By Reuben Lewis for TheCultureTrip.com
Like all countries, Israel and its people are prone to various stereotypes, some of which are harmless, and some slightly more dangerous. Below, we debunk seven commonly held misconceptions that irk Israelis.
Israel is a war zone
Many people from abroad react with genuine surprise and bemusement when they hear that their friend is visiting Israel. “Why are you going there? Isn’t it just a dangerous war zone?” they ask. Well, they can be forgiven for thinking this, seeing as most people’s knowledge of Israel is limited to what they see on the news. The truth is that in Israel, as in any country, day-to-day life continues, whether tensions are high or not. Most of the time, the situation is quiet (in terms of violence, that is – Israel is never quiet in a literal sense), and Israelis live and love and party like any other nation. Many Israelis scoff at this stereotype, and hold the belief that their country is far more secure than the terrorism-plagued cities of Europe.
By Kathy Bloomfield. This article has been reprinted with permission from InterfaithFamily
When I was a girl, I spent many weekends at my grandmother’s house. She had a HUGE walnut tree in the center of her backyard. The neighborhood kids and my siblings and I, like most children, used sheets, blankets, benches and the like to create tents, tunnels and fortresses under the branches of that tree. From there we would enter the fantastic worlds of our imagination, gathering food for our children (i.e. walnuts for the dolls), walking through the desert (i.e. my grandmother’s cactus garden) or searching for magic globes (i.e. fruit from her avocado tree). The walnut tree was the starting point of every journey and the center of most of our larger family gatherings.
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In 2018, the "birthday of the trees" begins at sundown on Tuesday, Jan. 30 and ends at sundown on Wednesday, Jan. 31.
In 2018, the “birthday of the trees” begins at sundown on Tuesday, Jan. 30 and ends at sundown on Wednesday, Jan. 31.
Tu B’Shevat or the “birthday” of all fruit trees, is a minor festival. The name is Hebrew for the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shevat.
In ancient times, Tu B’Shevat was merely a date on the calendar that helped Jewish farmers establish exactly when they should bring their fourth-year produce of fruit from recently planted trees to the Temple as first-fruit offerings
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RUSSELL MCLENDON for MotherNatureNetwork
The ancient holiday has become like a 'Jewish Arbor Day' in modern times, bringing religious and secular observers together for ecological reflection.
This spring will mark the 142nd anniversary of Arbor Day, founded in April 1872 as a time to "plant, nurture and celebrate trees."
But long before that, another tree-centric holiday had already been promoting arboreal appreciation for centuries. Tu Bishvat — also spelled Tu B'Shvat, Tu B'Shevat or Tu BeShvat — is an ancient Jewish holiday known as the "new year for trees." Its original role was to calculate the age of fruit trees, but today it has a broader ecological tone, earning it nicknames like "Jewish Arbor Day" and even "Jewish Earth Day."
Tu Bishvat falls on Jan. 31 this year (it technically begins at sunset Jan. 30), marking one of four new years on the Jewish calendar. While many religious and secular observers honor the holiday by planting trees, it has also inspired lots of other eco-friendly traditions over the years, from sustainable seders to tree-sitting.
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By Lauren S. Marcus for The Forward
In Israel, there is often a singular narrative told about immigration and the creation of the Jewish state: Ashkenazi pioneers came from Eastern Europe at the end of the 19th century and built the country. They established kibbutzim, moshavim, and cities like Rishon LeTzion, and created pre-IDF militias. Streets in every city in Israel bear their names: Jabotinsky, Trumpeldor, Weizmann.
The Mizrahim came later, the narrative explains, in massive waves in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Refugees arriving long after the establishment of the state, they languished in ma’abarot and development towns.
But the story of one Kurdish Jewish family disrupts this narrative.
Exodus 10:1 - 13:16
BY Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster for myjewishlearning.com
Return to the Homeland
In Parashat Bo, the Israelites are freed from Egypt.
One of my favorite U2 songs, “Walk On,” contains the lyrics: “You’re packing for a place none of us have been, a place that has to be believed to be seen.” The song describes the experience of abandoning all that one has known to embrace the promise of freedom and hope, much like the person who leaves exile after several generations to return to a homeland in which she has never lived.
The lyrics convey an understanding that sometimes home may not be the place where you live but where your roots are. Even after generations, the connection remains, growing more mythic the longer the return is awaited. And slowly, each generation confronts the question of what it might be like to actually return home.
