life. Born into a Muslim family in Somalia, her family moved to Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya. From Kenya, she escaped to The Netherlands and eventually became a member of Parliament. She spoke out freely against Islam and while working on a documentary film, “Submission”, her friend and producer, Theo Van Gogh, was murdered. Since then, she’s had to live under security watch to protect her against the many Muslims who want to silence her.

    After reading her book and being her biggest fan, I was honored to see Ayaan in person, knowing the huge effort and security risks she must have taken to come to Israel. Ayaan was on the panel “The Strategic Look at Tomorrow” amidst American and Israeli Jews. However, I think that while the other members of the panel were trying to create checklists of what needs to be done to achieve peace in the Middle East, it was only Ayaan who really told it like it is. She said that there are 3 main values that must change before there is going to be peace in the Middle East:

    1. Muslims’ belief in governments with absolute authority
    2. To compromise in the Muslim world is to lose face
    3. All answers can be found in the Koran

    Ayaan said that until those fundamental beliefs change in the Muslim world, there might never be peace in the region. She is the only one willing to say that the Israelis and Palestinians have fundamentally different views of peace and what the region should look like. Here is a fitting analogy I came up with: If I say I’m fat, that’s ok, but if you tell me I’m fat, that is totally not ok. Because Ayaan was born Muslim, she feels like she can say anything she wants and is less afraid of offending Muslims. So, in the future, when you ask “Who run the world?” the answer should be Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

    Even her initials spell AHA! (Photo courtesy of the Israeli Presidential Conference)

  7. Direct access to the President of Israel and other highly esteemed people: Last year, I had the privilege of meeting Shimon Peres, Natan Sharansky and Jimmy Wales with a group of Israeli bloggers. This year I had the chance to again be in a private blogger session with Shimon Peres as well as Yossi Vardi and Peter Bainert.
    Lesson learned: The future holds the promise that ordinary people like me can have access to leaders of the country.
     

    What close proximity!(Photo courtesy of the Israeli Presidential Conference)

    At the 2011 conference, I got to meet Jimmy Wales!

  8. Film, literary, and musical artists will be personal and lovable: I went to a session that hosted Etgar Keret, a great short story writer, Joseph Cedar, producer of Oscar-nominated films Beaufort and Footnote, and Achinoam Nini, a phenomenal singer.  Each of these artists opened up about how they grew up with complex identities and how being Israeli is really special to them and definitely plays a role in what they create.  I loved how down-to-earth each of them was and how approachable, and lovable each of them was. And Achinoam surprised us by singing just before the session ended.

    Best panel ever! Love you Joseph Cedar and Etgar Keret and almost had the courage to take a photo with you.

  9. Lots of business casual attire: After 3 days of wearing business casual in Israel, which is a big deal considering the casual dress culture, I believe the future will require you to dress up and look nice. As for the present, I’m just glad the conference was only 3 days since I ran out of fancy things to wear!
  10. Major FOMO: As Deena and Miriam pointed out, this conference relies heavily on FOMO(fear of missing out) to entice people to come. And even once you’re at the conference, there is still major FOMO since you can only attend one of the 4 or 5 sessions happening simultaneously. Obviously you’re going to think you picked the wrong session and then feel left out when everyone else has inside jokes about it later. If you think FOMO is something made up, I assure you that it is not and a whole FOMO science complete with statistics is starting to develop. Needless to say, the future will be full of FOMO.

I know this was a long post, so high five if you read it all, but it was a really long event so it’s only fitting. Once again, thank you (you know who you are) for letting me attend this conference and giving me some major food for thought as well as for my belly. Whether or not there will be peace in the region is debatable, but at least there will be hope for another fancy conference next year! 


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!


How to watch Srugim Season 3

I just finished watching Srugim’s third season. The Jerusalem crew of Nati, Yifat, Amir, Hodaya, and Reut are back with another depressing yet must-watch season of Srugim. For all of you wondering if they brought Stacy, the Anglo, back on the show, they did not. But, the third season does indeed have a few English-accented Hebrew speakers.

I feel like I had to watch the show in case I run into any of the characters, I mean actors, on the street in Jerusalem. I really love that Jerusalem itself is practically a character on the show, and I love seeing it filmed in places I go all the time. I think my favorite part was when they go to Shilav, a baby store, in the Talpiot area of Jerusalem and they filmed the real sales guy who works there. I remember him from when I was searching for strollers!

If you need to catch up, you can watch Season 1 and Season 2  (the links may only work for people in Israel, not sure)

So, without further ado, click on the links below to see what happens in season three.


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.


Chanukah in Israel – Bringing the Story to Life

Nava Rosenbloom, a newly licensed tour guide in Israel, asked The Big Felafel to share her upcoming Chanukah tours in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. She is a great storyteller and super fun to hang out with.

With sufganiot tempting us from every local bakery window, it’s clear that Chanukah is already in the air, and… in our stomach. While most of us have caved and prematurely indulged in these Chanukah treats, there is still something special we can save to enhance our Chanukah experience.

Its easy to forget that much of the Chanukah story played out right here in our own Israeli backyards and we can just go out and see where all the magic happened.

Israel Explorations, a new Israel-based tour company specializing in innovative tours of Israel, is offering a series of Chanukah themed group tours allowing you to rediscover this 2,100 year old tradition.

