This is Eerily Familiar

B”H In the summer of 2011 just before we made Aliyah to Israel we got hit with everything or so we thought. I now know that it could have been worst. Looking back we can joke about the Baltimore “Earthquake” and Hurricane Irene cancelling our farewell trip to New England. We can even sigh over our flooded elevator shafts that prevented us from leaving Strathmore Towers for a week. We lived without a fridge, electricity and furniture. We got on the plane feeling like we had survived something significant.

By the time we arrived in Israel- a dirty apartment, nasty furniture and a tiny fridge made our day. We were so emotionally worn out from just trying to get out of town. We had the mindset of political refugees that Hashem had blurted out, with the help of Nefesh b’ Nefesh, on the shores of Israel.

I am very curious how many Jews will now look forward to making Aliyah now that the material world has floated away. How many will gladly board planes since rebuilding looks to be a tremendous effort? How many will look at their lives and realize that we are all here waiting to welcome them home? Or will they wait to be rescued by the American government?  A lot of good that did the diplomatic crew in Libya  Will they not read the parasha this week and draw the conclusion that Hashem runs the world?

I will leave it for others to draw conclusions about the reason for the damage. I think I am just going to go get the guest room ready I think we may be having company.


What Does Olive Picking Have to do With Aliyah?

Image                                                                                Image This morning I rolled out of bed and decided to go out to pick some more olives. I wanted to make this a time to do my lehitbodeduit/to be alone to talk to G-d .  I wanted to be in into nature and to talk with G-d about all that my family needs.As I surveyed my neighborhood olive trees I noticed several things.

1. You have to be willing to go where most people won’t – to be successful   Most of the best fruit  trees are surrounded by 5 foot bushes and vines with prickers. The Middle East is a difficult neighborhood to live in  with hostile murderous neighbors on all sides and the stakes are great.  If you don’t know what you would die for then what are you living for? I see a living Torah and I see the fulfillment of Torah prophesies everyday. We are miracles! Everyday that we are here is a miracle.

2. The best fruit is always on the tops of the tree in the full sun. Somethings are just meant to be out of reach- but you have to try. Aliyah is so easy today relative to our ancestor’s time and there is so much help and encouragement available, but you have to make the effort. It is  lot of effort to learn a new language and make a new life, but it is doable.

3.  Where there is no water there is no decent fruit, just shriveled and small  green fruits- not even the birds want.  I bless, Rabbi Lazer Brody, and the other innovators of the drip irrigation system.  It is a chaval/a waste to see shrunken and withered fruit for lack of water. In Judaism Torah is water and water is life- hence, “mayyim hayyim/living waters”. Outside of the land the connection is not the same quality.  As they say, G-d here is a local call.  Everyday you can walk the land and open the Tanach and feel the Torah alive.  The same can not be said for Lakewood, or Baltimore etc.. . these are pale imitations of what a rich Jewish life we are supposed to be living.  We are in sync with the Torah seasons and the rhythm of Jewish life.

4. There is more than enough olives in this country for every family who wants to have olives on their table if they want it. There is more than enough land in this country for the return of all of the exiles to come home and live off the land. There is no excuse for a life outside of Israel. We have a blessing for this land- we need to be worthy of it and step up and claim our inheritance.

5.  You have to want something very badly to be willing to crawl through the mud and prickers to get at the best olives. Life here is not always easy, but this is our family. Every family has a crazy uncle or two. It is no different here.  To live here you have to develop a tolerance for the diversity of your fellow Jews. It is good for your soul.

6.  There were fences that prevented me from getting to the best olive trees. Those fences were put there to prevent people from falling down the hill into the 200 feet deep wadi. In life sometimes we need fences.  Torah is our protection in this life. You may not always agree with the fences, but it is there to guard your soul.

So as I stood under the thick canopies of the olive trees and I asked G-d/Hashem to send me more grandchildren, jobs for my children, raises for my sons in law,  health for the sick ones, a quick aliyah for them all- most of all I asked Hashem for Moshiach.  It seems that the world is so perilous and this is a crossroads- we need Moshiach most of all. There I stood in hot Israeli sun I thank G-d that I am home and on my land eating the fruits of the gift G-d gave to all of us.