Tamar Cohen for Fresh Ink for Teens
Judy Blume’s books teach us real-lessons about growing up.
Bildungsroman: the German word for a coming-of-age novel. A prime example of this? Judy Blume's “Are You There, G-d? It's Me, Margaret.” Beloved by angsty teens and middle-aged women’s book clubs alike, Judy Blume seems to have completely mastered the art of coming-of-age in fiction.
Growing up with an irrational fear of dogs, I found a sympathetic fellow in cynophobic Sheila, of Blume’s “Otherwise Known As Sheila the Great.” I know many classmates of all genders whose love of reading began with Blume’s the “Fudge” saga, and, of course, an entire mother-daughter book club's worth of girls who learned the emotional process of menstruation from Margaret and her friends.
By Derek Kwait for JTA
When H. Alan Scott looked up through the mikvah waters, he says he saw the shadows of his past and present lives undulating above him: Poor Mormon kid. Gay man. Comedian. Cancer survivor.
Then his head broke the surface for the third time, and he felt that at last he had emerged with an identity that fit perfectly: Jew.
That was five years ago.
By Abigail Klein Leichman for Israel21c
Twice a year, surgeons from Rambam Health Care Campus fly to Georgia to treat the most difficult pediatric cases.
A baby born without an esophagus and a five-year-old boy unable to eliminate bodily waste naturally were among the complex cases awaiting senior Israeli surgeons on their voluntary visits to Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.
“It gives us a chance to do something good for others. I don’t care if I treat a Georgian child or an Israeli child. I like to give good medical solutions to those who don’t have them,” says Dr. Ran Steinberg, director of pediatric surgery at Ruth Rappaport Children’s Hospital on the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa.
By Jenny Singer for The Forward
I watched “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” this weekend because the group I was with couldn’t decide between “Call Me By Your Name” and “I, Tonya.” I did not intend to write something Jewish about “Star Wars,” just as I have not previously intended to write about Jews and sports or Jews and sex-spaghetti.
Then I saw an article in Tablet by Liel Leibovitz, called “Reform Jediism,” which used the plot of the new “Star Wars” film as an allegory for the lack of seriousness in Reform Judaism, and I was drawn into the fray like Kylo Ren, conflicted villain of “The Last Jedi,” is drawn to the dark side.
BY JOANNA C. VALENTE for Kveller
Apparently, boxed mac n’ cheese has been declared bad for you now, because of all the chemicals. As Kveller editor Sarah Seltzer wrote here, it’s kind of hard to ditch the tried and true classic (especially since it’s all your kids want to eat, and can you really blame them?).
Considering the fact that everyone loves mac n’ cheese, we’re not about to ditch it—but we can make healthier (aka: chemical-free) versions of it. Because of that, we rounded up some of our favorite mac n’ cheese recipes that we still love and adore (and they don’t have nasty chemicals!).
Here are six below:
BY JOANNA C. VALENTE for Kveller
Oh 2017, can’t say we’re sorry to say goodbye. Between the political turmoil, JCC bomb threats, and the hurricanes, it’s been a lot to handle. Despite it all, however, there were many inspiring moments — and a lot of them were thanks to Jewish moms who remained strong and stood up for their beliefs.
Here are some moments that resonated with us:
1. Mila Kunis gives her daughter wine, because Shabbat. She said:
Spy games, catch-67s, lionesses, smugglers, patriots, setting suns, and more.
To mark the close of 2017, we asked a handful of our writers to name the best two or three books they read this year, and briefly to explain their choices. Their answers are below. (All books were published in 2017 unless otherwise noted.)
Misagh Parsa, Democracy in Iran: Why It Failed and How It Might Succeed (Harvard, 416pp., $45). This history of the Islamic Republic is a reminder that the ayatollahs have been at war with the people of Iran since 1979. It is therefore also a reminder of whose side America must be on in that conflict.
By Brian Blum for Israel21c
The cost to treat obesity in the United States alone is expected to rise from $325 billion in 2014 to $555 billion per year by 2025.
Raziel Therapeutics wants to be the Botox for obesity.
Whereas an injection of Botox smooths out wrinkles, this Jerusalem medical startup is developing an injection that doesn’t just smooth, but literally melts away fat cells. Unlike Botox, though, Raziel’s fat-burning approach has the potential to do a lot more than simply make you look better.