The Ultimate Chanukah Family Fun Day

The complete Chanukah experience from Maccabees to olive oil. This tour will literally follow in the footsteps of our Chanukah heroes by visiting ancient Modi’in, the home of the Maccabees, and Kever HaMacabim, their possible burial site. We’ll take a trip to a nearby organic goat farm in the spirit of our Chanukah heroine, Judith, who saved her village by feeding cheese to the enemy’s general. The whole family can get involved milking the goats, learning how cheese is made, and experiencing olive oil production with an olive press, the way they used to do it in the days of the Maccabees.

The Temple Exploration Tour

Chanukah is all about our big win in the Temple, so we planned an interactive day on the Mount of Olives, right outside the Temple Mount. This tour will reveal the true story of Chanukah as you explore the Mount of Olives from its peak overlooking the Temple Mount to its ancient treasures in the Kidron Valley below. A hands-on experience at the Temple Mount Sifting project will give you the chance to sift through earth taken from the Temple Mount and find ancient remains – you may even find a coin from the time of the Maccabees! Although I’m not sure they’ll accept it when you try to get on a bus.

Evening walking tours in Nachlaot or the Old City

To get the full ambiance of Chanukah in Jerusalem, you gotta get out to where the real people are celebrating – so we would love to take you on our evening walking tours as the glow of hundreds of Chanukah menorahs light your path. Choose between exploring the quaint, historical and eclectic neighborhood of Nachlaot on the Magical Nachlaot Candle Lit Tour or the ancient, spellbinding sites of Jerusalem’s Old City on the Mystical Old City Candle Lit Tour.

To sign up for a tour, go to IsraelExplorations. Discounts available for Israeli residents.

Whatever you choose to do this Chanukah , make it special, caloric and filled with light. Happy Chanukah!

 



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.

 


Tu B’av and the City: Day of Love events in Jerusalem 2011

Deena from HaBitza.com, a dating blog, sent me a great post about Tu B’Av events in Jerusalem. Enjoy!

Thank the mighty Lord, the mourning period of the three weeks, the nine days and the 9th of Av are behind us. It is such a cumbersome time for many of us and it’s always a relief when it’s over.

And now comes the fun part! This Sunday night (August 14, 2011) and Monday is Tu B’Av, the Jewish/Israeli day of love. Long ago it was the day on which single girls went out to the fields dressed in white and danced while the guys checked them out and tried to choose someone to marry. Today things are done a bit differently, though not by much. This year on Tu B’Av in Jerusalem there are sing-alongs, mega speed dating events and other parties around the city.

This post is an overview of some of the events going on around the city this coming Sunday and Monday. But actually, it is really just an excuse for me to tell you about the following event which I attended (and loved) last year:

באב TWO

Where: Beit Yehudit, 12 Emek Refaim, Jerusalem (aka ICCY/Merkaz Tarbut Amim Veno’ar)
When: 8:30 PM, August 14, 2011
Price: 55 NIS

True, the venue doesn’t seem to be able to choose a name for themselves but that doesn’t detract from their events. I attended this event last year and I can tell you that it is one of the most enjoyable events I’ve attended. There was so much going on, and in general there was a great vibe. This year will be similar in that you’ll get to enjoy a concert by a top Israeli musician (Eviatar Banai), eat and drink yummy things, watch love story movies by Maaleh students and sing and dance (so it seems). Read the brochure above for more information (about a lecture, a tish, a pasta workshop and more).

Tu B’Av Mass Speed Dating

Where: Tzidkiyahu’s Cave, Jerusalem (Below the walls of the Old City)
When: 8:00 PM, August 14, 2011 (I think – the flyer is sort of missing a date.)
Price: 25 NIS (90% discount)

Yeah, this is a pretty interesting one. Mass speed dating in a cave for singles ages 23-40?! They mention wine and romance and the next day you’ll get the contact info of anyone where there was mutual interest.

This is organized by a few organizations including Tzi’irim Lema’an Yerushalayim. Check them out on facebook. You can also email info@y-jerusalem.org for more information. There are buses from Binyanei Hauma in both directions.

Let me know if you end up braving it and going. I’d love to hear how it is! (Not sure I’m brave enough to go myself.:)

You must RSVP before.

Tu B’Av at HaGov

Where: HaGov Bar, 5 Yoel Moshe Salomon, Jerusalem
When: 9:00 PM, August 14, 2011
Price: A drink/food

There will be some really nice specials that night, including:

2-for-1 on passionfruit Margaritas! (Of course)
A Fun Joel Platter of finger food for a discounted 39 NIS. (Named after Joel who is behind this event.)
Two main courses and receive a free sweet dessert!
A bottle of sparkling red wine for a discounted 94 NIS.

Jerusalem Wine Festival

Yeah, I know this isn’t specifically a Tu B’Av event but it begins on Monday the 15th when it is still Tu B’Av and it’s also just an amazing event. So, I’m including it here. 🙂

There are also a bunch of other things going on. For example:

Love story tour of Hanvi’im Street and a sing-along in the courtyard of the museum of the Underground Prisoners (אסירי המחתרות). This is on Monday the 15th. (The event flyer)

BBQ, mingling and art program for singles ages 24-38 (Monday) venue to be announced to people who RSVP.

Tu B’Av JamFest – Ghetto Shul Style in Katamon

Tu B’Av Rooftop Kumzitz by the shuk

Know of anything else that should be on this list? Please email me so I can add it. habitza@gmail.com.