Quick Look Over There! or How They Are Stealing Our Country…



My day in the Negev began in Rahat. From the overlook near the water tower you could see very distinctly a very well planned, government sanctioned town. To the right there were tin shacks and the evidence of a creeping subversive building campaign to swallow up Israeli State land. The old adage of give a inch and  they take a yard.

What irked me was the lawlessness of the population. The taxes that any Israeli citizen pays are impressive and for that we get a civil society.  These 200,000 people pay nothing and have 20,000 illegal squatters to boot. The argument that “hey we serve in the Army” wears thin. It is a mere 2%!  Look at the massive underground economy you have created that taxes are not collected for. Your healthcare is as good as mine- WTH!

The thing that annoyed me was seeing all of the illegal gas stations everywhere- symbols of the” in your face” lawlessness. Mahmoud and Jamil decide to open  up a station and they haul and oil heating container into a residential section. Environmental pollution be damned and sell unregulated industrial gas on the black market- nifty huh?

The disregard the rule of law, the environmental impact and labor laws skirted- and they don’t pay taxes. The 70,000 illegal structure built without permit on state lands seemed so unfair when a day before I visited the Shomrom and listened to the persecution of settlers.  It seemed monumentally unfair to have the laws so flaunted by these Bedouins Arabs.

Well, I am not staying annoyed.  I intend to see that the government does right by its citizens and cracks down on the situation.  Some laws are already on the book and need to be enforced. If we are have a fair society with equal representation under the law- we have to put the law first.

If the people elected to enforce the law do not have “the will”- then we need other leaders that will reflect the will of the people.  And that is how an American born Israeli see this issue.  Israel begs us to come and share our education, talents and to take up the burden of  citizenship- well we bring an American gumption for problem solving to the Middle East- this should be interesting!


From Maaleh Adumim to Homesh- A World Away

This week I took a bus trip to really get to know my new country- to walk the land. What I saw alarmed me and alerted me that I could no longer sit idly by as Israel is under threat. I have an obligation to educate myself and my chevra/friends with what I saw.

We started the day by going to Homesh.  We needed special permission and help from the Army and the police.  We were the only Jews in an area that is quite dangerous. Previously there was a community living on this beautiful hilltop that on a clear day you could see Israel in all four directions.  We had to wait at a checkpoint for the Army to clear the road and we were escorted there and back

While we were there we hiked up the hill to the heart of what was a community.  I saw broken concrete steps of the yeshiva and abandoned building lots.  It hurt me to realize that this destruction had been done by Jews to Jews.  Seeing the twisted concrete of what were family homes .  Families,that in the end felt abandoned by their government and sent to live elsewhere. While I gathered fennel seeds to replant in my Maaleh Adumim garden, I listened to the story of Torah observant Jews and yeshiva students as if it were history instead of our present.

We were then driven to meet pother hilltop settlers- brave, amazing people. I found them to be lovers of Zion, Torah loving Jews trying with all their being to hang onto our inheritance from G-d. I visited caravans and beautiful hilltop homes and farms lovingly handcrafted. It was hard not to feel a love and connection for these modern day pioneers.  I found kindred spirits.

We visited the flour mill in Yazhar owned by Akiva and Ayelet HaShachar HaKohen.  I didn’t meet Akiva at the time I met his wife in 2011; because he was under house arrest in French Hill. He told us the story of the establishment of the mill . In the distance we could see a green Army encampment in the distant meadow.  Akiva is still under house arrest-more on him later.

We ended the day meeting a very worn out mother from Migron.  She had grown up in Milwaukee and she described the psychological and financial ramifications of the last month.  She said she is trying not to be angry because it isn’t good for the children.  She was brimming with tired optimism about what they can accomplish in time in reconstituting their community at the bottom of the hill.  I look forward to going back and seeing what her vision becomes with time. I will tell you more about her later.

And then I got an education…..