WATCH: This Journalist Turned Rabbinical Student is Creating Entertaining Arabic Videos to Explain Judaism to Muslims
By Yair Rosenberg for Tablet Magazine
Elhanan Miller hopes to broker Middle East peace, one YouTube subscriber at a time
Several months ago, high quality animated videos explaining Jewish religion and practice began popping up on YouTube. This would have been unremarkable except for one fact: they were in fluent Arabic. Tackling such subjects as kosher food and prayer, the informative and often entertaining clips detailed how these rituals compared and contrasted to Islamic practice. Here, for example, is the video on prayer:
The YouTube channel, called “People of the Book” after the Qur’anic category for Jews, has quietly garnered thousands of views. It is the brainchild of Elhanan Miller, a Jerusalem-born intelligence soldier turned journalist (and Tablet contributor) turned rabbinical student who hopes to use the explainers to foster regional understanding and peace.
BY ILANA KURSHAN for myjewishlearning.com
How to participate in the longest-running Jewish book club (even if you can’t read Hebrew).
Are you interested in joining the world’s largest book club?
Daf yomi (pronounced dahf YOH-mee) is an international program to read the entire Babylonian Talmud — the main text of rabbinic Judaism — in seven and a half years at the rate of one page a day. Tens of thousands of Jews study daf yomi worldwide, and they are all quite literally on the same page — following a schedule fixed in 1923 in Poland by Rabbi Meir Shapiro, the founder of daf yomi, who envisioned the whole world as a vast Talmudic classroom connected by a global network of conversational threads.
By Brian Blum for Israel21c
An Israeli company is marketing its intelligent date code labels that monitor the temp and time interval of food products on their way to consumers.
“The milk is past its expiry date. We have to throw it out.”
“No, we don’t. It smells fine.”
“But it says so right on the carton.”
It’s an argument that’s been heard in households around the world: Does the expiration date on the package really mean the milk or the chicken or the eggs are bad?
By Daniel Gordis for Mosaic
It’s not about what Israel does. It’s about what, to their minds, Israel is.
All told, the two Jewish communities of the United States and Israel constitute some 85 percent of the world’s Jews. Although other communities around the globe remain significant for their size or other qualities, the future of world Jewry will likely be shaped by the two largest populations—and by the relationship between them. For that reason alone, the waning of attachment to Israel among American Jews, especially but not exclusively younger American Jews, has rightly become a central focus of concern for religious and communal leaders, thinkers, and planners in both countries.
True, other concerns have lately encroached: concerns in both countries, for instance, over the Trump administration’s still-developing stance toward the Israel-Palestinian conflict and, in the U.S., over a seemingly homegrown series of anti-Semitic acts of vandalism and bomb threats against Jewish institutions (most of the latter exposed as the work of a disturbed Israeli Jewish youth). But the larger worry—American Jewish disaffection from Israel—remains very much in place, and its reverberating implications were underscored during the waning days of the Obama administration, when by far the greater portion of American Jews stayed faithful to the president and his party even after his decision to allow passage of an undeniably anti-Israel resolution at the United Nations.
Exodus 6:2 - 9:35
Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg for myjewishlearning.com
Who Really Hardened Pharaoh’s Heart?
Was God responsible for the Egyptian leader's intransigence?
When people talk about great philosophical challenges in the Torah , they often cite a verse in Parshat Vaera. These chapters deal with Moses’ attempt to convince Pharaoh to free the Israelite slaves, Pharaoh’s refusal and the first seven plagues that rain down as part of this back and forth.
Towards the end of the portion, after the Egyptians suffer boils, the text says (Exodus 9:12), “And God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not hear them.” The plagues continue, but suddenly they seem much less fair. There are major challenges to the concept of free will here: Did Pharaoh choose to refuse Moses’ request to let the Israelites go, or did God make him do that? Would he have responded the same way had not God intervened? And how on Earth could God continue to punish Pharaoh, given that God Godself caused Pharaoh to refuse to free the Israelites from bondage?
BY BEN SALES for The Jewish Week
A flagship liberal Orthodox synagogue in New York will stop congratulating same-sex couples on their weddings following a complaint by the Orthodox Union.
The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in the Bronx will no longer announce the weddings of its LGBT members in its newsletters in accordance with a policy dictated by the O.U., the largest association of Orthodox synagogues in the United States. The policy was set out this month in response to complaints from other member synagogues, which take a harder line on opposing same-sex marriage.